March 27, 2014

Inoculation

A little bit of fear in a safe place is like being inoculated. It gives you something you can go through and be sure that you’ll come out the other end. It teaches you to be brave.

Neil Gaiman, on writing scary stories for children

January 24, 2014

Animals in the news


Porrick the pig was abandoned by her owner, so the townspeople pitched in to take care of her. look at that little shelter!



an abandoned Soviet ship filled with starving rats has been set adrift by Canada and is expected to crash into the British Isles soon. I guess Canada isn't always the good guy.

January 8, 2014

Ordinary Love

am i the only one who thought U2 was covering Sade? and was a little disappointed to find out that wasn't the case? (side note- if you've never seen the video for No Ordinary Love, please go watch it right now. Sade as a sparkly emo mermaid.... i've said too much.)

anyway, i was pretty skeptical of OMGNEWU2SONGWATCHVIDEONOW. i was a huge fan as a teenager and college student. that's the time in your life to be earnest and idealistic, and early U2 serves up the perfect soundtrack for wanting to save the world, and believing that God would really do it. but like all those first bands we fall in love with, they age and become grown ups and usually the music suffers. (side note #2- i heard a few of Pearl Jam's new songs on the radio, and realized that they are to teenagers today what the Rolling Stones were to me- a previously kick-ass band who are now all like 50 and their new stuff is lame and very much trying too hard. this realization made me feel so sad. and so OLD.)

anyway, i took a chance on the U2 song and i quite liked it. apparently it's part of the soundtrack for the new movie about Nelson Mandela, who they befriended years ago and obviously take much inspiration from. the video is cool too. i like the typography, despite all the jump cuts. anyway, take a listen and see what you think.


Ordinary Love from Joe Ahorro on Vimeo.

November 8, 2013

Buddha in Glory

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.


Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,


a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.


Rainer Maria Rilke

October 8, 2013

Booooooks


could this selection BE any more random? behold, my reading material over the last two months. let's go!

How Animals Grieve
I am super interested in animal psychology, so once I read about this one on the NPR website, I knew I had to add it to my library queue. my love of elephants sparked this interest; they are one of the most emotionally/mentally evolved creatures on the planet. they have memories that last decades, they are very social and gregarious, they are capable of creating art (really) and yes, something happens to them when their fellow elephants die. as the author concludes, it's impossible to definitively prove that animals grieve. but she loads the book with anecdote after anecdote of animals and their dramatic behavior changes when a companion dies. elephants, dogs, cats, ducks, primates, dolphins... she has a story for each about an instance where a family member dies and the behavior that is displayed can only be described as grief. mothers refusing to abandon their stillborn babies, elephants circling & protecting the carcasses of their friends, cats lapsing into "depression" when a longtime companion fails to return from the vet. on and on. it reminds me a lot of Daphne Sheldrick's story of saving & rearing orphaned elephants, many of whom display classic PTSD symptoms from witnessing their family's slaughter.

Habibi
continuing my Introduction to Graphic Novels 101, I checked out Habibi, by the same guy who wrote Blankets. this book is bananas. the illustrations seriously left me speechless. so intricate, with beautiful interplay between Arabic calligraphy and traditional Middle Eastern patterns. I have a bad habit of breezing by illustrations within a book, but each page gave me pause, if nothing else just to attempt to calculate the time each one took. the story has so much going on, but at the center are 2 child slaves, and older girl and younger boy, who become their own little family amidst the tragedy and injustice each one encounters throughout their life. it's a wild ride, and pretty disturbing at times (lots of mature content like rape/abuse), but in the end it's a really beautiful and expertly crafted story. Here are a couple pages early in the book.



Queen of the Air
and now for something completely different! the true story of Leitzel, the most famous trapeze artist in the world. she was born in 1892 into the circus life and traveled Europe in many small struggling circuses until she made her big break with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. she was a favorite among the crowds and male suitors, and lived a short but colorful life. it's an interesting biography that weaves her story into the larger picture of cricus history and early American history.

Persepolis
another awesome graphic novel that takes place in the Middle East. this one's about the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, told from the perspective of the author who was a little girl at the time. her parents were liberals and the revolution and ensuing war with Iraq affected many of their family members and friends. the illustrations are much more simple than Habibi but still evocative. I haven't read Part 2 yet, but it's on my list. here's an excerpt below.


Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies
after Chris Kluwe grabbed the attention of The Internet last year, it was inevitable that someone would offer him a book deal. he's intelligent, forthright, scathing, witty, and he has a LOT of ideas to share. and he doesn't really care what you think. I loved his Deadspin letter and subsequent blog posts for the Pioneer Press, I enjoy following him on Twitter (until the talk turns to gaming), so I figured I would see what he has to say in a long format. turns out, it's a collection of 2-5 page essays on... pretty much whatever he wants. lots of science-fiction-heavy rants about the future, a little football talk, a self-written eulogy, it's pretty much all over the place. I like that the publishers gave him free reign, even if a lot of it isn't my jam. it was a fun jaunt!

October 4, 2013

Banksy



love him or hate him, you have to admit some of his pieces are genius. these 2 pieces are new to me but my favorites from this slide show, and you can see a ton more on his website.

August 22, 2013

Wild


did you like Eat, Pray, Love? did you hate it? did you, like me, love the book, hate the movie, and then realize that everything you hated about the movie was kinda in the book too?

regardless of how you felt about EPL, you will like Wild. it is the book EPL should have been. very similar "Woman in Crisis Abandons Life to go on a Physical/Spiritual/Mental Quest" story, but this crisis is a little more genuine (poverty, abusive/absent father, mother dies early from cancer) and the quest is a little more respectable (hiking the punishing Pacific Crest Trail solo), not that the two ladies' experiences should even be compared, that's kind of a shitty thing to do. oh well.


I've never stepped foot on the PCT, but I have hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail, its East Coast counterpart, so I was already a little familiar with the culture- trail registers, trail names, re-stocking at small towns along the way, etc. I was a little wary of an entire memoir about hiking solo, but Strayed did a great job of weaving the stories from her broken past into the trail narrative. and not only that, the trail writing was really good. vivid, suspenseful, funny. I found myself wanting to Google her route as I read, to see what she saw and further explore her surroundings.

as with EPL, Strayed embarked on the journey to Heal Herself- from her past and more pressingly, from her mother's death. it does happen, but not in the epic "tears on mountaintops" way she imagined, of course. it's a subtle transformation that she weaves into the story with a couple cathartic moments at the end, making me tear up just like this NY Times reviewer. overall, a great read. highly recommend.

August 8, 2013

2013 Drink of the Summer


I know what you're thinking.... it's well into August and she's just now declaring her drink of the summer?? think of all those hot nights suffered without a signature drink to keep one happy and cool. never fear, the DoTS was established as soon as the snow stopped falling- so, May- it's just taken a while to make it internet official. but first, a re-cap:

Drinks of the Summer
2010- whiskey sour
2011- gin & tonic
2012- red wine sangria

and this year's distinct claim goes to the deliciously spicy Dark & Stormy. I first had one last July at a friend's wedding, but it wasn't until this year that I decided to start mixing them at home. i'm super lazy, so it's just Gosling's dark spiced rum, Gosling's ginger beer, 3 ice cubes, and a squeeze of lime. perfect for hammock laying and book reading, or whatever lazy summer activity you're prone to indulge in.

August 2, 2013

Sky Art



that is some seriously impressive use of negative space. these are by French artist Thomas Lamadieu, seen here. his website is here.

July 31, 2013

Swamplandia!


why did it take me so long to read this book? I've been aware of it since it came out in 2011; there was much praise and gushing over it, inclusion in almost every "best of 2011" reading list, and a hold queue at the library that was months long. honestly, I think it was the subject matter... I often a hard time with books/movies that portray Southern poverty. it can very easily veer into unrealistic romanticism that feels unauthentic at best, and exploitation at worst. (Beasts of the Southern Wild gave me a similar icky feeling.) but after seeing so many recommendations over the years, I finally decided to give it a try, and i'm so glad I did- this book is amazing. the setting is a swampy Florida that seems effortlessly conjured up, but it's obvious there were hours upon hours of research and familiarity with the land (and the government's disastrous mismanagement of it) and the culture. and yes, ultimately it's a sad story about the downfall of a poor family's business and livelihood, but Karen Russell's writing is so rich, and each member of the Bigtree family is so dynamic, you really just get swept up into the story. it accomplishes the very rare feat of being a total page turner- each family member's fate hangs in the balance of each chapter, and also being quite deep- metaphors abound if you care to take the time to unpack them. all in all, a really great modern Southern Gothic story that should have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. (seriously, A Visit from the Goon Squad wins the year before, and this year you'd rather not give out a prize than award it to Karen Russell? so wrong.)

July 12, 2013

Easy summer reads


after realizing that I've hardly read any fiction recently, I decided to dive into the novels pictured above in my latest library haul. first up, The Keep by Jennifer Egan.



She wrote A Visit from the Goon Squad, so i'm guessing that's why I put this one on my list so many moons ago. after a traumatic episode in their childhood, two cousins reconnect as adults to renovate a castle in Eastern Europe. but the castle, and cousin Howard's plans, both prove to be more than they seem.... it was a great summer read, not super challenging but definitely enjoyable, with a ramped-up ending that delivers a nice plot twist and unexpected ending. 2 thumbs up.



next is a classic example of what my mother calls a "dead body book." the main character kills a man and buries him in his backyard. a year later, a yard service crew unearths 2 bodies on his property... neither of which are the man he killed. pretty good premise, right? it was a decent read, a solid effort for a first novel.

next up, Swamplandia!

July 1, 2013

Brussels sprouts and eggs

this is less of a recipe and more of a public service announcement. i just want everyone to know that fried eggs taste delicious on top of roasted brussels sprouts. 

directions, if you need them:

preheat oven to 400.
Halve brussels sprouts (or quarter if they're really big) and toss with olive oil.
lay them out in casserole dish and add salt and pepper. and maybe a little paprika.
roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning them once after about 10 minutes.
while that's goin' down, fry your egg(s) however you like 'em.
dump the roasted sprouts in a bowl, top with eggs. sprinkle a little pepper and grated parmesan on top. 

PS- i was making this sometime last fall, and this happened:


2 sets of twins in one carton. what are the odds?

June 27, 2013

Greycoats Hideaway-ing

Greycoats performed one of their new songs in a St. Paul skyway, as a little extra to their MN Original episode.



for some reason I can't help but think of this:


I think it's Titus' head.

June 25, 2013

catching up on books i have read

despite my reading drought this winter, I did manage to finish a few books, and then plowed through a couple more while on vacation last week. here's a quick re-cap of what I have read over the past few months...


This was so good. a detailed, insightful biography on L Ron Hubbard and how Scientology even came to exist, its Hollywood influence (not as much dirt as I would've liked, but a decent amount) and crazy dysfunction/abuses (members locked away for years in what is basically indentured servant hood). it's long but well worth it. and there are photos here and there, this one was obviously my favorite:


oh yes.


next was Pulphead, by John Jeremiah Sullivan. it's a collection of various essays he's had published in magazines, on the most random and enjoyable of subjects. Axl Rose. prehistoric cave drawings in the Southeastern United States. an outsider's portrayal of Christian music festivals. securing an interview with Bunny Wailer, the last surviving member of Bob Marley's band, in Jamaica. each one stands on its own but you'll want to read them all. (even the one on the 18th/19th century naturalist)



this was one of two books i read on our cruise. There are many Dogtowns, but this one happens to be an abandoned 18th century settlement on Massachusetts' Cape Ann. the author was drawn to it by seeing paintings of the unusually boulder-y landscape, but then discovered that the history of the area was even more intriguing. it got its name from the Revolutionary War widows who got dogs as protection after their soldier husbands failed to return home. its always melancholy aura was punctuated by a random murder in the 80's that   split the town on what to do with the land whose last owners had been dead 200 years. the author injects a little too much of herself into the story, but the book is compelling enough to overlook that misstep.


wow, is this the only fiction i've read recently? i guess so. book #2 of the cruise. a quick, easy read about small town conflict and the dysfunctional characters perpetrating it. the quickly growing Fundamentalist church disapproves of the high school's sex ed teacher and seeks to oust her. one of the churches' members happens to be the teacher's daughter's soccer coach, and a post-game confrontation leads to growing conflict and attraction between the two. a decent summer read. and hopefully there will be more to come....