2/25/2012

You Know Global Warming is Getting Bad When ....

Signs that Global Warming is becoming a serious issue:
  1. The Statue of Liberty strips off her robe and goes skinny dipping
  2. Kansas becomes beach front property
  3. Your strawberries are marked "imported from Siberia"
  4. Polar bears shed their thick white fun and reveal themselves to be koalas
  5. The movie Titanic becomes most famous as a documentary about icebergs
  6. Inuit children learn to swim
  7. Iceland renamed "Lutherania"
  8. Jack London starts writing about tropical climes
  9. San Diego becomes a popular snorkling destination
  10. Penguins overpopulation become a threat to ocean ecosystems
  11. Seagulls take out all the pigeons, ducks and squirrels, solidifying their hold on US-wide food scrap franchise
  12. Santa officially relocates his headquarters to Macy's department store
  13. Municipalities sell snow removal equipment and use money to buy snowcone machines
  14. Deprived of snow days, schools decide to start closing on high pollen count days
  15. Snow angels replaced by sand angels
  16. The cliche "white as snow" slowly replaced by "white as Marie Osmond's teeth"
  17. Snow White becomes spokeswoman for melanoma prevention
  18. St. Bernard's re-purposed to carry sunscreen
  19. Derricks in Texas become deep water drilling platforms
  20. Children stop begging for dogs and start begging for sea otters
  21. Polar Fleece stops manufacturing winter coats and starts marketing fleece bikinis
  22. New York City destroyed by riptides
  23. GM, Chrysler and Ford start manufacturing boats
  24. Mt. Everest becomes famous for its epic waterfalls
  25. North Dakota finally has tourists

2/18/2012

Your Life in Literature

Certain tastes, smells, and songs trigger memories so strong that when you encounter them, you find yourself re-experiencing the moment in your life with which they were originally associated. If you have been an avid reader all your life, some books will have the power to do that too.


Recently I started thinking about the books that mark milestones in my life. Below are some of the questions I asked myself. I think of the results as "My Life in Literature." Some of the results surprised even me!  What does your "Life in Literature" say about you?  
  1. What book(s) was your favorite as a child?
  2. What was the first "grown up" book(s) you remember reading?
  3. What book(s) do you remember being forced to read against your will?
  4. What book(s) do you remember reading in high school?
  5. What book(s) do you remember reading in college?
  6. What book(s) did you read *to* your child most often?
  7. What book(s) did you read *with* your child?
  8. What book(s) most challenged you as a reader?
  9. What book(s) most challenged your values?
  10. What book(s) made you see something through fresh eyes?
  11. What book(s) made you understand something new about the world?
  12. What book(s) did you read just because you loved the movie?
  13. What movie(s) did you see just because you loved the book?
  14. What book do you remember a parent (or special person) reading to you?
  15. What book(s) do you remember your mom reading?
  16. What book(s) do you remember your father reading?
  17. What book(s) do you remember other loved ones reading?
  18. What book(s) did you force your best friend to read?
  19. What book(s) most frightened you the most?
  20. What book(s) made you laugh the hardest?
  21. What book(s) made you cry the hardest?
  22. What book(s) made you swoon?
  23. What book(s) made you believe in love?
  24. What literary character(s) did you fall in love with?
  25. What literary character(s) did you fall in lust with?
  26. What literary character(s) did you most want to trade places with?
  27. What book(s) most made you want to live in a different time?
  28. What book(s) most made you want to live in a different place?
  29. What genre do you most enjoy? Why?
  30. What book(s) kindled in you a lifelong passion(s)?

2/11/2012

Literary Characters I'd Most (and Least) Like to Invite to a Party


If you could choose any characters from literature to invite to a big shindig - say, history's coolest New Year's Eve party - who would you invite?

(Note that I'm asking about literary characters you most want to PARTY with, which is a far different list than folks you might wish to invite over for a nice dinner party.  Completely different list, and maybe the topic of my next blog post, eh ...?)

So, with apologies to Atticus Finch (love you, but you don't strike me as a party animal), Nancy Drew/Ned Nickerson (hearing about your adventures would be great, but I'd spend the whole party worrying someone might say something off-color and shock you), and Sherlock Holmes (you really need to work on your social skills, dude) - here's a list of the literary figures/couples that would definitely top my invitiation list!

  1. Lord Harry Flashman/Lady Elspeth Morrison Flashman (various titles, George MacDonald Fraser).  Not only would Lord Harry have hundreds of fabulous (albeit invented) stories of derring-do to share with the guests, but Lady Flashman would provide a comely bit of eye candy ... and none of my single friends - male or female - would go away disappointed.
  2. Bertie Wooster/Jeeves (various titles, PG Wodehouse).  Because someone's got to spike the punch, and then someone's got to make sure everyone gets home safely
  3. Jay Gatsby/Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald).  Because someone's got to get the rest of the guests drinking and dancing.
  4. Lord Peter Whimsy/Lady Harriet Vane Whimsey/Bunter (various titles, Dorothy Sayers).  Sure to add intellectual depth to the ensemble without dragging everyone down.
  5. Rhett Butler/Scarlett O'Hara Butler (Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell).  Counting on them to contribute dash, color, and that all-important whiff of scandal to the proceedings! 
  6. Kimball "Kim" O'Hara (Kim, Rudyard Kipling).  He's learned, he's a bit of a rogue, and the stories he could tell about his travels and adventures ...!
  7. The Wife of Bath (Canterbury Tales).  I've always pictured her as that grandmother you occassionally run across at family gatherings - the one that says outrageous things because they can.  Sure to amuse/entertain with ribald stories about life and romance. 
  8. Emma Woodhouse Knightly/George Knightly (Emma, Jane Austen).  In addition to being charming and urbane company, I'm guessing Emma would make the best wingman(woman) ever!
Can't you just picture Lord Peter and Kim talking learnedly about oriental literature while Harriet and Jay cut a rug; Daisy and Elspeth sharing fashion tips while Flashman surrupticiously hits on Scarlett; Jeeves and Bunter one-upping each other with tales of the scrapes their masters keep getting into; Bertie and Harry drinking each other under the carpet; Rhett and Mr. Knightly discussing the perils of colonialism while Emma listens with delighted shock to one of the Wife of Bath's more salacious anecdotes; ? Best party EVER!

Speaking of which, here are the literary characters I'd least like to invite to a party, for the reasons stated:
  1. Captain Ahab (Moby Dick, Herman Melville).  Please, can we talk about something else besides that blasted whale?
  2. Job (The Bible).  Can you imagine the conversation? What a downer!
  3. Lady Chatterly (Lady Chatterly's Lover, DH Lawrence).  Whine, whine, whine!
  4. Humbert Humbert (Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov).  How icky would it be to have to worry about him hitting on the daughters of my other guests?
  5. Don Juan (legend/fable).  He'd distract the female guests and annoy the male ones.
  6. Ebenezer Scrooge  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens). You just know he's going to double-dip those potato chips.
  7. Hannibal Lector (Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris).  Everyone would feel oddly uncomfortable eating the meatballs.
  8. Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn (various titles, Mark Twain).  Great guys, but I'm not entirely sure they wouldn't steal the silver.
  9. Tarzan (or Conan) (legend/fable). Sure, they've lived adventurous lives, but is there anything more annoying than getting stuck at a party talking to the guest with the poor English skills and/or indecipherable accent?
  10. The Cat in the Hat (various titles, Dr. Seuss).  I'm not cleaning up that mess!

2/05/2012

Book Look - The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz


This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Having said that, have to admit: this is both a fabulous and wrenchingly difficult read. Others have addressed the plot, so thought I'd go straight to what makes this book so complex, and so worthwhile.

What makes the book amazing: Diaz's totally unique first person narration (the story is related by the Dominican "player" boyfriend of Oscar's sister Lola), combining Dominican history, ethnic references, Jersey street slang, vulgarity, scifi/fantasy nerd references, honesty, humility and compassion to create a narrative voice unlike anything I've ever encountered in fiction. In a world full of quality literature, Junot Diaz deserves major props for creating something completely new and utterly compelling.

Unfortunately, this is also what makes the story's plot so wrenching to endure. If the characters weren't so unbearably real, so deeply sympathetic, then perhaps it wouldn't hurt so much to watch them line up, one after the other (first Dr. Abelard Luis Cabral, then his daughter Beli, then her son Oscar....), hell-bent on risking everything for love, only to endure heartbreaking loss and increasingly horrific consequences.

The central question of the novel seems to be: how is one's destiny determined? Is it determined by supernatural forces: fate, God, fuku (the Dominican equivalent of a curse)? Or can you shape fate by your own actions? Or - a terrifying but inescapable possibility - is one's destiny a complete crapshoot? I won't give away the ending, except to provide a little reassurance for prospective readers, for what it's worth: surely an author with as much compassion for his characters as Junot Diaz would never posit a world entirely bereft of hope.

2/04/2012

10 Biographies I'd Pay to Read



I love a good biography, but it saddens me to realize that I'll never able to access the life stories of some of the characters I find the most intriguing, either because the necessary records are lost in time or because, well, the characters don't actually exist.  Think about it - wouldn't it be fascinating to find out at what age Merlin realized he was a wizard? What sort of adult Alice became after all those adventures in Wonderland as an impressionable teen? The hardships and humiliations Aunt Jemima endured on the road to becoming America's foremost pancake icon?

I'm sure everyone would have a different list of biographies they'd pay good money to read: for what it's worth, here's mine. 
  1. Han Solo.  The first of several bad boys to make the list, because you just know bad boys have more fun!
  2. Gandalf.  Tolkien never does explain what wizards are or where they come from, but he tells us enough for us to safely surmise that it's probably one hell of a story.
  3. The Marlboro Man. Didn't the commercials make it look like he had an awesome life? Leaning against those fenceposts out on the open range, not a care in the world except the location of his cigarette lighter.  What a life!  If you omit the whole "dying young of lung cancer" thing, of course.
  4. James Bond.  If the stuff you read in the books and see on the screen is shocking, just imagine what he isn't telling us, probably for our own good?
  5. Shakespeare.  Wouldn't it be nice to finally be able to put this controversy to rest? If the author was a nobleman, then the tale of how he ghosted Shakespeare's plays while successfully concealling the fact from peers and 400yrs worth of subsequent scholarship would be fascinating stuff.  If he was truly the son of a glovemaker, on the other hand, then a bio finally shedding light on how such a man could have possessed the wit and intelligence to write so formidable a body of work would be riveting.
  6. Miss Piggy.  Don't you get the definite impression that this is one pig who has lived life to the fullest?  I bet she could spill some dirt on Hollywood's A list!  The View should consider Miss Piggy the next time they have an opening.
  7. Yoda.  Who was Yoda's Yoda? And where did he acquire those kick-butt light saber skills?  Inquiring minds want to know!
  8. Rhett Butler. Blockade running, smuggling, hanging out with women of ill-repute - what a life this guy must have lived before he ever hooked up with Scarlett!
  9. Sherlock Holmes.  You have to wonder what kind of freaky childhood goes into molding a guy who spends his life committing mud and tobacco ash to memory.

  10. God. My only fear is that should a bio ever became available, I wouldn't be able to read it because it would be written entirely in math.