books

Consumables #145: Insomnia Assistance

No sooner had a little time off work helped me Get My Groove Back, I am now knee-deep in work again, which means my Groove has been Removed. How Stella Got Her Groove Removed is something Angela Bassett would never allow I am sure, and who wants to see that movie?

I finally started watching Making a Murderer on Netflix a couple of nights ago which is really probably a bad idea for someone who is getting their groove removed. I watch a few episodes before bed and then I can’t sleep because I keep thinking about it. When part of getting my work grind on again is re-acclimating to waking up at 5am, that ain’t a smooth move, Ex-Lax.

On top of this, I just read Steve Sheinkin’s The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. It’s about segregated armed forces in WWII and the unsafe and unfair working conditions that caused 320 servicemen to be killed in California while the remaining survivors were threatened with mutiny charges. Also so compelling and vital to know this history but between this and Making a Murderer it’s basically Horrible Garbage Humans Misusing Power times¬†as I go to sleep (or don’t go to sleep) each night.

As long as we are talking about miscarriages of justice narratives (happy new year, guys!), I just have to plug the documentary Brother’s Keeper. So good. I am here to help you with all your angry-insomnia needs.

If you are a weirdo and would rather your documentary films be inspiring (whatever, but ok) I also recently saw He Named Me Malala. I especially loved the way the film illustrated the normalcy of Malala’s young adult life (homework! looking at pictures of Roger Federer on the internets!) as she navigates the more extraordinary aspects we all know about. She’s still a kid, and seeing that side made the movie all the more inspiring.

Here’s hoping your groove stays with you.

Groove Theory, Tell Me

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Consumables #144: 2015 Reads

If there is one thing missing in your life right now, I bet you it is a year-end list of some sort. Why doesn’t anyone do one of those? Lucky for you, I am here for you. Here are a few of the books I read in 2015, for your consideration, enjoyment, or frosty judgment.

Book that I Couldn’t Look Away From: Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter. It was graphically violent in ways that were way more than I signed up for, but by the time I realized that, I couldn’t quit because I had to know the end. Kind of scarred now.

To Get Lulled Into a Beauteous Melancholy: My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout.

Book I Was Sure I Would Love: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I love being tidy! I love helpful tidy-talk! But I am not going to consider my socks’ feelings about how they are being folded, Marie.

Fashion Read: The Battle of Versailles, by Robin Givhan. History, race, gender, and Halston talking about himself in the third person. Check, check, check and check.

Many People Told Me This Was Funny: Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast. I really loved this story of the author’s aging parents, but I did not LOL at all, book-recommender-liars.

Stop Staring At Me Reading This, Fellow Bus-Riding Commuters: How to Be a Bad Bitch, by Amber Rose.

Book That Made Me Cry And Want My Blankie, In the Best Way: Boats for Papa, by Jessixa Bagley.

My Favorite Illustrations: Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson.

Scratching That Deadwood Itch: The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt.

Remember How Fucked Up College Was? Welcome to Braggsville, by Geronimo T. Johnson.

Don’t Even Try to Argue This One with Me: Selfish, by Kim Kardashian.

History We Should All Know: Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, by Pamela Newkirk.

Seattle History, Romance, Aviation, Jazz, YUM: The Game of Love and Death, by Martha Brockenbough.

I Know You Already Heard About It But Still: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nahisi Coates.

I’m Not Going to Lie, I Skimmed the Farm Science: The Martian, by Andy Weir.

As a Former Dancer, It Seems That People Think We Are Psychos, However I Don’t Care Because Ballet Drama is Delicious: Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra.

I Don’t Know How Come You Don’t Find This Mesmerizing: Becoming Sister Wives, by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robin Brown.

Royalty Is Jacked Up, Fact: The Family Romanov, by Candace Fleming.

Cue up for 2016!

 

Consumables #142 Reading: Bob, Son of Battle

I have never been a dog-book person. Ever since my fifth grade teacher read us a chapter each day aloud from Where the Red Fern Grows and emotionally ground up all of our souls into teeny tiny pieces as we collectively shed our 10-year-old innocence out via our tear ducts (THANKS MRS MORLEY THAT WAS SUPER FUN TIMES YAY READING), I have never felt compelled to read a dog book. Nothing good happens in dog books, is my thought. And don’t you come into my comments thread and tell me about no pooch story that won’t shred me to bits, because I ain’t buying it.

This is why it was weird that one day the book Bob, Son of Battle by Alfred Ollivant showed up on my holds shelf at the library. I have no recollection of putting it on hold (MRS MORLEY DID YOU HACK ME) but I guess I might have. If people recommend a book to me I often put it on hold then forget about it, so that’s probably what happened. Turns out Bob, S.O.B. is a classic kids’ book, published back in 1898 as Owd Bob and originally published in Cumbrian dialect. This version is in reg-lar English. I thought: what the heck, I shall lift the moratorium on dog books for a minute and at least read a few chapters to see what is up.

Set in the English countryside, it’s all about sheep farmers who are obsessed with their sheepdogs. James Moore is a genteel farmer and his dog, Bob, is the David Beckham of sheepdogs, and by that I do not mean to imply canine sexiness levels. Bob is just undefeated master of the coveted sheepdog tourney cup. All the farmers in the town get together at the pub each night and argue about who can ever have a dog like Bob? No one, and I will fight you if you say otherwise. A smidge severe, right? This is only the beginning.

Enter Adam, a rough, scrabbly, a-hole of a guy who beats his kid and hates his fellow man. He has an equally rough sheepdog who just may be able to beat Bob at the tourney. Everyone hates Adam and his damn dog. Much of this is very upstairs/downstairs. Adam is clearly riff raff and Bob’s owner John is Lady Effing Mary Crawley.

That is the set up, but you guys. This book was so rough I could not put it down just for sheer nutosity. The sheepdog farmers were so gangster it was shocking. First of all, SO MUCH FIGHTING. The farmers be getting heated about their dogs and going full fisticuffs at all times. People are getting beat almost to death on several occasions. Then there is Adam, the one with the most rage issues, beating his son throughout. And then! Halfway through, there is a full on mystery to solve regarding someone in town who is a DOG SERIAL KILLER. Like, first it is a sports book and then it is a gangster book and then it becomes a Silence of the Lambs/Hounds book. I kid you not, as I was reading it I was saying “WUT” out loud throughout.

I shall not tell you the end but it was probably one of the most jaw-dropping I have read in a verra verra long time. IF ANYONE OUT THERE HAS READ THIS BOOK YOU MUST TALK TO ME ABOUT IT.

Apparently, according to the internets there is a 90s movie made from this starring the sheepdog farmer from Babe (that guy really cornered the market on sheepdog farmer roles in Hollywood, but he will always be Harve from Little House/Zefram from Star Trek to me), which I cannot imagine. Did Tarantino direct it?

I mentioned this book is for like, 5th graders, right? The next time someone tells me they think kids’ and teen publishing has gotten too violent in modern times, aka The Hunger Games Complaint, I am handing them Bob.

Consumables #141 Reading: Modern Romance

This weekend was slow and sultry, and as such I didn’t venture too far from home all weekend. I had a bit of an intense work week and felt quite dipped in overtaxed glaze by Friday, so I was ready to marinate in some 90 degree weather and shush my brain up. We did end up going to a cornhole party, where it turns out I do not suck as bad at that game than in years past, which makes sense because what is cornhole but a game built for the antique human. We played a few games, ate some potato salad, and chatted with friends until after the sun went down and we continued to sit in our lawn chairs to become All-You-Can-Eat mosquito smorgasbord. I love summer.

I have a friend who I know through this here blog, and she’s one of the few blog friends that I have connected with for years but have yet to meet in person. Through our correspondence over the years, we took the blog friendship to the next level. To use dating parlance, blog-related comments was first base, emailing was second, and becoming Facebook friends takes it to third. Yeah, that’s right, I just equated Facebook friending to getting handsy below the equator. DEAL WITH IT. Anyway, we have been friends for years. I knew her before she had kids, and now she has two little school age kiddos. I consider her a friend, no less a friend than someone I’ve met in the flesh. She lives in the Midwest, in a state I haven’t visited since high school and I don’t know if and when we’ll ever meet each others’ faces.

One day I commented on something on her Facebook page, and someone else commented after me, and I was like WAIT A HOT MINUTE, because I knew this other commenter from a completely separate part of my life. Commenter was a friend of my friend in Seattle, and I was dying to know how these two random people knew each other. This weekend, Commenter was at the cornhole party, and I got a chance to ask her. Her answer? They are blog friends. Have been for years. Huh. The internets are so cuckoo.

I recently read Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari. Unlike the proliferation of books written by tv comedy people (hi Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Mindy Kaling, et al), this one is less a humor book and more a sociology book that’s written with a funny tone. Ansari teams up with a sociologist from NYU (and talks with many more sociologists) to explore dating and relationships in the digital age. They did tons of focus groups around the world and combed through existing studies to explore questions like: what are behavioral differences between relationships that start out online versus in person? How is communication affected by the proliferation of texting? I found the whole thing totally fascinating (despite a few unfortunate fat jokes- ugh, Aziz, I love you but you gotta interrogate your fat jokes and then stop that).¬†Although the book is about romantic relationships, I found a lot of it relevant to friendships as well. As a person who has found several of my very favorite people through this blog, I can vouch for the realness of online connection. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic plus getting some yuks out of it, read Ansari.

Here’s my current summer jam while I am feeling slow and sultry, y’all.

Summertime, by Vince Staples

Consumables #138 Reading: The Kiss of Deception

My guy was driving into work yesterday morning and so I hitched a ride with him and right before we got downtown via the freeway, you GUYS. WE GOT HIT. One second we were yukking it up and the next some foolio plowed into us from the back and pushed us into the car in front of us. MUNCHED. Vehicle accordion.

We are both ok, but it was scary. On the humorous tip, my sunglasses flew right off of my face and hit the windshield in front of me. I felt like the sunglasses projectile really added a level of panache to the whole thing. For the rest of the day, I just felt sore everywhere, and I felt like someone had shaken me up like I was inside of a cocktail. I didn’t feel like myself all day long. Adrenaline is weird, the aftermath of adrenaline is weird, getting jostled hard is weird.

Who decided we would get places by speeding around in metal boxes at 70 miles an hour?

Anyway, books! I recently finished The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson. In it, Princess Lia (I dare you to read this book and not think “Princess Leia”) is being married off by her parents in hopes of creating an alliance with a nearby kingdom. She decides at the last minute that she ain’t having none o’ dat mess and she takes off. The prince who she had been promised to comes after her, as does an assassin sent by her kingdom’s enemies to kick her bucket. The main fun thing about the book is that Pearson doesn’t tell you which of the two new characters is which– so you don’t know which guy is there to kill her and which one is there as her would-be fiance. When you think about it, that’s kind of a harsh statement about trust and if there is a difference between dudes who want you dead and dudes who say they want to marry you, innit. I mean, harsh one, Pearson.

Over and out, honies.

Consumables #137 Reading: I’ll Drink to That

Summer is in FULL SWING in Seattle. No half swing for us! Someone done turned the lights on and we are all acting like drunkie drunk drunks because of it. Over Memorial Day weekend, I had a few people over to kick off sun times on our deck but it was a bit premature so we all sat there pretending to like it wearing our coats and shivering our timbers. You know you have nice friends when they pretend to like something on your behalf. But now! NOW it is happening, and it is so fab. Our deck has become our extra living room and dining area and it is officially the best. I take back every last bit of whining I did last summer when we were building that bastard.

This weekend kicked off with my friend H and I doing to a runway show for Seattle Fashion Week. It was set in this warehouse that is usually used for trapeze training (oh, Seattle) and looking at the trapeze high above us the whole time made me think: not easy looking. What is the saying “fly through the air with the greatest of ease” or something? Um, I call bullshit on that no question. Other fashion show notes: I love a good swag bag, you guys. Where else am I going to get Dolce and Gabbana mascara? Sure as shit not ever buying that. Also, you know how Miss Jay coaches models to walk on ANTM and it seems funny and absurd? I’m not going to say it’s NOT funny and absurd, HOWEVER when you are watching a runway show and a model does not have a good model walk, it is so distracting. Like, you just start looking at the walking and that means you are not looking at the clothes. Have you ever noticed how varied all of our walks are? Lots of us are bouncing, wobbling, schlepping our way around and this is fine for humanity but it’s perplexing when looking at clothes. When I was a dancer I remember learning different ways to walk, and I had kind of forgotten about it. Neutral walking is a thing, and nowhere is this more apparent than when you are watching people tromp up and down a long skinny platform for two hours.

Speaking of fashion, I recently read I’ll Drink to That, a memoir by Betty Halbreich. Halbreich was the personal shopper at New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store for over forty years, and quite the character with quite the life story. She grew up a privileged daughter and then wife in a way that reads like an MGM musical. Parties! Clothes! Suitors! This period of her life ends up revealing, Mad Men style, hidden demons that make her life come crashing down, which leads to her reinvention via the career that will make her famous in the fashion world. I liked the life story stuff but what I loved most of all were her thoughts on clothes and the art of being a personal shopper. Her descriptions of the ways she puts pieces together and how she interacts with her clients was what kept me turning pages.

Jill Sobule, Supermodel

Consumables #136 Reading and Watching Sister Wives

I don’t even remember why I started watching Sister Wives on TLC, but you guys, I AM IN IT NOW. I have watched seven seasons and am not even sick of it yet. I also checked out the book that they wrote from the library and read it in two days. I NEED HELP, MAYBE?

Here are the things about Sister Wives that I find compelling.

1. There are four wives, one husband. WAIT, JUST STICK WITH ME.

2. These are not the Ingalls-dress-wearing, child-bride-having sister wives. The Brown family distance themselves way, way far from that and present themselves as a progressive form of polygamy. Diversity within polygamy family structures- FASCINATING.

3. Division of labor! Everyone works outside the home except one wife who does not wish to, but she wants to take care of all the littles so everything is taken care of. OK KIND OF BRILLS.

4. Polygamy seems patriarchal, right? But when watching this show, it seems pretty clear that the husband is hella inconsequential to anything and the ladies are running it. He sees each of them maybe once or twice a week and they seem so, so good with that amount because they are busy doing their own damn thing.

5. On the downside, I do not feel like the ladies are all besties. They do seem like sisters though- just the kind of sisters that love each other but don’t really necessarily like each other.

6. They are big on polygamy being consensual and they aren’t into any brainwashing stuff, so they have all these kids who are teens and young adults that are not pressured to be polygamists at all. One of them so far wants to be a polygamist, one of them doesn’t want to be married at all, and the rest are wanting monogamy. They all seem like totally well adjusted, happy young people, so you’re not watching kids in peril, which I could not deal with.

7. They all share this dude but there are so many, many boundaries. Like, they all live separately and he just rotates where he stays. There is no kissy face stuff in front of any of the other sister wives, or even a mention of kissy face stuff. The wives discipline their own children but have ways of dealing with how to handle when they are taking care of another wife’s kid. They all have their own money but they have ways of sharing when needed. Like, so much structure to think through, and they have thought it through.

8. COOPERATION. Oh, so much of it I am exhausted just thinking about it.

9. Talking about sexy business is totally off limits which is super smart of them but also super difficult for the viewer because THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE IS THINKING ABOUT IS HOW THE SEXY BUSINESS POLITICS WORKS.

Basically, I can’t say I am a fan of polygamy, BUT I am not mad at the Browns. They seem like fine people. And the show makes me think about big things: like how we are socialized the way we are to think about relationships the way we do, and how gender is performed based on the ways we think about what a woman is supposed to do (and also a man, but this show is really about the ladies), and what it means to be a parent and not expect kids to make the same choices that a parent makes and let them be their own people, and what parts of a relationship are dependent on the partner and what parts we can choose to remain independent. and the ways that each person in a family has different types of status for different reasons, and the ways in which we use that status, consciously or not. Yeah, that’s right, all of that.

GETTING EXISTENTIAL WITH THE SISTER WIVES, Y’ALL. THIS IS HOW I ROLL.

Consumables #135 Reading: The Buried Giant

So the other day I was moving a framed piece of art from one wall to the other, and the frame it was in was a cheap-o five-dollar number from a certain Swedish warehouse home store/purveyor of the 99 cent meatball. I was walking across the room with this big frame and it just fell apart in my hands. It was as if I was playing Jenga with all of the pieces of the frame and losing spectacularly. The wood pieces fell apart, the glass in the frame hit the wall next to me, a big piece of the glass bounced back and hit me on the forearm. Not quite in the wrist artery area, but right up next to it. It scratched me pretty good, and I did bleed a bit, and it hurt like a motherflipper (the scratch was probably 5 inches long), but the placement of the scratch and the sight of blood near my wrist? I FREAKED THE EFF OUT, you guys. Like, full on AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! horror movie style that made my guy run into the room with a look on his face like he was going to murder whoever was murdering me.

I have to say, I am not a panicker, in general. I have been in panic-appropriate situations and I keep it quite cool. But apparently? Scratch me near my potential gore spurters and I will totally lose my mind. That seems fair though, right?

I have no appropriate segue to offer up so anyhoozle: I read The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, who has been one of my faves ever since I read Remains of the Day which was one of my all-time top books when I was college age. Beware, his books can seem slow to some, but I experience them as books to marinate oneself in. Just, roll around in it, is what I say. All of his books are different in terms of style– he has done historical fiction, science fiction, a detective mystery, and this one is a fantasy complete with trolls and knights and dragons and of course, a long walk. Where would fantasy be if people didn’t have stroll around for weeks on end? However the themes are often the same– most often he’s writing about love, memory, and lonliness. In this one, Axl and Beatrice, an older couple who live in a village where people have trouble remembering their pasts, decide to take a long walk to another town to see their grown son who they haven’t seen in so long they have almost forgotten him. The love that they feel for each other is subtly but movingly described, and the story has many layers that all point to the question: is there a utility to forgetting some things, even things important and dear to us? When does forgetting serve us well and when does it hurt us? Ishiguro makes me feel wistful, and yet comforted in my wistfulness.

Have a loverly weekend, lovers. Here’s a wistful song to kick it off.

Heroes, David Bowie

Consumables #134 Reading The Bees

These are the things that have been pulling my attention away from the blog duties.

1. Making dumb dubsmash videos and tormenting my loved ones with them.

2. Making out with my new deck, with full tongue.

3. Working for living, living and a-working, taking what they’re giving cuz I’m working for a living, to quoth H. Lewis and his News.

Speaking of new deck times, the other day my friends came over with their youngun (don’t worry I stopped the make out stuff for that) and he pointed out a bee to me, and a few minutes later pointed to a bee again and proclaimed it another bee. When asked how he knew this second bee wasn’t just the same bee as the first bee, he looked at me and said “because they look different.” He didn’t follow this up with “dumbass” but he was thinking it, I could see it in his five-year-old eyes.

Speaking of bees, I read this book called The Bees, by Laline Paull, and a lot of it was about the meaning of sameness and what happens when one busts out (buzzts out) as different, which is the sort of existential question that my young friend was alluding to, methinks. It’s a fictional dystopian Handsmaid’s Talesian story about Flora, a worker bee who has abilities beyond her station and is given the opportunity to move through different castes in the hive. For those who like dystopian fiction, this one is a fresh take. For me, the story wasn’t as interesting as the setting– I spent the entire time thinking “do bees really do that? Are hives really set up like that?” so maybe I should be reading nonfiction about bees since I seem to have so many gee-dee questions about them. if you want fictionalized, militant, classist m-effer bees though, this one is it.

Consumables #133 Reading: Ms. Marvel

The Big Honking Deal about this comic was that it starred the first ever Muslim woman to headline a Marvel superhero story. This is a thing that I am all in for, and for the most part I liked it a whole heckuva lot. Kamala Khan (our newest Ms. Marvel) is smart, funny, and tough. Her origin story is action-packed and her friends are easy to like. I had many moments of YEAH BUDDY which is, let’s be honest, why many of us read superhero stuff to begin with. But, there were a couple of things that made me give Ms. Marvel a little touch of side-eye though. Kamala, at first, thinks that her power can only be used when she is in the original Marvel (very blond, very white) form, until she understands her own power…but I couldn’t shake the idea that no matter if Kamala eventually realizes the power within herself, the conduit to that power was, at first, bestowed straight from a white lady. Why’d she have to learn it from Barbie, is all I am saying. Part of me thinks this was a nuanced commentary on overcoming internalized racism. Part of me thinks that it isn’t. Shit be complicated, you guys. Here’s the other thing: I know that stories like this tend to be all TORN BETWEEN TWO CULTURES and I get that, I acknowlege that this can be an issue for a lot of people. BUT, it’s not the only thing. Some of us (a lot of us, actually) that are bicultural/multicultural don’t experience these various parts of ourselves as being in conflict with each other, or even as two distinct experiences that split our lives into two pieces at all, and I get sort of sick of that narrative. I AM OF TWO WORLDS, WHERE DO I REALLY BELONG? is so tired and reductive. It fits in nicely with the dual-identity narrative of regular person versus superhero, so I can see why it went there. Just: a lot of 2nd generation Americans don’t define themselves via a straddling-two-worlds inner conflict. That’s all.

All in all though, I am way excited to have Ms. Marvel on the scene, and I am def going to follow where she goes next. I just have to give side-eye sometimes. It’s my super power.