Showing posts from September, 2011

"I don't believe in an afterlife, but I still fully expect to see my brother again"

Last Christmas, at my parents' house, my nieces (who were about 16 months old at the time) kept telling us that they wanted to be read to, but every time their mother, codename: Cordelia, began a new book, they would get distracted, wander around, then come back a few minutes later with another book, asking to be read to. They didn't seem to know what they were looking for.

Then Cordelia picked up Where the Wild Things Are. It was their first time ever seeing this book. Both girls went still; both girls watched and listened, entranced, to the entire story.

I felt that something I knew in my heart about books -- especially our very best books -- had just been proven true.

Here's a recent Fresh Air interview with Maurice Sendak. It's about 20 minutes long. As my sister codename: Apocalyptica told me when she sent me the link, it will make you happy and it will make you cry.

"Okay, Mulder, but I'm warning you: if this is monkey pee, you're on your own."

That's what Scully says to Mulder when Mulder hands her a flask of yellow liquid that came from a laboratory full of caged monkeys, gives her one of his significant "no-doubt-it's-evidence-of-extraterrestrial-life" looks, and asks her if she can figure out what it is. And in this case, it does turn out to be evidence of extraterrestrial life. This is the X-Files first season finale ("The Erlenmeyer Flask"), and one of the earliest examples of Scully, the skeptic, having no choice but to believe, because the evidence comes to her in the lab, through the practice of her own religion, namely, science.

I ♥ Scully.

So, I just noticed the weird, highly specific, wordy recommendation categories Netflix has created for me, based on my viewing and rating preferences. "Foreign Thrillers Featuring a Strong Female Lead." "Critically Acclaimed Visually-Striking Dark Movies." "Inspiring Fight-the-System Movies Based on Real Life." "Mind-…

Pretty Maps

This week, my happiness about Elizabeth Warren running for Senate in Massachusetts...

(transcript here)

...combined with this (funny? offensive? certainly clever, certainly reductive) t-shirt for sale at Threadless Tees...

(click on it to enbiggen; you can buy it here)

...combined with my recent perusal of maps because I'm going on vacation next week to a part of the country I barely know at all...

(no picture for that one, sorry -- though maybe there will be once I get back!)

... all got me searching the internets for something I'd remembered seeing once before. I found it. It was created by Mark Newman in the Department of Physics and the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan. Here it is:

What is that purple monstrosity?

Well, many of you will recognize this:

It's the results of a USA presidential election (in this case, 2008). Blue is for Democrat, red is for Republican; each state is colored either red or blue to represent which party the majorit…

Monday Randutiae

So, when I posted about Winter's Bone a few weeks back, I didn't realize that the main actress, Jennifer Lawrence (whom I greatly admired), is our future Katniss Evergreen. (Edit: EverDEEN. Can I blame that on my voice recognition software? It's clearly read Harry Potter and a lot of Charles Dickens, but The Hunger Games must still be in its TBR pile.) Here's a link to portraits of the cast of The Hunger Games, which will be released... I have no idea when. But I'm sure it's easy enough to find out. *coughs lazily* I hope for your sake that when you click on the link, you're not compelled to watch a preview of the new tv show The Playboy Club like I was. Gee, that show doesn't look like it's going to be demeaning to women or anything.

But at least I can scrub my brain clean with the news that Elizabeth Warren is going to challenge Scott Brown in the next Senate race in Massachusetts. Elizabeth Warren, you have my vote.

Next, I would like to officia…

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so"

(Says Hamlet, who thinks himself straight down the path to disaster, but anyway. I've been thinking about thinking, and the ways that thinking can be good. ^_^)

FAQ: How would you respond to an interpretation of Graceling that reads Katsa and Po's relationship as abusive?

(Okay, this isn't actually a frequently asked question, but I was asked it once.)

I think that every reaction to a book is genuine, and every interpretation that can be supported by the text is valid. People read the same book and come to different conclusions; no one has a claim to some sort of absolute truth about a book. What I hope is that if someone who doesn't interpret the relationship as abusive encounters someone who does, the person who doesn't will listen to the person who does, rather than dismissing their interpretation without thought, or trying to shut them down. In my wanderings through all parts of the Internet, I see way too many people shutting down other people's concerns, ra…

Another Plug for This American Life

I liked This American Life's approach to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Instead of focusing on the day itself, they interviewed people affected in different ways by 9/11 who've appeared on the show at various points in the past ten years, and talked to them about how the world has changed, and where we are now.

I have enormous gratitude to This American Life for understanding and allowing me my complicated, messy, self-critical understanding of what it means to be American in the world. The folks there understand that being deeply ashamed of your country and furious with your government never precludes loving your country fiercely, or grieving for those whose lives have been torn apart. They get the difference between governments and individuals, between armies and soldiers. And they get that there are many different ways of being heartbroken.

I guess I'm trying to say that I love this radio show because it allows things to be confusing, contradictory, and inexpressible. It…

Library Stuff and Movie Things

In case you've not heard about the libraries devastated by Hurricane Irene, here's a post from Kate Messner with info about how to help. (Update: this blog post has more, and possibly more complete, information!)

Also, do you have a teeny tiny library in your town? (Thanks, R, for the link.)

In other news, I recommend the Bollywood movie Band Baaja Baaraat, and think it's a good movie for anyone who's never seen a Bollywood movie, wants to try, but doesn't know what to watch first (along with Main Hoon Na and Dil Bole Hadippa, to name two others). What I particularly like about this one is that not only do I like the female lead (Shruti, played by Anushka Sharma), but I like what the movie does with her. Often I admire the woman's character but have some lingering annoyance about the role she's required to play... but this one balanced out for me. It was a fun watch! Now, will someone explain to me why newcomer Ranveer Singh was credited first w…

My Thoughts on Writer's Block

First, unrelated, and from the Department of Misheard:
Me: I just noticed that this bag I'm carrying discriminates against lefthanders!
JD: Against werepanthers!!!?(Those of you who watch True Blood may have surmised that my friend JD watches it too.)

Now. I get questions from time to time about writer's block and how I deal with it, and I thought I'd try to write some thoughts down. My problem with this issue is that I don't really understand what people mean when they talk about having writer's block. Philip Pullman says he doesn't believe in it. "All writing is difficult," he writes. "The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don't get plumber's block, and doctors don't get doctor's block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?"

Now, I won't go so far as to say that I don't believe in w…

"'Hail Mary,' prayed Lovejoy between her teeth, 'Mary, make me cocky and independent.'"

A few things today.

First, I and mine got through the hurricane unscathed, but the news reports make it clear that we were lucky. My heart goes out to everyone devastated by this storm. Especially our neighbors to the north in Vermont! The Big Picture at The Boston Globe put together a great slideshow of photos from Hurricane Irene -- check it out.

Second, a FAQ: Are you on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.? No. This blog is my only online presence; I am not on any other social media sites.

Third, my title today is a favorite line from An Episode of Sparrows, by Rumer Godden, which I just read. I've talked about Godden before on the blog and want to recommend a few of her books again, in addition to AEoS: A Candle for St. Jude; China Court; Greengage Summer; and In This House of Brede. (If you're planning to read your first Godden, maybe don't choose that last one first -- it's very long, takes place in an abbey, and practically nothing happens. I wouldn't want yo…