Sunday, September 23, 2018

this should be interesting

At the age of 44, I am taking Freshman Composition at a junior college. High time, I know.

The class officially starts tomorrow, but Professor M released the syllabus today. I'm tempted to pull a Hermione Granger and read the entire textbook before the class starts, but I'm trying to curb my enthusiasm in the hope that I don't burn out before Halloween.

That reminds me; I need to start on my Hedwig costume.

And I never know if this is going to be an autumn/winter that is going to have bronchitis or pneumonia in it, so I need all the oomph I can get.

I did get the e-textbook -- many thanks, Professor, for assigning a book that doesn't cost upwards of $300 -- and read the introduction. I found my attention wandering, so I read some paragraphs out loud to the cats. It helped me focus, but Morse bit me and left the room after five minutes. Everyone's a critic. (In her defense, I was absentmindedly petting her, and my hand strayed to her belly.)

It will be interesting to see how my creaky brain that is set in its ways starts moving and doing what I hope is mental yoga: making my thought processes stronger and more flexible. More capable of discernment and good judgment as I do the things I love, like reading and writing. And I really want to be a better writer.

One thing I think is very interesting about the way Professor M has structured this course is that the entire semester is centered around a single topic, which is food. It's a topic with a lot of angles and things to consider, so we could easily spend an entire year discussing and writing about it. Focusing on just one thing will allow us to really dig in and look at the ethics, philosophy, practical considerations, and purposes of food. And it's something I've thought about before, at least a little, because it affects my life and how I live it. For me, food can be survival, pleasure, a social event, a panacea, a chore, an accomplishment, and a way to take care of other people.

All of this is happening while I search for a full-time job ... what a treat. I did choose this, though, so I don't really have a leg to stand on with that complaint. Between now and tomorrow, I have a bunch of chores to do, so I'd better get on with it.

Currently reading The Power by Naomi Alderman. I started weeks ago, paused for a while, and started devouring it on Friday. I should finish in a day or two, because I am very curious to see where this is going. I also want to finish rereading HP and the Chamber of Secrets today, though that may not happen until later this week. I need to finish Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life collection by Wednesday, because book club is Thursday morning, and being on the freeway by 10:15 am means getting up early.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

a book I love: Contact

So, yeah, a man writes a book and describes a woman, and yes, you can tell sometimes that the writer was definitely a dude. Having said that, Carl Sagan still treats Ellie Arroway as a fully-realized character. I have adored her and this book since I was a teenager, and every time I come back to it, I enjoy and understand it a little more. (I haven't the mathematical knowledge to understand astrophysics, but I understand a lot of the concepts.)

Here's my review at Goodreads, which pretty much sums it up:

I first read this when I was a teenager -- maybe four years after it was first published -- and Ellie's story has always resonated with me. Not just being a stargazer and science fan (though she's a pro, while I'm a self-taught amateur), but also being puzzled by the contradictions in science and religion. I certainly don't have the answers, and the book gets a tiny bit saccharine towards the end, but it's a good message and an enjoyable story. 

Go read. It's a bit dated, with a Soviet Union still existing in the late 1990s. It was especially bittersweet when I read it last month, and I ache a little every day due to the trash that is in the White House despite getting a significantly smaller popular vote. (I try not to dehumanize people, but Trump and his entire family are among the few exceptions.) Reading about the first female POTUS hurts, because of the what-have-beens that I find much more appealing than reality in September of 2018.

Finding the deeper meanings in books and films is difficult, and they often pose as many questions as they answer. Think about the potential paradoxes in time travel stories, such as Prisoner of Azkaban and the first Terminator film. Think about the agency-versus-fate theories in Arrival (Ted Chiang's beautiful Stories of Your Life). How often have I got the plot but not even comprehended that there was a meaning? I read an article last week about The Matrix being a story about being transgender, and I was a bit taken aback. I hadn't had a clue.

Friday, June 22, 2018

I DNFed two books in a row this morning while I had laundry going. I don't like giving up on one book, but two consecutive books left me a bit down in the dumps. (Both of them were the second books in their respective series; I liked both first books, but neither was a favorite.) Now that Mom has finished the last in the Enchanted Forest series, I'll start it tomorrow, but that leaves me wondering what to read tonight ... I don't want to start a new book at bedtime, because what if I love it and don't want to stop reading?

First world problems, I know. I'll find something, probably something I've read before that is on my Hufflepuff Reading List. If I've read it before, I'll already know what's going to happen and won't need to stay up until I drop the book on my face.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

a book I love: Dealing with Dragons

I started reading this last night and finished it while I was at work. (Don't give me any grief; I work the Circulation counter at my library every day, and I sit and wait for people to need help. I'm allowed to read.)

My friend P.C. mentioned this when I was looking for books for the 2015 reading challenge. She simply mentioned the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, and I put the first book on my to-read list, but if you've been to my Goodreads page, you may have noticed that my to-read list there is 641 books long. (And that's just the books I've heard of while I had access to a computer or paper and pen!) So the series got lost in the shuffle until someone mentioned it recently, and I requested the first book from the local public library.

(I've read Patricia C. Wrede before; I found her Snow White and Rose Red when I was in junior high, and I absolutely loved it. I still read it about once every two years.)

Back to Dealing with Dragons: man. I said this at Goodreads, and I'll say it here: where was this book when I was eight or nine?! I would have loved it. As it is, I'm reading it for the first time at the age of forty-four, so better late than never. (It wasn't published until I was sixteen.) I was always more enamored of the princesses who kicked butt, like Wonder Woman and Princess Leia, rather than the Disney princesses I grew up watching, so Princess Cimorene is my kind of princess.

Cimorene is the seventh daughter in her family, and she wants more than to sit and embroider and wait for her parents to arrange a match for her. On the sly, she learns fencing, cooking, languages, and magic. When she gets taken to a neighboring kingdom for her marriage to take place, she is given advice on how to run away after grumbling that she'd rather be eaten by a dragon than marry the vapid prince her parents have chosen. Where does she end up? In a cave with five dragons. Cimorene finds a place with one of these dragons, Kazul, becoming the dragon's princess. She is content there, though she has to shoo away annoying knights and princes who get sent to rescue her ... she doesn't want to be rescued!

Any more than that, and I'll be spoiling you. The target audience of this is readers aged ten and up, or maybe a precocious eight year old. If I had a kid to whom I liked to read, I would love to spend a few weeks reading this to him/her/them. As it's just middle-aged me, yeah, it isn't the most complex plot or characters ever, but the story is charming and sweet. I liked both Kazul and Cimorene a lot. I have requested the remaining three books from the public library, and I have anxiously checked the library's website twice today to see if I might get them before the weekend.

Friday, June 8, 2018

yay, books

Recap since my last post: I finished that book challenge in 2015. I wrote a book-length fanfiction in 2016. (Haven't done anything with the first draft in 18 months.) I did another PopSugar book challenge in 2017. This year, my goal is simply to read 52 books. I'm up to 45 books read in 23 weeks, so I'm on track to double my goal for 2018.

If anyone wants to find me at Goodreads, this is me. I keep track of what I've read and when I've read it, though books I read more than four years ago have estimated start and finish dates. I have a Favorites shelf and a Hufflepuff* shelf.

*After seeing one too many "Books Every Hufflepuff/Gryffindor/Slytherin/Ravenclaw Should Read" posts at Book Riot and elsewhere, I decided to compile my own list. Deleted the duplicates and ignored a few recommendations. (Yes, there is a spreadsheet.) It started with 42 books and has grown to 54 as I type this, but several are from a comic book series, so the 54 is accurate in one way ... but exaggerated in another.

I see a lot of people making YouTube videos about books they've read, and I watch the Vaginal Fantasy hangouts with Felicia, Veronica, Bonnie, and Kiala, so the idea of putting oneself out there to talk books is growing on me. But this seems to be more a thing for attractive millennials, rather than a fat, middle-aged woman with no education to speak of and a thin skin when it comes to criticism. (I'd make a book review vid, upload it, and get dogpiled by people who tell me to off myself because I'm fat and old and not pretty.) So making this blog about books -- which was the original point several years ago -- makes sense. I don't know if I'll stick with it or not, but it's worth a try.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


So a website called Pop Sugar put forth a reading challenge this year:

Fifty ticky boxes, fifty-two books, one year.  I'm in!  So far, I've read four:

A book with a color in the title: Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black.  Written by Karl Bollers, art by Rick Leonardi (Chapters One through Four) and Larry Stroman (Epilogue). New Paradigm Studios, 2013.  My first graphic novel that I actually finished (one eighth of a zombie comic that made me sick to my stomach doesn't count), and I really liked it.  Give me all the Sherlock Holmeses and John Watsons in the world, thank you very much.

A book with antonyms in the title: Lynn Front to Back. Written by Lynn Kohlman, forward by Donna Karan. Assouline Publishing, 2005.  I chose this because it fit the category, and I was intrigued by the subject matter: a fashion model from the 60s and 70s whose passion was being behind the camera lens, but then her life took a different turn after a cancer diagnosis and went under the knife several times, including a double mastectomy and then brain cancer.  Hard to read because of its weight and size, but worth the read.

A graphic novel: Serenity Volume Three: The Shepherd's Tale. Written by Zack and Joss Whedon; art, colors, and letters by Chris Samnee, Dave Stewart, and Michael Heisler, respectively. Dark Horse Books, 2010.  Don't read it until you've seen all of Firefly and Serenity.  We get hints of Shepherd Book's backstory in this very short graphic novel, but each phase of his life that they chose to give us could have been fleshed out and given its own fifty-page treatment.  Disappointing because of the length, but I liked what little we got.

A book based on or turned into a TV show: Neverwhere. Written by Neil Gaiman. HarperTorch, 1996.  Gaiman has been very good from the get-go at creating intricate fantasy worlds and populating them with interesting characters, and what I wouldn't give for a novel about Door, Hunter, or the Marquis de Carabas.  Instead, we get Richard, [HIGHLIGHT TO SEE SPOILERS] who whines his entire way through the book about wanting to get back home, has his hand held the entire way by more competent characters, lucks out, and then when he does get what he's been whining about, he finds that he didn't want it after all. [END SPOILERS].  Having said that, I really enjoyed the recent radio drama that I got from Audible last week.  Even Richard was not entirely unappealing, thanks to James McAvoy.  Didn't count, though, since it was a dramatization, so I still read the book.

Four down, forty-eight to go.  I've got two audio books and two paper books in progress.  I will read several books that I've read before for the challenge, like The Hobbit and Hamlet, but I'm trying to read as many new-to-me books as I can.  Audio books count if they're unabridged and not dramatized.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Remembering What It's All About

I wouldn't name either of these films in my top five, but I love watching Julie and Julia and Ratatouille so much.  Problem is, I've often watched them -- or more appropriately, started to watch them -- and then paused the DVD so I could get up and make something to eat.  Chips and salsa won't do, no; I have to make it.  To create something, even if it's oil and popcorn kernels in a pot on the stove and shaking the heck out of it.

(Maybe the impulse is really a deep-seated desire to dirty some dishes.  I feel out of place in an entirely clean environment, because I'm afraid of messing it up.  Might as well mess it up deliberately and be comfortable again.  The minute I put the last clean and rinsed item in the dish drainer, I pour myself a bowl of cereal or make chocolate milk.  Yes, I'm weird.)

And there's the impulse to consume something, too.  I have a complicated relationship with food, as I've been overweight for thirty years and obese for twenty-five.  I can feel fulfilled with my life without consuming alcohol or tobacco or even caffeine.  I don't have sex, which a lot of people see as a need, but it's not like breathing.  No orgasms?  Guess what?  I'm still alive.  It's a want.  But if you don't consume food, you die.  You can't go cold turkey on food the way you can just quit smoking, no matter how difficult quitting smoking is.  You have to modify what you eat and/or change how you eat it.

Food has become an incredibly complicated thing, especially in the last sixty years.  Fast food, sodas, mixes, and frozen items (and entire entrees) are just some of the things that have become the new norm.  For years, I lived on fries, various versions of cheeseburgers, sweets, and fried seafood.  Easy to get, not too expensive, and easy to clean up.  Obviously, my body eventually rebelled against this treatment, and I frequently feel sick as a result.  So taking care of my body, both in exercising it and in how I feed it, has become an act of loving myself.  I don't always love myself, so I have weeks of relative inactivity and the occasional serving of fried food.  That probably won't change, but I consider my habits to be healthier than they were ten years ago because of what I do now, even though my body has deteriorated because of almost forty years of treating it badly has caught up with me.

I saw this video last week:

TL;DR: We allow corporations to cook a lot of our food instead of making it ourselves, and while some processing is okay -- canning vegetables and milling flour, for example -- some processing is less healthful.  So cooking my own food is more time consuming than letting someone else prepare it, but I have more control over what goes into my body as a result.

In an interview for Julie and Julia, Meryl Streep said, "[Julia Child] gave us the idea that delivering this beautiful food to your family, to your guests, was an act of love."

Thomas Keller, who owns the French Laundry and is one of America's finest chefs (as well as a contributor to Ratatouille) said, "Anybody can cook, it's just that you have to have the desire, the determination, to make something that you're going to feel proud to give to somebody.  Have that emotional connection with somebody.  I think you have to be emotionally attached to what you're doing, and certainly with food.  It's very easy, because it's something that nurtures."

In a way, cooking for myself is an act of self love.  And when I make one of my mother's favorite recipes for her, I take care of her, too.