March Reviews- A Long Month

March was a long month, on so, so many levels. One of the benefits, I suppose, was the fact that the length seemed to allow for more reading. And lucky for me, there were some good ones.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
267 pages
I would really love to once again ramble on and one about this book, but I already did a prior post, so I'll spare you the details. Foer goes into great deal about factory farming, the cultural side of meat eating, and many other things related to vegetarianism. I have to confess to buying this book for my sister for her birthday, although she made the conversion many years ago.

Verdict: If you don't want to start thinking differently, don't read this book. 

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer
340 pages
I was first drawn to this book (through Amazon Vine) because of it's comparisons to Prep and Special Topics in Calamity Fiction. While it didn't necessarily live up to those two, it was still a good read that chronicled Naomi Feinstein's young adult life as she finds her way at Wellesley. Obviously it's a coming of age novel, and Percer does a decent job of allowing us to watch her transformation through bad decisions, relationships, and the passage of time.  

Verdict: I think that there are other stories that handle the whole "smart girl with familial issues grows up" story better, but I think for Percer's first novel it's solid work.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
207 pages
This book is quirky, quick, and a fantastic satire. Recommended by a friend, I am shocked that it somehow slipped under my radar when it came out quite a few years ago. Ella lives on a quaint fictional island that idolizes a man who was able to create a a sentence using all the letters of the alphabet, which is written on a statue. The letters start falling off and the government prohibits the use of the letters in speech and writing. As the letters keep falling off the author omits them from the text as well- by the end it becomes almost hard to read. After reading this I gave my students the same challenge and they had a lot of fun with it. 

Verdict: A really quick, enjoyable read. It seems so simple on the surface, but the commentary it's given in regards to government, community, and even religion is truly interesting.

Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas
428 pages
This was probably the most literary, and most challenging, book I read this month. It pushed me in the fact that it was a long character study that was told in a stream of consciousness format. I appreciate what Thomas did- he took a wounded, prideful man that was on the cusp of losing everything and tried to give him a voice (and he did). I really didn't like the nameless narrator and often wanted to lecture him about what he should really be doing to get his family and job back. This whole idea of not liking the narrator isn't a problem for me, by the way; a good book does not necessarily need nice people. 

Verdict: It's definitely not for everyone, but if you something to sink your teeth into, this is it.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
352 pages
I literally just finished this book and am still on the fence about it. It has some really great qualities, such as the way the characters are weaved together throughout geography and time, as well as the various unique settings (like one of my favorite places, Italy). On the other hand, I think one of the character perspectives was a little awkward and that it just simply could have been better. I understand I've told you exactly jack crap about what it's exactly about, but it would require way too much for a review (check out Amazon... sorry).

Verdict: It's a quick read; I predict it will be on a lot of "beach reads for the literary" lists this summer when it comes out. 

I'm think of tackling Underworld by Don DeLillo next. Maybe.

Document This- Food, Yoga and Old People

I promise, this isn't turning into a blog on documentaries- it's just that I watch them for a few minutes before I go to bed, while I workout, as I fold laundry and sometimes while I grade papers. I read that often too, it just takes longer to finish books... I just don't want anyone to think I'm cheating on books. I solemnly swear the things with the pages and words will always be number one in my heart. These week there were three:

Forks Over Knives
96 minutes

This is an interesting film that pushes a plant based diet, meaning that we shou
ld basically become vegans and eat clean and whole foods. They provide a lot of evidence in the form of studies, expert advice, and case studies that support this cause. It makes perfect sense to me- we do not need to eat meat, preservatives, or chemicals. Unfortunately, just because it's the right thing to do doesn't mean it's easy, nor does it mean that I'm going to do a complete overhaul of my diet. The main things that I will take away from it is that we are prevent and treat many cardiovascular problems through improving our diets, that protein does not have to come from meat (as I am learning through my meat-free Lent diet right now), and that moderation really should be the focus for us all.

Should You Watch It? I think it would be a really great eye-opener for all Americans, although, like my husband is constantly reminding me, it does "have an agenda." Sometimes it can be helpful to visually see the information through a movie that just hear or read it.

Enlighten Up!

81 minutes

This movie is about a filmmaker/yoga addict who decides she wants to basically convert
a normal person into a yoga-enthusiast and see if they can find a meaning to the practice. She chooses Nick, a writer from NYC, as her subject. He explores many different types of yoga and even travels to India. He really tries to learn more about himself, his spirituality, and how to overcome the whole "I do yoga for the physical aspect" in order to focus on enlightenment. I think as a whole it may not have been as inspirational or thought-provoking as I had hoped, but it was really neat for me to see the different practices yoga has to offer.

Should You Watch It: If you practice yoga and have 81 minutes to spare, I'd say sure. Everyone else may be bored or intimidated by the crazy-ass positions the yogis practice. I did appreciate seeing him struggle with his journey to define his spirituality, since that's something I can semi-relate to.


108 minutes

I love this movie. Love, love, love, love. It tells the story of a group of senior-citizen that sing together in a chorus that tours North America and Europe, singing contemporary music. Their voices aren't necessarily great, but these elderly people have so much determination and heart it'll make you cry (like me... over and over again). They're wise, funny, and there's a 92-year old-lady that's a little horny. During the course of the documentary they prepare for an upcoming show and must overcome obstacles such as difficult lyrics, illness, and death (more crying... I'm a definite movie crier). My favorite scene is where they perform at a jail- there's nothing better than watching convicts with tats and missing teeth sway and grin at old people singing Sonic Youth's Schizophrenia.

Should You Watch It? Yes! It's really fantastic. If you only have streaming on Netflix it ends on 4/1, so hurry.

I created a tab at the top for the documentaries I write about. I know, it's awesome and will probably enhance your lives in a million ways. You're welcome.

While You Were Watching The Hunger Games...

The Hunger Games made $155 million dollars this weekend- if ticket prices are an average of like $11, that means about 14 million people saw it. Perspective: aprx 120 million people vote in presidential elections (hear that, Obama- start advertising during blockbusters). Well, while you were all watching Katniss kick ass while simultaneously whining, I was super busy. Thursday night I conferenced with 50 parents in a high school gym (alternate between "Ohmygod I love your child, they're brilliant" and "Ohmygod I love your child, they need to get their shit together") and then went to bed like a normal person who has to get up for work at 5:50 am. Friday night, I made homemade margaritas with friends and taught someone how to play Yahtzee. Saturday, I got a bug and spent the day laying on the couch praying I'd one day be able to eat again. Sunday I cleaned, read, and did other such exciting domestic chores.

Bottom line- while my weekend was maybe a 4 on the awesome scale, I am not exactly regretting not hauling ass to the theater to see this movie. I'm not saying it's bad, and I'm not saying I won't; I'm just saying I can wait.

Plus, the hype is such a turn off. And who likes to be turned off?

Early Sunday Morning Thoughts

Fine, it's not early, although I remember once upon a time (i.e. college) where 10:30 on a Sunday morning would have been simply asking way, way too much. And then I grew up and acquired two dogs.

A few thoughts-

I purchases a Panel Pass for the LA Times Festival of Books next month (it's at lame-ass USC again). It's actually really inexpensive and let me sign up for panels before the public- so, a friend and I are going to see Adam Mansbach (see below), Judy Blume (for total nostalgia purposes) and my beloved T.C. Boyle. Oh, and the price includes a poster, that I'm a little excited about putting up in my classroom. Despite the fact that it's at our rival's campus, I'm pretty psyched.

Adam Mansbach, the author of Go the Fuck to Sleep, has come out with a kid's version entitled Seriously, Just Go to Sleep. Seriously, I think this is what we call selling out. Kids don't need everything their parents have, for crap's sake! Plus it just seems like an obvious ploy to capitalize on the success of the R-rated version. I'm interested to hear what he has to say about this at the reading next month.

I'm technically reading three books right now- I feel like a dirty, dirty book whore.

Two of the books I'm reading are for work- All Quiet on the Western Front and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I've read both before in high school and have come to the realization that I barely remember either. This actually sincerely disturbs me- what other books have I forgotten? On a happier note, though, my sweet little minions (I truly love 95% of my students this year, which is fantastic) actually seem to be enjoying them both. I really love planning lessons for novels, which makes work pretty awesome right now (it would be even more awesome if it started an hour later).

The other book I'm reading is called Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas. I had felt like I had been reading a little "below my level" (book snob alert) lately and needed to high-brow it up a bit. While the writing is great I still haven't decided on what I think of it as a whole.

While not bookish, I have to be fair and give credit to Pinterest for redoing their Terms of Use. While not perfect, it's definitely a start.

I have $251.55 worth of books placed in my Amazon cart- none of which I intend on buying... right now. There's something extremely cathartic and invigorating about adding and adding and adding. In case you're wondering, it would get me 18 books. If I was buying clothes it would maybe get me six pieces. Books trump clothes every single time.

I recently discovered a new book called Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and it looks really awesome, especially since I'm prematurely getting psyched for Half Dome this summer (we actually thought about doing Whitney for like ten minutes, but my friend and I don't do the whole "sleeping outside" nonsense). She did the eleven-hundred mile hike alone! Impressive. I desperately want this book, but it seems I have a few ahead of her in line...

My blog traffic has jumped through the roof ever since I posted on stupid Fifty Shades of Gray last week. While traffic is always good, I'm not sure how I feel about getting it for this reason.

The Mad Men premier if on tonight. This has nothing to do with books. I'm a little upset that it's going to be two hours- that's like a movie. I don't like movies.

That's pretty much it.

Document This- Art, Elmo, and Parking Lots

In the past few days I've finished three documentaries that are definitely worth sharing. I must say, as much as I disagree with some of the business decisions that Netflix has made, the six or seven bucks a month for streaming is worth it in the documentaries section alone. I habitually add more and more on the my queue- I get excited at the idea of unlimited things.

Herb and Dorothy
87 minutes
I have to confess that it took me a few weeks to finish this, although this is definitely not a testament to its quality. Herb and Dorothy are an adorable elderly couple from New York City
that started collecting art as soon as they got married. They discovered little-known artists and bought their art extremely cheap, only to eventually see the prices skyrocket when their finds become popular (like Chuck Close). These people are truly passionate about art- not money (they never sell their pieces). They've started their 50 Works for 50 States endowment program and have most of their art housed in various major institutions. One of my favorite parts was when the National Gallery set up an endowment for them (they lived in a small apartment, he a retired Postal Service worker, and she a retired librarian) so they could actually live a little more affluently but they spent the money on more art. The documentary ends with couple going to the Apple store so they could buy their first computer.

Should You Watch It? It may not be for everyone, since it isn't really based on a singular big event, but I thought it was an interesting look at the art scene. And Herb is super hot.

Being Elmo

76 Minutes
A few good friends have recommended this for my husband and me (he's the hugest Muppet fan I know), so we finally watched it this weekend. I absolutely loved it- it seriously made me feel warm and mushy inside, which is no easy task. The story behind Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo, is inspiring and just plain good old-fashioned heart warming. He's a genuinely talented man that cares about Muppetry, Sesame Street, and making kids all over the world happy. I love the idea of childhood being about wonder and imagination, rather than "stuff" and total sensory overload. Oh Sesame Street... you remind me of a better time. This will definitely be something we show our future kids.

Should You Watch It? Do you have a soul?

The Parking Lot Movie

70 Minutes
I always say a good documentary can make a film about pocket lint interesting if it's done right- a parking lot is basically the same thing. Set in Charlottesville, Va, the parking lot attendants that run this lot offer their take on the class structure, the trouble with entitlement, and how judging someone on their employment is wrong. Most of the men in this movie are truly intellectuals, just working as attendants while in school (tons of anthro majors) or while trying to get projects on the side going. A truly unique perspective on society.

Should You Watch It? I think it offers a good lesson on curbing judgement and is pretty entertaining, but I think some people that lack my awesome sense of humor and appreciation for randomness might not appreciate it as much as I do.

Why 'Fifty Shades of Gray' is a Bad Idea*

1. It was inspired by Twilight- E.L. James started writing Twilight fan-fiction and it slowly morphed into her own series.

2. When I say "inspired," I mean "heavily inspired." I make it no secret that I think Twilight is crap, but I am more opposed to blatantly "borrowing" ideas, which many readers have reported has happened here (remember, I haven't read it, but it's being said over and over again by those who have). If it weren't for Twilight she wouldn't have her text. There are some really great comparisons under the "one star" reviews on Amazon and on Galley Cat. Originality is important to me; I'm hearing this is not.

3. From what the reviews say, the writing is somewhere around an eighth grade level. Are you serious? Grown adults are spending money and time reading "novels" that are something a hormonal little girl who fantasizes about Justin Bieber can fully comprehend? Really? Way to sell your self short, people. But, then again, mainstream adult fiction reading at a low level is nothing new.

4. This book has been labeled with the term "mommy porn," a phrase that definitely gives me the heebie jeebies. Personally, that invokes the image of a thirty-five year old woman getting bonged in the laundry room with Windex in one hand and little Ben's bottle in the other. No thanks. I don't have a problem with porn or erotica, but "mommy porn" is definitely not a turn on. And yes, I get that the term means that it's porn for mommies, but still.

5. The reported advance James made from selling the hard-copy rights over to Vintage is seven figures. Over a million dollars! This is insane. Ridiculous. Like poetry, anyone can write romance. It's a formula: girl meets boy, girl has a problem, boy pretends to fix it, they do it, they do it again a different way, some other surface level plot event happens, they do it again, etc... Seven effing figures (no pun intended).

6. The series acquired its immense following as an eReader format. Can this get any worse?

7. Oh, and there's going to be a movie.

8. On a serious level, there are concerns about just how the sex and relationships are presented. Dr. Drew Pinsky, on his HLN show, discussed the dangerous "rape fantasy" aspect of the book (it's about a woman who basically enters a contract to be someone's sex slave). Granted I don't think we can hold a book responsible for making people act a certain way, it's definitely not healthy to glamorize it. I also agree with Drew's, and others', belief that it sets the women's movement back, as does anything that sets women up as sexually helpless. It's one thing to bust out the handcuffs and blindfolds occasionally, but the idea of romanticizing total sexual domination is not cool with me.

9. There are three of them.

10. The fact that this book is getting so much attention is extremely aggravating. I understand that this post has now become a piece of hypocrisy, but I don't care. It's so infuriating that quality literature is lucky to get a short write up hidden on page seventeen of a newspaper or magazine, while this is getting segments on TV shows. I try to placate myself with the reassurance that I don't necessarily want to read what the "masses" are, but...

Conclusion: if you read this I will cut you (out of my life).

Photo Credit: The Writer's Coffee Shop

*I haven't read this, nor will I ever.

Note: Due to the exceptionally well-written comment (see below) by "Anonymous," I'd like to add that this is more a diatribe as to why I will not read it. In case you hadn't yet figured that out....

Thirsty Thursday

It's been a long week. Wasn't drinking night in college Thursday?

Three things to be excited about:

1. John Irving is coming to LA on June 21 to read from In One Person, his novel due out in May. The even is hosted Live Talks LA and is at the Aero Theater for a mere $25. I've always been a fan- I love The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany and Cider House Rules. I'll be there! I missed him due to illness when he was in LA a few years ago, so I feel like the literary Gods are gifting me with a redo.

2. I'm starting two novels with my students: All Quiet on the Western Front with my regular sophomore classes and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the AP kids. Even though these may not quite be my first choices, I still prefer teaching this way. I am going to have to reread both, though, since it's been about 14 years...

3. It's my turn to pick for book club, which by the way, is approximately one year old (and we're only on our seventh book... oops). Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov it is. Who doesn't love some sleazy underage Russian sex? I can't believe I've never read it, so it's about damn time.

Nonfiction Nagging- Eating Animals

A disclaimer of sorts is necessary for this post- Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a book condemning factory farming (which is how you get your meat, unless you take care to read labels and are wiling to pay extra) and promoting a vegetarian diet. If you don't want to hear it, don't continue reading. I won't have my feelings hurt and would have done the same thing a few years back. I get it. And for those that may be new readers, this isn't the norm; every so often I read a nonfiction book and report back on my findings. Today's just happens to be a bit touchy. For those that continue reading, please know I'm intending to stick to the book; I myself am not even 100% sure what I plan to do as far as my dietary choices, nor am I a qualified expert in this area.

Still there? Okay. Let's do this.

Personal Background

For both health and ethical issues I started drastically reducing the meat in my diet two or so years ago. I've never eaten seafood, eliminated pork and cut out most red meat (my issue with pigs is their incredible intelligence and genetic similarities to humans). I primarily cooked chicken, and only once or twice a week, although when I ate out on the weekends it was the norm to eat it one or two more times. For lent this year (another disclaimer: I'm not Catholic or even religious) I decided to give up all meat, and my husband, who dabbled in vegetarianism before meeting me, jumped on board. I decided that this would be a perfect time to read Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals, a text I had shied away from in the past, worried that it may guilt me into something I wasn't ready for. And now that I'm done I feel more informed, but also more conflicted.

The Animals

Foer tugs at your heartstrings early by bringing in his dog, and what we would and wouldn't do to our beloved furry friends. This of course had an impact, both of my dogs cuddled by the couch as I read about the horrible things done to animals. The book goes into great detail on how animals are slaughtered- I'll spare you the specifics, but let's just say it's wrong. Horrible things are frequently done to pigs, chickens, and cows while they're still conscious. And this is after a very short life span of mistreatment- living in crowded pens and cages with diets formulated for the sole purpose of increasing the animal's size. And don't think seafood is exempt; fishing practices are also discussed, both in regards to prolonging death and wasteful catching.

Factory Farming

This image we have of our meat coming from Old McDonald's farm is pure fantasy at this point, save for a very small portion of the meat on the market. Factory farming is just that (Foer discusses it in regards to fish, beef, pork, and poultry)- a business with the sole purpose of producing as much product for as little cost as possible. Corners are cut, chemicals are used (we'll get there), and animals are often tortured (see above). The bottom line isn't our health or the well-being of the animals, it's the bottom line.

You Are What You Eat

Animals aren't just fed diets that aren't compatible with their digestive tract- they're also pumped full of antibiotics (see the post about my aversion here), water, and growth hormones. I seriously believe that the trend of teenaged girls starting to menstruate earlier is at least partially due to what's in our meat (read Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats for a great look at this in a novel format). The animals are left in pens without medical attention; they develop sores and infections and still end up being slaughtered for food. Most animals test positive for E. Coli and some for salmonella, while many end up going through chlorinated baths to rinse of the feces and other distasteful residue that has accumulated (especially in chickens). All that then goes into us.

The Environment

Factory farming is horrible for the environment and is a bigger threat towards global warming than cars. Between the feces, blood, transportation, and then factory waste, this style of "farming" is a huge blow to our ecosystem. Another huge issue is the fact that farm animals are fed a diet high in corn, which then leads to issues regarding the quality of the soil, not to mention that the bulk of our grain goes to animals rather than hungry people. Rivers are polluted, groundwater is contaminated, and the air surrounding the plants becomes at times toxic (people who live in the vicinity of these farms and slaughterhouses tend to have more respiratory illnesses). Most factories would rather pay the fines for their environmental infractions rather than change their ways- it's cheaper.

Eating is Social

Being a vegetarian or vegan can be difficult socially, especially if your family and friends are not. Breaking bread together is a huge part of our social structure- refusing to eat such a dietary staple changes the traditional dynamics that we are used to. No turkey on Thanksgiving? None of Grandma's pot roast for Uncle Tom's birthday? No more sushi or burgers with friends? Well, boys and girls, if your family really loves and your friends really are friends no one should care. In the beginning it can take a little time for everyone to get used to it, but then so what? Being a self-declared picky eater I'm constantly faced with the dilemma of what to do when I'm eating at someone's house and I don't necessarily like what's been cooked. You take what you like, fill up on soda or alcohol, and eat cereal when you get home! It's the conversations and the time spent together that matters.

An Agenda

As my husband pointed out, Foer obviously has an agenda- the book is quite one-sided. It is, though, backed up with the work of two fact checkers and something like fifty pages of research notes that direct you to all the original sources. And it's not like Foer is the first person to point this information out- it's been out there, most of us have just chose to ignore it. And even if only 75%, of even 50%, is completely true than that's still too much for me.

Now What?

I'm eating vegetarian for until Easter and am then going to go from there. I'm not necessarily ready to commit to a 100% meat free diet and being vegan is just not in the cards for me right now. I am, though, making some changes about where I get my food- that's the real message I took away from this book. This week I started buying those expensive brown eggs- the ones that are organic and hatched from chickens that haven't been given antibiotics (hopefully this is true; even if it is only partially it's still better than the normal ones). I'm also going to be very conscious about where I buy out poultry from in the future- I need to do some more research, but I am going to make an effort to only buy from animals that haven't been pumped full of antibiotics and hormones and have been allowed to actually walk around... on actual ground. Even more so, it's made me much more aware of how conscious I'll be about what I feed my future kids. I'm not trying to persuade anyone to become a vegetarian- I'm just advocating being more knowledgeable about the food you're putting into your body, whether it's meat, processed food, or saturated fat.

It's a start.

Books on Your Back- The Case of the Book Blogger Who Really Loved T-Shirts

I was definitely a fan of Nancy Drew growing up- I loved trying to figure out "who dunnit" and always hoped Nancy and Ned would heat things up a bit. A few years ago I read The Confession of a Teenage Sleuth- Nancy's supposed memoir. It was entertaining, but not as good as it could have been. Anyway, a shirt for the occasion:
[Out of Print Clothing, $28]

Stereotyping and Book Retrieval All at Once

The postal system both annoys and impresses me simultaneously. Considering what they do as far as sorting, delivering, and transporting is admirable, if you take into account how much mail there is (which I know is decreasing, but still; if you get at least 4 things in the mail every day, multiple that by a bazillion people in the country and you get roughly 4 bazillion articles dealt with daily).

What annoys me are the actual locations. First o
f all, no one in line ahead of me is ever simply going for stamps or to do a money order. Oh no. They want to send a weirdly shaped package to Taiwan, but they want it to get there in approximately seventy-six hours. Or they want to argue about how the package they sent yesterday somehow hasn't made it to Connecticut yet. Not to mention the fact it takes the workers at least twenty minutes to find your package- you'd think they'd have a system by now.

Yesterday's trip to pick up a few books was typical- waiting and waiting. And then when the elderly postal worker brought out my Amazon box he decided to talk about it:

Man: Yayyyyyy! Your package is here.
Me: Yay....
Man: You ordered books?
Me: Yup.
Man: Twilight? You like vampires?
Me: Oh, no.

Man: Romance? (sly smile)
Me: Um, definitely not.
Man: Cookbook?
Me: Where do I need to sign?

Stereotyping and book retrieval all at the same time. What a bargain.

And yes, I ordered books, something unnecessary on so many levels. But just like the binge-drinker, over-eater, and excess-gambler, I had a momentary lapse. I was having a bad day, I needed a pick-me-up. I swear, next time I'll just drink wine like normal. And it was only three books.

Vegetarianism, religion... and something fun. Next three reads? Possibly.

Top Ten Tuesday- Coverage

While I'm pretty sure The Broke and the Bookish have done a cover-related topic before, I'm here to participate because I'm all for awesome cover art. Typically, I prefer simplicity and a clean look, and also that the author's name appears smaller than the title. I haven't read all of these particular books, but that's not what we're about this week.

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett- I love that the cover of the newest Pengui
n edition was originally embroidered (I think, for the price, that all you get is the print; I'd LOVE the real one).

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David Ulin- I like the fact that it's sort of an off size, matte, and has a simple, but demanding typeface.

Girlchild by Hassman- I just noticed the author only has one name. Interesting- is he crazy like Cher and Madonna? I love the old school feel of the library card flap.

The Call by Yannick Murphy- I just finished this and loved the vibrancy of the orange cover (again, matte), and the shiny black cow in the front. I'm not even a fan of the color orange! It just worked, though.

The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger- I don't really feel like an
explanation is necessary...

The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Reif Larsen- You know, because I haven't sung his praises enough... Great square shape with map making instruments.

Solo by Rana Dasgupta- Great color, love the imagery.

By Nightfall by Michael Cummingham- Decent book, but I really just love the dark tulip

Runner's World- the Runner's Body by Ross Tucker- I love images showing what parts of the body are being engaged.

A Fraction of the Whole by Steven Tolz- I love the contrast of the sepia tones with the bright blue accents.

Photocredits- All covers were taken from Amazon

Pinterest, Part 2- Even More Evil (and a Book Video)

Last post on Pinterest, pinky promise.

It has come to my attention today through an old high school friend on Facebook that Pinterest is even more evil than I thought- and this time it's a little serious. Ever heard of a thing called copyright? How about Terms of Use?

Basically, and technically, you could be sued over what you put on Pinterest, if you're lifting images without making sure there's an obvious citation (and not just the link copied over from the pin). And even if you are repinning form an original source you have to make sure that there's nothing on the site stipulating image use- so that "repin" nonsense it a little dangerous. A lot of websites and blogs are now including "pin it" buttons, which voids the liability, so you're safe there. But artists and photographers are especially wary, since other businesses (even Pinterest in a round about way) can take their prints and sell them, since the whole file is stored, not just a thumbnail. Pinterest's Terms of Use basically waives them of any copyright infringement and puts it back on the pinee- you. And me. Shady, for sure- the document is long and I highly doubt any of us has truly read the whole thing (I just skimmed it). They are of course making it easier for the people that own the images to report violations, as have they created a code to block pinning (like Flickr uses).

So what does it mean? Should we cancel our accounts or depin things? Honestly, I'm not really sure. Personally I plan to go on and "clean up" my account, at some point. I feel that it's okay to pin things that are directing to corporate sites meant to sell things- by pinning a dress or some shoes I'm essentially advertising for Modcloth, Anthro, or whoever. I'm also pretty comfortable pinning recipes from original sources- I'm not passing off the recipe as mine and am generating traffic to blogs. What I've decided against are blatant artistic photos. At that point not only is it copyright infringement, it's just plain wrong. So many artists and photographers take pride in their work and don't make money off it; the fact that eventually Pinterest, or someone else, may make their company more corporate and somehow rob these people of revenue isn't okay (there's so many articles out there that use some serious technical and legal jargon; research them for more info). Some artists are completely fine with pinning- anything for exposure. Some, though are rightfully upset. I've heard of some people being bothered, too; they hear of their wedding pictures or newborn portraits pinned by strangers and are uncomfortable. It's just a matter of being mindful about what you pin.

And I'm not trying to panic anyone- I find it very unlikely that a process server is going to show up on your doorstep serving you papers for pinning someone's photo of a English Bulldog hugging a random lady (note to self- remove that one). But, then again, that's what everyone said about music piracy- they do like to make examples out of the little guys occasionally. I think, though, that people must come to terms that nothing is sacred on the Internet. If you put something out there you need to realize that it could go viral and soon be everywhere within seconds. If you don't want people to see it, don't put it on the effing world wide web! This whole Pintergate (I just made that up- original, huh?) is obviously an over-reaction, on many levels, but it's something to be aware of. Stay calm. Your pins on making brownies and pillows out of dental floss are fine.

This is so relevant to bloggers, too. I have tried really hard to pin from original sources and give credit, either through a link that says "source" or by adding a hyperlink to the actual picture. I've played around with a few options, and from now on I plan on doing photo credits at the bottom of my posts- easier and clear. I've also included a sidebar indicating what a person is to do if I someone haven't credited the right source. It's just the right thing to do.

I feel like Diane Sawyer. I'd love to hear your take on the issue, and if you've done more research on it to share.

Two interesting articles on the pinning scare/overreaction: DDK Portraits and Lex Technoligiae

And, since you sat through another post in Pinterest I shall reward you with not only the promise of it being the last, but also of a spoof on the whole Huckleberry Finn censorship fiasco. I seriously think rappers should take on their approach- "Yo, yo, yo my robot, let's go get some bitches and hoes..."

[source: I took this from]

I kid, I kid.

Pinterest May Be Evil... and Some Book Pictures

This originally started off as a post that was going to show a few cool book-related pictures (and, we'll get there), but then started morphing into a Pinterest rant. So, instead of a full-blown rant, I'll give you the Cliff's Notes (my pictures are stored on Pinterest, hence the connection). If you have no clue what I'm talking about, scroll way down.

First thing's first- I'm on Pinterest and love it. Let me just get that out there so no one tries to say I'm a liar or anything fun like that.

I am, though, starting to wonder what Pinterest c
an do to people, if they let it, myself included. All day long we're bombarded with materialism, a need to compete, and other things that overload our senses. This is quintessential Pinterest- it has everything, all the time. Within seconds you can pin a dress, decide on a new living room paint color, a new recipe for dinner, a better way to do your hair, and how you want your dream bathroom to look. I'm definitely a proponent of the recipes, but I have to admit the rest of it sometimes makes me feel really inadequate. I don't have money to buy a new wardrobe (although I do have two boards devoted to clothes), the resources for a million adventures (hey there, bucket list board), or the time to repaint my bathroom room every time I find a better picture (but you can find them amongst my domesticity pins). Does Pinterest make us greedy?

And the fact that it's so public can be a little creepy. I'm fine with strangers having so much insight into my life; it's the people I know having that knowledge that makes me uncomfortable. I know, I know, you put the parts of yourself out there that you are okay with everyone seeing. I know and do.

I'm not quitting anytime soon, but it's important to remember the "evil" sides of things. I know that alcohol wreaks havoc on the liver, but I had two margaritas last night and will go through a bottle of wine this week. I know that worrying make you sick, but still, I spend way too much time obsessing about things I can't change.

It's about moderation.

Maybe it's just me.

And let's end with some of those book pictures, shall w

1. Monster's of the Household Variety- Completely embroidered and disgustingly pricey. But so very, very awesome.
2. Book judging sign- true. Deal with it.
3 and 4. Great spaces (top and bottom).
5. Librarian undies.

February Reviews- I Read Some Stuff

February was a short month- allegedly. I did, however, get some reading done.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandria Robbins
448 Pages
I already wrote about this before, in Non-Fiction Nagging, but basically I thought the message was a lot better than the book itself. Stereotyping and clique forming run rampant in our society and as humans we need to help ourselves and help others. Yes, teachers and parents need to help kids fit in and prevent bullying, but part of this is by giving kids the tools they need to value themselves.
The text is a bit unnatural and a tad contrived, in my opinion (which differs from most people, it seems).

Verdict- Read if your an educator, parent, or interested in sociology.

The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer
272 pages
I absolutely enjoyed this book- maybe it's because I'd love to write a book someday and be included into the crazy publishin
g world. Even if I didn't have those aspirations I'm sure I'd still like it, though. The main character, Ian, is basically commissioned to revise another man's manuscript and pass it off on his own. It turns into a mystery novel that is entertaining and well-written up until the last page.

Verdict- Quick read, interesting, and fun (you know, in a literary way).

The Call by Yannick Murphy
240 pages
This was a book club selection made by someone else- I'm so glad it was chosen, though, because I probably would
have never noticed it otherwise. The plot is fairly simple- a veterinarian's young son is shot while hunting and ends up in a coma- the father must then come to terms with the crime while still running a family and business. The format is quite unique- at first glance it looks like a play, but it's not. Instead it will read something like "What I Said: blablalbla What the Wife Said: blablabla What the children did: blablabla." At first I was really opposed, but as Murphy developed the plot and infused her subtle humor it really grew on me. I have to giver her credit for trying something new.

Verdict- I'd give it a try- it's a quick read but a touching book.

When the Killing's Done by TC Boyle
384 pages
I already wrote a post on this as well, but bottom line is that I loved it. Set loosely on a true premise, Boyle writes about what happens when the National Park Service tries to exterminate wild animals (that were introduced by humans) to the Channel Islands. He poses the question of how far humans should go to intervene by portraying characters from each side, intertwining them together. He also explores the human side, making it so much more than an environmental text.

Verdict- It's not necessarily and "easy" read, but for those that want to be forced to think and enjoy well-written novels, I'd definitely go for it. It was my favorite this month, for sure.