Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Confession

I have never purchased anyone's Christmas album and I don't really have plans to do so anytime in the near future. This is not to say that I especially dislike Christmas music - its fun to listen to around the holidays - but I don't regularly seek it out. I tend to find it annoying when radio stations and stores start playing holiday music before Thanksgiving, especially since they often are playing less than great versions of holiday classics.

If I had to choose a favorite type of Christmas music to listen to I guess I'd go with Bing Crosby style classic Christmas music. As far as playing it goes (which I haven't done in awhile...I really should pull my flute out at some point soon to make sure I still remember how to play) my favorite holiday song was always Sleigh Ride. We played it a few times in high school band for our holiday concert and it was always a ton of fun. I wonder if I still have a copy of the sheet music for it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Jukebox

I am apparently ahead of and behind the times when it comes to Straight No Chaser. About 10 years ago I used to regularly attend concerts by Amazin' Blue, one of University of Michigan's co-ed acapella groups. At one of their concerts they had special guest Straight No Chaser, who (clearly) made something of an impact on me (and I guess, on at least one band member!). At the time they were still based out of Indiana University. Imagine my surprise when I was browsing through Schuler's a few weeks ago and caught their album out of the corner of my eye. These days they're signed with Atlantic Records and their album Christmas Cheers is in regular rotation on my CD player lately. And I guess I'm late since their "12 Days of Christmas" was top in the Christmas pop charts last year.

I like this CD for the same reason I liked (and still do) Amazin' Blue - the collegiate acapella community arranges their own songs for their own enjoyment and frequently inserts musical jokes and references for their own amusement. You need to look no further than the first track for an example, "The Christmas Can-Can," a fun and funny parody of the song everyone knows. I especially like their version of "We Three Kings," a personal favorite carol of mine, which starts with the Mission Impossible theme and in the middle makes a nod to a Carribean beat.

Their sound is a bit more polished than I like, probably having to do with the post-production on the music, and the tone leans more towards easy listening than I would typically choose, but you can't help but get up and groove to "Hey Santa!" and "Who Spiked the Eggnog?" My sister-in-law loves "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and I have to admit, I do have a weakness for a good bass.

If you're looking for a little tongue-in-cheek fun this holiday season, I highly recommend this CD.

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

And so I present my long overdue review of Shabanu which assigned me a few weeks ago for our "assign each other a book" project. My delay in getting this one finished was not because of the length of the book - it took me just two days to read - instead it was that I had been trying to finish another book which I am sad to say was probably not worth the time I put into it. Anyway, I am happy to report that Shabanu most definitely was worth the time and reaffirmed to me that I actually can finish a book quickly - something that hasn't happened as often as it used to.

The book was written by Suzanne Fisher Staples and it falls into the Young Adult Fiction section of the library (of which I am not at all familiar with in my local one so I had to wander around a bit until I found the right section). The story focuses around a young girl, Shabanu, who is part of a desert herding family that lives in Pakistan. It is a coming of age story and while I found the book very good, I also thought it was very depressing. Much of the story is about freedom and the lack of it. As a child, Shabanu has freedom to roam the desert with her beloved camels, but as she grows older her freedoms diminish considerably. It actually makes me really angry that women in different cultures and parts of the world have so little say in the course of their lives. I cannot imagine being married off barely into teen years to immediately begin bearing children, or facing the possibility of being beaten or killed if I disobeyed my father, or so many of the other things that Shabanu has to wrestle with throughout the story.

The ending made me want to cry a little.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Extraordinary Correspondence

Hoo boy, look at the bags under those eyes. I guess this is what I have to look forward to in my old age. But that is a story for another time.

Today's story is Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. I read it by assignment from S, after quite the run around in my local library. Finally though, I managed to get my hands on it, and I read it yesterday while the 6th graders did a verb worksheet and read their books for Battle of the Books. Did you have Battle of the Books, S? We did, and we were allowed to pick partners, but not groups, so my partner was my best friend at the time (also named Sara, but with no H) and we were forced to team up with the two most rude, rambunctious non-readers in our class, we two being the most polite, calm readers. We still could have won, except that holding down a trivia game with half your team refusing to participate can only get you so far, really.

But, once again, I digress.

Griffin, an artist, receives a letter from a woman named Sabine, whom he has never met, but it seems that she is very familiar with his work. So familiar in fact that she seems to know his process. She knows that he has darkened the sky on a finished piece, that in the original sketch it is a cup and not a wine glass in another, and that on a third he a sketched a bird in the bottom corner which was erased and obliterated. How does she know?

This is a fun and beautiful story about the lonesomeness of art and finding a soul mate, that one person who understands, who can see the real you. Or is it? I enjoyed it thoroughly, in spite of the cliffhanger ending. It's only fault is (dare I say it?) it's too short! I'm going to have to do the same run around with my library to get the sequel.

I thought that if the students saw me reading a book, they would be more inclined to read theirs. This was not the case. Ah well. I guess you know the story of the bags under my eyes after all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Colors of the Kitchen






Friday, November 13, 2009

Where I'd Rather Be

A lot has been happening lately so I'm sorry this is late and that it isn't even a new picture. Instead, lets consider it an old favorite and if I could take myself and Peter away for a vacation right this instant here would be high on the list of options. Switzerland=Gorgeous and Relaxing. Maybe I'll get there again someday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What my life will look like for the next 5 days

Yup. A whole lot of driving. But, my oil's changed, my car is washed and gassed, and I have this and this loaded up on my iPod, plus the mix you made me last winter in case I feel like music. Since I've been running more and more, my list of podcasts has not been enough to keep me going, hence Librivox. I keep trying to see it as an adventure, but when there's a huge list of things that need to get done before you can leave, it feels much less spontaneous than that. I tried to get a picture of the car in front of me (not this one) which had a vanity plate that said "NXTSTEP." I'm not a fan of vanity plates, but it's hard not to see that one as a sign...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Daughters of a Coral Dawn

I'm afraid that I cannot give Daughters of a Coral Dawn the same rousing thumbs up that M gave to Hunger Games though according to the back of the book Daughters became an instant classic. The book is written by Katherine V. Forrest and was published in 1984. It sits both firmly in the realms of science fiction and feminist literature.

The book is told in first person journals from a number of the women who figure centrally in the tale - and it is most definitely a story told by women about women for women. The story that the characters are recording is this: A group of women (about 4,000) strong bonded by love and family ties secretly outfit a spaceship and escape a future Earth (which seems to have slipped far backward in terms of social advances) to settle on a distant planet that they name Maternas. There they create their own highly beautiful and rational society free of men. In this future, a scientific advance has made it possible for women to conceive and carry a child without the need for the male half of the usual equation. Thus, the women who are all lesbians (save the character "Mother" from whom all the many generations of women have sprung) set up their own family units and live in peace and harmony. Later on in the story a ship in distress happens to discover the planet bringing men with it and the women of Maternas must make some difficult decisions about their future. The basic equation in this book is that men=strife.

Overall, I found the book a bit flat. The main characters are fairly well written, however everyone falls into one of two categories - male or female. All the men who appear have exaggerated flaws - they exclude women from important decision making, underestimate their intelligence, think its weird for a woman to be in charge, and are even rapists. The women are all strong, beautiful, compassionate - not a case of PMS in the bunch. While I agree that women have long been looked down upon in our culture and are still treated as second class citizens in many modern cultures, I had a hard time accepting the author's visions of men as evil and women as heavenly. We each have both within us.

The book was however interesting enough that I may consider reading the next in the series where it seems that because of boredom on this idyllic planet Mother has decided that she'd like to travel back to Earth to see the rest of the children who opted not to come on the trip. It's perhaps the first sign of irrationality in this wondrous culture - in other words why the hell are they going back to Earth and compromising the safety of Maternas when they just went through all this trouble to escape it 15 years ago??

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hunger Games

I read a lot. I mean, really a lot. This is no surprise to you, S, because we have lived together, and you have seen the state of my bookshelves, and you have often been the beneficiary of my cast-offs, but I thought I should preface this with a disclaimer so that everyone else knows that when I say that Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the best book I have read this year, they will understand the number of other very good books I have read which were passed over for this distinction.

The premise is this: At some point in the future, after the world as we know it has been destroyed, what is left is divided up into 13 districts and a Capitol. Each of the districts specializes in producing something for the Capitol, which produces nothing itself and is a entirely consumer society. The districts are kept completely separate from each other and on the brink of starvation. They are not allowed to keep what they produce and hunting is punishable by death. All they have is what the government gives them, which is to say, not much. About 75 years ago, District 13 revolted and was obliterated for their trouble. How dare they want enough food to keep their children from starving, and all that. In response, the government instituted the Hunger Games.

In each district, all children between the ages of 12 and 18 are entered into a lottery. One male and one female from each district at chosen as tributes. For an extra portion of grain and oil, you may elect to have your name entered more than once, thereby increasing your chances of being selected, but also increasing your chances of survival if not selected. After a cursory training session, the tributes are dumped into an arena where they fight each other to the death. The winner is rich and taken care of for life and their district receives extra food. The others are dead. The whole thing is televised as entertainment for the Capitol and as a warning to the Districts about the kind of control the Capitol exerts over their life. As if sending their children to their deaths wasn’t enough, the Districts are forced to celebrate the Hunger Games as if it were a big party.

The story is told from the point of view of 16-year-old Katniss, a tribute from District 12. Her deep love for her family and self-awareness make her a thoroughly sympathetic character. Her journey is intense to say the least, and the pacing of the book is incredible. Hunger Games has overtones of Orson Scott Cards’s Ender’s Game, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and more recent books like Scott Westerfield’s The Uglies and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel. Though there are echoes and themes from all of these stories, Hunger Games transcends any comparison. It is totally its own, and adds an element that resonates strongly in today’s culture – reality TV.

I should also give you a warning. Do not start this book before bed, lest you still be reading the next morning. Do not read this book if you are planning on doing anything else on a certain day. Set aside a day, and read it. Maybe a dreary, rainy, cold November one. Because you won’t be able to put it down. Oh, and you might consider having the sequel, Catching Fire, very nearby because this is a story you won’t stop thinking about.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cake!

So, I turned 25 on Monday and decided to host a game night this past weekend in honor of the quarter century. My boyfriend decided to make the cake and being the creative type he came up with something quite unique. Enter the dinosaur graveyard. Four layers of white and chocolate cake, strawberries, crushed oreos and dinosaur bones made out of white chocolate. Oh yea, and that's my name on there spelled out in bones. A bit morbid, but seeing as a I work somewhere dino related and its almost Halloween its also pretty darn cool.

Nothing says you're my girl like a giant chocolate dino cake.

On point(e)

Today I was a high school social studies teacher. They watched Cinderella Man in US History and Crash (with TV edits) for Current Issues. These are both great movies that I would never have watched otherwise. Being a sub is sometimes really really easy and sometimes the kind of nightmare that makes you wish you were asleep just so you could wake up. Today was easy, but I needed 2 shots of espresso and 16 oz of coffee to stay awake. For me the balance is not so much about how to handle the class, but how to pace my infant-hamster-sized bladder.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cat O' Mine

Maverick: (n)

1. One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
2. A large orange cat who gets up extra early for breakfast but makes up for it by cuddling on the sofa (which is invariably covered in orange fur).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Randomness

I love this rusty orange color. I love mums. The crab tree outside my window is still my favorite thing about this apartment. There's a woodpecker bouncing around in it right now, trying to find a likely looking spot for a snack. Tonight I turn some of the two bushels of apples I picked this weekend into apple sauce. Tomorrow I get my hair cut.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Proposal

M -

Shall we continue with another photo round due next Wednesday? A new longer term idea for a project that I had was this: find a book that you haven't read before and pick out five quotes to post (mini review of the book also a plus if so desired). Due in a few weeks? What do you think?

~S

Notes from an Audition

I was assigned to warm up in the women's bathroom. This is highly unusual to say the least. After my audition, I went back to get my case. There was a guy there, warming up.

"I'm sorry. I'll get out of your way," I say.

"That's ok," he says with a hint of irony. "I'm in the ladies' restroom."

This is very bizarre. And probably illegal. It's possibly good that I didn't get the job.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Pursuit


That's my orange game piece full of pie. This game is impossible to win in my experience, but somehow (whether the wine, the good company, or the winds of fate) I gathered enough pie and actually managed to land on the center space and answer a question correctly to become the winner. A most (mini) momentous occasion.

The Project - Week One

First assignment was given out about a week ago - to take and post a photo and write a little bit (about the photo or not as desired). Due date Wednesday, October 13.