Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Today I will get to see all kinds of costumes at school--like vampire princess. When did they start doing that? When she grows up this costume will most likely become slutty vampire princess, but for now she gets two in one. My other favorite costume this year is Hannah Montana---I didn't realize stars were popular costumes for children. I think I'll stick with Minnie Mouse.

There is a great review of Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts over at Powell's. This book recently received the Best New Horror label.

The Booktrust teenage prize went to a horror story this year. Lindsey has often wondered where all this vampire mania has come from since it seems to be everywhere.

NPR informed me that Tales from the Crypt is once again back in comic form. As if the HBO show wasn't bad enough.

There is a new book out for pet lovers. Dog Trick or Cat Treat: Pets Dress up for Halloween has close to 60 of the finest pet costume pictures out there. My dog Hayek isn't telling me about his costume but Keynes is going as Borat. For a dog, he does a wonderful impersonation of him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book Review: Letters to a Young Lawyer

Letters to a Young Lawyer by Alan Dershowitz

This is the second book in this mentoring series that I've read and it was much easier to stay involved than Letters to a Young Mathematician. While searching for a book photo I came across a review claiming this to be Dershowitz's memoir. Its not and I think he would laugh at the notion that someone felt it was.

While I am not a lawyer, I do live with one. I greatly enjoyed the thoughts that were aroused by the letters and the conversations that Mike and I had. I would say that this book is more an introduction to criminal justice theory and advice to those going into criminal law than a mentoring series encompassing all law. What I also enjoyed was that many of the letters were universal--don't lie, don't cheat, be a good person, etc. Its pretty easy to agree with what he is saying when its about being a good person.

I don't think you can read anything by Dershowitz without having it be political. I was able to walk away learning tidbits of news, political relationships and gossip that I found interesting enough to consider reading anything by him again.

Kim's Grade: B Short and simple

Monday, October 29, 2007


Spending the week sick is no fun. However you do get to listen to radio programs that you normally wouldn't listen to. I have to admit that I enjoy listening to Car Talk. Maybe its because they simplify mechanics to the point where I get it. Hmm... Well, anyway, they recommend books every week and this week's was noteworthy. Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes seems like a book I would pick up, look at the price tag, then put back down wishing I could buy. Lets face it, there are a lot of books out there I would read if I found them at a thrift store.

Here are some of the book's jokes:

Aristotle, Plato and Descartes are on a plane. The flight attendant comes by to take their drink orders. She asks Aristotle if he'd like a beverage. Aristotle says, "I'll have a ginger ale."

"And how about you, Mr. Plato?"

Plato says "Diet Coke, please."

She says, "and Mr. Descartes, anything to drink for you?"

Descartes says, "I think not," and disappears.

A man is praying to God. "Lord," he prays, "is it true that to you, a million years is but a second?"

"Yes," the Lord says, "that is true."

"Well, then, what is a million dollars to you?"

"A million dollars to me is but a penny."

"Ah, then, Lord," says the man. "May I have a penny?"

"Sure," says the Lord. "Just a second."

A guy comes into a bar and orders three beers and then proceeds to sip from one, then another, then another, until all three are gone. The bartender says, "You know the beers would stay a lot colder, if you ordered them one at a time."

"Yeah, I know," the guy says, "but I have two brothers who are living abroad, and we all agreed to drink this way, in memory of the old days when we were together. So these two beers are for my brothers, and the third is for me."

The bartender is touched. The guy becomes a regular. Then he comes in one day and orders just two beers. The bar falls silent. The bartender says, "Please accept my condolences, pal."

"Oh no, everyone's fine," the guy says. "My doctor just made me give up drinking!"

An angel appears to the head of a Philosophy Department and says, "I'll grant you whichever of three blessings you choose. Wisdom, beauty, or ten million dollars."

Immediately, the professor chooses wisdom. There is a flash of lightning, the professor is transformed, but then he just sits there, staring down at the table.

One of his colleagues whispers, "You have great wisdom. Say something!" The professor says, "I should have taken the money!"

The first and second jokes aren't THAT bad!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Mighty Heart: Book vs Movie

In April I wrote a short book review of A Mighty Heart. Most of us would agree that books are better than their movie versions and after watching A Mighty Heart I would definitely agree.

I would not recommend this movie to anyone.

The main reason why is that the movie doesn't focus on Mariane but rather the entire story. I suppose by doing so the movie is a little clearer about the confusion that was occurring. I found myself pausing the movie several times and explaining to Mike the emotional state Mariane was in, the fact that she thought her depression, frustration and fear was going to kill her unborn child, and of her constant battle to remain hopeful that Daniel was alive. I feel that comprises more of a mighty heart than what the movie portrayed.

By the time Mariane, who is played by Angelina Jolie, breaks down in the movie I had a difficult time sympathizing because I didn't feel the emotions were there. As for the book, I remembered crying throughout the entire memoir.

Overall the message of her memoir is stronger than whatever can be taken away from the film. I think this is often the case for books that are made into movies. Will there ever come a time when books aren't made into movies? Probably not, but I wish I was given more notice sometimes. Kite Runner is now on my must read soon list due to it coming to theaters this winter. It seems like it was yesterday that the book came out...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Martini in the Morning

I love Steve Martin! And now that his new children's book is out I am on a mission to test positive, pop one out and read them The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z. To listen to the quick radio interview go here. If too lazy to click read on...

From Morning Edition, 10/25/2007:

In writing a new children's alphabet book, Steve Martin may have been trying to make up for something missing in his childhood.

"I don't think I actually had any children's books as a kid," the actor and writer says, half-jokingly. No Go, Dog. Go! for him.

But Martin did read The Prince and the Pauper. "I was very proud of that because it was very thick," he tells Steve Inskeep.

Martin's new book, drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, is called The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z.

"I just had this idea to write these crazy, rhyming couplets and then asked Roz to illustrate them as faithfully as possible," Martin says.

Chast says that when they went through the alphabet, "it was fun to kind of pick out interesting words that went along with each letter." So, when they considered the letter U, for example, ukuleles came to mind.

And yes, there is an educational element amid all the fun, Martin says.

"I tried to put in words ... that sound like the letter but aren't the letter and also use different expressions of the letter," Martin says.

Like the couplet for the letter Q:

Quincy the kumquat queried the queen
Cleverly, quietly, without being seen.

Powell's Book Review of the Day

The nice thing about my favorite book store in the whole world, Powell's, is that they send me a book review every day! This was a recent one. I look forward to reading this book if only to examine the feminism(s) within it. I am happy that Faludi discusses Jessica Lynch because I still believe her story plays a large role in how the current war was initially framed for us. At the time it was a subject I considered writing a thesis on had I chosen a different graduate school. A nice thing about Faludi is that she is easy to follow.

The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
by Susan Faludi

After the Aftermath
A Review by Art Winslow

Did the ghastly plume of smoke and detritus from the World Trade Center towers obscure anything beyond lower Manhattan in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001? Susan Faludi, in The Terror Dream, asserts that it did, and while prevailing winds at the time trailed it east over Brooklyn, Faludi wafts it north toward colonial New England and west toward the historical frontier, and tracks its media-saturated shadow forward from that day through the past handful of years.

How does a culture react to trauma is the question, and Faludi's answer is that ours engaged in mythmaking on a scale that matches the monumentalism of the towers themselves. She does not mention Joseph Campbell and his The Hero With a Thousand Faces, or Robert Bly and his Iron John, or Carl Jung and his theories, but hers is a work of cultural interpretation on the order of theirs. Quite possibly, the author would shudder at comparison with such company, for Faludi focuses largely on gender issues writ into societal themes (a post-attack rejection of female equality is one of the flux points she examines) and her feminist views are in no significant way aligned with the above in content. But in approach, in the shared belief that stories and archetypes can both morph and retain an essence, that they can be self-perpetuating, that they are widespread and serve a purpose, that they can skew perception, cloud it, that they are in fact both the emperor's new and old clothes -- in that they share much.

"The entire edifice of American security had failed to provide a shield," Faludi observes in the introduction to The Terror Dream, and in "the all the disparate nightmares of men and women after 9/11, what accompanied the sundering of our myth of indomitability was not just rage but shock at that revelation, and, with the shock, fear, ignominy, shame." The media spit out mantras like "Everything has changed" and spoke of "the death of irony," an environment in which a "cacophony of chanted verities induced a kind of cultural hypnosis."

The mystery, suggests Faludi, is that the United States, "the last remaining superpower, a nation attacked precisely because of its imperial preeminence, responded by fixating on its weakness and ineffectuality." To state what is a sweeping and nuanced argument by her loosely and reductively here, it is that after 9/11 we have been re-enacting a 1950s Western, John Wayne-style, "cocooning ourselves in the celluloid chrysalis of the baby boom's childhood" while trying to evade the terrifying knowledge of our own vulnerability.

"We dreamed ourselves into a penny-dreadful plot that had little to do with the actual world in which we must live" is Faludi's assessment. "The suddenness of the attacks and the finality of the towers' collapse and the planes' obliteration left us with little in the way of ongoing chronicle or ennobling narrative. So a narrative was created and populated with pasteboard protagonists whose exploits would exist almost entirely in the realm of American archetype and American fantasy." Concomitantly, "no official moral leadership emerged to challenge Americans to think constructively about our place in the world, to redefine civic commitment and public responsibility."

These are strong words, and Faludi is a hard-nosed writer -- polemicist, some would say; is that still a pejorative? -- and much of what she proposes may seem at first glance to be unlikely, or perhaps overstated. However, the journalistic documentation she provides to back up her assertions, particularly when she deals with the post-9/11 world, has such cumulative effect in its impressive precision and breadth that one is forced to accept many of her claims. One significant question that remains unanswered is, How extensively does media sloganeering, complete with its distortions (which she amply chronicles), represent wider social thought? How many among us knew, for example, that the effacement of women in public life and roles (Hillary Clinton excepted) was to be part of the 9/11 fallout? It is somewhat surprising to see this singled out as a phenomenon, but here Faludi offers extensive examples from press reporting and real-world statistics as proof. Of the 88 opinion pieces that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times in the week following 9/11, five were by women; on the televised Sunday news talk shows, including "Face the Nation," "Meet the Press," "This Week" and others, appearances by American women shrank by nearly 40 percent in the seven weeks following the attacks.

Who recognized that the "passivism" that infected public life was a disease, "and American women were its Typhoid Marys, American men its victims"? Or stopped to consider that modern fears of terrorism so closely paralleled anxieties of the frontier experience, where unpredictable raiding, massacres (on both sides) and hostage-taking occurred, which the armed forces or individually armed colonials and then pioneers were unable to fend off? Rather than facing a new type of war, in other words, "our foundational drama as a society" was exposure to parallel circumstances:

[M]urderous homeland incursions by dark-skinned non-Christian combatants under the flag of no recognized nation, complying with no accepted Western rules of engagement and subscribing to an alien culture at odds with modernity, who attacked white America on its "own" soil and against civilian targets. September 11 was aimed at our cultural solar plexus precisely because it was an "unthinkable" occurrence for a nation that once could think of little else. In was not, in fact, an inconceivable event; it was the characteristic and formative American ordeal, the primal injury of which we could not speak....Our ancestors had already fought a war on terror, a very long war, and we have lived with its scars ever since.

The Terror Dream is no Looming Tower or 9/11 Commission Report, nor does it aspire to be. Faludi uses a close read of press coverage and themes of newspaper and magazine "trend" stories in the years following 2001 to trace relations between them and the historical myth she seeks to elucidate, which is basically one of rescue. We are led through capsule discussions of many historical "captive narratives," dating back to the later 1600s, but are drawn jarringly up to date with the confounding circumstances and false claims surrounding the "rescue" of Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital, and the uses to which she was put. As Faludi notes in another context, of the K-9 rescue teams sent to the World Trade Center site, "What was a rescuer without someone to rescue?"

Some of what Faludi reports has been covered extensively elsewhere -- not just the details that emerged in the repeated news cycles devoted to Jessica Lynch, but the extreme valorization of firefighters working at "the pile" (ground zero), for example, given that 343 of their colleagues had died in the disaster. When considered alongside reports that city officials 2 1/2 years later were fighting inquiries into problems with the fire department's radios, which by multiple reports did not work and left an evacuation order unheard, and that a 2004 study by Cornell University found more than half the firefighters complaining of inadequate or non-existent training for terrorist attacks, and 61 percent reporting problems with the communications system in critical situations, such things are amplified in their poignancy. And that is not to mention (which Faludi does) the National Institute of Standards and Technology study of the disaster, which pointed out the technology failure but was kept from public view by the mayor's office for 3 1/2 years and released only under court order.

Much of Faludi's book engages in an effective debunking of reporting -- and this by the country's biggest newspapers and magazines -- that is anecdotally based but will not stand up when poked by a fact she has found. As such, it is media criticism in the best sense, however one regards her extended historical interpretation of American mythos.

The invention of the "security mom" -- "sticking close to the hearth and stocking their pantries with canned goods and anthrax antidotes" -- who replaced the "soccer mom," is one such example, posited among others by Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Elizabeth in 2004 on CNN, and in USA Today by columnist Michelle Malkin, which became a catchphrase that supersized itself into "mainstream media gospel." Yet Time magazine's lead pollster admitted, "We honestly could not find much empirical evidence to support it," and pollsters for the Washington Post and ABC News had similar experiences: "Married women with children didn't seem to be expressing national security concerns that distinguished them from other voters." Faludi's explanation is that "the security mom was a character crucial to that larger American myth of invulnerability."

And so it goes, instance after instance, from life-affirming "patriotic pregnancy" to what the Washington Post called "Crisis Couture" -- "heavy on girlish peasant blouses, wispy baby-doll dresses and lace Victorian garb conveying, in the words of one fashion scribe, 'virginal innocence.' "

The shock of the 9/11 attacks startled us, momentarily, into a perception of our vulnerability. "It was too disturbing to bear and we soon turned away," Faludi asserts, in a reflexive reaction "weirdly disconnected from the very real emergency at hand." The leitmotif of protecting a retrograde idea of domesticity is strong here, versus coming to some accommodation with insecurity. "Why in this country is all the attention paid to just one young girl?" Diane Sawyer wondered during a Primetime special on Jessica Lynch. Faludi's answer is, "In the restoration drama of American might, the supporting actress was the essential dramatis persona."

Art Winslow is a frequent contributor to the Tribune.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

blog link

This post made me think if there were any opening lines I would contribute. Check it out! If only for the laughs!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Harry News

By now you may have heard that Dumbledore is gay. It was a piece of news that made me smile and then later frown. I'm happy that Rowling created such a strong, wise, and lovable homosexual character because it challenges the way some of us see sexuality within our culture. Yet while the sexuality of Dumbledore isn't of concern in any of the books I can't help but wonder if this outing will add fuel to the fire of those who are trying to rid libraries and schools of all things Potter. And if this is something that will be discussed in book news for the next couple of weeks. I'm already over it.

Thrift Store Book Finds

Last night during an attempt to have a "date" we left "date-mode" and crashed a Deseret Industries we had never been to before. After scoring some sweatshirts for the dog I was able to find some interesting books:

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
Looks promising and who wouldn't be interested in the woman who brought us Ramona? Plus she worked not too far from where I grew up in Eastern Washington. Her descriptions of growing up in the Pacific Northwest will interest me alone.

More Joy of Mathematics: Exploring Mathematics All Around You by Theoni Pappas
Brief explorations into everyday math, for the geek in me.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
While in Mexico with the Magician a woman working with us criticized me for never reading any Sedaris. I've always remembered this and yesterday I finally gave in. He is supposed to be funny, lets hope so...

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on being a Woman by Nora Ephron
The title alone makes me giggle. And since I will be getting old someday it may be worth reading. It also reminds me of Lindsey, although I can't tell you why.

And last but not least, in fact the best purchase I made yesterday, the one I can't wait to read and then sarcastically give to a certain someone:

How to be a Perfect Wife and Other Myths by Afton Day
Lets just say its Mormon and most likely full of ideas Kim greatly disagrees with but wants to read just so she'll be in the know. I can't remember a time when I was this excited to associate myself with the W-word!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Letters to a Young Mathematician

Letters to a Young Mathematician by Ian Stewart

I was initially drawn to this book's cover. Its beautiful. Not only does it portray "smooth," it at the same time shows delicate detail.

This book is a part of a semi-fictional mentoring series for those within various realms. As someone who enjoys math I decided to read it. I found it fascinating and boring, simultaneously. As a whole, it wasn't able to hold my attention longer than ten minutes. The mathematical concepts and theory combined with research and teaching were very interesting, however the portions mentoring this young woman were dry. I think this was because I couldn't relate as I am not an academic. I'm also not that nerdy!

The idea of this mentoring series interests me and I'm currently on to another in the series, Letters to a Young Lawyer, which will be reviewed soon.

Kim's Grade: B Good for anyone in hard sciences, thinking about a career in academia, or who is pursuing a Ph.D

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How to Be Cool in the Third Grade

How to Be Cool in the Third Grade by Betsy Duffey, Illustrated by Janet Wilson

My friend Julie gave me this book to read. She promised she wasn't trying to tell me anything about my coolness but I secretly disagree.

It is a very cute book with many laugh-out-loud moments. Robbie decides that if he is going to be cool the first step is change his name to Rob. This is just one of several silly goals that Robbie is convinced will help him be the coolest third grader ever!

Kim's Grade: A Smiles galore, I promise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book Podcasts

There are some great podcasts out there on books. One of my favorites, NPR: Books, covers book news and reviews from various NPR programs and is available free through iTunes. Every now and then I'm able to listen to Terry Gross's interviews of Fresh Air and so far this week she has two great book/author interviews. They are both well worth working the ears!

Monday it was: Author Alice Sebold has produced difficult books before: Her novel The Lovely Bones, soon to be filmed by director Peter Jackson, centers on a 14-year-old looking down from heaven after her own rape and murder.

Sebold's 1999 memoir Lucky began with an account of the author's own rape, which occurred when she was a freshman at Syracuse University. The title comes from a comment made by a policeman, who told her she was lucky not to have been killed and dismembered like another woman attacked in the same vicinity; the unflinchingly candid book detailed Sebold's battles with the aftermath of the trauma, including an addiction to heroin. Now comes Sebold's latest fiction, The Almost Moon: Its narrative involves a middle-aged woman who murders her ailing elderly mother. She tells Terry Gross that while she reads fiction to escape the "hideous realities" of ordinary life, she explores those same realities in her own fiction partly to better understand them. "I don't think ignorance is a way that you gain distance on something," Sebold says. "I think understanding is the way to gain perspective — and therefore can live among those hideous realities. You can live with them."

Tuesday's blurb: "As host of the NPR news quiz Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, Peter Sagal spends a lot of time reading the newspaper. Lately, though, he's also spent many an hour going to strip joints, a swingers club, a porn-movie set and casinos — among other dens of what some call iniquity. All research, of course, for his new project, The Book of Vice. He wanted to get a perspective on the indulgences of others, and report back to the rest of us."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talk to the Hand

Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door by Lynne Truss

This book recently found me in Chicago's airport during a weather delay and I was happy it did. It was worn and misplaced on the shelf, to the degree that I questioned whether it was for sale or someone just left it by mistake.

After a vacation in Disneyworld and some general misunderstandings I NEEDED her kind words to remind me that I am not crazy, people are just rude. I came across several examples of parents putting their non-handicapped children in wheelchairs or electric scooters to take advantage of getting on a ride without the five minute wait (off-peak season). I had one woman yell at me when I pointed out that it was rude to stop a line so that twelve other people behind us could join the four in front of us. I had to stop myself from confronting two parents after realizing that they had put their daughters in wheelchairs the night before and cut in line, and then seeing their girls run around effortlessly the next day. What are you teaching your children? I've been criticized for stating my opinion, not being sensitive enough, and for asking people to stop dry-humping in public and I'm sick of it.

Well, Lynne Truss agrees and she believes that society 1) is rude, 2) unwilling to admit they are rude or admit their behavior is rude, and 3) unwilling to confront rude behavior thus making those who do bitches or assholes. And it all makes sense!

I've been recently criticized for sharing my opinions with the intent of resolving a family issue (i.e. number 3 above). The result was having my feelings disregarded because it was rude of me to express an issue I have. Their solution is to forget about it and not talk about it. Well, that is a poor attempt at solving a problem. I once had a roommate like this too. We had a disagreement and her solution was to stop talking to me and move out. Again, avoiding communication and in my mind displaying somewhat rude or inconsiderate behavior but our society chastises those who point this out. She was allowed to be inconsiderate, even allowed to wrongly victimize herself however I was a bitch to point this out. People are allowed to talk loudly on their cellphones everywhere however I am rude if I ask them to take their conversation elsewhere. I can't tell you how many times I've had people ignore me when trying to talk with them. I've been told to eff-off after asking a couple to stop dry-humping each other in a public park with lots of children around to which Truss calls this the private becoming the public. I completely agree with this and can think of several examples. Where one used to wear their pjs and slippers at home they are now seen everywhere. Cell phone conversations are everywhere in public too. If I'm waiting to be checked out at a store I also have to wait for the customer in front of me to finish their conversation before they can pay. I've been interrupted by other people answering their cell phones during conversations with me, been cut-off and had to avoid several car accidents due to people talking on their cell phones while driving and they don't care. I can tell you all about the person sitting next to me in (insert any public place) because of the conversation they're having. But why should I care? This is America, we can do whatever we want.

Here is just one snip it:

"The question is: why do we have such a horror of directness? Why do we place value on not saying what we mean? Why do we think it's funny? Why do we think the word "irony" gives us magical permission to confuse less devious foreigners about whether we're serious or not? Given that it is now commonplace to be told to Eff Off by eight-year-olds, are we just finally paying the price for confusing directness with rudeness for so long?"

I'm not rude, I'm just more direct than others in society where we turn our heads at violence, abuse, and rude behavior. I have manners and I try to respect other's space in public. I open doors, I say please and thank you. I even know how to say excuse me in six different languages. Its a thought provoking book and it was just what I needed. It was nice to see that Truss knows my intentions aren't bad, in fact they are simple acts of politeness meant to improve a variety of situations and sometimes friendships. It was nice to see that someone understands.

Kim's Grade: A Fun and fast to read.