Today's title doesn’t actually fit the content of this post, but it sounded too good in my head this morning to discard it completely. So, welcome to a post on books (but not on long invertebrates without appendages, whether book-loving or not).
I told a friend the other day that I’d cried in Starbucks last week. She looked at me with concern and said, “What’s the matter?” The funny thing is, nothing’s the matter. I was sitting there, drinking my coffee and reading a library book. It was the book I cried over. I have a tendency to do this. I can even name you several books that I’ve read multiple times, and cry buckets over with each re-read. They tend to be my favorites (no guesses as to why: they draw on my emotions!), and I own most of them. Last week’s particular novel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, will be added to the collection when it comes out in paperback.
The Hunger Games is set in the post-apocalyptic former United States, now called Panem. Katniss, the sixteen year-old narrator, struggles to support her family by poaching and entering herself for the yearly Hunger Games (in which contestants from the ‘Districts’ of Panem fight to the death in a huge outdoor arena) in order to receive an extra food subsidy. This is the story of her reality, her survival, and the morality and conflict inherent in humanity’s choices. It’s on the American Library Association’s list of the ten best books for young adults, and although I wouldn’t recommend it for readers younger than 10, is suitable for all ages. The book is full of lessons in honesty, bravery, sacrifice, anger and helplessness. It’s a masterfully written, gripping tale of endurance, and I can’t wait until the sequel comes out in October.
But, back to the theme of crying and books. It happens. Laughter also happens. I’ve been known to startle fellow patrons in a coffee shop (or anywhere, really) while reading something funny. It used to drive my college roommate absolutely batty. We’d both be in the room, but while she was studying quietly, I was usually reading recreationally. And I’d burst out with my loud cackle, and scare the dickens out of her. Just one of the idiosyncrasies that she put up with (thank you for such an amazing/understanding roommate, God!), along with my inability to study IN our room (I had to go somewhere else…preferably the student union). I don’t know if it’s a quirk of my upbringing or just genetics, but reality is that I respond in an emotional and physical way to the stories I read. My mother used to read aloud to my siblings and me, and would cry over the sad parts too, until we begged her to ‘just keep on reading.’ Now I see how similar we really are.
A few books that make me cry: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery, The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter, Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson, and Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. And those are just the ones on my shelves at the moment. I think a lot of the classics I read back from age 10-15 were tear-jerkers, too. It’s probably a rule of good literature that along with being enduring, a classic work must evoke emotion. I wouldn’t know, though, because I passed on being an English major in college when my 11th grade English teacher told me that I probably wouldn’t enjoy reading anymore after four years of literature analysis. That scared me into entering college as a Biology and Spanish major, which morphed into Spanish and Communication Studies. And in the end to History, where we read all the time, don’t get fancy with the writing styles, and there’s sometimes such a lack of emotion that the absence of it is palpable. The good news being that I can keep my emotional and expressive reading on the “I do this for fun” side of things.
For books that make me laugh out loud: there are many, but a good start would include Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and anything by Diana Wynne Jones, although I especially love The Merlin Conspiracy, Howl’s Moving Castle, The House of Many Ways and the first five of the Chrestomanci Chronicles.
Whew! Definitely too many book recommendations and mentions. And I haven’t even gotten to the list of recommended YA fantasy that I put together for a friend’s daughter. THAT is four pages long (single-spaced, too). Puts a new complexion on the term ‘bookworm,’ doesn’t it?
The weather has been amazing in Atlanta the couple of days (could it stay sunny and warm forever?), and it inspires ‘outdoor activities.’ Unfortunately, I’m busy with end of semester projects, and can’t take advantage of it, so I made myself a list last night.
Things to do on an absolutely gorgeous day:
- walk around the Highlands and check the progress of the flowering trees, climbing roses, pansies, tulips, azaleas, etc.
- head over to Belly, the up-scale, rustic-chic neighborhood deli and order a sea salt bagel with avocado and sparkling apple juice
- read one book from the growing ‘To Read’ pile (in the sun, of course)
- sunbathe on Jo’s porch and play with her dog Kona
- clean the pollen-covered lawn furniture and bike on the porch
- fix sweet sun tea and bake chocolate mini-cupcakes with lemon frosting
Things I’ve done instead:
- gone grocery shopping at Kroger and Whole Foods
- eaten fried chicken and Doritos, washed down with beer
- caught up on email
- watched an episode of Cash Cab
- updated the blog and listened to Melli run her wheel ragged
- broke down and wore shorts (it’s 85°F, after all!)
- had Tartufo, Chocoloate and Cheesecake gelato at Paolo’s
What I WILL get around to today or tomorrow:
- cupcake baking and frosting
- the latest Netflix movie
- lots of WORK
- listening to the Sounders FC soccer game
- AND doing all of the random errands that accrue at the end of any given week
Finally, for your blog reading enjoyment, links to a couple of my favorites: Neil Gaiman’s blog, The Daily Coyote, Robin McKinley’s blog, The Clothes Horse, Do You Really Want To Know?, and the Occidental Idiot.
4:31pm Jo: Hey! Do you like and/or know fall out boy and would be interested in going to a show tomorrow?!
4:33pm Me: how much are tix? i’d love to, but flat broke till may
4:34pm Me: crap. also have class till 7
4:48pm Jo: I can spot you for it no worries. I wasn’t planning on leaving until after 7 so that wouldn’t be a problem. Let me know!
4:56pm Me: YES!
And thus I found myself at a Fall Out Boy concert last night, after six hours of seminar and not much sleep the night before. Just for the record, I know two and a half Fall Out Boy songs. That ‘Dance Dance’ one, the ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ one, and half of ‘America’s Sweethearts.’ I say half, ‘cause I know the chorus. BUT! The wonderful thing about a pop/punk concert you didn’t plan on going to is that you don’t have any preconceived notions to hold you back from enjoying yourself. As in, I just enjoyed the music and the show without spending the whole time wishing for a certain song, or obsessing about a particular band member, or (thank goodness!) going down into the crowd of high school kids right in front of the stage to jump around.
And I’ve never really noticed it before (this may be because I’m not a concert-going type...wait for it, I’ll explain later), but concerts are great places to people-watch. There was this one girl in particular that caught the eye immediately. She was wearing a deep v-neck white t-shirt, a black tie, suspenders, extremely tight jeans and knee-high boots with 4-inch heels. Oh, and she had Lady GaGa hair (you know, the straightest, bleachiest blond possible, with bangs?). But it wasn’t just her appearance. She showed up right after us, started dirty dancing with her guy friends, and then tried to finagle her way backstage with a girl friend. When she couldn’t get past Security, she continued dancing, falling over, and generally providing amusement to our entire section. The way she worked those suspenders, dude…be classy, Atlanta.
Speaking of keeping us amused…there were four opening acts before Fall Out Boy played: All Time Low, some band I’m not remembering the name of, Cobra Starship and Metro Station. We only ended up hearing part of Cobra’s set, and Metro Station’s lead singer had a cold and sounded horrendous, but then after that there was a good twenty minute time out while we waited for the main act to set up and come out. During the break they played an R&B mix, and one chubby boy (it was at a distance, so I can’t be sure, but he couldn’t have been older than 16) got his groove on. I mean, he had the entire arena cheering him: getting low, shaking his a$$...he had more moves than I see in most music videos. At one point he even took his shirt off and had groups of girls running up to hug him. The Security guy in front of us was laughing and shaking his head, and the rest of us were screaming for more. Love it.
But to go back to the topic of concert-going in general: it’s just not my deal. My sister LOVES concerts. And I’ve been to enough to know what I’ll enjoy, what I’ll tolerate, and what I’ll think was a waste of time. For instance, I will pay a lot of money to go to (and I really will enjoy) an outdoor Jack Johnson concert. I’ve been to see Switchfoot a number of times, so I know I like them in concert, too. What I do not care for are concerts in venues with only one type of seating, bands I don’t know (there was this one time I went to a jazz concert in Pittsburgh and spent the entire time wishing I was on the way home…), having to stand so close to someone that their sweat may transfer onto me (MAJOR hang-up, right there), and events where the median age of attendees is probably 20 or 30 years older than myself (Trans-Siberian Orchestra circa 2007. No, I did not pay for those tickets.). I could give you a list of concerts that have been so-so, but I have friends who read this blog, and I’d like them to remain that way…
That said, the Fall Out Boy show was vastly entertaining (both on- and off-stage antics), I’m old enough now to purchase alcohol at these things, and by going to the concert I a) missed a massive thunderstorm (not a huge fan of thunderstorms. Actually, not a fan AT ALL.) over Atlanta, b) got to hear some sweet music, c) spent my Thursday night doing something rather than going straight off to sleep, and d) got the weekend started off right. Oh, and I got a couple of cool photos.
This entry has been percolating in my brain for a couple of days. It’s going to work like this: I have four categories, each with my top three favorites. I’ll expand/explain the choices as I go. And maybe tell a couple of silly stories.
Category Uno: Japanese cartoons. You say to yourself, what the heck? Who has three favorite Japanese cartoons and blogs about it? I’m for real. I wasn’t a big cartoon-watcher as a child (discounting any and all Disney animated features and Winnie the Pooh) because from first grade on, television was banned in our household. I discovered Japanese cartoons, therefore, in Venice. Yes, Venice, ITALY. My sister and I did a short Spanish and Italian tour after I studied abroad in Sevilla (circa 2004), and were in Venice on the day after Christmas. In Venice, in the winter, it floods. And it’s freaking cold. So after walking around St. Mark’s Square, checking out the Doge’s palace, and taking the obligatory gondola ride (in the DARK! What were we thinking?!), we went back to our hotel to dry out and rest. Did I mention that this was also the day that the tsunami hit Indonesia? Yeah. The only thing not-news on the television in our hotel room was a Japanese cartoon. Dubbed in Italian. I fell in love. I don’t remember which it was, but from then on I’ve been a fan of Japanese cartoons, preferably dubbed in a non-English language, or if that’s not possible, on mute. The dubbed/mute thing is directly related to the silliness and terrible quality of any and all English-language dubbing . SO…below are my three favorite feature-length Japanese animated movies, and the honorable mentions are my favorite Japanese cartoon serials.
1. Howl’s Moving Castle (based on the book by Dianna Wynne Jones)
2. Spirited Away
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service
Honorable Mentions: InuYasha, Pokemon
Category Dos: Music Albums. I will freely admit that my musical taste is stolen. I’m not an originator, I’m a follower. And I’m okay with that. What it means in less-than-cryptic speak is that I find most of my music favorites through friends and family. I hear something that they play, decide I like it, and then get it myself. There are a couple of exceptions, of course (Wait, no. iTunes found those for me, too. I’m pathetic.), but I can be honest about this: I’m not on the breaking-news-edge of musical innovation. That said, I do have a couple of favorite albums, which are my favorites because I love every song on each one, and may be able to sing them all. Note the “may” in the last sentence.
1. In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson (My one admitted obsession. Was introduced to him by my 10th grade English teacher.)
2. Kansas by Jennifer Knapp (The first cd I ever bought. Still love it.)
3. Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot (I have been to 4 Switchfoot concerts. They’re awesome in person.)
Honorable Mention: Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George by Jack Johnson
Category Tres: Beaches. I was going to go with cities to begin with, but decided that I have too many favorites for that to work. Maybe in the future a cities-only blog entry will occur. DISCLAIMER: these are not necessarily the ‘best’ beaches I’ve ever been to. They are, however, beaches that mean something to me, that hold happy memories or good experiences. And they are very different from each other. But tremendous all the same.
1. Prainha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (You have to take a surf bus that goes about 50 minutes from Rio central south along the coastline. Then you get off and walk 10 minutes to a very secluded, rainforest-backed, pristine, white-sand beach with great waves, tranquility and beauty. Completely breathtaking.)
2. First Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Washington State (It’s more often rainy than not on this beach, and you have to hike through the temperate forest to get to it. Once there, the beach has a stark beauty, a feel of isolation, and miles of coastline to walk.)
3. Drake’s Beach, Wells, Maine (My family had a cottage for a week the summer I was twelve. We spent the entire time enjoying the Atlantic swells, tracking sand indoors, and searching for seashells. Pretty flipping idyllic.)
Honorable Mention: Siesta Key, Florida (Gorgeous white sand on the Gulf Coast. And there’s an Amish restaurant in nearby Sarasota: crazy package experience if you’re up for it.)
And finally, Category Cuatro: Spectator Sports Experiences. I’ve been to lots of sporting events. All of them entertaining in one way or another. These rate as the top ones because they came to mind first, and are not necessarily in actual order of preference. If you’re not a soccer/baseball/football fan, you should be!
1. Sevilla v. Atlético de Madrid, 2004 (My first professional soccer match…I was blown away by the emotion of the fans and the smell of the stadium. Don’t ask.)
2. Mariners Game, Ken Griffey, Jr. T-shirt Night, sometime before the Kingdome was torn down (Description speaks for itself.)
3. Homecoming Game, Florida v. LSU football, 2006 (I was sitting in the ninth row at the 50-yard line. Insanity.)
Honorable Mention: any Michigan v. Indiana women’s water polo game. Those girls get vicious!
But I live in a postage stamp-sized apartment, and I travel quite a bit, and a cat or dog is a big commitment. I mean, they live for like 15 years! That’s obligation, dedication, a lot of time I wasn’t quite ready to pledge when I don’t even have a five year plan…
So I thought to myself, what’s still a warm, fuzzy pet, and semi-intelligent but isn’t going to live forever, is portable, and awesome? The answer is: a RAT. Now, before you start questioning my sanity (though I do, quite often), I need to explain about my pet history. My dad, when he was young, had just about any pet you can think of. You name them, his family had them. My mom’s side is a little more traditional…I think there was a golden retriever and maybe a cat. BUT! The important bit is that in my immediate family, we adopted more of my dad’s pet-keeping strategy. While I was growing up, we had cats (3, but only one at a time), a dog, a rabbit, two gerbils, two parakeets, a degu (cross between a chinchilla and a squirrel) and a rat. Guess which small animal was the universal family favorite? Whiskers, the tan-colored rat. He was seriously awesome. Would crawl good-naturedly all over you, and explore anything and everything. PLUS, all the neighborhood kids thought it was edgy and cool that we had a rat (well, he was my brother Lincoln’s, but Whiskers didn’t discriminate in his affection). We all cried at Whiskers’ funeral, and buried him with pomp and paper flowers in the backyard. Yes, I’m serious. With that kind of good experience, I thought, “Why not again?”
I got a friend to take me rat shopping (much to her chagrin, and trust me, she was trying to convince me to get a cat the whole time), and we looked at a couple of stores (I went the big-box store route). One I shall not name had rats basically just as snake bait, which was terrible, and we left in a hurry. The other had quite the selection: several different colors and sub-genres, including white, blue (really a slate gray), beige, Dumbo (ears on the side of the head), etc. I scoped them all out, and bought a smallish blue with the least-gross tail. I know that may not be the best selection method, but really, think about it. What is it that turns people a little green when you talk about rats? It’s the idea of the tail. Well, my little choice has a fairly decent one.
So I brought her home, named her Mellicent (means ’honey’ in French), or Melli for short, and we get along fine. She looks like Remy from Ratatouille, likes to sit on my shoulder or explore said small apartment, and I have a tiny companion to make me laugh and keep me sane.Everyone thinks I’m weird, of course. I am, I’ll admit that. But a pet rat is probably one of my less-weird decisions. And anyway, she grows on you. Several friends have admitted that their anti-rat prejudice was actually based on reputation, and they think Melli is either cute or at least tolerable. See for yourself!