Sunday, December 31, 2006

favorite books of 2006

I read 142 books in 2006. 100 of them, or over 70 percent, were by women (including two co-written with a male author) . So shame on all those best-of lists that are white-male-centric! There were plenty of amazing books written by women this year.

Anyway, it's the last day of the year, I'm not getting anymore reading done, and it's time to post my eleven favorites of 2006! Alphabetically by author:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie--Half of a Yellow Sun
Gillian Flynn--Sharp Objects
Nell Freudenberger--The Dissident
David Grossman--Someone to Run With
Sara Gruen--Water for Elephants
Maile Meloy--Family Daughter and Liars and Saints*
James Morrow--The Last Witchfinder
Marisha Pessl--Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Scott Simon--Pretty Birds
Scarlett Thomas--The End of Mr. Y
Markus Zusak--The Book Thief

Some of my favorite authors--David Mitchell, A.B. Yehoshua, and Haruki Murakami--all published wonderful and readable books this year, but none quite made the list. The ones I recommended most frequently were Pretty Birds, Water for Elephants, and The End of Mr. Y.

*Both books are excellent on their own, but as counterparts they're pretty brilliant.

Friday, December 29, 2006

favorite graphic novels of 2006

Bryan Lee O'Malley--Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness
Alison Bechdel--Fun Home
Linda Medley--The Collected Castle Waiting
Hope Larson--Gray Horses
Gabrielle Bell--Lucky
Phillippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian--Get a Life

And of course I'm continuing to read (and love) the following titles: Y the Last Man, Fables, Powers, and everything Love and Rockets.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Since my Holga seems not to have any light leaks, the multiple exposures thing is clearly the way to get weird photos.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

favorite cds of 2006

Here were the CDs I loved in 2006, put on mix CDs, sang along to in my car--in alphabetical order!

Audubon Park--Teenage Horses
Eric Bachmann--To the Races
all the Eccentric Soul Comps
Erie Choir--Slighter Awake
Essex Green--Cannibal Sea
Girl Talk--Night Ripper
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass--Whipped Cream and Other Delights Rewhipped
Hot Chip--The Warning
Hotel Lights--Goodnightgoodmorning
Portastatic--Be Still Please
White Whale--WWI

Yeah, that's eleven--so what? TV on the Radio probably should be on there too, but I got that pretty recently so it hasn't had as much of a chance to seep into my consciousness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

let the lists commence! crappy books of 2006

The Favorites of 2006 will be coming soon, but in the meantime, here are the critically acclaimed, beloved-by-bloggers books I read in 2006 that I really didn't like!

Ali Smith--The Accidental
Mary Gaitskill--Veronica
Daniel Handler--Adverbs
Hilary Mantel--Beyond Black
Kathryn Davis--The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf
Shelley Jackson--Half-Life
Peter Carey--Theft: A Love Story
Maria Arana--Cellophane
Richard Powers--The Echo Maker
Heidi Julavits--The Uses of Enchantment
Emily Barton--Brookland

Those are in the order I read them. Man, it feels good to publicize that!

2006 book 142

Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects
This book is an excellent example of why I wait until the year actually ends before posting my list of favorite books of the year--this could very easily make the list and the year is almost over! Anyway, Flynn is also a writer for Entertainment Weekly, so I think I was expecting something light and pop-culture-laden (at least until I saw the cover, stark black with a razorblade). Instead, I was sucked into a story about a troubled woman who returns to her small hometown as a reporter, assigned to investigate the murders of two little girls. The whodunnit part of things isn't the main part--it's more about the protagonist's own psyche and she struggles to come to terms with her traumatic childhood--but it does a great job of really upping the intensity of the story. Seriously, I just read it in one sitting. A.

Monday, December 25, 2006

what jews do on christmas

Or this one, at any rate.

I actually planned to drive to various places in town with my Holga, but it's been pouring for the last day or so and so I'm going to stay inside instead. Lukcily VH-1 is playing all sorts of non-holiday programming, and I also have Pete and Pete season 2, which I have been saving for just this occasion. Later I will reheat some of the channa masala I made for dinner the other night, b/c eating leftovers on Christmas is a family tradition. I will also probably knit. And read.

Loads of fun!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


TWO cupcake bakeries are opening up in Pittsburgh this weekend! Wow!

I'm surprised the Triangle doesn't have even one yet . . . and not at all surprised that there isn't one here in north Florida. Maybe if I ever win the lottery I'll start a cupcake bakery. You know, with all my spare time. :)

Friday, December 22, 2006

how to fix a flat tire

I could have used this awesome advice on Monday, but then I was in party clothes and wouldn't have wanted to crawl around on the ground anyway.

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Here's a cute kitten picture you send you into the holidays.

new column at nextbook

David Rakoff (of This American Life, various books, etc) will be watching all 28 Woody Allen movies. Godspeed, Mr. Rakoff.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

let the harry potter rumor mills commence!

No idea if this is true or not--I'm attemping to access the game as I type this--but apparently you can get the title of the final Harry Potter book on J.K. Rowling's site by playing hangman! (I can't get the key.)

ETA: The title has been confirmed! Screw playing hangman.

ETA again: On today's date in 2004, they announced the release date for Half-Blood Prince. I wonder if book 7 won't be out this summer! I don't want to wait!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006 book 141

J.M. Ledgard's Giraffe
This was seriously depressing, not least of all because it's based on the true story of the largest giraffe herd in captivity being massacred in Czechoslovakia in 1975. It probably would be more depressing if the several narrators--a mysterious scientist, a young girl who sleepwalks, and a sharpshooter--were given more depth of character (I actually liked the girl a lot, but the others were barely more than sketches). Also, one of the giraffes narrates part of the action, but when I expected her voice to come through, it didn't. Whatever, if you want to read a novel about wacky Communists ordering the death of 47 giraffes, then check this out. I like giraffes and this novel didn't quite do them justice. B-.

best of 2006

No, these still aren't my lists! (I may post something later tonight though.)

Here's Epicurious' best cookbooks of '06 and here's NPR's. I am sure you can guess that I was thrilled at the link to a pimento cheese recipe in the Epicurious story. I'm sure you can also guess which cookbooks I covet. :)

By the way, check it out! I'm on the new version of blogger, complete with nifty new categories. Maybe over break I'll add labels to old posts! Hahaha, yeah right.

Monday, December 18, 2006

partially read

Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
I decided at page 150 to stop reading this book. It's not that I didn't like it, although the lack of a plot did occasionally bother me. It's composed of a series of (fictional, duh) interviews, each a few pages long, with various survivors of a zombie plague. I was a little tired of this format when I stopped--though it did do an excellent job of ramping up the tension--but actually decided that I did not want to read anymore about zombies. I scare easily, you know, and don't feel like being up all night clutching my field hockey stick just in case some zombies try to break in. (You can imagine my relief that, in this book, Israel is the only country to really save itself--and allows all the other Jews and the Palestinians into its borders before douing so.) But for those who enjoy zombies, definitely give this a try. The writing is excellent, despite my general preference for a meaty plot and characters. A quick glance does indicate that some of the many characters recur--do I smell an ensemble piece?? Speaking of movies, Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, so there's that too.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Here's a picture from the first roll taken with my Holga! I'm still experimenting but a few of these came out dark (despite being taken during very sunny days) and most did not exhibit any light leaks. I'm starting to play with the color gels so we'll see how that goes.

These pine trees have been up on campus for the past couple of weeks. Apparently they have something to do with not drinking and driving.

Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 book 140

Elizabeth Strout's Abide with Me
Strout's latest novel centers on a minister in a small town in Maine in 1959; after the death of his wife, he struggles to find his way while dealing with his traumatized daughter. He's a little too obsessed w/ Bonhoeffer for my taste, but is still a very likable and sympathetic character. His daughter, too, is a heart-breaking little figure. As the two of them try to get over their family tragedy and find their place, small-town gossis and church politics threaten to destroy the little they have left. Meanwhile, the spectre of nuclear war hangs over a culture on the brink of change. B+.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Happy Hanukkah!

I tried to put my new electric menorah in the window, but the sills are all too narrow. Boo. Also, saying prayers over an electric menorah feels pretty silly. I miss the smell of lit matches that signifies Hanukkah to me.

I have been enjoying my Hanukkah present Holga though!! I'm almost done with my first roll of film.

baby panda

I hate clicking onto my blog only to see my own face staring out at me, so here is a link to a story about the panda cub in Atlanta. It has a name!

Yet another reason to visit Atlanta . . . friends, rock shows, and pandas!

And here is a link to a latke recipe, since Hanukkah starts tonight. I'm sure I'll take a picture of my new electric menorah for posting purposes.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
My holga came!! Too bad it's raining out and I can't go play.

Also, look how long my hair is getting!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2006 book 139

Frances Park's When my Sister was Cleopatra Moon
I had some mixed feelings about this book. It revolves around two sisters, Cleo and Marcy, who haven't spoken in years; when the husband of Cleo, the other one, dies, she begs the younger to come stay with her. The story is told from the younger sister's perspective as she tries to deal with her niece and nephew and as she flashes back to the summer she was 14. The problem is that modern-day Marcy is really annoying! She's a total new age hippie who only eats soup and is forever meditating and spouting things like, "Don't poison what's natural! Don't lose what's real!" Flashback Marcy, on the other hand, struggling with adolescence, hero-worship of her sister, and a father away on business, is very likable and sympathetic. The older sister rarely rises above a caricature--which is perhaps fitting, given the younger sister is narrating--but I really enjoyed the flashback portions of the story. So, eh, B/B-.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

new mix

Song list exported directly from iTunes, as trying to type with a kitten crawlign everywhere is just not worth the hassle!

DOWAGER w/ a hatchet Audubon Park
In Your Arms Miho Hatori
He Brings Out the Whiskey in Me Amy Millan
Second Guessing Oakley Hall
Man O' War Eric Bachmann
Two Stories Tennis and the Mennonites
Province TV On the Radio
Poison Bell Biv DeVoe
Oh my God (feat. Peaches) Pink
Fashion punks with youth Opening flower happy bird
Shut Up and Kiss Me Pony Up!
Uptown The Crystals
Here Comes the Rain The Ladybug Transistor
Once In a While Sondre Lerche & The Faces Down Quartet
Right Here (Featuring Sophie Barker) Bliss & Sophie Barker
The Ballad Of Rocky P. Schooner
10CC Erie Choir
My Mathematical Mind Spoon

Friday, December 08, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Hey, I finished the afghan I've been working on since Thanksgiving--all except for weaving in the ends. :) A couple more pictures are on flickr.

I look forward to curling up under this one! Berroco Plush is supersoft and warm--James Bond loves it too.

2006 book 138

Briefly (I'm waiting for the landlord to come and light the pilot in my furnace so I don't freeze to death when it drops to 21 degrees tonight):

Scarlett Thomas' Seaside
Oh, Scarlett Thomas, even when you write mystery novels with fairly predictable twists (except one I didn't see coming), I love you. A-.

Meanwhile, 007 has turned my nice little yarn cubby into a snraled colorful mess!

proof i'm a pop culture junkie

I read that Jeane Kirkpatrick died, and immediately thought that Bill the Cat must be heartbroken.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
It's been way too long since I posted a cute kitten picture. Here is James Bond, being ever-so-helpful as I attempt to knit an afghan.

2006 book 137

Before I write my little review, I just want to thank David and Eric for sending me their bands' newest CDs!!! I knew you were my favorite bands for a reason. :) Seriously, though--thank you!!!!!

Elizabeth Strout's Amy and Isabelle
Finally, a good book! This novel centers on a mother and daughter (the titular characters) over the course of one summer (in, I believe, the 70s), after daughter Amy is discovered to be involved with her math teacher. There's lots of great small-town drama as mother and daughter stand off and as Isabelle's own past comes to light. Totally an A.

Monday, December 04, 2006

2006 book 136

Emily Barton's Brookland
I take back when I said earlier about being immersed in a good book; once again, I've disliked a critically acclaimed and much-blogged-about novel. It started off strong--it takes place in Brooklyn in the late 1700s, and primarily revolves around the eldest of three sisters who ends up taking over their father's gin distillery. Around halfway through the book, I was still seeing it as an A- kind of affair--there were some minor discontinuities, a slightly annoying main character, and way too much about how a distillery works, but the story and the half-narrative, half-epistolary premise were working for me--but then it really got bogged down as the protagonist decides to build a bridge across the East River to Manhattan. Maybe civil engineers will like this more than I did, but I definitely did not need to read so fricking much about the mechanics of bridge-building. Also, the end becomes entirely too overwrought. Like, way too stupidly melodramatic. I imagine this will end up on a few best-of-the-year lists--along with that horrid book by Ali Smith, The Accidental--but I am giving it a C.

terrible news

One of my favorite musicians (and a very sweet guy, to boot), Logan Whitehurst (of The Velvet Teen and Logan Whitehurst and the Junior Science Club), has died (news via Matt Tomich).

Please play some Robot Cat or Me and the Snowman in Logan's memory.


I've been dying to read Jessica Mitford's book of letters, and this article has me on the verge of ordering it from Amazon! (I'm still hopeful that the public library will get it.)

I mean, check out this line she wrote to Hillary Clinton (back before she was the first lady): Do write back. I’d love more news of Chelsea Victoria—what a marvelous name! How did you come by it? Was she conceived in Victoria Station, or Chelsea?


Sorry for the lack of book updates: I actually took a whole week off from reading (nothing seemed appealing) and instead spend time knitting and watching Battlestar Galactica. I am immersed in a good book now and am almost done with an afghan, so I'd say it's all worked out pretty well.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I think The Beat puts the whole controversy over the new DC imprint best.

I do agree that they need to get more girl creators on board, stat, but on the other hand, I'm big fans of a lot of the guys they have signed on and would get their comics regardless of publisher. But I've already emailed Chapel Hill Comics to have the Minx roster added to my subscription list. :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

pw best of 2006

Many of you have probably seen this already, but I just thought to check out Publisher's Weekly's best of 2006 list, and I was impressed! Not necessarily with their choices--I've only read three on their fiction list, and only really liked one of them--but with the fact that they have so many categories! Genre fiction! Children's books! Most importantly, comic books and graphic novels! I really liked their selections for that last category, and was thrilled to see the latest Scott Pilgrim and the new Locas book on there. I have Curses coming to me in my next shipment from Chapel Hill Comics, and now I'm even more psyched to read it.

Anyway, I figured I'd point it out for those who hadn't seen it . . . it definitely beats the stodgy and predictable NY Times list.

(My own list, as always, will appear after the year actually ends.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

another holiday-related rant

As someone who's co-hosted a radio show with a Chrismukkah theme for the past few years (sigh, it's the end of an era now that I live ten hours away), I've always bemoaned the lack of Hanukkah music to play. I'm not even really talking good Hanukkah music, but any Hanukkah music.

So as I was happily knitting away while watching a Law and Oder: CI marathon, I got my hopes up a little when a commercial came on for a new Bette Midler holiday cd. "Sweet!" I thought to myself. "She's Jewish! Maybe if I ever get to do another Chrismukkah show, I'll have more than three songs to play!" I mean, I'm not a die-hard Bette fan or anything, but she's got plenty of camp value, and it's better than not having any Hanukkah songs. Or just that Adam Sandler one.

But check this cd out. It's ALL Christmas songs! And I guarantee her version of "Mele Kalikimaka" won't come anywhere near Bing Crosby's.

What gives, Bette? Where's your Hanukkah pride?? I am aiming the tsk-tsk finger at you! Shame!

At least the Leevees are trying to make fun Hanukkah songs. Good for you guys! "How Do You Spell Chunnukkahh?" is destined to be a holiday classic.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

2006 book 135

William Styron's Sophie's Choice
Oh my god, can you believe I'd never read this?? I think I figured there wasn't a point, having gleaned what Sophie's choice was through my endless absorption of pop culture knowledge. Anyway, this book predominantly isn't about the titular character's experiences in Auschwitz, but her largely platonic relationship with the young Southern Duke alum wannabe writer of a narrator, whose desperate quest to get laid in 1947 encapsulates way too much of the story. Her troubled Jewish boyfriend is also a large part of the picture. Interestingly, I know I wrote recently that Holocaust stories often seem like a calculated attempt to tug at heartstrings, but Sophie's experiences really were not portrayed as powerfully as they could have been--whether as a result of the narrator's self-obsession and inability to understand, or due to Styron's own choices as a writer. Either way, I'm giving it a B. It'd have been graded higher if it wasn't so friggin' long. Was Styron too famous to receive editorial guidance at the time he wrote it, or were descriptions of the narrator's sexual frustrations in vogue at the time? My reaction to these was often, "Oh, shut UP already, and get to the part where Sophie makes a choice!" (at which point, the choice was surprisingly anti-climactic).

Friday, November 24, 2006

2006 books 132, 133, 134

Hey, whaddaya know? I've read some books in the past few days. Briefly, b/c the kitten is reacquainting himself with the keyboard:

Harry Shearer's Not Enough Indians
Shearer's first novel involves a small town in upstate NY that declares itself an Indian tribe so it can start a casino. Unfortunately it's completely devouid of any depth; the most one can hope for while reading is the occasional smirk at a one-liner. C.

Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility
I finally decided to give Austen a chance, and actually I enjoyed this, for the most part. Why did it end so abruptly though? It was a little odd. Also, I am now intrigued with several of the choices made when transferring these characters to screen in the Emma Thompson version. No grade; it's weird grading a classic.

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner
This is our next book group book, and I totally get why it's a bestseller. I also get that protagonists need some shades of grey to be entertaining, but this narrator was pretty appalling throughout much of the book. Also, the first half was really familiar--is there some other book about two growing-up boys, one of whom is the other's servant? Eh, A-, whatever.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

2006 book 131

J. Robert Lennon's The Funnies
This novel--more than a little inspired by the dullest of dull, cloying-est of cloying comic strips, Family Circus, is all about what happens when the eccentric cartoonist patriarch of a very dysfunctional family dies, leaving his strip to his artist son. It was pretty good, so I'll give it a B. Oh, I forgot to grade those last two books, so let's give the first a B+ and the second an A-.

Friday, November 17, 2006

2006 books 129 and 130

Hey! I'm in DC! My amazing sister booked me into the hotel that's the headquarters of the conference (unbeknownst to me) and that's right across from the convention center. Plus it's totally swanky, AND I saw three people I know within fifteen minutes of checking in!

On to the books:

Scarlett Thomas' Dead Clever and In Your Face
Scarlett Thomas is one of my favorite authors (Popco was in my top 15 last year, and The End of Mr. Y will be on my top whatever list this year, for sure) but for a long time I didn't realize she was the author of the Lily Pascale mystery trilogy (of which these are the first 2/3). For some reason she seems to keep her genre books away from her literary fiction books--there are no mentions of these on her official site, and the bios in the backs of these note that she's written several novels, including the other two Lily Pascale books. And yet similar elements crop up in both sets of books. Isn't that weird, and worthy of further investigation? Yes, and yes.

But anyway, these two mystery books center on Lily Pascale, who has an MA in contemporary fiction with a specialization in crime fiction. So of course in the first one she ends up teaching at a small college where a grisly murder has just occured, and where more mysterious events suck her in and she solves the whole thing. The first was, I thought, a little weaker--the killer's identity is revealed to the reader too early on. The second was a little scarier and a stronger story in general; in that one, Lily goes to London during a school break after a college friend calls her up begging for help in relation to ore grisly murders.

I think I probably would have read these both in one sitting even if I hadn't been hanging out in airports all day; Thomas is a very engaging writer and I love that so many of her characters are these sort of intellectual types. I know I don't usually go for genre fiction, but Thomas manages to throw in a lot of twists and turns that make things seem less formulaic than some other mysteries I've read. I'm definitely looking forward to the final book in the series--I hope the public library can get it to me soon after I'm back in Florida! Which won't be for a week--I'm off to Pittsburgh after the conference!

They make a Christmas version! They're round and colored green, white, and red instead of the usual pastels. I got a bag at CVS--they're called "solid milk chocolates with a crispy candy shell". Just in case you can't wait till the Easter candy goes out in January for your fix. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


One more reason the Holocaust Museum is amazing: they're projecting images of Darfur on their walls from November 20-26 to draw attention to contemporary genocide.

I'll actually be in DC the opening night of this event and will definitely do my best to get there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

2006 book 128

Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale
OMG! I read a bestseller! I'm actually kind of surprised this made the bestseller lists, but it was pretty good. If I was a blurb writer I would describe it thusly: "Margaret Lea, a young(ish) book shop clerk, is suddenly summoned by the reclusive writer Vida Winter, who has decided to finally tell her life story. As her tale unfolds, dark secrets come to light, and Margaret must confront her own mysterious family secret." Or whatever. I'll give it a solid B--it's a fast-moving story, but the writing is occasionally a little too stilted and/or flowery and/or wannabe Bronte-ish.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

stranger than fiction

Everyone must go see this movie RIGHT NOW. It is REALLY GOOD. All of the main actors--Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Queen Latifah (who is slightly underused)--were AMAZING. The whole story just works perfectly, and it's very, let's say, grabbing. I actually was sobbing during one scene--tears running down my neck into my shirt, etc. Also, I think it goes without saying (although apprently I'm saying it anyway) that I want to be Maggie Gyllenhaal's character. The soundtrack is really great too--the whole time I was trying to figure out why it seemed so familiar, and it was b/c it was done by Britt Daniel. Anyway, the whole thing was AMAZING. A+. Seriously. See it.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Mmmm, check out this apple cake I made (the recipe was a modified version of one Ms. Pinky gave me). Don't you want to just tear off a hunk and shove its sweet still-warm goodness into your mouth?? I know I do, but it's for a potluck thing I'm going to later, so I just have to sit here and be tortured by the smell. It's currently locked in my bedroom so neither I nor the kitten (who has recently developed a taste for sweets, apparently) can get to it. :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

2006 book 127

Suzanne Berne's The Ghost at the Table
Not to sound like a kiss-ass, since I'm vaguely acquainted with several past and present employees, but Algonquin books is putting out some pretty great stuff these days, including this book, which centers on a woman who joins her somewhat dysfunctional family for Thanksgiving (timely reading!). Their past hurts and estrangements are somewhat paralleled with the main character's book-in-progress on Mark Twain's daughters. I am giving it an A-, because I liked it enough to read it all in one sitting, but I had some mixed feelings about the ending (mainly the feeling that I didn't like it that much).

Meanwhile, RIGHT NOW is the Audubon Park/Erie Choir cd release party. I am sure that it is an amazingly rockin' good time, and I am sad not to be there--though the antics of the kitten trying to bring down all the hangers in my closet are pretty entertaining.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

living in a christian nation

This would make me want to boycott Wal-mart, if I wasn't already boycotting Wal-mart on general principle. So maybe instead I should go to Wal-mart and tell their employees "Happy Hanukkah"?

Hey, American Family Association! It's ok to be inclusive! It's called being NICE. But I'm pretty sure you're from the wing of Christianity that thinks I'm going to hell, so maybe I'm not worth being nice to.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

2006 book 126

Kate Muir's Left Bank
It's being marketed as a satire of French intellectuals, and the local public library has it classed as "Married People -- Fiction", and I guess both of those categorizations are accurate enough, but really it's a story about family. More specifically, a French family, headed up by a famous French philosopher and his glamourous actress wife. They seem like the perfect couple but of course their marriage is a shambles, and things start to break apart after their daughter's sudden disappearance from a EuroDisney-like amusement park. It's a solid story, and even educational--I figured out during the course of reading this that Birkin bags are named for Jane Birkin! I'm going to give it a B+, because I enjoyed it a lot but it wasn't like a masterpiece or anything.

hey knitters!

And/or people with friends who knit: I'm selling some handspun yarn on etsy. Probably I'll list some more yarn soon, and I am also happy to take color requests/commissions (though not necessarily to complete them in a very timely manner). Anyway, just an FYI. You all are under no pressure to give me money. :)

hey pittsburghers!

My very own neighborhood (the aptly named Squirrel Hill) is getting its own cupcake shop in December! Looks like I'll have to schedule another trip home this winter. :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Proof that comic books are totally prophetic: check this out! This is very reminiscent of a Superman comic (or possibly "Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane") from the 70s where Superman for some reason has a machine that can change people's race, and Lois goes through it to experience life as a black woman for a day. It also magically turns her hair into an afro, if I recall correctly.

Note too that, at least when this article was written, the machine is on display at my old private all-girls school.

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
I was the 15th voter in my precinct this morning! I was pleased to note that they still use paper ballots.


exciting knitting news!

My friend Stef (who taught me how to knit freshman year of college) is going to have a pattern in the next Stitch 'n' Bitch book!!!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

obligatory kitten picture

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Kittens love paper! More specifically, they love hiding under paper waiting to ambush me! (At least, this one does.)


Well, election day is tomorrow, and I'm pretty worried about the results for my new state of residence. The local paper (in a county that skews blue!) endorsed the goofball Republican running for governor, claiming he's a moderate. I found such characterization to be pretty amusing; I've been watching this douche's attack ads for months now, and during the primary he painted a pretty ugly picture of his supposedly liberal opponent, and also talked about how only he would keep up Jeb Bush's family values. Yeah, real friggin' moderate. Stupid local paper. At least they didn't endorse Katherine Harris . . .

In other news, check out this awesome upscale chocolate sushi. I am obsessed with upscale chocolate lately!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

2005 book 125

Markus Zusak's The Book Thief
I'll start by saying that this book was heartbreaking--I was straight up sobbing at certain parts, as opposed to my usual tearing up a little. With that caveat, I can recommend it pretty strongly. The protagonist is a young German girl (with a penchant for stealing books) who goes to live with a foster family in a smallish town during WWII. There's the usual growing up angst, and there's Nazi angst, and there's the whole hiding a Jew in the basement angst. Normally I'm wary of stories set in Nazi Germany--it's like a cop-out of sorts, since the times are already so emotionally charged that the writer doesn't have to do as much to write a powerful story--and this book did start out a little slow, but by the end I was absolutely engaged, and like I said, sobbing. It didn't elicit the level of despair that, say, Grave of the Fireflies does, which is of course not a bad thing. I actually would re-read this book, whereas you could not pay me to ever watch that movie again. Anyway, we're going to give this one an A-, only because some of the narrative stylings annoyed me a little (Death as a narrator worked for me, but some of his little notes were just a tad over-the-top).

it's official

Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius. I give the Borat movie a solid A (it'd have been an A+ except I'm a little squeamish). It's especially entertaining in light of this thread on Ask Mefi--I wonder which asshole that kid was?

Friday, November 03, 2006

good news

The show I saw tongiht was WAY better than all the books I've read recently! Hooray for Pony Up!(a poppy girl band from Montreal--I like to imagine their merch festooned in My Little Ponies) and Tilly and the Wall (the tapdancing was awesome, in the literal sense of the word, and not the way I generally overuse it). In case I haven't said it, let me state for the record that Club Down Under is by far the best college campus venue I've ever seen. I'll be back again Monday for the Mountain Goats! (It doesn't quite make up for missing the Audubon Park/Erie Choir cd release show, but it's still nice to get some local music love.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

2006 book 124

Heidi Julavits' The Uses of Enchantment
Here's another book that's garnered a lot of critical attention. It was ok, I guess. The story, about a girl who may have been abducted, is told in three alternating parts: 1999, after her mother's funeral; 1985, when she disappeared ("What might have happened"), and 1986, her therapist's notes. The therapy thing is a major part of the story as it unfolds; there's a whole what's-the-truth thing, and there's a lot about Freud's Dora, and the Salem witches even come into it a bit. The fact that her therapist writes a book about her reminded me of the Six Feet Under Charlotte Light and Dark plotline--this book still haunts the main character fourteen years later.

If my comments sound disjointed, I think that's b/c they're an accurate representation of the book. If I had to grade it, I think I'd go with a B-. Should I give books grades from now on?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2006 book 123

Richard Powers' The Echo Maker
This has been getting a lot of good reviews and critical acclaim, I guess, so I finally sat down and read it. The basic premise is that a young Nebraskan dude gets into a serious car accident, after which he believes that his sister is an imposter. A famous neurologist comes to examine him, and lots of examination of the self ensues. I mean, mostly this book worked for me--I really found the relationship between the brother and sister to be extremely compelling--but I really didn't like or care about the doctor's parts of things (his sections are pretty unbearable; who wants to read about a neurologist waxing on about the self, and his failing career, and his stupid middle-aged temptations, all from a totally self-aware doctor point of view? Besides Powers, I mean) or the parts that meditated poetically on birds. As a side note, I thought there were some echoes of Yehoshua' The Lover in the thought processes of the comatose brother as he awakens, but that could be entirely coincidental.

Verdict: a pretty good book, if you skim the self-indulgent doctor's whining.

shameful confession time

I was flipping through the channels last night and landed on VH1, which was doing a new 80s song countdown show (as opposed to all of the other 80s-related programming they've done) (that wasn't the shameful confession) and the song they were discussing was Prince's Little Red Corvette.

Do you know, in my entire life, I had NO idea what that song was? I could NEVER figure out what the chorus was saying, and I spent a lot of time trying to decipher it. Also I didn't know that it was a Prince song. (Somehow I missed the Prince portion of my music education.) Shameful, isn't it!

Happy Halloween everyone!! I may post blurry cameraphone pictures of my costume later. I'm going as a Freudian slip (tm Stef).

Monday, October 30, 2006

breaking book news!!!

Danielle Steel has a fragrance!

Get it for the woman in your life who embodies the essence of Danielle Steel! "The woman who is confident, optimistic, and lives an active life full of new experiences and loving relationships"!

("Active life" really makes it sound like a bran cereal or an adult diaper, doesn't it.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

2006 book 122

Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword
Kelly Link wrote a blurb for this book, so I figured it was worth looking into. And it was a diverting Sunday afternoon sort of read, revolving around a young girl (in some fantasy land and time) whose eccentric and rich Duke of an uncle sends for her to make her into a swordsmen. Drama ensues, there's lots of hedonism and defending of honor, and of course the expected ending which ties up pretty much all loose ends. I'm going to stick with mildly diverting and entertaining as my sum-up.

PS. I forgot to say that we also saw alligators yesterday! There wasn't any horror-movie-style carnage, but seriously, they were just hangin' out in the wildlife refugse, right by some walking paths. Scary!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

2006 book 121

Keith Donahue's The Stolen Child
I think Amazon was pimping this book a couple months ago, and deservedly so. Also, it's great Halloweentime reading, as its plot is more than a little creepy. It revolves around a little boy, Henry, who runs away from home only to be replaced by a changeling. The two Henrys' stories are told in alternating chapters as each tries to puzzle out his identity. Adding to the creepy factor, for me, was realizing that the story takes place in Pittsburgh. It made me feel like wild little fairy children were spying on us when we were kids, plotting to steal our lives.

In other news, I hit St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge today for the Butterfly Festival, which was nice and all, but really impressive was walking on the gulf coast over by the lighthouse--we saw thousands of migrating monarchs, little crabs, big crabs, huge horseshoe crabs, and lots of beautiful birds. The only thing putting a damper on the day was that my camera battery was dead, and I missed a lot of amazing nature photo ops. Maybe next time . . .

Friday, October 27, 2006

2006 book 120

Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn
This is a sequel to Case Histories, which I read a couple years ago and vaguely recall being a literary-fiction-meets-mystery sort of affair, with lots of likable characters and different storylines that gradually interwove. This is more of the same, as retired cop/private eye Jackson Brodie travels to Edinburgh (along with thousands of other people) for some sort of theatre festival. Murder and mayhem ensue along the way, as Brodie and the reader try and fit everything together (it's clear to the reader pretty quickly that these things are laced together). Still, it resolves nicely, and again Atkinson's characters are likeable and interesting. A pretty entertaining read, for sure.

more librarian stereotyping

OK, now I'm mad at Nick from season 2 of Project Runway. Scroll down through this to see why.

I mean, sure, most librarians don't dress like the extremely skanky women on Flavor of Love, but to suggest that we're all covered up and prim and proper is just totally inaccurate. Plenty of librarians show a little skin, even at work.

What's with all the stereotyping lately??? That stupid Garrison Keillor thing, the Questionable Content shirt, the really old-school non-computerized library on Veronica Mars . . . and now even fashion dudes are doing it!

Guess what! Not all librarians have glasses or buns or prudish clothing! Most of us have cute clothes and like technology! This is NOT a new thing, so I don't know why society can't just get used to it already.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Tomorrow is the inaugural session of the library book group! We read In the Time of the Butterflies, so since I happen to own a butterfly-shaped cookie cutter, I made gingerbread cookies for the session. (I also made pumpkin squares--mmm, seasonal!)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2006 book 119

Marie Arana's Cellophane
OK, seriously, where did I read a good review of this? Because I really need to stop visiting whatever site keeps recommending such terrible books. I mean, this isn't TERRIBLE, exactly. I think Arana was going for a magical realism Garcia Marquez sort of thing, as the members of a wealthy paper-milling family in Peru suddenly find themslves unable to hide their secrets anymore, but ended up with a Laura Esquivel Like Water for Chocolate everyone-falling-in-love-at-the-drop-of-a-hat thing.

The adjective that best describes this book: FLORID.

Actually, I can totally see this book being fairly popular, and I can understand why there was a long wait for it at the library. It's just really not my thing. The floridity, you know.

Monday, October 23, 2006


When a character in Questionable Content was wearing a shirt bearing the legend "She blinded me with library science", I (like many others) crossed my fingers that it'd end up as a shirt. And it has, only with a stereotypical librarian alongside it! So lame. At least her hair isn't grey . . .

Sunday, October 22, 2006

2006 book 118

D'aulaire's Book of Norse Myths
Had I known this book existed, I'd probably have sought it out much earlierin my life, because the D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths is one of my favorite books from childhood. We had it in school, and I was enchanted with the elegant drawings and the stories--so when I came down with pneumonia, my mom got it for me as a get-well present, and I've loved it ever since. The Norse myths were recently reissued by the New York Review of Books--with an introduction by Michael Chabon, no less--so they're back on the radar. Anyway, it's a very pretty book with all sorts of fascinating North mythology--a real treat for those of us who've gleaned most of our knowledge in this area from Neil Gaiman. There's the usual vague historical sexism--the female goddesses here aren't anywhere near as fleshed out as in the Greek stories, and I'm not sure if that's due to the original Norse tales or not. At any rate, all books by the D'aulaires are classics, and this makes a valuable addition to any word nerd's bookshelves.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

marie antoinette

So a friend and I went to see Marie Antoinette today, and I quite liked it! Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman were both great, it was gorgeous, and of course I loved the soundtrack--along with New Order and Air, I was thrilled to hear songs from one of my all-time favorite albums, Radio Dept.'s Lesser Matters. Now I love Sofia Coppola even more!

Of course, I did think the ending was a little abrupt--my friend had read that it doesn't go all the way to the guillotine, so she was prepared for the symbolic, non-violent ending, but suddenly I understood why the French booed it. Of course there IS a symbolic ending, but still.

Also, there were no pink converse in sight, for the record. Lots of yummy-looking cakes thoguh! Don't go in hungry.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

new magazine

I am very intrigued by a few of the articles in the first issue of this magazine--I think I'm going to try and hunt it down after work!

Speaking of the 80s (and God bless the fug blog): I totally would watch a show like that. Maybe Oxygen could pick it up. :)

I meant to post this last night, but it got lost in the ether (i.e., the kitten stepped on my keyboard and the link was gone. he also deleted several of my itunes playlists with a single step last night): Here's the list of 1001 books to read before you die (from the book of the same title). I counted up to 94 I'd read before my eyes glazed over. Interestingly, many authors I don't like are on there, which really brought my numbers down.


I have to say, I find myself troubled by the recent spate of 80s revivalism I've been seeing around campus. The leggings trend was bad enough--after all, I'm old enough to remember when leggings were popular the first time, and spent much of my childhood in those lace-edged horrors. Are stirrup pants next? (God forbid!!)

But really, leggings are mild compared to some of the fashion choices I witnessed at the Girl Talk/Man Man show this past weekend. Let's all take a moment to reflect on just how horrifying the 80s were, fashion-wise. I mean, VH-1 has made itself millions hiring C- and D-list celebs to make fun of what we all were wearing back then! Because it was UGLY!!

So imagine my shock and dismay to see all those horrible 80s trends crammed into one club. I saw scrunchy stilleto boots. I saw neon. I saw weird Flock of Seagulls hair. I saw that horrible ratty punk-style bird-nest hair. I saw dudes in vests (one of those had a moleskine notebook in his back pocket--OH MY GOD, how trite can you get??). I saw basically every ugly 80s look you can imagine (and my mocking bitchery achieved new heights that night, let me tell you).

But the WORST! The absolute WORST thing!


Mullets that weren't on the sort of people who maybe don't know that mullets haven't been fashionable in 20 years. They weren't on people who didn't realize how unflattering they are.

They had obviously been DELIBERATELY GROWN. People had grown mullets in a misguided attempt to be COOL. Now COME ON!!! I know there's always a lot of hipper-than-thou in indie music scenes, especially in college towns. But I saw five people who had deliberately grown mullets in order to look cool. That is taking the 80s revival thing waaaaaay too far.

One of the mullet-bearers even had a weird 80s porn mustache! I remember when the 'stache thing hit Chapel Hill a couple years ago--those dudes were so proud of how stupid they looked. So I guess the mullet thing is an extension of that. But come on!!!! Mullets?????

I spent more time freaking out about the teens in 80s-wear than I did paying attention to the show--that's how bad it was. The clothes, not the show, which was actually pretty awesome.

If mullets are back, does that mean big hair and bangs will be following soon? (Ugly Betty as inspiration for that new fall look?) Better stock up on the hairspray!! I sense the forefront of the next trend!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

fall mix cd

I decided to kill that hour between ANTM and Project Runway by finally finishing that mix cd I've been working on. It's a little disjointed, since I haven't bought very many new cds recently and getting the songs into an order that worked ok was trickier than usual. Also I did put some guilty pleasures on and I refuse to be judged!!

Track listing:

1. Portastatic--I'm in love (with Arthur Dove)
2. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Rewhipped--Green Peppers
3. Essence--Fever
4. Girl Talk--Bounce That
5. Maximum Joy--Simmer till done
6. Savath and Savalas--Decatur Queen
7. The Fray--How to Save a Life
8. [track from an unreleased album]
9. Asobi Seksu--Thursday
10. Scritti Politti--After Six
11. Gothic Archies--The World is a Very Scary Place
12. Eric Bachmann--Carrboro Woman
13. Richard Buckner--Lucky
14. Velvet Teen--Gyznkid [terrible title, good song]
15. [another secret unreleased track]
16. Long Winters--Clouds
17. Salteens--Look up! Look out!
18. Acid House Kings--Wipe away those tears
19. Bettye Swann--Cover Me
20. Lambchop--Crackers

2006 book 117

Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies
Had to re-read this classic b/c it's the first selection for our library reading group! It was as good as I remembered.

Monday, October 16, 2006

2006 book 116

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun
This book took me a while to read, but don't take that to mean I wasn't into it, b/c I was! But it was a little intense for beach reading--it takes place in Nigeria in the late 1960s, during the civil war. The story primarily focuses on a pair of wealthy, educated twins and their respective lovers--a revolutionary professor and a British writer--as well as a young village boy who becomes the houseboy of the professor. Their respective experiences during the war highlight the ravages of the period from nearly every angle--I actually wish this book would garner more critical attention, because I guarantee most Americans don't know this war ever took place, and have no idea of the impact it had (I didn't know much about it until I read this--it inspired some research. Librarian Power!). Anyway, this was a really well-written and moving story, and I'd highly recommend it.

P.S. I think I'm totally over Studio 60. God, they are all so annoying and not funny at all! It's hard to buy that anyone watches or cares about their ridiculous show. [Heroes, on the other hand? Totally awesome! Yes, I am a big nerd--did you miss the title of the blog?]


Just FYI, I've been hit with a lot of comment spam lately, so I've turned on that word verification thingy in the comments. I was reluctant to do this, because it's annoying when you can't tell what the letters are, but the comment spam is even more annoying, so c'est la vie.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Nothing like a day at the beach! (Especially one with Christina!)

And it's official--gulf coast beaches are WAY prettier than Atlantic Ocean Beaches.

Off to bake cookies and then see Girl Talk and Man Man!

Friday, October 13, 2006

2006 book 115

Lemony Snicket's The End
And another entertaining series comes to an end--in quite an unexpected way. Not all the questions raised by the previous 12 books are answered, but it's still a satisfying resolution to a series whose last few books had taken all sorts of exciting twists and turns.

friday books

Critical Mass has maybe my favorite commentary on the whole Fun Home/Blankets being banned from a public library kerfuffle. Lots of good links, plus irony!

I've refrained from commenting on this kerfuffle--though I have been following it closely--because I just haven't felt like ranting. I will say, for the record, that I just find the whole thing very confusing. I own both of these books--many people do, b/c they're both beautiful, critically acclaimed masterpieces--and don't remember any major objectionable content. I do remember some tenderly drawn, delicate sex stuff from Blankets, but that book is like 500 pages long and it was maybe one panel (and not graphic* at all--more like cuddling) and I don't remember any from Fun Home. If there is sex in either of those stories, it's not a major aspect of anything. (Obviously I should look this up.) Anyway, I found myself wondering whether these books were considered objectionable not because of their supposed sexual content, but because of their themes of liberalism, independence, and turning away from the close-minded. Who knows. Either way, it's a serious issue for both libraries and comic book fans.

In positive book news, the final Lemony Snicket book comes out today! I'm getting a copy over lunch.

*another problem with the term "graphic novel" (besides the fact that sometimes they're non-fiction and not novels at all, etc) is that "graphic" is often misinterpreted as meaning "porny" when in fact it means "illustrated". This definitely cropped up a lot during this censorship battle.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Aaaaaaaaand once again, I am totally off-base when it comes to the Booker Award.

I'm not even getting started on the National Book Award--historically that's the one I think is dumbest, so I'm hardly even surprised at this year's crappy selection (full disclosure: I haven't read any of the books that have benn nominated, b/c I know they all suck. Actually I'm waiting for the Echo Maker to come into the library, but I might not bother with it now that it's been nominated for the NBA).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

speaking of librarians . . .

Dude, why's Veronica Mars gotta front? Mark my words--that library job is gonna be key this season! She'll do research! She'll discover stuff, possibly on old microfilms! Librarians will assist her! Might I even suggest that one day Veronica will pursue her MLS degree and put her research skills to work? OK, I mean, she could do that if she was a hot noir PI too, but a librarian girl can dream . . .

But yeah--we're gonna see some library research this season, for sure. AWESOME.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

2006 book 114

Mary Lawson's The Other Side of the Bridge
When I picked up my recent pile of books-on-hold at the library yesterday, I was puzzled, since I didn't remember requesting this one. I guess I read a good review of it somewhere and just added it to the list--and let me say, I'm very grateful to wherever that was! The story is reminiscent of Kent Haruf--but that may just be the small town farm setting talking. It takes place in the north of Canada and most of the action revoles around two brothers--one the reticent farmer type, the other his manipulative younger brother. Things flit back and forth between the WWII years and the early 60s, when a teenager with a crush on the older brother's wife takes a job at the farm. There's lots of that great small-town drama here, and along with some great writing and characterization, it makes for a really compelling story. I have definitely read some great books lately--I'm not looking forward to winnowing them down into a best of the year list!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

2006 book 113

Nicole Krauss' The History of Love
I'd been putting off reading this, because of course Krauss is married to the writer I find most annoying in the world, Jonathan Safran Foer. I realize that's not a fair reason not to read a book by someone (especially since, when this came out, it tended to receive much more favorable reviews than his book did), but she was sort of annoying by association. But one of my co-workers encouraged me to read it, and when she told me she'd loved it so much she's read it a second time (and she's a busy woman!) I gave in to the peer pressure and got it from the library. And, hey--it actually was good! Krauss has some of those sort-of-pretentious tics in her writing style, but somehow for her it works--maybe because she uses them in moderation. The book is primarily narrated by two people, one an old man who grew up in Poland, fled the Nazis, and once wrote a book called The History of Love. The other is a young girl named after his beloved (her sections are written as lists, one of the aforementioned tics that somehow didn't drive me batty). As the girl tries to unravel the story behind her name, the old man works on writing a new book and trying not to die alone and undiscovered. It's really a very touching and engrossing story. Props to Nicole Krauss, who is way more talented than her husband!

lucky north carolinians

In one week in October, you lucky Triangle denizens will get the chance to see Amy Sedaris, Paula Deen, and John Hodgman.

I really need to unsubscribe from the Regulator's newsletter, because the lack of literary events (and food-related literary events!) in my life right now is just heartbreaking, and I don't need that rubbed in!

But you all should definitely go see Amy Sedaris--her new book looks awesome!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

2006 book 112

Frank Portman's King Dork
Well, the bloggers have been raving about this one for months, so I figured I'd finally read it. And it was pretty good! Portman (the dude from Mr. T Experience) has written a dark, pretty funny and mostly accurate depiction of high school dorkdom. His main social outcast character is a wannabe rockstar, and that especially rings true (probably b/c, y'know, Portman is the dude from Mr. T Experience). I did find some of the teenage antics in the second half of the book to be slightly unbelievable, but most of the book does feel very real. I mean, I guess it's true that a guy in a band suddenly becomes about ten times hotter, so maybe all of it is actually believable. *shrug*

new hair!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
all reds and purples for fall.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

veronica mars

Now that Veronica Mars is back on the air, my fall tv schedule is locked in! And my sister and I both enjoyed this episode--she thought it lacked drama, but I thought it was a fun start to what will no doubt be a dramatic season. Veronica in college = totally awesome! I'm hoping for another George Michael and Maeby guest spot.

By the way, don't scoff at the quad of bikini-wearers and say that would never happen on a college campus. It happens daily on the one where I work, and sometimes the sunbathers even bust out their laptops, squinting to read the screen as they do research and IM friends. Ah, the miracle of wireless!

For the curious, here is what I'm watching this season:

Monday: Heroes and Studio 60
I like Heroes, mainly for the Japanese guy ("Super-Hiro!"). Why are all the girls sexy blondes? That just seems odd.

Tuesday: Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars
I only watch Gilmore Girls halfheartedly. The only characters I like these days are Sookie and Lane. I am into the concept of dessert sushi made with red hots, though.

Wednesday: ANTM and Project Runway
PR Reunion special tomorrow! That should be my drama fix for the week.

Thursday: Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy
America Ferrara totally rocks. She is adorable in braces. I like this show enough to get past my personal pet peeve that on tv and in movies, glasses = ugly.

Coming soon: I actually read more books! James Bond, the fashion model! New hair! And more.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Look! I made challah!

It's for the break-fast I'm going to on Monday night. Normally I wouldn't make it so far in advance, but I figured fasting is hard enough without having a house that smells like freshly baked bread.

I mean, I'm having a hard enough time not tearing into one of these right now!

attention chabon fans!

I just got the latest issue of Virginia Quarterly Review, and there's an except of his upcoming novel!!!

There's also the usual assortment of high-quality essays, fiction, and so on--including the latest installment of Art Spiegelman's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young @%$%".

(Plus subscribers got a special bonus booklet of short stories, but I haven't delved into that yet.)

2006 book 111

Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr. Y
I'm a bit too into this book to write much about it, aside from saying that it's another strong contender for the best-of-the-year list; like all of Thomas' novels, it's clever and intellectual and thought-provoking and literary and very moving. This story centers on Ariel, a grad student working on thought experiments. She comes across a copy of a book by an author she's studying, only this book is very rare and apparently cursed--anyone who's ever read it has died or disappeared. This isn't a horror story, though, in the least. I'ts more of a novel meditating on the nature of thought and language . . . which I know makes it sound boring, but believe me, it really isn't. Like I said, it's a strong contender for the best-of-the-year list. I'm sorry I'm describing it badly but I don't want to give anything away, because following the narrator as she discovers just where this book can lead is pretty amazing.

pop culture advice needed

When I moved to Florida, I decided I'd splurge and get HBO (primarily so I could watch Big Love, which was on its 4th or 5th episode at the time). For a while I was pretty happy with it--they played some shows I wanted to watch, and maybe a third of the movies were ones I liked. But lately HBO sucks! All the movies they're premiering are real stinkers (the ones I've seen were really stupid, and the ones I haven't were ones I really didn't want to see) and they're not even running any good shows at the moment. Plus they keep airing sports documentaries, making me think that Comcast took my HBO away and added an 8th sports channel or something. (I really do have that many sports channels.)

So I've been thinking I should cancel HBO, unless you all know if they're going to get good again any time soon? Should I try Showtime for a while? I did really like the first season of Weeds. Do any of you have it? Do you like it? Should I just keep HBO around till it hopefully gets good again?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

2006 book 110

Jennifer Gilmore's Golden Country
This was a pretty good book about two Jewish families in the 1920s-50s whose lives keep intersecting (which becomes official when two members of the youngest generation get married). It's a great look at life in Brooklyn at the time, the immigrant experience, etc. Plus there are Jewish mobsters and the dude who invented tv (I'm not curious enough to investigate any veracity in this novel). Mostly I liked this, though it was a bit sloppy at times--what was with the non-existent siblings/children who barely merited any mentions? There was an appreciated and funny reveal at the end, at least.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2006 book 109

Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics
I thought I would hate this book--the few reviews I read kept comparing it to Jonathan Safran Foer, and talked about how it was organized like a lit class syllabus, and they all made it sound so pretentious and annoying. Guess what! It's not like that at all. It's just a novel and all the chapter titles are titles of great books (and the chapters sort of tie in with the books thematically, but really the story flows and you can read it and enjoy it without even noticing the chapter titles). In case you can't tell, I really liked this book. It's narrated by Blue, the daughter of a professor who's moved her from place to place over the years since the death of her mother. For her senior year of high school, she ends up in Western NC (Pessl lives in Asheville) and falls in with the school's film teacher and her chosen favorite students. Honestly, I don't get why this novel is compared to Foer's work; the first half of it is way more reminiscent of Donna Tartt or Daniel Handler (the whole group of kids with slightly sinister undertones thing). Sure, Blue is precocious, but she's been raised by an academic who is set on sending her to Harvard, so I found her quoting of texts entirely believable and within character.

Anyway! A death occurs and the last part of the book is taken up with Blue trying to unravel some mysteries. Things twist and turn all over the place and it's pretty frigging awesome. This is definitely a contender for my top books of the year list. I might even have to buy it!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

nc, 2006 books 107 and 108

Amazing weekend in NC seeing some of my bestest friends, seeing rock shows, playing pool and shuffleboard and weird trivia games, eating at lots of yummy restaurants, doing the Rosh Hashanah thing, and generally having a great time. I read two books on my short airplane trips:

Lore Segal's Other People's Houses
Segal's memoir about her experiences as part of a children's transport from Belgium to Englans in 1938 cast her in a very unlikable role. It's weird that she paints herself as such a cruel person--was it for dramatic effect, or was she being deeply honest, or what? It's not a particularly harrowing story (her immediate family all makes it out of the country) and sometimes it's very hard to sympathize with Segal. Her mother, however, trying to hold the family together throughout some really rough times, comes off much better.

James Lasdun's Seven Lies
Why did I put this on hold at the library? Did I read a positive remark about it somewhere? Because it was pretty boring for a 200-page book. It's about a guy recounting how he and his wife got out of East Germany in the 80s, and it's described as "part political thriller, part [blah blah something about a portrait of desire]" but it wasn't either of those things, it was about a wishy-washy faker of a guy and he wasn't even interesting.

Gotta run, kitten needs attention!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Between seeing this awesome new toy and getting a Vosges (OH MY GOD DROOL!) catalog in the mail yesterday, I've had candy on the brain. I wish I had a spare five hundred bucks for Vosges' candy of the month club (it has a fancier name than that, of course), but I like having a place to sleep and a full fridge (full of food, I mean, not kittens).

But mmmmmm . . . candy.

Speaking of food: the history of the matzah ball! Be sure to read Joan Nathan's Q&A as well (scroll down--it's on the left) for more Rosh Hashanah tips. If I ever start baking again, I'm definitely trying her challah recipe. Mmmm. Freshly baked challah.

And speaking of Rosh Hashanah: I'll be in NC tomorrow!!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

2006 book 106

Nell Freudenberger's The Dissident
Really quick comments, b/c ANTM is about to start! When Freudenberger's Lucky Girls came out, I remember a lot of articles about how she was all young and pretty. I think from now on, the articles will be about her writing--b/c this book was DANG GOOD. It's about a Chinese revolutionary artists type who comes to LA on a fellowship to teach at a girls' school and do some art shows. This novel interweaves his story with that of the family hosting him, and all the characters are just really well drawn. So to speak. OK, tv time!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
In lieu of actual content, here is a gratuitous kitten photo! Lately Mr. Bond has taken to leaping inside the fridge whenever I open it, and immediately dashing to the back where I can't quite reach him and settling himself in. Maybe I need to turn up the a/c?

In other news, today I was told I was too young and cool-looking to be a librarian (hee!), and now I'm having one of those moments where I cannot find the one thing I'm looking for and have spent over an hour going through boxes (time that could have been spent reading my current read, which I'm quite enjoying). Dontcha hate that? In the midst of all that, I couldn't find the scissors I was using (yes, many of my boxes were still taped up--I don't have anywhere to put my comics, still) and was running around like a proverbial beheaded chicken--only to discover I'd actually put the scissors away. I still don't remember doing that, and really, it's very unlike me to put the scissors away. Which reminds me I should go put them away again.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

fall tv

Hooray--three of my shows start this week! I can't believe it's fall tv time already. I'm all set though, having rewatched all the episodes of Grey's that I hadn't seen recently. I think that's the premiere I'm most psyched for, though of course ANTM and Studio 60 should also provide an hour of entertainment each.

I'm sure you all know this already, but starting at 5 pm the WB is playing the pilots of some of its flagship shows to mark their last night on the air. Here's the perfect chance to get intrigued by tv shows you can then netflix!

In actual book news, the final Lemony Snicket book comes out on October 13th. The soundtrack by the Gothic Archies (a Stephin Merritt side project) will be released on October 9th. Spooky fun!

Friday, September 15, 2006

2006 book 105

Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story
Finally, I finished reading this over my lunch break today. I guess there's been a lot of hubbub that Carey, who's twice won the Booker, didn't make this year's shortlist. But I can tell you why right now: it wasn't a very good book. Its main character is a has-been Australian painter who falls in love with the wife of the son of a famous dead artist who's working some angle or another. The novel is narrated in turns by the painter and his brother, who has a very Lennie-from-Of-Mice-and-men feel, and who occasionally narrates phrases in all-caps for no discernable reason. Sigh. I hate when writers use some weird technique to try and make their narrative voice more interesting or whatever (I am thinking here of Ali Smith's latest, which I really hated, but which the folks over at Bookslut can't get enough of--so maybe some readers were into this little conceit of Carey's. Who knows). Plus there was a lot of that artist-behind-the-scenes/mentality-of-the-creation-process crap--I guess writers like to write what they know, but it's not too interesting for the non-artistic types. Anyway, lame book. The plot was really not that compelling either. Props for the cover art, though.

*insert crying here*

Stephen Colbert is coming here in November!

Only, it's the weekend I'm in DC for a conference.


No truthiness for me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

booker shortlist

Well dang, the book I'm currently reading didn't make it onto the Booker shortlist. I'm on the waitlist for the Waters novel, but the library doesn't have the others, so I guess I have to give up on the whole reading-the-Booker-noms thing for the time being. I need a sponsor to buy all those books for me and then I could have really plowed through 'em!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

mysteries of pittsburgh

Here is a really illuminating entry on the Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie from someone who was an extra in the punk scene. After reading that, I'm actually glad I wasn't in Pittsburgh. Poor book getting all screwed up by a crappy movie! [It's not my favorite Chabon book--it's very first-novel-y--but still a good story and doesn't deserve to be screwed up by movie people trying to make a buck.]

If they fuck with Kavalier and Clay like that, I'll really be pissed.

On the plus side, the new Chabon book is finally coming out in May!

Monday, September 11, 2006

mystery fruit revealed!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
It's grapefruit?!

I still have no idea where they're coming from, but at least my research has a direction now.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

mystery fruit

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
And now we shall commence with the story of the mystery fruit.

Around the time my parents were visiting me last month, I'd seen two random fruits in my front yard. Since my house is on a corner by a stop sign, I somehow thought that the two small, lime-looking items had been tossed there by an idiotic neighbor.

However! This morning I noticed three more of the things in the middle of my yard. They're all sort of near each other, making it easy to infer that they fell from the same tree or bush. But there are no fruit-bearing trees or bushes in my yard from what I can tell.

Can anyone identify this fruit so I can further my investigations? They're larger and rounder than limes and all of them are yellow and green (but not all of them look like this--one is green on one side and yellow on the other). I don't want to touch them b/c there are lots of bugs around, so can't comment on how heavy they are or what the outside feels like.

Maybe some animal dragged them into my yard (I did see paw prints on the outside of my rear window when I was backing out of the driveway yesterday), but they don't look like anything's been at them.

Any thoughts?

thank you!!!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Erin sent me an awesome package, which included several Florida-themed items, including these bad boys. They seem to be enjoying my backyard!

Friday, September 08, 2006

2006 book 104

Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Of course I had to break my usual no-short-stories rule for the latest Murakami collection--even though I'd already read about half of these in The New Yorker over the past couple of years (for a while there, new Murakami stories were my main incentive for subscribing, but I didn't renew it last summer and actually don't miss it much). There are plenty that follow the usual surreal/bizarre/intriguing Murakami formula, and a few that are sort of just sweet. My favorite was the one about kangaroos! I'm not sure I've ever seen Murakami do straight-up cute before.

In unrelated news, I call shenanigans on Nickelodeon. They're showing Ferris Bueller's Day Off and totally went overboard with the edits. I'm not talking about editing for content, but what I imagine was an edit for time--they removed the scene with Cameron communing with the Seurat painting, which I strongly believe is the emotional centerpoint of the film (with the swelling music and all). Lame! Shenanigans!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

2006 book 103

Dara Horn's In the Image
I know, I know, this really seems like one of those books I should have read before this point in my life, but somehow the description just didn't seem that interesting. It's hard to explain why the stories of an elderly man who attempts to befriend his deceased granddaughter's best friend, and how their lives intersect, are so engaging, but as each character's story unfolded I got more and more involved in the story. The only false note is a story-related retelling of the book of Job, which breaks up the narrative and makes the novel lose some momentum. Still, it was one of those books I read all in one sitting, so it definitely had plenty of redeeming qualities. My favorite character was the Spinoza scholar, but I think I'm predisposed to like those sorts of characters. :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

mail call!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Today was, like, the best mail day ever. First I got a package from my parents with all sorts of amazing cameras and accompanying doodads (and some cat toys for Mr. Bond, who currently is enamored of a fuzzy blue mouse). But I also had four of the Re-ment sets I've been obsessing over! This one is entitled "A day at the fair"; I also got "S'mores", "Morning Grab n' Go", and "Spaghetti and Meatballs" (which comes with the most amazing miniature cheese grater). I have not yet figured out how (or where) to best display these, but I am entirely enchanted with the level of detail on these tiny plastic foodstuffs.

In Pittsburgh news, I was thrilled to realize that one of the samples I've been hearing on the latest Girl Talk album was from Pittsburgh rock god Donnie Iris' "Ah! Leah!" (Wikipedia confirms this.) No one ever knows who Donnie Iris is and that song rocks. FINALLY I was vindicated! Of course, Girl Talk is from Pittsburgh so that might not actually count. Still, who knew Donnie Iris would sample so well under Fatman Scoop and the Waitresses? It really adds a nice touch.

I also got some stuff from my retirement fund and the latest issue of the Penn State alumni magazine. Good times.

Monday, September 04, 2006

2006 book 102

Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott's Which Brings me to You
I'd been putting off reading this one, because although I'm a fan of Baggott, I'm generally not a fan of Almond (though his advice column at Nextbook does have its moments). Anyway, this is an epistolary novel, letters back and forth between a couple who almost got it on at a wedding, but didn't, and now they're writing out their past romantic and life histories to each other. And I just could not suspend my disbelief at all. Seriously, even if the characters do turn out to be a professor and a photographer/artsy type, I just don't believe real people who aren't novelists would write letters like these, with such pretty and moving language and whatnot. And all the letters are LONG! Aside from middle schoolers, who writes such long notes in real life? Whatever, I mean, it was entertaining and well-written, I guess, but the premise (and the end) didn't really work for me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

2006 book 101

Louise Welsh's The Bullet Trick
I think this book is an excellent example of an author doing a good job of maintaining a story's tension. The novel centers on a Scottish magician; it flits back and forth over a year where he gets involved in all sorts of drama and something goes terribly wrong. I was on proverbial pins and needles waiting to see what it was (though it's not too hard to figure out, it's still an exciting read). I am pretty sure I liked the ending too, which wraps up neatly but not in a bad way.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Got the sad news this morning . . . Bobby O' Connor died last night. This article is not great (in their hurry to get it out, they obviously didn't do a good job fact-checking; Bobby's sister-in-law's last name is wrong) but I guess it's hard to write about something so sad. I'm glad not to be in Pittsburgh; apparently the television media is being pretty annoying about the whole thing.

Anyway, very sad news, and my thoughts are with O'Connor's family.

As an aside: the new mayor of Pittsburgh is younger than I am. That doesn't seem right, not least of all because Bobby didn't even get to be mayor for an entire year. He should have had more time.

Friday, September 01, 2006

2006 book 100

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I wanted the momentous book 100 to be a book I loved, so I couldn't take any chances on something new! I've had Harry Potter on the brain--book 7 might come out this summer and you know me and Christina will be waiting at midnight!--and this seemed like a good choice. I think it's the 4th time I've read it and I'm still just as eager to know what happens next!


Can someone explain to me why everyone loves Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? (I pretty much hated it--my hatred of it actually grew after I wrote those comments.) Lately I keep seeing people recommending it all over the place, and I really have trouble remembering anything redeeming in it. Did you like it? Can you tell me why???? When I think about that book, I want to throw it at a wall! Multiple times!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

guilty pleasure song

OK, it's time to just admit it publicly: after hearing it incessantly at the start of summer on HBO's promos, and for the last month on the new Grey's Anatomy promos, and just now on one of Scrubs' dramatic montages--I like that song "How to Save a Life" by the Fray. I totally can even sing along to it. I'm even considering downloading it from iTunes and putting it on a mix cd so I can sing along in my car.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

2006 book 99

A.B. Yehoshua's A Woman in Jerusalem
Woohoo, new Yehoshua novel! He's one of my favorite writers and this book did not disappoint. Shorter and less epic than many of his works, this story of a bakery's human resources manager trying to track down the identity of a woman killed in a terrorist attack is by turns bittersweet, hilarious, and heartbreaking. I'm pretty sure I once wrote a paper (in college, no doubt--it's such a college paper) arguing that with the publication of his then-latest work, A Journey to the End of the Millennium, the focus of his novels had shifted from Israel's relationship with external forces to internal forces battling within Israeli society--of course, this was at a time when things were going well with the peace talks, so that argument holds less weight now. That's all moot when it comes to this present novel, and I'm not in the analytical frame of mind anymore--I just know that I liked it a lot!

Anyway, my kitten is currently scratching the hell out of my legs as he attacks my shorts, so this seems as good a time as any to wrap it up. Book 100 is next!! I wonder what I'll decide is worthy of the honor of being my ONE HUNDREDTH BOOK OF THE YEAR!

Monday, August 28, 2006

another birthday

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
As you can probably tell, August is a big month for celebrations in my family. Today is my brother Phil's birthday! I hope it's a great one!

This will probably be the last baby photo for a while--although I have enjoyed mining a couple of albums gifted to me by the grandparents, there aren't any more birthdays coming up for several months. :)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

2006 book 98

John Barlow's Intoxicated: A Novel of Money, Madness, and the Invention of the World's Favorite Soft Drink
This was a somewhat silly but very entertaining novel about, well, the above subtitle. It all begins when a wealthy wool mill owner encounters a midget on a train; the two hatch a plan to create and market an amazing non-alcoholic beverage. The wealthy man's family (especially his wife) also come to play a huge role in the enterprise, as one son comes into his own and one keeps being an alcoholic jerk. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this one--it was a nice summer sort of read.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
there have been some complaints that i have not done enough to feature james bond on this blog (despite the flood of pictures on flickr), so here is an action shot of mr. bond attacking a kitten's natural enemy, a blue shoe.

i've been watching the comeback on dvd this weekend (between weekend work functions and erranding), which alternates between being very funny and being painfully awkward. so, good times.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Happy birthday, Daddy!

I actually think this picture is celebrating my 4th birthday, but it's cute and festive and all, so close enough!

I hope you have a great day and many more!

Friday, August 25, 2006

library book of the week

It's been a while since I've done this, but the book sitting on my desk right now is worth it! It's called Art Out of Time and it is amazing. I want a copy of my own!

i give up

I've given up on the book I've been reading all week--over a hundred pages into it, I still didn't care about the characters and just wished I was done, already. Then I remembered something Pinky said to me earlier this week: No law says you have to finish a library book.

So, Peter Orner's The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, I'm through with you! You were disappointing all around--I vaguely remember liking Orner's Esther Stories but he was way out of his element writing about Namibia (even if he has lived there) and his 1-3 page chapter, multiple narrator, annoying American-in-Namibia thing was no fun at all.

This is the first book I've given up on in a while (usually I slog through them looking for a redeeming quality, or to boost my numbers at least) but I see no reason to make myself crazy for 200 more pages.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Re-ment finally is available in stores, but they're all on the west coast and none seem to have websites. *cries* I demand access to adorable tiny plastic food!!! (One of the stores is named "Mishegoss"--hee!)

Unrelated: Triangle people--John Hodgman is coming back to town in October, so some of you go see him for me, ok?

Also, I get to see Little Miss Sunshine this weekend, yay!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


My Netflix queue is growing smaller by the day--I am soliciting some recommendations (please).

I only like to watch TV shows (don't ask), so maybe that will help narrow things down.

Currently in queue:
The Comeback
Firefly (can you believe I still haven't seen this?)
Deadwood season 1

TV shows I've Netflixed (or own on DVD) and love:
Six Feet Under
Grey's Anatomy
Freaks and Geeks
Greg the Bunny
Brideshead Revisited
Joan of Arcadia season 1 (I saw bits of season 2 when it aired, but it wasn't as good)
Arrested Development
Veronica Mars

TV shows I thought were ok:
Dead Like Me
Sports Night

TV shows I didn't get into:
Footballers' Wives

Help! What else is out there to watch?? Some of my favorite shows don't start till like October and I need something to watch while I knit and do crosswords and cuddle my poor sneezy kitty.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

2006 book 97

Amy Ephron's One Sunday Morning
It's funny that all the descriptions of this book (which all read something like, "When a group of society women in the 1920s catch sight of a young woman of their acquaintance leaving a hotel with someone else's fiance, they vow to keep it a secret. They don't know the whole story, yet the secret is spilled, with disastrous consquences for all!") make it seem so dramatic, when it isn't at all dramatic, and actually none of the consequences are disastrous or even troubling in any way. The ending felt partially tacked on and partially unresolved. This was a little slip of a book and was mildly entertaining, but honestly, there was no suspense at all and the ending really was pretty lame.