Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Her nose was always buried in a book


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clark
A big, thick novel about magic! Like Harry Potter for adults.

How to Cook Everything - Mark Bittman
I'm fully engrossed in the chapters on breads and grains. Success in pumpkin and apple breads, and discovered the pleasure of saying "quinoa." Not-so-successful was a disastrous quick bread I refer to as "molasses and whole wheat death cake."

How to Make a Forest Garden
- Patrick Whitefield
Not that I'm going to, right now. But someday.


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers

After this - Alice McDermott
Slow and suburban but well-written.

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy
I hear this is coming out soon as a ridiculously violent movie I probably will not see. I closed my eyes through parts of the book.

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan*
One of my favorite authors, but the twist ending was so incredibly unlikely and forced that I can't believe this won the Booker Prize. Read Atonement, The Cement Garden, Between the Sheets - virtually anything else. On Chesil Beach is very high on my to-be-read list.

In Persuasion Nation - George Saunders
A varied collection of short stories. Some were classic Saunders, some were less Saunders-esque, and made no use of the trademarked Saunders conversational question mark. The title story involves a sympathetic polar bear with an ax in his head, and a God-like corner of a green snack wrapper. I encourage you to read it.

Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell
I have mixed feelings when I hear Sarah Vowell's voice in my head as I read her essays. Something about it annoys me. I have mixed feelings about Sarah Vowell, sometimes.

*I'm reading my way through the Mc section of the library.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The case of the missing pounds

I was getting ready to leave work today when my co-worker suddenly asked, "Have you lost weight?"

It was an unusual question. I suspected he wasn't asking because he wanted to compliment me. I was wearing a black sack of a dress that's two sizes too big, and my co-worker has mentioned before that he doesn't want to say anything that might be construed as sexual harrassment. That made me feel awkward.

So I was curious as to where this was coming from. I asked, "Within what time frame?"

"Within the past week."

I said I hadn't noticed.

He said that he'd suddenly lost 6 pounds over the last week, and he wondered if it was something that was happening to other people, like something in the air or the way that women who live together kind of menstrate ("cycle?" I suggested) together.

I said I didn't think so, but we've been going through a doughnut phase in the office, and I suggested that they may be secret weight loss doughnuts.

We explored his exercise patterns further, and it turns out he had been biking two hours a day since his truck had been in the shop. He hadn't considered the increase in biking as exercise, or a reason why he might have lost weight.

There is a study (most of my stories start with this phrase now) that says that if your friends are overweight, it's likely that you'll be overweight too. I can't find that study now, but I think it would be really cool if it worked the opposite way. If your friends are skinny or losing weight their weight loss will translate to you through some kind of osmosis or diffusion. I can see the next weight loss craze: No need to exercise, or diet, or take supplements or eat heinous amounts of red meat! Just stand awkwardly close to a thin person for most of the day. The best technique is to "accidentally" handcuff yourself to that person. Then wait for the weight to even out like the scales of Justice.

Friday, September 14, 2007

New Saunders book

I was actually hurt when I found out about George Saunders' new book of essays - Why didn't someone tell me? But all was forgiven when I read an excerpt, which I will rip off wholesale from kottke.org:

Last night on the local news I watched a young reporter standing in front of our mall, obviously freezing his ass off. The essence of his report was: Malls Tend to Get Busier at Christmas! Then he reported the local implications of his investigation: (1) This Also True At Our Mall! (2) When Our Mall More Busy, More Cars Present (3) The More Cars, the Longer it Takes Shoppers to Park! and (shockingly): (4) Yet People Still Are Shopping, Due to, it is Christmas!

It sounded like information, basically. He signed off crisply, nobody back at NewsCenter8 or wherever laughed at him. And across our fair city, people sat there and took it, and I believe that, generally, they weren't laughing at him either. They, like us in our house, were used to it, and consented to the idea that Informing had just occurred. Although what we had been told, we already knew, although it had been told in banal language, revved up with that strange TV news emphasis ("cold WEATHer leads SOME motorISTS to drive less, CARrie!"), we took it and, I would say, it did something to us: made us dumber and more accepting of slop.

Furthermore, I suspect, it subtly degraded our ability to make bold, meaningful sentences, or laugh at stupid, ill-considered ones. The next time we feel tempted to say something like, "Wow, at Christmas the malls sure do get busier due to more people shop at Christmas because at Christmas so many people go out to buy things at malls due to Christmas being a holiday on which gifts are given by some to others" -- we might actually say it, this sentiment having been elevated by our having seen it all dressed-up on television, in its fancy faux-informational clothing.

This is why I don't watch TV news and instead read blogs. At least you can personally insult the bloggers (and also the journalists, columnists, guest writers, and what have you) when they say something stupid. But speaking of, Amazon convinced Saunders to post some blog entries, which I guess is something they do now. Maybe it's the counter-measure to authors writing their own reviews and starring their own books. Let's bring the shadiness out into the open, and pay authors to do exactly what the media chastised them for before. Saunders acknowledges this, and makes the whole ethical promotional quandary a remarkably satisfying read. As always. Damn.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Flash backwards

I've been taking the time to look through some of the documents on my old iBook. I found a list of spam email headings I compiled for the old Mess blog, as follows:

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After using Hoodia 920+ all your clothes will be too big for you.

Hoodia 920+ is the key to ideal unblemished body.

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Time has changed and ugly stomachs are not the example of beauty anymore. That’s why you have to try Hoodia 920+.

Some weight loss preparations can work fast but are they harmless to your health? Hoodia 920+ is one of them.

Looking forward to summer but are a little scared of undressing some parts of your body. Let Hoodia 920+ take care of it.

There are 58 million of overweight people in America. With Hoodia 920+ you dont have to be one of them.

Don’t worry about Penis Enlarge Patch being harmful to your health.

Step back let Penis Enlarge Patch wash away your fears.

But speaking of the "mess" I discovered this thing on the Internet Archive called the Wayback Machine, where you can find websites which, unlike irony, have unfortunately passed. After scoping out Earth & Sky's claims that we were the first to bring radio science content to the web (it's true!), I decided to step back in my own internet history and check out the High Plains Messenger.

It was as if I had traveled back in time to August 5, 2006. Bush was still in office, and my last feature story, "Disabling the System" was the main image, and I think remained to be so because everyone had lost the motivation to change it or to really write anything else. I was blogging about random Colorado Springs stuff which didn't seem all that important to anyone.

But I consider "The Battle of the Bargains" in which I compared Extreme Bargains, Bargain Mart, and Walmart on the relative cost of Jet-Puffed Kraft Marshmellow Spread to be my best investigative work. And I still cherish the hate mail from "Tears of a Clown: Do Circuses Really Make Elephants Sad?"

This article really does seem biased, almost angrily so on the reporter's part. Maybe a rep from PETA killed her parents.

The commenter is only halfway wrong. My parents are still alive, but the article is indeed angrily biased, not "emminently fair". I did not like PETA's politics and I wrote it that way. It turned out as an entertaining but crappy article written with a half-baked idea of ethics. But it's the story I tell every single time someone mentions PETA. "Gather round," I tell the children who are considering going vegan. "And let me tell you about the time PETA almost killed my parents."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wonderful things to share with the world

Chocolate cream Italian sodas.

Graham Reynolds.



Making risotto.

Hype Machine.

Food security.


2nd Sundays Sockhop.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(My roommate is the guy clutching the neck of a beer by the bar, overwhelmed by the number of adorable vintage dresses present. I am elsewhere, getting my hop on.)