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.