Wednesday, February 28, 2007

2007 books 23 and 24

Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy, eds. God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture
This was a collection of essays by people trying to identify religion-related themes in pop culture. Some of these essays worked (the one on the Simpsons was interesting, and I liked the one on southern barbeque for nostalgid reasons), but most were pretty specious. I mean, come on, I've been to enough Jimmy Buffett shows (what???? don't laugh!) to know that Parrotheads aren't in a religion. And don't even get me started on Cathy, the worst comic strip of all time.

Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen
A great recommendation from Elizabeth, this was the story of a young girl who finds herself apprenticed to Sherlock Holmes after his semi-retirement (for real, in which Holmes story does it say he retired to keep bees? Chabon's Final Solution had him doing that, too). Of course mysteries ensue and the two find themselves in a struggles for their lives! Actually this was the sort of mystery I really like--the twists were all surprises but they fit the story really well. A-.

Back to watching ANTM! That wacky Tyra!

Monday, February 26, 2007

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Just 'cause.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2006 book 22, quilts

Emily Mitchell's The Last Summer of the World
An excellent first novel about the noted photographer (not a noted fashion photographer, ANTM fans!) Edward Steichen and his experiences as an aerial photographer during WWI. While dealing with the horrors of war, he flashes back to various past events that led to the dissolution of his marriage. Interestingly, the author downplays some of his celebrity circle; although his close friendship with Rodin comes up a lot, and Gertrude Stein is mentioned now and then, the fact that Carl Sandburg was his brother-in-law only becomes apparent when reading the historical note at the end. I suppose those things are taken for granted by people familiar with Steichen; I'd never really heard his name, though cursory research revealed that I was familiar with many of his photographs. Anyway, I liked it well enough to read it all tonight, even during Battlestar Galactica. A.

In other news, I've started assembling the t-shirt quilt that I began working on back in 2001. Here's the quandary: when this stage is done, I'm going to have six rows of six squares each (and the next stage will be another six rows of six squares). Should I sew all of those together and make one big square and then stuff it and stuff, or should I sew each one of those a back and then stuff it and then sew them all together? Also, my mom suggested I actually make two t-shirt quilts instead of having it be double-sided. Besides the fact that that would be way more expensive, I kind of like the idea of it being double-sided, but I'm certainly open for suggestions as clearly I'm clueless about quilts.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

2007 book 21

Colleen McDannell's Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America
This was a really fun book examining the ways art and objects are used by Christians. It looks at everything from fancy bibles in the 1800s to cemetaries to Mormom garments to the current spate of Christian, well, everything. Its ample illustrations are pretty useful as well.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

graphic novel

I never know whether to count graphic novels toward the reading list, but I usually don't, so I'll just keep that trend going. Anyway, I read a really cute one tonight called Breaking Up. It's by some YA author I've never heard of, and features a pretty typical YA plot involving four friends torn asunder by popularity and boys, but the art was done by Christine Norrie (of Hopeless Savages fame) and really elevates the story.

I also got this Cute Book, which made me think of Stef for so many reasons, and some other great comics, including the four new issues of Castle Waiting, which I am so excited is back in regular publication!

Monday, February 19, 2007


So the Israeli chick was finally introduced tonight! Not that you'd know it from the actress--in her first scene, she was totally unaccented, and in the second she sounded Scottish. I actually have mixed feelings about her character--on the one hand, her mythic heroic matriarchal lineage is just so cliche, but on the other hand, it is pretty comic book-y.

And anyway, it's always nice to see a Stan Lee cameo.

2007 book 20

Tove Jansson's The Summer Book
Jansson, best known for the Moomin comics, apparently also wrote some novels. This seems to be the most popular; translations are still in print. It consists of a series of small stories about a moody little girl and her aging grandmother who spend the summer together on a small island in Finland. They encounter all sorts of nature--Jansson's descriptions of the water are especially nice--and, of course, themselves. Or whatever. Really a nice read.

Friday, February 16, 2007

2007 book 19

I came back from vacation with a pretty wicked cold, so I've been all lazy and stuff and hadn't been reading (plus reading is more fun when you're doing it on a pool chair). I am due for more cold meds now, so this will be brief.

David Long's The Inhabited World
It's about a guy who killed himself and has been hanging around his old house in a sort of purgatory for ten years. As he watches its latest inhabitant try to make a change in her own life, the story of his slowly unfolds. Pretty good stuff--I read it in one sitting. A-.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Is this for real?

It almost makes me want a Wii. Hilarious.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

2007 book 18

Ian Sansom's The Case of the Missing Books: A Mobile Library Mystery
My mom--an avid mystery reader--suggested I read this, since the main character is a Jewish librarian. Hee. Anyway, this is the coziest of coziest mysteries, a slapstick fish-out-of-water comedy of errors, featuring Israel Armstong, a Londoner who comes to a small town in Ireland to be their librarian. He has several problems with his new situation, not least of which is that all the books are missing. Oh no! Apparently this is going to be the first book in a series, and there are plenty of characters and small-town intrigues for latter books. Anyway, it was really cute. A-.

2006 books 14, 15, 16, 17

As you all well know, my favorite thing about vacations is getting lots of reading done! Which I managed to do once again, even though I actually drove here and didn't have that valuable waiting-around-in-airports reading time.

Calvin Baker's Dominion
Actually, that Gary Nash book I read for class a couple weeks ago turned out to be pretty good backround reading for this historical novel, which centers on a freed slave in the early 1700s, as he tries to build a life for himself and his family. There are brief interludes of the supernatural, but on the whole this is a novel about family, homesteads, and the Revolutionary War. A.

Lisa Unger's Beautiful Lies and Slivers of Truth
These suspense/mystery novels focus on a young New Yorker named Ridley Jones, who in the first one finds herself caught up in a search for her identity that quickly takes some sinister turns (the big surprise ending--which didn't quite work for me--was actually ruined by a review I read of the sequel, so if you want to remain unspoiled, avoid the media, or whatever). The sequel is more of the same, pretty much. There are a few false notes--a little too much New York name-brand dropping, which was distracting from the main thrust of the story, and some poorly written love scenes (I don't like the phrase "silky hardness", even if it is just referring to abs. It's a little romance novel-y)--but on the whole these were engaging stories, perfect for reading while working on my tan. B for both.

Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl
This reread is our next library book discussion book; it mainly deals with a lonely and troubled young half-Nigerian, half-British girl who discovers her new friend isn't who she thought she was. This almost made my top books list of 2004 (I think it was 2004) but was beaten out by Diana Evans' 26a, which has some similar themes without as many of the supernatural elements. Still, it's really riveting--A.

I'll be back home tomorrow, at which point I'll upload photos and catch up on email.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

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I made vegan cupcakes for class tomorrow--my new favorite thing may be tiny cupcakes! These are chocolate with an amazingly tasty vegan frosting (the secret is maple syrup).

2006 book 13

John Lawrence and Robert Jewett's The Myth of the American Superhero
I have to give a presentation on this in class tomorrow, and I'm tired of articulating my thoughts. It's a good look at American mythology as expressed in pop culture (especially movies), for the curious.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

aline kominsky-crumb

Here's a link to a podcast thingie with Aline-Kominsky Crumb! A couple excerpts from her comics can also be found at the link; the one about the nose job was featured prominently in my master's paper.

Monday, February 05, 2007

chabon in pittsburgh

Michael Chabon (along with his wife, Ayelet Waldman) is speaking in Pittsburgh tonight! Apparently professional book reviewers have already received review copies of The Yiddish Policeman's Union--I am of course seething with jealousy. I wanna read it NOW!

Sorry for the radio silence this weekend--Saturday was movie night (All About my Mother and Psycho Beach Party really work as a double feature) and Sunday featured Super Bowl shenanigans (I forced my hosts to put the Puppy Bowl on picture-in-picture, and then left at the start of the third quarter so I could better watch the puppies and kitty halftime show. C'mon, you know I don't care about football unless one of the, like, three teams I sort of care about are involved). Oh, I also spent most of the rest of my time this weekend napping and/or watching "The Vicar of Dibley" from Netflix, so I didn't get much reading done.

Oh, now what the heck! Why didn't anyone tell me Chabon was starting his NY Times novel-serialization project last weekend??

Friday, February 02, 2007

happy groundhog's day!

When I was a little girl growing up in Pittsburgh, a classmate's grandparents lived in Punxsutawney, and every year on groundhog's day, her grandmother brought us groundhog cookies, and every year I agonized over whether or not it was rude to take off the raisin eye before I ate one. (I hate raisins.) I think someday I'll make groundhog day cookies, and use chocolate chips for their adorable beady little eyes!

Speaking of baked goods, a (male) co-worker, upon eating one of my cupcakes, just told me that the man who finally catches me will be a very fat man. That's very sweet . . . I think.

PS. I am wearing these shoes today. HOT.