Thursday, December 18, 2014

Armageddon is kind of a lot to lay on a six-year-old

Last year Alice introduced me to Sarah Vowell's stuff by sending me a copy of The Wordy Shipmates. That was nice of her. Later that year I saw a copy of Assassination Vacation on sale so I picked that up. Then earlier this year I was looking for some other book. I don't remember this one because I am WAY behind on reviews. But I know I was looking in the humor section and the book I wanted wasn't there. But another discounted Sarah Vowell book was! This time I read Take The Cannoli: Stories from the New World

Unlike the other 2 books, the focus of Take The Cannoli isn't historical. At least, not entirely, though of course there is a little of that. This is a collection of autobiographical essays where she covers things like her obsession with The Godfather when she was in college, or when she tried to look more intimidating and decided to get a goth makeover, or when she talks about her vacation following the trail of tears (because there's gotta be some history).

There isn't really a unifying theme to the essays. Other than they are about her in one way or another. Which doesn't bother me because I have a short attention span and that little bit of unification is all I need. And besides that, the essays are funny. Vowell is funny and while I can't say I learned anything, like I did with her other two books, I can say I enjoyed this one a lot. What can I say, I like self-deprecation, like when she talks about she and classmate used to each write music, though of very different styles. And qualities. Her philosophy behind her pieces was "Why not just have every instrument in an ensemble play every kind of note grouping simultaneously? That way, you could make even the sappiest string section sound almost as good as a hair dryer." Meanwhile, her musical nemesis used to write pop-friendly tunes to the delight of the female students. Except for Sarah, of course.
Pishposh, I thought, alone in my two-by-three soundproof practice module that was more than roomy enough to accommodate my admirers. I was convinced that real artists were the kind that nobody understood, much less liked, which was pretty reassuring since nobody liked me. Or my music.
See, teenage pain is hilarious.

She talks, in bits and pieces, about her love of America, while still being upset with it. She talks about hearing the Rodney King verdict while studying abroad in Holland and trying to defend herself and the US to her friend (a local) who said to her "Of course you're not going back there." As I mentioned above, she talks about traveling the trail of tears with her sister, which is not exactly a barrel of laughs (A historical tragedy and five fourteen-hour days behind the wheel? Who could pass that up?)

If you like Vowell, you should read this one. If you haven't tried Vowell, this isn't a bad place to start. It's easier to get into than, say Wordy Shipmates (WHICH IS STILL VERY GOOD, ALICE, but let's face it, if the puritans aren't your jam, might be a bit slow at times) and gives you a good sense of her style, while being entertaining, if a bit light. I can't say a lot of these essays stuck with me. Except maybe the goth one, where I have actually quoted that the rule that you have to stay out at the club at least as long as it took you to get ready. IMPORTANT LESSONS.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 37

Vowell, Sarah. Take The Cannoli: Stories from the New World. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another survey instead of a review!

I know, I know. I'm doing a LOT of surveys. But here's the thing, they're easier to do than reviews. I still like writing reviews but they take more effort and time, which are harder to come by. Like right now, I need to run to catch a train in a bit so I don't want to start a review and have to stop in the middle and blah blah excuses blah.

Not only has work been busy just...all year practically. But NOW we have additional work/stress. For you see Tom just got a new job (yay!!!) that is in another state (yay?) which means we have to sell our place (booo) and move somewhere else (uuuggghhh).
So all the emotions
I am looking forward to the move, assuming we end up where we'd like cos it could mean cutting my commute in half AND right now his commute is about 2 and 1/2 hours each way so of course he would like to change that. BUT I also really like our current place and why can't I just pick this up and put it over there? That would be ideal. But apparently that's not an option. Thanks, naysayers.

ANYWAY, Sarah recently did a short survey, so of course I'm snagging it for myself. Thanks, Sarah! And I will try to get at least one review written for this week.

1. Why did you start blogging?
I was probably complaining about how I wasn't doing anything with my English degree, and Tom got tired of the complaining and said "Why not start a blog about books?" He has good ideas. Sometimes.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
Yeah, Tom came up with that too. He's responsible for a lot of this blog. Red because my hair is red and various people over the years have called me "Red". And then the blog is about What I Read, so, you know.

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging?
One. How sad is that? I've had this blog for almost 5 years and I've pretty much never changed it. HOWEVER, my dear friend has been working on a new blog design for me. ANOTHER HOWEVER, it's been at like the 90% done stage for over a year now, so I'm not exactly sure when it will actually go live.* But it will be SUPER exciting when it does because I love love love what it looks like.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms?
See answer above. I haven't even changed colors, you think I've bothered to change platforms?

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What is your process like?
Reviews are usually an hour plus. They'd probably take less if I wasn't usually watching TV while writing them. But that doesn't happen. I sometimes have thoughts and thus write out notes while I'm writing. Other times when I start a review I'm working with a blank page, which is intimidating. I also want to catch up on my reviews so I'm not writing about books I read 2+ months ago.

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post?
Not many. I am pretty bad at anticipating which posts are going to get the most activity. The ones I assume will be nothing get a bunch of comments, while the ones I think "Ah yes, people will like THIS ONE" get almost nothing.

7. Do you have a blogging schedule?
Ugh, I wish. If I had more time perhaps I'd come up with one. As it is I typically do my writing on Sunday for the week and hope to get something else written at some point after work. That typically doesn't work.

8. Do you tell people in-real-life about your blog? What are their reactions?
Not many. I mean, I don't not tell people about it. But I tend not to bring it up. A few people at work know about it but for the most part IRL people don't know too much about it.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most:
In no particular order:

Alright I went slightly over the 10 BUT IT WAS NECESSARY.

10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?
I would like to repeat Sarah here and say "I want to write better, and more often."

I would also like the new blog design to go out sometime in 2015.

*NOT THAT I AM COMPLAINING because my friend is doing this because he said "Hey I want to make a site and your blog is awesome and I'll make you a new site!" so it's totally something he's doing cos he's awesome. He also recently moved to the other side of the world (China) which complicates things some more. Plus I already sort of made him (and my other good friend) slightly alter their China plans, because they were originally going to move right before my wedding. I maaaay have said "Listen, I'm certainly not going to stop you from moving to the other side of the world for my party. BUT I will be super bummed if you don't make it to my party so...enjoy that guilt." And because they are awesome people and such good friends, they actually did change up their plans a bit and leave out of NYC instead of Boston so they could come to the wedding. I am grateful for my friends. They are good people.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thanksgiving and OH HEY dog pictures

I promised you puppy pictures, and I am here to provide puppy pictures!

As with every Thanksgiving for the past 10+ years I've gone down to South Carolina to visit my dad/play with his various pets. Over the years there have been:

A pheasant. It came with the house. I don't know if it ever had a name.

A watch goose. Geese make WAY better watch animals than dogs. At least this one did. Plus it acted as a body guard for some of the other animals because seriously, nothing will mess with a goose.

Ducks! I think there were 4 at one point. they knew to stay near the goose and thus were safe from the dogs. But once the goose died, the ducks didn't stand a chance (because someone felt that the ducks shouldn't be caged up and should instead be free. In this case that means "free to be eaten by the dogs")

4 chickens. Or I guess 3 chickens and a rooster and guess what? Roosters are assholes. At least this one was. As to their fate, see "freedom" above.

10 goats? I think there were probably about 10 in the end. Did you know goats eat everything? Because they seriously eat EVERYTHING. Also baby goats are the most adorable thing and will use the roof of an old shed as a slide. ADORABLY.

An emu. This was another stray that wandered onto the property and hung out for awhile before moving on. No one knows where it came from. It is another world down there.

20+ Cats. Not all at once but there were a bunch of wild cats that lived in the barn and honestly, 20 is probably a low number for them. I didn't see most of them cos of the whole wild thing. Except for glowing eyes showing up under various bushes. Right now there are 3 house cats. I have no pictures of them, however, because they stay in my dad's bedroom and aren't big fans of people that aren't my dad or step-mom.

20 dogs. Probably. Again, not all at once but over the years. The house came with 2 basset hounds because that's apparently a thing that sometimes happens down south. Some stray dogs wandered onto the property, a neighbor has puppies, some other puppies were born, you know how it goes. Right now there are 3 dogs: Clyde, Lucy, and Puccini. AND HERE ARE THEIR PICTURES

"Sleeping in fields" is sort of the big dogs' specialty. It also puts them in a great position for tummy rubs. The little dog stays on a leash because he cannot be trusted to not annoy the other dogs and get his ass kicked. But they do hang out with him sometimes.

AND now it's Christmas season. I am a pain in the ass pre-Thanksgiving when it comes to Christmas music and decorations, but once Thanksgiving is over I AM FOR IT! And here is my tree. You can't really see the tinsel on it but it is all over.

What are your holiday plans, whatever you may celebrate??

Monday, December 8, 2014

The laboratory study of sex has never been an easy, safe, or well-paid undertaking

I've decided to take a break from throwing tinsel around the house to actually write a book review. I really need to get on these considering I'm still working on reviewing books I read in September. Whoops.

Anyway, to the review. Over the years my friends and I have managed to very far from each other, because we're dumb. Also jobs. Whatever. The point is, we decided we wanted to do more stuff despite differences in timezones and thus set up a virtual book club and our first book was Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.

I've wanted to read one of Roach's book since I heard someone describe her as sort of Bill Bryson-esque, taking on topics like the digestive system, cadavers, and sex. So hell yes I am down with that. And I'm happy to say that Bonk lived up to my expectations.

Bonk is not only a book about sex, but specifically the intersection of sex and science (you know, if you didn't get that from the subtitle); about sex as studied in laboratories. As she says
It wasn't until the past half century that lab-based science embraced the pursuit of better, more satisfying sex...This book is a tribute to the men and women who dared. Who, to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery. Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.
She talks  about some of the big names like Alfred Kinsey and Masters & Johnson,* but also about Princess Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon's great-grand-niece) and her quest to figure out the optimal distance from clit to vaginal canal for orgasm during intercourse, or Dr. Geng-Long Hsu, a Taiwanese surgeon who performs operations (which are described in great detail, or at least more detail than perhaps I needed) to fix erectile disfunction issues or Dr. Ahmed Shafik, an Egyptian doctor who studied the effects of polyester on sexual activity by studying a bunch of rats in pants. Roach covers the history of sexual science, where it has come from and where it's going and all of the problems it's run into. Problems like male gynecologists not being allowed to look at female genitalia, which is a pretty big fucking problem.

The book isn't in chronological order, but instead hops around to different topics like "The Testical Pushers: If Two Are Good, Would Three Be Better?" and "The Prescription-Strength Vibrator: Masturbating for Health." It's funny without making fun of those that havedevoted their lives to studying sex. Roach takes the work these people are doing seriously, while admitting all of the ridiculous stuff that you might encounter (see above: rats in pants).

If any of the stuff I've said so far interests you, I absolutely recommend you check out this book. I like Roach's style (so much so I just picked up another of her books, Stiff) and as for the topic really, who doesn't want to learn something more about sex? And it was a hit with the book club.

Gif rating:

*SIDE NOTE, have any of you watched Masters of Sex? Because you probably should. It's sort of like Mad Men, in that it's a drama that takes place in roughly the same time period. And it has Lizzy Caplan, Alison Janney, and Sarah Silverman in it.

Title quote from page 303

Roach, Mary. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Norton, 2008.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November Reading Wrap-Up

OH HEY everyone. I'm back from my food coma. It was pretty great and also warm. ALSO PUPPIES! I will have a post with puppy pictures soon though I'm going to apologize right now at the small number of puppy pictures. Apparently I have used up ALL the space on my phone and I spent some time deleting songs (no, but I NEED all 1500 of these songs on me at all times because what if I need the Grease soundtrack at a moment's notice, HOW CAN YOU MAKE ME CHOOSE?) to get more space but yeah, there are limited pictures. Perhaps I can convince the family to send up some additional ones.

ANYWAY November reading. I did better than I thought, but that's only because I thought I did really really badly. So, hooray for low expectations?

Number of books read

The Weirdness by Jeremy Bushnell
The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde
Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs (audiobook)
The Collector by John Fowles
What The Dinosaurs Did Last Night by Refe and Susan Tuma

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors
16% cos the Dino one is written (or really more accurately photographed) by a husband & wife team.

Percentage of white authors
100% - sigh. Again.

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks

Percentage of rereads

Percentage of review books

Books written by decade
1960s - 20%
2010s - 80%

Books by genre
Humor - 40%
Health - 20%
Horror/Suspense - 20%
Children's - 20%

So I read more pages than I assumed by that variety is pretty pathetic. Ugh. I don't know how much better December will be since I'm currently making my way through the third Game of Thrones book*, A Storm of Swords and that book is roughly eleventy-billion pages and while they go relatively quickly, that's still a lot of Martin-land. Maybe January will be better.

*Yes, I KNOW it's really A Song of Ice and Fire series but since that name is stupid and everyone knows GoT, that's what I'm going with. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Time!

I hope those of you in the U.S. are enjoying eating ALL THE FOOD. Those of you not in the U.S. should also try eating all the food as all the food is delicious.
As with previous years, I've wandered down south for the holiday* where the internet access is slim, but the puppy access is high so it's a pretty good trade-off. I'd apologize in advance for being around to read and comment on everyone's blog, except I have been pretty bad about that in general. Which I AM sorry for and I'm trying to get better about. Anyway, Thanksgiving.
Bookish things I am thankful for:
1. Time to read: My long commute may suck a LOT but it at least gives me an opportunity to read. Or sometimes not read if I feel like listening to music but the point is I have a bunch of time to read which is nice.
2. Means to buy books: I certainly do not have ALL THE MONEY but I do have enough to cover my bills with some leftover for books. I think I need to make the effort to use the library so some of that leftover can go somewhere other than books, but it's nice that I have the option.
3. This blog: I may not have all the time I used to to keep up with this blog, but I still heart it and I'm still making the effort to be here as often as I can.
4. The people I met cos of this blog: You people (and if you're reading this you can pretty much guarantee you're one of these people) are the reason I'm still writing this blog. I love the readalongs and minithons and general meeting-and-talking-to people who have become great friends.

I know there are more things but I won't continue listing them. There are important things to get to
Hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving/day of eating lots of food and lots to be thankful for.

*And unfortunately, as with previous years, Tom is staying up here because of work. Would-be-robbers should take note the house will not be empty so no funny business.