I Love Oompa Loompas

Today is an incredibly important holiday- National Milk Chocolate Day. To celebrate, everyone should read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, or at least take a second to pay homage to one of the best children's books ever (shut up, peanut gallery). There's nothing better than Oompa Loompas- I love those little guys (almost as much as ewoks). Oh, and rivers filled with chocolate- seriously, get me a straw. Unfortunately, due to my self-imposed sugar cutback I had to commemorate this fine occasion with a No-Sugar Added Fudgesicle. Whoopdefuckingdo. Oh, and that stupid little brat Violet. What a whiny bitch. The only problem I had with this book when I was little was that the four grandparents slept in the same bed, head to foot. What if they wanted alone time? Anyway, I hope you find the golden ticket.

Top Ten Tuesday- They've Got Issues

This Top Ten Tuesday is brought yo you buy The Broke and the Bookish, the letter C, and the number three (speaking of Sesame Street, I really love the movie Follow that Bird. Big Bird turning blue is one of the saddest, most emotional movie moments ever).

Issues- you've got 'em, I've got 'em, and so do many of the books we love. I've tried to go for some I haven't mentioned before-

1. Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle
Illegal immigration, class, overall treatment of minorities

Read it Now: I've recommended this book a few times on this blog because I am such a huge fan of it. While I do believe in legal process and the need for immigration reform, I also believe in humanity, sympathy and kindness.

2. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
Treatment of animals in captivity, and, um, well bestiality

Read it Now: This book is for the patient and liberal minded, as it describes how a monkey basically evolves into a creature very similar to a human. He also develops a very intimate relationship with a woman. Bowchickabowwow.

3. The Imperfectionists by Tom Racchman
The decline of the newspaper industry

Read it Now: A great novel that comments on the changes that are happening to how we acquire information as technology takes over our lives. Nostalgic yet realistic.

4. Solar by Ian McEwan
Global warming

Read it Now: This is not McEwan's strongest novel, but it is an interesting look at global warming and finding alternative sources of energy before it is too late. Humorous with a protagonist (well, technically, that's what he is) that you'll love to hate.

5. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Fertility, the role of business in medicine

Read it Now: Patchett is a beautiful writer, and her novel dealing with science in the Amazon explores the future of fertility and the pharmacological influences that may change it.

6. Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun
uth homelessness, runaways, drug use
Read it Now: This book will break your heart while offering a different perspective on runaways. Being independent and alone in the world is not glamorized in the slightest- the novel is bleak but honest.

7. Rules by Cynthia Lord

Read it Now: This is actually a children's novel (it's a Newbury Honor book), but I really appreciate the message behind it. The narrator's brother is autistic, and she must deal with the struggles this brings to her family. She creates "rules" to help him function in society.

8. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta
Issues: sex education, separation of church and state

Read it Now: As a high school teacher (and a liberal, pro-choice kind of girl) I find sex education a fascinating topic. This novel explores what happens when people disagree over what teenagers should learn, and also the role of church in sports and school.

9. The Road by Cormic McCarthy
the apocalypse

Read it Now: Face it- eventually, something terrible is going to happen and only like fifty of us are going to survive (supposedly next year, right?). Food will be scarce, people will be violent, and illness will be inevitable. Sounds fun, right? Can't wait.

10. How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino
Issues: Lawn gnome invasion
Read it Now: They may look innocent and frozen, but they're not. Garden gnomes will sneak around your house, mess with your things, and eventually try to kill you. This book has excellent tips on preventing the take over.

Teachers Make the Worst Students

A very frequent saying that you'll hear floating around educational trainings and meetings is, "teachers make the worst students." I'd be offended if it weren't so true.

Rule: Electronic devices should be turned off in the classroom
Offense: Today was day 1 of AP training and I checked my phone probably four times an hour.
Excuse: I'm an adult and I'm waiting for a few important emails and texts. Plus, I can multi-task and was doing it discretely under my desk. Oh, and everyone else was doing it too.

Rule: No cheating
Offense: I fully plan on submitting a colleague's completed and approved AP syllabus to the College Board instead of putting the 25+ hours on creating my own.
Excuse: It's allowed, if not encouraged. Booyah. Technically it's not cheating- borrowing with permission, I guess.

Rule: Don't talk when others are talking
Offense: I wasn't actually too bad today (and try not to be ever), but as a whole, my people are terrible abut this and I saw it first-hand at the morning whole-group gathering.
Excuse: We are so used to be the ones in charge and being able to talk whenever we want, we forget that it's not "our turn." At least, for some of us. Others just don't give a crap.

Rule: Students should show up to class rested and enthusiastically ready to learn
Offense: I left the apartment today at 7 a.m. wanting to murder someone due to lack of sleep and not being pleased about spending four days in a classroom from 8:00-4:30, for free (for the record, there was no violence).
Excuse: It's my effing summer break! No excuse is needed, dammit. If you really need one, it's the dog's fault for not eating.

The kicker:

Rule: Finish all assigned reading in a timely matter
Offense: I've been "assigned" to read In Cold Blood for the sophomore AP classes I'm teaching this year and am reading more slowly than I have all summer. And it's an interesting book! But, it feels like a chore because it's a required (yes, I know, payback's a bitch).
Excuse: I've been extremely busy with house hunting, half-marathon training, and puppy wrangling. And since I'm going to be using it my classroom I need to know it well, which requires my full time and attention.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most hypocritical of them all?

I think when it comes down to it most people are super critical when put on the receiving end of their profession. Does it excuse the behavior? Absolutely not.

And yes, I will get my reading done. Really soon. Maybe tomorrow. Or Wednesday. For sure by Thursday.

Blog Hop Whoring- Genres

I'm becoming a blog hop whore. I know, I know, it's the lazy way out, but it's fun and it lets me find new blogs and interact with new people. And instead of money, this hoe-bag earns new readers, without the STDs, so that's nice.

This blog hop is from Crazy-for-Books and asks:
What is one genre you wish you could get into but just can't?

I would really like to "get into" graphic novels but have yet to take the plunge. It has
taken me a really long time to accept the fact that these are actually literature and more than just Archie comics, but they are. Look at The Watchman- it has achieved great critical success and has made countless "best of" lists. I feel like I am missing out on an innovative genre that I could probably use to connect to some of my high school students.

I think there is also something to be said behind the art behind graphic novels- to be able to convey emotions, actions, thoughts, and setting through those itty-bitty boxes is impressive. Combining that medium with words to create a story cannot be easy. Graphic novels tackle heavy issues regarding politics, history, and social concerns. The genre deserves my attention.

I think the "novel" part throws me for a loop- a novel is pages and pages of words with very few pictures... supposedly. Reading a graphic novel would require me to change my prototype for the word "novel," which is something that has been cemented in my brain for over twenty years. But, it is a new year's literary resolution, so in the next five months I will be pushing aside my issues and giving it a try.

Book Blogger Hop

Books on Your Back- LeVar Burton is the Man

I've talked about my love of Reading Rainbow before (not counting how they'd always leave you hanging and tell you to go to your library to check it you- like my five-year-old self was going to hurry up and write down the title or remember it until I begged for a trip downtown), and this shirt from Threadless made me think of it. Oh, and it's $10. Not too shabby- I may actually buy it (well, depending on shipping costs- cheapskate alert!).

By the way, LeVar is now 54. I have a strange urge to do a little investigating and see what the man is up to. Stay tuned...

Blog Hop- Bibliotherapy

Another meme, this time from the Blue Bookcase. And, my, my, my, two legit posts in one day. That's what happens when you're pleasantly bored on summer break and your husband plays videogames on Wednesday nights.

Literary Blog Hop

This addition's meme states: Discuss Bibliotherapy. Do you think literature can be a form of therapy? Is literary writing more or less therapeutic than nonfiction or pop lit?

Bibliotherapy is what has gotten me through, well, what has gotten me through life. My first inclination is to say its therapeutic qualities come from the fact that I can "get lost in another world" or "focus on a character's life instead my own," but for me personally that's a cliched bunch of BS. When I'm bothered by something it's extremely difficult for me to forget about the issue- no amount of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, David Mitchell, Michael Chabon or Jeffrey Eugenides is going to do that (sorry boys).

But what reading does in my times of need is distract and relax. I read for twenty, thirty, or two hundred and fifty minutes and I feel better. My nerves have been calmed, my head has been cleared, and I have renewed perspective that will let me better tackle whatever it is that is pissing me off or bringing me down.

For me, primarily literary writing and occasionally nonfiction writing is idea
l- reading "pop lit" would probably make me more miserable. Stephanie Myers is supposed to make me feel better? Sure, maybe I can transfer my anger to her for being successful for writing such crap, but it's not going to get me to my happy place. And Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson, and Michael Connolly (who is a very nice man, he spoke to one of my classes in college) lack any depth to stand a chance against my complicated, deep, very dramatic life problems. So, basically, no pop lit... ever (okay, I'm sure there are/will be exceptions, but as a general rule).

I do understand the draw, for some people, though. We all unwind in different ways and it's a matter of personal preference. I was in a monumentally foul mood yesterday and turned to Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in The Switch, the movie equivalent to "pop-lit," for assistance. Hey, at least my best friend didn't replace my sperm donor's offerings with his own and I didn't start dating the man who isn't my kid's father after all. My life is cake.

Bibliotherapy is far better than a shrink. It's cheaper, makes house calls, and is available while bathing. Bibliotherapy is the best therapy.

Back in the Day

My life has been very adult lately. Don't misunderstand- "adult" as in "full of issues that come with age," not "adult" as in "I'm trying to be the next Jenna Jameson." There are plenty of great things about being all grown up, but there are a lot of things about it that suck balls. I know, classy. I can't help it- I'm not eating processed sugar in any quantities higher than 3 grams per serving, which cuts out half of my normal daily calories, so yea, I get to say "suck balls."

What makes the mention of ball sucking even more inappropriate is the fact that this post is all about what I read and loved in my pre-pubescent years. Don't worry, there was nothing involving balls in the literature I read as a kid- that didn't come until I was at least in eighth grade (in books, not real life).

When I was younger I didn't really discriminate, I devoured (books, not balls, people, focus). These days I much prefer quality over quantity, but as I fell in love with reading I played the field quite a
bit. A sampling from my 3rd-8th grade years:

The Babysitter's Club by Ann M. Martin
Oh, de
ar lord, I loved BSC from about ages seven til ten. I think at one point I had every book and even a few of the movies. Every time we went to Wal Mart or the mall I scoured the book racks for ones I didn't have so that I could use my allowance money for new ones. I did quite a bit of babysitting for my siblings and I was fascinated by the idea I could do it in the real world and make more than the $0.50 an hour my mom screwed me over with.

Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal
The librarian at my K-8 school tried to shelter me from these for awhile, but I finally slipped one by when I was probably in fourth grade- I could not wait to read about the scandalous activities high school students Elizabeth and Jessica were involved in. My Mom, meanwhile wouldn't let me watch 90210, but said nothing about these books. I learned a lot.

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
I read this when I was in eighth grade, and while I thought it was a bit "easy," I was really interested in the idea of b
eing kidnapped and not knowing it. My sister looks quite different from me... and so does my brother! Maybe my parents stole us. You never know.

The Love C
omes Softly Series by Janete Oke
This on makes me laugh hysterically. So, this series of eight books belonged to my mom and I was extremely interested in reading them when I was probably ten or eleven because I just knew they had to be super adult. Eventually my mom caved in and I read through them all one summer. Little did I know then, they're a Christian series, all about doing it right by the Lord Jesus. Who'd of thought. Oh, and there was
definitely no sucking balls in these books. More like chaste cheek pecks. Hot. Steamy.

Carrie by Stephen King
My parents were so trusting. I literally just took this off my dad's bookshelf when I was in fifth grade and read it. I'm not a King fan at all now, nor was I then, but my curiosity got the best of me. Pig blood at prom? Tell me more!

Lurlene McDaniel Books

For those not familiar with Lurlene McDaniel, she wrote tons of young adult novels about teens
dying for various reasons like cancer and car accidents. What the hell? I guess because young, emotional girls like me ate that shit up. The Dawn Rochelle ones were my favorite (like Six Months to Live and No Time To Cry), about a girl who had leukemia. Cheerful.

I think I've tried to block the rest of them out of my mind. After this stage I entered high school and thanks to the IB program had good literature shoved down my throat for four solid years (we received a list of "good" books during our ninth grade year and I tried to stick to that through high school).

So was it just me? Anyone else read (hmm...what's a nice word for crap...) less than quality books in their youth?

Raise Your Hand if You're Not Surprised, Part 2

Borders officially announced it will close the doors on their remaining stores this fall after failing to find someone to swoop in and dig them out of the financial hole they've buried themselves in.

A moment of silence, please.

The good news is that liquidation sales may start as soon as Friday, meaning those of us, ahem, with book buying problems can go ahead and fall off the wagon guilt free (it's basically charity).

I have mixed feelings as far as this resulting in even more bookstores closing; it's not like Borders is a mom 'n pop store being overrun by a big box chain- they are a big box chain! Survival of the fittest- Barnes and Noble and Amazon took advantage of Borders' weakness. This town aint big enough for the both of us.

On the other hand, it is sad. Sure, they're big business, but they have books inside! Books with pages and covers! Books that smell like paper and can be put on shelves! Not media files ready to download and read on a screen. People who love to read gather there and leave with new stories to devour. It's also depressing that more people will lose their jobs and large real estate parcels will sit empty.

Barnes and Nobel better step up their game...

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Should Be Required Reading for Teens

Another blog meme from The Broke and the Bookish- this week focuses on the top ten books that should be required reading for teens. As a high school English teacher this on is of course right up my alley. Time to brainwash the kiddos.

So, for the purpose of this post I'm going to assume that the parents of these teens are liberal and open-minded when it comes to reading, like my folks were. This is not a cesspool of YA fiction, but instead more adult books that will actually make an impact. Here we go:

1. Something by Shakespeare- If you know me, you know this is painful, since the Bard isn't my favorite. But I do think it's necessary to read several of his plays if you want to understand literary movements and to be able to decide for yourself if you're a fan of his work. Plus, one day someone will make a joke at a cocktail party about Puck or Lady Macbeth and no one wants to feel like a dumbass.

2. A Novel About Being a Minority- I recommend Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle, a novel that chronicles two illegal immigrants' journey and experiences as they try to survive in Los Angeles. It's a little graphic, but an eye-opener that teaches tolerance and the importance of compassion. Where I live in Southern California this is a huge issue, but I feel like it's something many people would benefit from.

3. A Novel About Teen Pregnancy- Teenagers like to think about sex, talk about sex, sing about sex, and trick their parents into leaving the house so they can attempt to have sex. Blame it on the hormones. Nick Hornby's novel for young adults called Slam offers the male perspective on teen pregnancy without glorifying it. The narrator feels confused, angry, and helpless as he comes to terms with the consequences of his actions. Lesson: if you can't shield your rocket, leave it in your pocket.

4. A Novel About Justice and Race- Obviously all teenagers should read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- they love it, and they obtain a deeper understanding of the racial tensions that occurred long before they were born. It is also a great book that can be applied to the world today.

5. Something That Will Make Them Feel Like a Kid Again- Teenagers today grow up so fast, and after working with my students last year I learned that a lot of them still cling to the little kid buried inside. Maybe it's Charlotte's Web, Alice in Wonderland, Where the Red Fern Grows, Harry Potter or Dear Mr. Henshaw- whatever it may be, they need to learn that once in awhile it's okay to read for nostalgic purposes.

6. A Biography or Autobiography About Someone Of Interest- This is one that is really up to the student, which is important. So often teenagers are told what to read- they should have the option to choose someone they are really interested in and find a text that will give them more information (I may assign this as an independent assignment for my sophomores this year).

7. A Novel About Growing Up- If I asked my husband, he'd tell my Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, the ultimate bildunsgroman. I'd then sigh and make some comment about it being overrated. But, it is an important novel to this genre, so I will grudgingly include it. Holden, you need to work on the whining, though, you annoying little phony.

8. A Novel That is Horrible- This is a tough one, and I know a lot of people would disagree with me. In order to teach students things you sometimes have to include non-examples in order to show them what good things are not. Reading a "bad" book with a student would provide the opportunity to rip it to shreds, while critiquing the characters, plot, dialogue, and other literary conventions (plus, teens love to complain and criticize). This of course would not be okay for every teenager, especially reluctant readers, as it may turn them off from reading as a whole.

9. A Novel About An Outcast- Whether a teen is a bit of a loner or is a bully, they'll benefit from reading about how it can feel for those that may not fit in. I love The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz or Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

10. Something Bleak and Horrifying- Teenagers are dramatic, self-centered little critters and sometimes they need a reality check. For example, maybe an account about the Holocaust, like Night by Elie Wiesel. Or, maybe something a little more relevant like The Road, a depressing but well-written book about a boy and his father in a post-apocalyptic setting. Because seriously, guys, the fact that you caught that guy you like writing notes to that skanky girl who you know slept with your ex-boyfriend really isn't that big of a deal.

In a perfect world I could teach all these books to my students, but many would be met with parental and administrative opposition. Teenagers are exposed to so much, so fast- giving them some controversial literature in an educational environment would be such a positive experience for so many. Until then, we do what we can!

Quality Has Left the Building

When you hear most authors discuss what goes into their novels, you hear the measurement of time "years" being used. They draft, they write, they delete, they edit, they start over- they bleed, they sweat, they cry. It's like childbirth (or so I hear).

Apparently not for James Patterson. I just read an article in The New York Observer that said Patterson has signed on for a 3 and a half year, 26 book deal with the publishing house Little, Brown. Thirteen of the books are for adults, while thirteen are for children. The article goes on to mention what we already know- Patterson doesn't actually write his books, but instead employees a team to follow his formula.

A formula. Novels written according to a formula. Ugh. All to make a few bucks- it's a business. For Patterson, it's all about the quantity- quality has left the building. And these books will make millions of dollars, while truly talented authors that do their own work have to keep their day jobs. It's sickening.

Comma Boy sums it up brilliantly in his comic (his website it full of humorous comics about the industry- check it out):

I Would Make an Excellent Pottery Barn Buyer

Someday in the near (but seemingly so distant) future I will own a home that will need to be decorated. So, I started doing some browsing today...

For the living room/den/library:
[source- created by Younes Duret; the shelves are built in and the couch is high enough to keep dogs and kids off]

[source unknown (if yours please comment for credit]- love]

[source- created by Richard Hutton; literal coffee table books]

The bathroom
[source 1 and 2]


The bedroom:

[source- Livio De Marchi actually created an entire house with book carvings- another day, another post)

The dogs' room:

[source- random man not included]

[source- kids cost extra... lots extra...]

PS- weird font sizes are blogspot's issues... not mine


I'm not even a Davie Bowie fan, but it was the only thing I could come up with. I actually I think I like The Flight of the Concord's song "Bowie in Space" more than his actual music ("Receiving transmissions from David Bowie's nipple antennae" gets me every time). My husband sang this song for weeks straight and played the soundtrack for even longer, so I had it stuck in my head for probably two months straight. Crap, now I'm singing about David Bowie's boobies. Oh hell, for your enjoyment:

And now the 95% of you that don't "get it" have either moved on to more civilized blogs or have un-followed me all together.

Let's try this again.

Focus restored.

Check out the two new tabs I've added recently- "About Me" (which unfortunately doesn't shed any light as to why I'm obsessed with cereal, why I think motorcycle gangs are neat, or my obsession with blimps ) and "The Ultimate To-Do List," where I've listed all the books I own but haven't read yet. I also changed a few things on the right, but those aren't really important.

And yes, it was necessary to ramble on about David Bowie and include a youtube video for something that probably didn't really need an actual blog post.

Books on Your Back- Off With Her Head!

While I must admit to never reading one (historical fiction isn't really my bag, um, baby- I had forgot about that movie until this exact second), I know for sure there are many, many books on poor Marie Antoinette. This sweatshirt from Threadless definitely captures her ultimate fate. What's cool is that when you zip it up, you bring her back to life. It's like playing God.

She's alive!
And now she's dead.
Oh, wait, back alive!
I could go on all day.

And, speaking of shirts, I won one! I really don't know if I've ever won anything cool before, except a mooing cow that spit out bubbles at yearbook camp last summer, so I'm psyched. Thanks to Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri for the shirt from her experience running for the Tosh.0 show (until it airs all we know is that it involves many, many people in a park on treadmills... oh, the irony).

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Authors I'd Die to Meet (and Invite to a Dinner Party)

So I'm starting to get into these writing memes that are popping up- it's a great way to find new literary blogs, not to mention a nice break from thinking up my own topics. I know technically it's not Tuesday yet, but we'll round up.

This Top Ten Tuesday comes from The Broke and the Bookish and asks us to narrow it down to ten authors we'd like to meet. I'm thinking one big literary dinner party/potluck. My picks:

1. Hunter S. Thompson- The man was all kinds of crazy! He'd probably bring the booze.

2. Fyodor Dostoyevski- This Russian genius is the author of my all-time favorite novel, Crime and Punishment. Will put him in charge of the drinks with Thompson- I'm sure he could get his hands on some great vodka.

3. Isabel Allende- I've been a fan of Allende since high school, when we read House of the Spirits. I attended one of her readings last year and she was hilarious and feisty. Homemade empanadas, por favor!

4. Christopher McDougall- While not a novelist, McDougall wrote my favorite running book, Born to Run, about ultra-marathoners. I'd love to pick his brain and pick up some pointers. The man is addicted to some sort of seeds (forget what kind- chia?)- perhaps he could grind some up into bread or muffins.

5. Salman Rushdie- Every dinner proper dinner party needs some political controversy- Rushdie would have that covered, as he has faced exile, arrest, and plenty of backlash. I must admit, I'm not big on Indian food, but I suppose I'd be willing to try a good curry (just not too spicy).

6. Jonathan Safran Foer- Oh, Jonathan. Please tell me how you did it. So young, so smart, so successful. Tell me your secrets and I'll read Eating Animals and give up meat. Obviously he's bringing the salad.

7. John Irving- John Irving novels are the gourmet comfort food of literature- like macaroni and cheese with truffle oil (which is what he'd bring). My favorite is probably The World According to Garp, and no matter how long his new books get I'll always give them a try eventually.

8. TC Boyle- Author of one of my favorites, Tortilla Curtain, I would love to have a few minutes face to face with this man. I also saw him read, and he is so incredibly smart and quirky. He'd probably show up with something random like a box of cornflakes or a can of garbanzo beans (his outfit would be the best- when I saw him speak he had on a while suit, black shirt, and a some sort of hat).

9. Zadie Smith- This lady is going to be around for a long time. She's opinionated, talented, and articulate. At times she gets crap for being a little too condescending, but we all have out flaws. Read On Beauty and you'll forgive her. She seems like a classy lady- maybe a bouquet of lilies for the hostess?

10. Paolo Giordano- The author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers is not only smart, but Italian and easy on the eyes. It's only fitting he bring the dessert- cannoli, of course.

My prediction: Thompson and Dostoyevsky would get drunk, Smith and Rushdie would end up in a fist fight, and Allende would try to seduce Foer. Good times.

Who would you like to meet?

Nonfcition Nagging-Run!

This installment of Nonfiction Nagging is killing three birds with one stone. Run! by Dean Karnazes is an Amazon Vine text they sent me to review, a much needed motivator before the San Francisco Half Marathon I'm doing on the 31st, and my nonfiction book this month.

I wish I could say this was the best running book ever, but I can't. For those of you that aren't familiar with Dan Karnazes, the ultramarathon man, he's kind of an attention whore and has a bit of an ego. But, the man can run. And by run I mean he eats marathons for breakfast. We're talking endurance runs that cover hundreds of miles on rough terrain.

The actual running narratives were interesting. He describes his experiences running the Badwater Ultra (135 miles in the Mojave Desert), the 4 Deserts Challenge (Atacama, Gobi, Sahara and Antarctica), and the Regis and Kelly record breaking attempt of running for over 240 miles in 48 hours (this was a little too showboat for me, but at least he took his defeat well). He's done 50 marathons across 50 states, and has recently ran cross country to promote youth exercise (he actually ran at the high school I teach at with students from our school district... I opted to not pay to participate). I find ultras fascinating- there is so much preparation in regards to gear, support teams, and mental well-being that has to be done. Halves seem like a cake walk (right)- shoes, a few Shot Bloks, water, the Garmin, and off you go.

I didn't love his ego, of course, the sections written by his wife and kids, nor the ass-kissing letters from fans that he included ("Oh Dean, you saved my life, you're me hero, blablabla"). It also really bothers me that the subscript to the title is "26.2 stories of blisters and bliss" when the man focuses on ultras. Nitpicky, I know.

I think the overall message behind this book is that everyone needs to find some sort of physical activity they are passionate about and go for it. You don't have to be as intense as Karnazes, or enter contests, but for you physical and mental health you should commit to exercise. I've been consistently exercising for about seven years and I do it to stay sane and prevent feeling like I need to constantly diet (if I did diet I'd actually look like I've been working out consistently for seven years). Days or weeks that I miss physical activity I feel myself getting cranky, worrying too much, and lacking energy. Studies have shown that consistent exercise reduces your risks for cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, and possibly even Alzheimer's.

Get off your ass and move!

Mail Call Ya'll

I love the word "ya'll." It makes me think of Britney Spears, which then makes me laugh (she ran around with a shaved head and an umbrella, people! The woman is hilarious). Plus, it rhymes with "call," which was convenient. Anyway, I'm going to skip the "oops I've done it again" nonsense and get to the point- I got a few new books in the mail yesterday.

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote- I feel not one ounce of guilt over this one, since it's what my AP sophomores are reading this summer (very excited to teach an AP class, by the way). Our department chair chose the novel, and I am actually excited she picked something I haven't read before. It seems pretty high interest, so I'm optimistic. Oh, and bonus points for the $9.00 tax-write off.

2. Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie- Another novel I didn't choose but am excited for, this one being for book club. It's gotten some great reviews and seems like it will a smart, intense read.

3. Into T
hin Air by Jon Krakauer- I'm a sucker for free shipping, so I needed something to push me up to $25 and this has been on my wish list for a long time. I purposefully didn't read it before climbing Half Dome last year (it's about the Everest Disaster), but I don't anticipate any crazy hikes or mountain climbing anytime soon, so I'm safe.

Three books farther away from reading all the ones I own.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

An effective author makes his or her readers think, and that's exactly what Benjamin Hale did in his controversial novel The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Just to warn you, this post isn't a review (coming at the end of the month), and it does have a few spoilers of sorts (I don't give away the ending, though). Anyway, this novel definitely made me ponder a few things I hadn't dedicated much time to before, or at least not recently.


Whoa, nelly. Yup, bestiality, or I guess zoophilia (please, please for the love of God do not Google this- it's basically the same as bestiality). In the novel Bruno Littlemor
e and the scientist, Lydia, who brings him in to her home end up developing a consensual sexual relationship that results in her pregnancy, which is not carried to term (read the book to find out why not). Bruno isn't an ordinary monkey, though, as he ends up fully acquiring language and can function in society on his own, to some degree. He is also the one that pursues the relationship with Lydia, who takes awhile to warm up to the idea and feels a great deal of remorse.

Verdict: I'm a liberal gal, but I can't get on board with this concept, even if the primate species gets to the point where this kind of evolution does occur. T
he book is not necessarily trying to convince you that it's acceptable, but it does make you consider what sort of "alternative" lifestyles and relationships you are comfortable with. If the urge strikes, ask your significant other to wear a costume.


Speaking of evolving, this novel raises the questions of what other species may be one day capable of. As we know, humans and primates
are closely related, and our evolutionary cousins have exhibited a great deal of potential as far as language acquisition and physical competency. So, the question is, could chimpanzees, or any other primate, evolve to the point where they act more human-like? Bruno consciously makes the decision to distance himself from his species and do everything possible to look and act like a human, including wearing clothes, bathing, watching television, speaking, reading, and even getting a nose job.

Verdict: If single-cell organisms can eventually turn
into complex beings, I'd say anything is possible on the evolution train. Do I think it's necessarily probable? No, at least not in my lifetime! Evolution frequently occurs because the adaptation is necessary to survival, and at this point putting on a pair of shoes and using a toilet isn't going t help a chimp. There are also complex issues regarding linguistics on a neurological level that may limit what primates are capable of- the ten million dollar question of nature vs. nurture (Mr. Chomksy, thoughts?).

Animals in Captivity

I used to really love the zoo, because cute animals make me feel all mushy inside. Now, as I get older and learn more, I'm not sold on the idea of keeping wild animals in captivity.

But Christine, you have a dog.

There's a difference between domestic animals (dogs, cats, hamsters, goldfish, etc...) and wild animals (monkeys, tigers, lions, giraffes, etc...). Where exac
tly would I introduce my golden retriever into the wild at? Nebraska? Zimbabwe?

Anyway, in the book both animals living in captivity and using them for science (invasive and noninvasive) are questioned- Bruno the monkey naturally disagrees with both.

Verdict: Capturing animals from the wild for zoos or circuses is unacceptable- yanking an animal out of their natural habitat so that little Johnny can see a tiger while eating cotton candy behind the safety of plexiglass is not okay. Experimenting on animals in such a way that they are going to physically or emotionally damaged is not right either, nor is taking them out o
f the wild to do so. This is tough for me, as I know it is extremely hard to research new drug therapies for dangerous diseases like cancer and AIDS without using animals. Humans or animals? Humans or animals? At the end of the day companies need to spend the extra time, go through the proper IRB and FDA channels, and do human trials.

Wildlife reserves are something different. Personally, I'm a little more flexible here as long as the animals there are treated well, have plenty of room, and have been removed from their homes because they lived in
dangerous environments.

Shock and Awe Tactics

This novel is pretty graphic at times, as far as sexuality, anatomy, and violence. We'll just leave it at that.

Verdict: I'm okay with shock and awe in literature when it is done for a purpose, and I'd say Hale felt that is what he did. I don't believe he was trying to disgust his readers necessarily, or be too over the top, although I can see how more squeamish people would feel this way. There are some novels, like some of Chuck Palahniuk's recent books, that are vulgar just to be vulgar. Now that's just cheap way out.

Alrighty, so a little animal sex, evolution, animal rights, and vulgarity to start my Saturday. Weekend's off to a good start, I'd say.