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1st-May-2014 12:40 am - Reading for April: Sunshine Day
New Basic
For as long as I've been keeping track of my reading, April has been a month of not reading much, of getting behind on my self-imposed 100 books a year. This year, it was a month in which to catch up, a month to take advantage of the lengthening days and mostly-nice weather and go outside and read in the sun. As I searched for lyrics for a post title, I realized that I have to write my own song about reading in the sunshine.

18. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
If you are not 100% sure why that name or that title sound familiar, this is probably how you know Allie Brosh.
cleanallthe things
The book is surprisingly dense and heady for something with so many pictures. Half the material is from the website, half is new for the book. I've read the blog entries before, but they were as good another time, and it is interesting to see how the very basic concept of a page turn rather than a continuous scroll changes the way I take things in.
My friend Julie has brilliantly pointed out that by advancing our technology, we have gone back to one of the oldest ways of reading, after centuries of turning pages, we now have our printing on long pages that we move along as we need to see them. In fact, we call the process "scrolling."

19. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak YA
This is every bit as good, as sad, as satisfying as everyone has said it is. A somehow simultaneously harsh, gentle and occasionally funny story about a girl in Germany during the Holocaust, who finds salvation in reading. I hope that this helped me not take for granted some of the many freedoms I have, including my own literacy and the absolutely outrageous-by-many-standards freedom of being allowed to read anything on which I can lay my hands and focus my eyes.

20. Cut the Lights by Karen Krossing YA
I needed something light after The Book Thief. This is a slim book about a high school play, with some nice characterization. Nothing I will remember forever, but pleasant during the hours it killed and probably interesting for drama nerds.

22. Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm k
Back to historical fiction, this time in 1953 on American soil, a slice-of-life based somewhat on the author's mother's childhood (I met Jennifer L. Holm at a Maud Hart Lovelace party, hosted by the librarian who nominated her for the Newbery Award. She's a lovely human being, and her books have a sweet optimism and basic decency at their cores, even as they are fully aware of the characters all-too-human flaws.) This one touches on things like polio that we are past (in one of those odd moments of collision in my pop culture consumption, I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier right after reading this) and things like xenophobic hysteria that we are not, although they take on a different face (Muslims and Mexicans instead of Italians and Japanese.).

23. Couch Tag by Jesse Reklaw (GN)
Graphic novel about the author's 1970's-80's childhood and teens. Beautifully drawn, tiny vignettes, sometimes delving into R-rated territory. Nothing earth-shattering, but a definite support for the idea that everyone has an interesting book in their lives if they can just write it down.

24. Jews Without Money by Michael Gold
I found this one while helping my friend Kirsty clean up her late mother's house (Kirsty allowed me second pick of the many books we boxed to be donated to libraries and the Bay Area Free Book Exchange. The title grabbed me because it delves into caustic stereotypes, the back cover let me know that this is the world of the All-of-a-Kind Family written for grownups. It's based strongly on the author's teens and 20's childhood, and it's not hard to understand his embracing Communism (though the book does not proselytize, it just lets the incidents speak for themselves.)
When I finally got into it, it was a harsh, somewhat poetic read that ends rather abruptly. I don't think I'll need to read it again, so it's sitting in a Little Free Library a few blocks away.

IV. On the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder k
There will be some basic spoilers which most people who've read girl's fiction will already know.
I was inspired to re-read this one by this http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/04/21/rose_wilder_lane_laura_ingalls_wilder_a_letter_from_their_editorial_collaboration.html fascinating letter from Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter and de facto editor Rose Wilder Lane. This has always been my least favorite of the Little House books, and I think it's because Laura's discomfort with this period of her life really comes through. The letter lets us know that it was much worse. I want to go back and let Laura know that, although some of Rose's critiques were probably correct for making the book work for its intended audience, her dismissal of Laura's worries about being molested by her cousin Charley and the railroad men were absolutely unconscionable by our 21st-century standards. It's telling that there are several instances in which Laura-the-protagonist, who has become the eyes for her blind sister, takes poetic license in describing something and is chided by that sister, Mary, for not telling the truth, but, as Laura-the-author says "Laura felt that it was true." This seems an obvious poke at her daughter's dismissal of her memories.
There's a scene in which a child gets lost that was a little scary to read when I was a kid, that as a parent makes me feel that the cliche "her heart was in her mouth" is a literal physical phenomenonspoilerCollapse ). In my opinion, this scene captures a lot of shifting emotions beautifully.

25. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson YA
Such a lot of books about the rough spots in America's past. This one is about a slave, freed in her mistress' will yet sold anyway, and the irony of living in a colony where people are fighting to be free while holding slaves. After this and Twelve Years a Slave, my white guilt wants a break, but as of this writing just half-an-hour into the beginning of May, I have already started the second book in this series (a third was just published in January and I have requested it at the library).

26. Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson YA
This looked surprisingly light for the author of such books as Speak (one of the best books about a rape survivor ever</i>, Wintergirls (anorexia), Fever, 1793 (yellow fever epidemic) and Chains, above. But, it hits some excellent points about classism, education, sexism and expectations. It worked for me.

27. Ten Miles from Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell YA
I have to confess, I checked this out to try to fill a space on my bingo card, forgetting that it's the ADULT books that asks for a book with a number in the title. But it's a fun read, about a high school freshman named Janie whose expectations are dashed (at first) by a few missteps in the awful social stew that's a small-town HS. It touches on civil rights, art as salvation, blogging, changing relationships with parents, changing friendships and expectations vs. reality. I wouldn't put Frances O'Roark Dowell on a list of favorite authors, but I've really enjoyed everything I've read of hers.
No bingo yet!Collapse )
Running from Mission to Valencia Street, in between and paralell to 17th and 18th streets, is Clarion Alley.

I love elephants, and I am glad that these haven't been painted over in all the years that I've been walking through the alley.
clarion elephant blue
clarion elephant

I don't know if the it was purposefully purchased for the project, happenstance or if it inspired the artist,
but I love how the swirly ironwork evokes a peacock's tail.
The door gives an idea of just how large that peacock is.
clarion peacock

Some of the murals extend down to the sidewalk.
clarion sidewalk

When I was in my teens, I'd see a lot of graffiti around San Francisco that said "Eat the rich!" (Years before Aerosmith performed a song of the same name.). Though I got that it was meant to be a Swiftian expression of anger, there were people who thought it was over the top. I can agree with that, but I am amazed that now the sentiment captured in this mural has detractors!
clarion tax the rich
Three years ago, Easter fell on my birthday. At that point, my ex-husband's mother was extremely ill, so I gave up spending my birthday with my daughter to give her Grandma what looked as though it could be her last holiday. I knew that I had to do something interesting and different. Something that wouldn't have been an option when I was with my ex, something that wasn't necessarily appropriate for my 13-year old.

By chance, the director at my job had just moved on and had friended some of us on facebook afterwards. I happened to see her post about the Hunky Jesus Contest. I had heard of it, and it sounded like fun. So I went.

For those of you who don't know, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a group of Drag Queen Nuns who do charitable works. One of their big events is the annual Easter Hunky Jesus contest. It is blasphemous, lewd and bizarre. It is a concentrated version of what a some particularly angry conservatives might believe San Francisco must be like. It is also quite beautiful and spiritual.

I don't know this for certain, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a some of the Sisters grew up with the spiritual abuse that can accompany being gay and Catholic (Actually, any teenager can be spiritually abused. Being told by your parents and religious officials that your perfectly normal urges are evil, told nothing about sex except that it's for married couples, is something women have to do with their husbands, has consequences, and could send you to Hell if you misstep even slightly and that even asking is wrong. Not told that it can be beautiful and spiritual itself.) They have taken some of the iconography and pageantry of Catholicism, added doses of glitter and a lot of visual and pop-culture puns (for instance, today's theme was "An Emerald Jubilee," because the sisters have existed for 35 years--They were quite new when my family moved back to San Francisco-- and of course, that evokes the Wizard of Oz. Among the glittering, heavily made-up, high heeled and fishnetted nuns wearing a lot more green than usual were some Dorothys with beards (one with a wimple focused around a stuffed Toto in a basket), a Scarecrow, and a Lion.

I was mildly fussed this year because the event moved from Dolores Park to Golden Gate Park. While I'm a big fan of Valencia Street's thrift shops, until my first Hunky Jesus contest, I hadn't much ventured any farther into the Mission District, a formerly heavily-Latino area that is becoming gentrified, and will make me cry if they add any more chain stores to their mix of high-end shops that I can't afford but that give me interesting ideas, thrift stores, dollar stores, amazing restaurants and "only in SF"-ery.

That first year, because I was hungry and the smell was better than any church incense, I bought a Mission Dog (bacon-wrapped, cart-grilled street meat that was a risk for my tetchy stomach, but has never made me ill). They have replaced ham as my traditional Easter eat. After my first contest, I wanted to keep the energy of the day going, and joined the line for softserve from Bi-Rite Creamery (they have a long, long line for their regular window, then a faster-moving long line for an express window where you can have one of two daily flavors of soft serve, or a swirl of both.) All these gastronomic delights are within a block of the couple-block expanse that is Dolores Park. Golden Gate Park is miles long and there is no food but the decent but generic Annie's hot dog carts.

It was also 4/20. This worried me; I am about to sound crotchety. Weed smoke can give me a headache. I haven't partaken since LONG before the stuff got remarkably strong and remarkably skunky. I hate the smell. Also, being stoned makes people think they're being funnier than they are. There is usually pot smoke in the air at this event, but there was no more than usual today, and Sister Roma and Sister Dana were as sharp as ever, and they and the Jesuseseses only made a few too-easy 4/20 jokes.

I literally don't know if I got second-hand stoned. It was a glorious green trees, blue sky day. My mind ALWAYS tries to think too many things at once. The energy was very up and joyful. After I left the park, I felt a weird coming down, dry-eyed feeling, but that could have been from being on crowded transit after hours in the sun.

After a contest that was full of joy, gleeful blasphemy, gorgeous nearly-naked men and jokes ranging from obvious puns that HAD to be said to vicious snark to beautiful jokes that require a range of pop-culture and classical culture knowledge. I started to walk. I circled Stow Lake, a place where I spent many hours both as a babysitter for a wonderful toddler named Chad and with my first boyfriend, AJ (who was also wonderful, although my relationship with Chad lasted a LOT longer.). I realized that I am actually, in many ways, in better shape than I was then--hills that used to leave me panting hurt my older knees, but my breathing was fine, bending under branches came more easily, though more slowly. Basically, my body is larger and stiffer, but I make it do more and keep aware of its capabilities. The park itself was a perfect mix of nature and previously trodden trails.
I sat near Stow lake on a bench placed in someone's memory (his first name was Robert) and I wondered if he used to like to come to this spot, and was sorry that he couldn't appreciate the bench when he was alive. I mentally fist bumped him for having been cool enough that his friend put his name on a bench.

I had come into Golden Gate Park from the North, very near where I lived for two years of high school and three of college. I left to the South, very near where my babysitting charge lived those same years. I realized that the day would not be complete without a walk in the Mission and a swirled cone, so I got on an N-Judah streetcar, my mental map telling me I could transfer to something that would get me close.

Miles and miles of Inner Sunset District houses, the part of San Francisco that may as well be Daly City, but past some streets where I used to go shopping with Chad and my best friend Nicholas (usually, but not always, separate outings.). I was melancholy over the Irving Variety Store closing, a wonderful place that was my go-to for shopping for kids for many years, with it's aisle of interesting, mostly kind-of-scientific toys (I still remember the aforementioned Chad getting a HUGE wooden puzzle of the US states, prisms, magnets and a copy of Now We Are Six purchased at a nearby and also-closed bookstore.).

When I got off at Duboce and Church, I realized that I was already at 14th Street and only needed to go to 18th. My mental map had put Church street on the wrong side of Dolores, but close enough, and the churches I could see let me know that my memories of what was where were right.

Dolores Park's green lawns are almost entirely dirt now. Next year, they will drain better and I'm looking forward to it But I did enjoy my walk through Golden Gate Park's tamed nature.

Besides swirled cones (cinnamon and salted caramel. How I wished my chocolate-allergic daughter were with me), there was a Sundae of the Day, a small concoction of soft serve, hot fudge and graham crackers. There was also only one person in line ahead of me and none behind,because it was getting to be 6:00 and there was no event in the topsoil-turnned Dolores Park. When I ordered, the absolutely adorable bearded boy behind the counter asked "Do you have your heart set on graham crackers?"

"Not particularly." I considered referencing Honey Maid's "wholesome" campaign, but I can take or leave graham crackers, and I'm not a big fan of cookies in my ice cream.

"Can I interest you in..." his eyebrows raised as if her were going to offer something illicit or kinky "...granola?"

"Granola..." I said musingly. Another thing I can take or leave, but something about the way he offered it made me want it.

"It is the most...sophisticated of toppings!" Again, his tone implied something that was in stark contrast to granola's truly wholesome reputation. But it sold me. As he worked, he said "Yeah, when they told me the Sundae of the Day, I thought, "'That's boring,' but...let me make you something amazing. Trust me, it sounds weird, but it'll be really great." Speaking of wholesome, his Midwestern blonde looks and pleasant tenor voice and the fact that he was talking about ice cream and granola couldn't quite keep at bay my feeling that there was something sexual to his patter. May have just been my own Hunky-charged state. May have been that some people are just naturally flirtatious. Considering that he told the woman ahead of me "Omigod, you're beautiful!" because she had exact change...yeah.

He gave me my sundae, granola mixed in and over the top, half-obscuring a generous dollop of hot fudge, with the pointy end of a sugar cone about a third filled with more hot fudge sticking into it. I paid, tipped, dipped in my spoon before I left, knowing that it would be rude not to let him know how it was, and "Mmmm, my Gaaw'!"

"It's really good granola, isn't it?"

"Mmm-hmmm! Thank you, really!" Seriously, young though he was...but I continued down the street, eating with my spoon, carefully running the odd but pleasant textures over my tongue, trying to figure out if the granola was where those bursts of cinnamon were coming in, or if it was the cinnamon ice cream (which I hadn't had before. Both? Really good granola. Like an excellent oatmeal cookie made by the most culinarily-advanced and healthy grandmother in the universe. When I got it small enough, I loaded the remaining salted caramel-cinnamon-hot fudge-granola into my cone, tossed the scraped bowl and headed to Clarion Alley to see the art. Two young men, whom I think were a couple, were also looking at the murals, and one asked "Where'dja get the ice cream." I gave directions, considered saying "Ask for granola!" realized I couldn't sell it half as well as the lovely creature behind the counter.

Nothing I would have thought to have asked for, but something I will crave. Much like the Hunky Jesus contest.
New Basic
8. ttyl by Lauren Myracle YA
9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
10. ttfn by Lauren Myracle YA
11. l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle YA
12. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

It is very disconcerting to switch back and forth between Lauren Myracle's breezy little "Internet Girls" series (interesting in that they're the first novels ever fully written as IMs.) and Gillian Flynn's VERY dark mysteries. I truly like Lauren Myracle, I think her characters are authentic, but I worked hard for my own 16-year-old to be as unstereotypically teenaged as possible, it's odd to wallow in that OMGDRAMA!!! world on purpose. But I got sucked in and wanted to see what happened. I can see why the books are controversial (there is one plot point where a girl gets drunk and her topless pics are posted online. A lot of parents' groups fa-REAKED!), but I think they're well done and the controversial moments are realistic.

Gone Girl deserves the good reviews it's gotten (my online book group, ostensibly focused on the kidlit and YA of Maud Hart Lovelace, had a lot of members talking these up). It's dark and twisty and sensationalist. I posted on facebook that her books are like VC Andrews', if VC Andrews wrote well enough that reading her wasn't a guilty pleasure (and didn't have so much incest!). A definite page-turner, about people who should be immensely dislikable, rendered readable by Flynn's talent and empathy. As someone who lives with a mother who watches way too much true crime (I have actually said "That damn Nancy Grace has made you believe that rottenness is everywhere!"), I truly appreciated the roman a clef version of Ms. Grace and the nasty eye turned on media coverage of crime, or possible crime, or...we don't have anything to report but we have to fill time.

Sharp Objects is also good, but I think Gillian Flynn's talent is improving. This one's about a journalist who goes back to her awful small town to investigate a series of murders, and to think about her own sisters untimely death. The family dynamics are horrifically uncomfortable, and I figured out a plot twist fairly early on (I've read and seen too many things about <spoilerCollapse ), but well-written enough that I found it hard to put down.

13. Prude : Lessons I Learned When My Fiance Filmed Porn by Emily Southwood
I'm kind of tired of the demonization of porn. Southwood tries. but her own ambivalence and the twin urges to be disgusted and titillate her audience make this a less engaging read than I'd hoped.

14. Mira in the Present Tense k by Sita Brahmachari
15. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah k by Paula J. Freedman

The title of My Basmati Bat Mitzvah made it obvious that that one was about a girl who of Indian and Jewish descent, but I was very surprised to realize that I had two books about girls of that particular mix.

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah reminded me, in good ways, of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. But if you only read one, Mira in the Present Tense is lovelier, a very gentle book about death and change and the power of art and words. I don't cry while reading very often, I did in this one. (Mira is set in a couple of small English towns, Bat Mitzvah in New York.

16. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted and all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Watching this show as a kid, I had no idea how groundbreaking it was, both in its depictions of women onscreen and its treatment of women writers offscreen. Seriously, today it's rare for producers to say "We're writing about women, we should get some women on the staff!" Worth a read if you liked the show, and I think I'll find a few eps online.

17. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
(I had to wait for this one to come back to the library, all the copies were out.). Again, characters that should be hard to like, but sympathetically drawn, situations that should be over-the-top and too sensational, beautifully written. I think Flynn was somewhat inspired by the West Memphis Three trial, but the plotline is different enough to keep readers guessing. Not as good as Gone Girl but I liked it better, liked many of its characters more. They're going to make a movie of this one, too with Charlize Theron, and it could be really good.)

I'll be happy when future Gillian Flynn books come out, but I'm glad that there are about 3 years in between 'em, they're both draining and difficult to put down.
Bingo cardsCollapse )
puzzled and animated
National Geographic has a nice article about the trend of mixed-race relationships.

Three thoughts:
1. My previous job had a lot of clients whom I'm pretty sure WANTED to say "If you could just get us white people, that would be great. Thaaaaanks!" but would phrase it as "We wish for respondents who represent the racial demographics of your area, so please make certain that 80-90% of respondents are Caucasian." Yeah, (old, white) dudes, have you BEEN to San Francisco? In related annoyance, people who were part Caucasian and part anything-else counted as an anything-else respondent. One-drop rule, anyone? (With the exception of studies where we needed children, racial demographic requires really did seem to become less of an issue since President Obama was elected. But toy studies were always extremely tight on racial demographics.).
2. The silly urban legend about how natural blondes will be extinct in 200 years continues to be stupid, although some of those blondes will have golden Afros.
3. Y'know how inbreeding for generations isn't a good idea because it increases the chances of recessive birth defects popping up? Some time ago, an idiot with whom I used to correspond made a snotty comment about how cousins are allowed to marry in California and that explains me. I returned that:
A) Cousins are also allowed to marry in his home state (and many others.).
B) A pair of cousins marrying only increases chances of genetic problems by 1% or so, it's when their children marry THEIR cousins and so on that it becomes truly problematic (in the US, religious enclaves tend to have issues; examples include the Amish and fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.).
C) So, using that logic, the son of a man from Kenya and a woman from Kansas are very unlikely to have any genes in common, therefore their son would be one of the finest human specimens ever! (Said idiot correspondent was/is a birther and a racist.).
9th-Apr-2014 10:09 am - Baby, won't you keep me
So often, I see tips for being happy, for improving life, for etc., etc., and my response is "I KNEW that!"

When I first heard the idea of "100 Happy Days," I sincerely thought it meant 100 straight days with never a moment of allowing unhappiness in, and, frankly, I don't think that's possible for most people. There is too much foolishness in the world, there are too many people who HAVEN'T let go of their anger and judgement and thinking that they should have a say in things that don't affect them. Even babies, unaware of foolishness, have moments of confusion. But then, I found that it was about posting a picture of something that make you happy, every day.

All right, I get that. I don't feel like doing it, not because I don't have time, but because posting pictures is a minor stressor that I don't want to play with. But I GET that it's important to take a moment to appreciate the things that make you happy. But do people in this first-world country ever have a day go by where SOMETHING doesn't make them happy? Even in my most situationally depressed, despondent, hopeless times, there has been at least a moment of good; a laugh, however sardonic, a purring cat, a hug, a piece of music, a book, a friend to say "There, there." At the very least, there was commiseration.

I don't like the thought of happiness as another challenge, as another task on the to-do list.

Those who have days without a happy moment, I'm sorry. I hope you find your happiness.

I'm not very happy with this entry, it took what was a good thought and made it stilted. On the other hand, that demonstrates a problem with the 100 Happy Days Project--recording your happiness codifies it, instead of letting it Just Be.
I am livid at the thought that infants and immuno-compromised may die from other people's ignorance. I'm not going to link to the STUPID list of 50 reasons not to vaccinate. It's full of vagueness and out-and-out lies. Every point that says "There have been no studies" or "there have been no tests" is an out-and-out lie. Anything that says "This ingredient is sooooooooo toxic" needs further study (you can die from dihydrogen monoxide.).

I'm not going to dignify it with a point-by-point breakdown of HOW wrong it is, but a few things
The "autism epidemic" (one in 110 children diagnosed with autism) is NOT due to changes in how many children are autistic. The numbers have gone up because more children (mostly boys) are being diagnosed on the autism SPECTRUM. To put it way too bluntly, it used to be that only children who were barely engaging with the world around them were diagnosed as autistic. Here are some signs of autism spectrum disorders. Unless you are a professional, please do not use them to diagnose your children or other people's children! The link is just to give you a feel for the breadth of the spectrum.

There is actually more correlation between a father over 50 and autism than there is between vaccines and autism. Of course, it's hard NOT to have more correlation than "One awful excuse for a doctor, who is no longer allowed to practice, wanting his single-disease vaccines to become the norm, fudged results about MMR vaccines, and the news media went nuts and people didn't read past the sensationalist headlines." THIS is who your anti-vax friends are sort-of-quoting when they say "We don't know what's in those vaccines." He (and they) are wrong.

Amazingly enough, a doctor who was PUSHING (his own particular forms of) vaccines has done as much as anyone to make people stop vaccinating their children. Let me repeat. He is no longer a doctor. His study was falsified. Will sensationalism work? Fine:


Seriously, completely preventable diseases will at the very least give your children unnecessary discomfort. I am not old enough to have been a likely risk for polio or diphtheria (BECAUSE OF VACCINATIONS), but I still have scars from chicken pox and still remember the misery of mumps. Why would I put my daughter through that, based on one falsified study and some easily-led celebrities?

Edited to Add: Someone else did a point-by-point refutation, though just of the first 15.
An episode of South Park started a conversation with my daughter about how it really is annoying to try to be entertained by popular entertainments. My mom watches certain crime dramas, and I couldn't enjoy them, because A) when things are "ripped from the headlines" and you've READ the headlines, they don't work well. B) almost like a parlor trick, Mom would ask what I thought was going to happen, and even without headlines to help, I usually could make fairly accurate predictions.

"How did you know?" she'd ask as my predictions unfolded.

"I've seen T.V. before!"

It's true. There are only so many plotlines, only so many twists, and even fewer ways to acceptably portray virtue and vice. Things will end a certain way. Bad men will be punished. Bad women will be punished twice.

Catherine's English class is performing Othello, Catherine is playing Emilia, Desdemona's faithful and virtuous attendant, wife of Iago (boooo, hissss, Iago! I can't, BTW, be the only one who thinks "Iago" sounds like something pronounced in the language of Lovecraft's elder gods. I digress). I ran lines with her last night, the final scene.

Shakespeare, his stuff gets better as I age. (That sentence, BTW, is accidental iambic pentameter. I am quite sure there are more as you read.),

I missed a lot when I watched the BBC plays and binge-read the Compleat Works a couple of times,between ages 12 and 19.

During last night's line-running, I found myself murmuring "Racist!" on occasion. Seriously, there are a lot of lines to the effect of "Have I mention'd of late that thou art black?"
Catherine brightly asked what a few things meant, for example "'Twill out!" and rethought her reading based on the new information. She also understood "liberal as the north" (in reference to speaking without compunction, it's a north wind reference) when I missed it. She also got took the that iambic pentameter is important, that it can change the meaning of a line, or at least subtly shade it.

I remember a college drama classmate asking if "Shakespeare did that on purpose?"

Well, yeah. The thing is, though, it's not so hard
There is a point where you get used to it
Becomes hard not to make things iambic
Although I do admit I am no Bard!

As an example of the cadence being important, Emilia greets Iago with

"O, are you come, Iago? you have done well,
That men must lay their murders on your neck!"

Now, stress every second syllable.

O, are you come, Iago? you have done well

It fairly drips with sarcasm, and, as I explained to Catherine, Shakespearean English had formal and familiar versions of the word "you." "Thou" was for family, friends, and sometimes inferiors. However, to have called someone "thou" (such as one's husband) and revert to "you" later is a cold-shoulder insult, not far from announcing "I don't know you!" I missed all of this when I first read it and even on a closer reading in a college class (even though I did have a clue about you vs. thou and iambic pentameter by then.)

I am proud of how well Catherine takes direction. We sat under the tallest tree at Crab Cove, going over her lines thrice, until it got too dark to read. As we walked away, we noticed that our speech had slipped into pentameter.
Slow start (nb: These are not all the books I've read in these months, there were a lot more re-reads, a lot of re-reading a chapter or two. As of this writing, I am purposefully reading for at least an hour before bed every night, trying to turn off the world and let my brain interact purposefully with someone else's thoughts.).


1. The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin
I love Armistead Maupin, and this is the best Tales of the City book yet, a perfect ending to a series I've really enjoyed, with some recently-introduced characters, some old friends and San Francisco, Winnemucca and Black Rock Desert all intersecting. (Maupin fans who somehow haven't gotten to it only need to hear one thing--it goes back into Andy Ramsey's past, and Mrs. Madrigal was absolutely right about him!).
2. Katerina's Wish by Jeannie Mobley k
A not-bad kids' book about the power of wishing/making things happen.
3. For What It's Worth by Janet Tashjian YA
Janet Tashjian writes realistic teenagers with authentic voices. I may have enjoyed this one, with all its references to 1960's music, more than most people will, but it's a decent read about the power of art, news, love, protest, all those good things.
4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Every time I pick up a Neil Gaiman book, I ask myself why I don't read him more often, why I haven't been through his entire bibliography yet.
I find his books amazingly good, fascinating, thought provoking, but I also find them easy to put down. Maybe they're too meaty for my mind, which works better at nibbling? It takes me a while to get through them.

5. Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley YA
A boy goes from slavery to a chain gang. This was a beautifully-written hard read, putting the reader right in the middle of difficult-to-heartwrenching situations.
6. Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
A memoir of growing up with a father who hoarded. The author originally planned a more scholarly work with a few personal anecdotes, but ended up writing an autobiography. It did grab me the way some autobios do, maybe because her style isn't personal enough, maybe because capturing her childhood of live among hoarded items, clean for inspection, family gets kicked out anyway, puts us in the middle of frustration and annoyance, with no feeling of being able to fix it.
This book isn't the only thing that inspired my Lenten vow to get rid of some things, but it didn't hurt.
7. Feed by M.T. Andersen YA
I tried to read this years ago and couldn't get into it. In fact, I conflated it with Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, (Similar last names, single syllable long-e title, close-up of a person's head on the cover, though Speak has a face and Feed the back of a head) and therefore didn't get around to reading that until last year.
Well, Speak was better. Feed was probably more interesting 12 years ago when it was first published, but maybe not as plausible--it's set in a not-too-distant future in which people receive a constant informational/advertising feed straight into their brains. None of the above is getting across that I did think it was good; Andersen builds the world well, the slang works, the teenagers are realistic in a cautionary way. Made me glad that I don't flat-line just because I don't have the latest meg-brag products being bannered.
(There's a conversation about Coca-Cola that is absolutely brilliant!)
The book is no-where near as soulless as my synopsis is making it sound. There are some heart-wrenching moments. It's worth the read.
Thank you, John Green. for recommending it.

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