28.12.09

Notable Quotes

"Cary, you and I have nothing in common," she explains, "because you and I are from different worlds, and it's not just Mars and Venus. It's spaghetti and hydrogen. We're different categories."

24.12.09

The future of the book

This great post on Educating Alice describes some of the trends we say in the "noughties". Some of the items? The rise of literary non-fiction and YA literature that crosses the teen/20s bounderies. I'd add the re-editing of adult non-fiction books to appeal to younger readers (eg, Chasing Lincoln's Killers). And Literary Salon celebrates independent publishers.

Another trend, one I'm less happy about, is the rise - and expansion - of extras. Books Blog brings up some great reasons Why Not. My reasons? I. Don't. Care. Yes, sure, acknowledge your inspiration - or dedicate your work to someone (best recent dedications? The Series of Unfortunate Events). But many of the worst books I've read this year have had pages of dedications (don't thank your writing program!) and author Q&A (it doesn't make me want to read more to know what inspired you). Those Book Club 'helpers"? Create a website for them. Stop cluttering up my book, stop adding pages.

But what about the e-book phenomenon? No Shelf Required has a good round-up post, including this article in the Christian Science Monitor stating that it's in our future and will change the way we read. It's obvious that the lower pricing for e-books poses a threat for the current publishing model (Seth Grodin's response is a must read). Now, I don't think that books - printed, bound books, that is - will disappear in the same way VHS has. Why? It's not just the size and the lack of color and the lack of ability to lend and all the other negatives we now have. But think about pop-up books, like those by Sabuda. Or Pat-the-Bunny. Of course, trust the French to battle back (and the photo of Sarko? Priceless.) Less expected was Sherman Alexie's outburst.

I'm also thinking about the definition of "classic". To me, "classic" isn't just about the Books You Must Read. It's also those books that really speak to the individual reader; in other words, it varies from person to person and can encompass less-than-literary works. It'll almost certainly vary from decade to decade and generation to generation. Example? The Outsiders. 'nuff said. "Classic" also means something that I'd read again and again. One problem is that classics I enjoyed, and would re-read (and, ok, I'll admit it, push on my nieces/nephews/great-nieces) are now, perhaps, unsuitable for them. Why? That pesky politically correct thing. Bah.

Notice, I'm staying away from the whole question of the future of the bookstore.

Culture Vulturing

This should have gone in my previous post, but didn't because I'm getting old, and because this is more than just about the event.

In November I went to see Bob Newhart. Yes, he of the button down mind (I've checked. No hyphen.).

Was he funny? Yes, if you weren't expecting (and I wasn't) pee-in-your-pants humor. There were some genuinely funny moments, but far more often it was the 'comfortable chuckle' than the real laugh. That's ok, though. Chuckling is never a bad thing.

Remember, this is a man that has been doing a comedy routine for fifty years, and things have changed in that time. Things like political correctness. He started doing a routine and out popped an ethnic stereotype - someone (perhaps several someones) gasped. This apparently wasn't a new response, and so he then spent a few moments talking about comedy and stereotypes and the fact that we need to laugh at ourselves sometimes: "I'm Irish and German so I'm an organized drunk" (or words to that effect).

Now, none of his comments were Chris Rock raw. No vulgar language, for example. No "N-word". As I said, the routines elicited the comfortable chuckle. So why get upset when Bob pokes fun at the British, or the French, or whatever? Because we're now supposed to. Because being overly sensitive is now part of our daily life.

My argument isn't that he's old, so let's give him some latitude. It's that our failure to allow ourselves the ability and opportunity to lighten up, to chuckle (or even guffaw!) at ourselves, at stereotypes, at each other has led to a climate that isn't terribly funny so when someone like a Chris Rock comes along it seems all the funnier, with a dash of "I shouldn't laugh, but I'm going to" included.

Towards the end of the show he did one of his old, classic routines (in this case, the driving lesson). For me, one of the heartiest laughs of the evening came when he said "I've changed it a little - it throws me off to see people's lips moving when I'm doing it." I've heard, and don't know if it's true or apocryphal, that Bill Cosby was on Carson years after his famous Noah routine and Carson asked him to do a bit of it; Cosby couldn't remember the entire routine and Carson ended up doing the routine with Cosby chiming in with the "riiigght"s. That Bob Newhart knows we're not necessarily there to hear him debut new stuff and caters to the audience by giving us a classic morsel is to his credit.

The conclusion was a tribute to his career (and his family's history here, dating back pre-Revolution), ending with what I will always contend was the best finale to a tv series ever.

Culture Vulturing

From old... to young...

I was among the lucky: Leonard Cohen at MSG. Others may argue if it's John Cale or kd lang that interprets Hallelujah best, if you haven't heard the original, well... you just haven't heard it. M. Cohen drew an amazingly diverse crowd - all ages, all ethnicities. Each song was extremely familiar. Each song was completely new. Some of his mannerisms were a bit annoying (the dropping to his knees during just about every song) but his courtly presence made up for them. Truly one of the last chanteurs.

The next event? The Fall presentations from the Columbia Ballet Collaborative. I was very impressed this time around (as opposed to " enjoyed it" from the Spring). An interesting mix of "classic" ballet moves and more modern ones, and an eclectic choice of music made the program fly by, although Thing One questioned the presence of a ringer in the corps. The founders are now starting to leave Columbia, and I hope that the CBC continues without them.

21.12.09

Oh my stars!

A friend left a comment on my most recent review: "What does it take to get four stars from you? Is five even a possibility?"

The answer is, I gave four stars to A Fatal Grace. My last five-star review was for When You Reach Me. Yes, I'm stingy with the fours and fives, and part of the reason is GoodReads' scale.

To them, the scale runs:
  1. Didn't Like It
  2. It Was OK
  3. Liked It
  4. Really Liked It
  5. It Was Amazing
So I've translated that into Lazyspeak:
  1. A Waste Of Ink
  2. If You're Bored
  3. I'd Recommend This
  4. I'd Strongly Recommend This
  5. OMG I Want To Read This Again
I'm guessing that "0" means "Hated It" to them, while to me it means "Sue The Author For My Lost Hours Reading This Crap".

(of course, this is better than Netflix' scale, which jumps from "Liked It" to "Didn't Like It" with no stop at "Meh")

14.12.09

Notable Quotes

"I'm not sure Reine-Marie would be pleased if I became a librarian like her," said Gamache, looking over at his wife talking animatedly with Clara.

"I can just see both of you working at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Montreal, seething resentments between the aisles. Especially if you got promoted."

"That wouldn't happen. I can't spell. Have to sing the alphabet every time I look up a number in the phone book. Drives Reine-Marie crazy. But you want murderous feelings? Hang around librarians," confided Gamache. "All that silence. Gives them ideas."
A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny

30.11.09

Notable Quotes

Those who care, don't judge, and those who judge, don't care.
Living on Both Ends
(yes, I struggle with this daily)

27.11.09

Review Policy Update

First of all, go hereSunday Afternoon Visits: October 11: FTC, JOMB, and Book Awards for a cogent analysis of the differing opinions on the recent FTC guidelines (and to the This Is Not My Blogosphere for an "outside the litblog" perspective).

So, what, exactly is my review policy? I'll be upfront: I'm a biblioholic. Thing One thinks I need to cut back on my habit, and Thing Two would concur if he wasn't as into CDs/LPs as I am into books. I love me my free books, most of which I pick up at conferences (and some by asking, nicely, for a copy from the publisher).

Having said that, I'm not afraid to give a bad review. Free does not (in my mind) equal a quid pro quo for the positive review. As publishers hand out books, or leave them in great piles for us to take, they must realize that they run the risk of hearing criticism. The idea that some reviewers might accept more than a free book in exchange for their review? Abhorrent.

When I write a review, my goal is to give readers a bit of my reading experience (often difficult to do without spoiling, but I do try!). Publishers can take that or leave that, their choice.

14.11.09

Better late than never (aka My Review Policy)

I've been really slow in my reading the past couple of months, which may mean that I don't reach last year's record 180 read! Not quite sure why the slowdown or what the cure is, but it seems like a good time to talk about reviews.

As some of you may know, the FTC started issuing new guidelines about posting reviews, accepting ARCs, etc.. The Big Question on everyone's mind was: what will the fall-out be? Can I blog my reviews on my review blog, post them on FB, use GoodReads/LibraryThing, whatever? Even the Wall Street Journal weighed in.

The answer seems to be, I can do anything I want as long as I indicate where I got the book, and be upfront about any other compensation received. Unlike LizB, I'm not an Amazon Associate (although I will no longer point people to Powells when recommending or listing a book; I prefer "real" bookstores to Amazon, and yes I'm a snob about that. Deal with it.).

So what is a review? Shannon Hale has some good advice.

30.10.09

I just shouldn't be allowed out on my own...

I live in a Town about an hour north of NYC. It's a sprawling town, and there are some oddities (like, I have a street address there but vote/pay taxes in the next Town over and my fire district is a third Town). All the shopping and sidewalks and Post Office are in the smaller administrative unit. This isn't that unusual: my parents live in SmallTown, just outside SmallVillage.

Today I went to buy groceries and saw a sign that read "Hamlet Beautification Project" and the only thing that crossed my mind was, Isn't that why they cast Jude Law?

27.10.09

Ethical?

I've spent a little time over the past two days printing out invitations and planning my schedule for the upcoming AASL Conference. I was reminded of these posts, discussing the ethics of accepting perks from the vendors.

I've consulted for a few publishers, accepting free books in exchange. I've helped another with a new database, accepting a free trial. At conferences, I gladly go to the breakfasts and lunches they sponsor to learn about the new products (or twists on old ones). I'll pick up ARCs, pens, coffee mugs, posters.

Is this ethical? I won't promote a product I don't honestly believe in on this blog - and despite my accepting the freebie, I'll even denigrate one I think is bad (just look at some of my book reviews!). I don't think that the vendors are giving this stuff away to buy good press - although I'm sure they'd love it - or to guarantee a sale. If I treat all vendors, those with freebies and those without, equally, it's ethical.

Some have higher standards, but I suspect part of that comes from a position of higher visibility. If you can sway hundreds, or even influence them slightly, then it's best to not partake. If you speak for an organization, or are clearly associated with one (as I am, in other places and at other times), then a higher level is needed. But here, as Lazygal, I feel freer because I'm not speaking on anyone's behalf. Caveat venditor.

5.10.09

Notable Quotes

The shop's tables, I now sa, were covered with wooden blocks of varying sizes, each one carved with a single letter; the were literally the building blocks of words. There were also blocks carved with every imaginable mark of punctuation. He lifted one displaying a cartoonish "!" and put it in my hand.

"Have you ever held a shout before?" he asked. "How about a question?" He found a "?" in the pile of punctuation marks and placed it in my other hand. "Did you know that this is how a story is built? Inch by inch, line by line?"

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter, Peter Manseau

1.10.09

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Haven't been blogging as much, but I have been reading (and watching many Netflix - but that's another post!). So, what does Q3 bring? Not quite as stellar as Q, "only" 45 books read, but not bad. All reviews are over on Killin' Time Reading.

Biography

Children's/Young Adult

Fiction/Literature

Mystery

Non-Fiction

Science Fiction/Fantasy


Books left on Mt. Bookpile: 337
Books added: 62
Net gain/loss: +11

28.9.09

Notable Quotes

The past is never really done with, unless you consciously close the door to it with ritual and prayer. Otherwise, it will follow you forever.

27.9.09

Imponderables

Recently at MPOW, I received an invoice. Accompanying said invoice was a piece of paper saying that the vendor was, among other things, going green. So, here's what came out of the envelope:

That's right. Five pieces of paper, two of them copies of other pieces of paper.

Am I missing something in this whole Going Green thing?

24.9.09

Better Late Than Never (part one)

I should have posted this two days ago, but 10098 Days Till the End of the Year is still a healthy chunk of time, right? As Beth suggests,
For the past two years I have done the Goal's Guy 100 Day Challenge which supports you in your finishing up some of those goals... I want you to think of at least one goal you'd like to focus on for the rest of the year. You can make changes to your life.
I've been pondering the ways in which I can change my life in the next 98 days. One of the extra duties I have at MPOW is to be the Monitor on Duty. This requires me to stand in front of the Middle School for about 30min each morning for a week, greeting students as they arrive. We now have a No Talking on the Cell Phone While Driving rule on campus, but more important to the lives of our students is the way in which they're tied electronically to each other and their parents.

What's the connection? Just one post previously, Beth pleaded with us to Enjoy the People You Are With
Today was a gorgeous 74 degree day with a light breeze. The kids and I saw tons of people on our walk.

I also saw something that surprised me. Many of those people were talking on their cell phones completely ignoring the people they were with. Most which looked annoyed. Kids trying to talk to moms who aren't listening. Wives walking besides husbands who are listening to someone else. Husbands being ignored by wives chatting on the phone. Friends walking together, but one of them is talking on the phone.

What if we all resolved to enjoy the people we're with - to really listen to them, to turn off our electronic tethers to other people and be with just one person at a time? If "always" seems to be too much, what about just for the next 10098 days?

14.9.09

Music Meme

For a while over in Facebookland, people were listing the 50 music groups they'd seen live. I've seen no where near that many, but I think my list might qualify as one of the most eclectic:

David Bowie
Jethro Tull
Charles Aznavour
Bonnie Raitt (3 times)
Spyro Gyra
Rolling Stone
Eric Clapton
Lou Reed
Clannad
kd lang (2 times)
Li'l Ed & the Imperials / Koko Taylor
Charlie Musselwhite
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Bjork / Sigur Rus
Steely Dan
"Guns & Roses"
Blondie
Kiss / Aerosmith
Cat Power
Marianne Faithfull

And next month I'll see Leonard Cohen. Make of that list what you will!

3.9.09

Not the battle we need to fight

Several people pointed out this article in the NYTimes. In it, the "new, experimental" method of allowing student to choose their own books is highlighted. Nothing new there, and the comment that "Letting students choose their own books, they say, can help to build a lifelong love of reading" should inspire a huge DUH in all readers.

One of the comments I read was "where is the school library?" Really? That's what we're focusing on? Seriously, stop. This "we're the trained book people" has got to end. English teachers are perfectly qualified to help students choose books - at least, I'd hope they are! And who's to say that at these schools, the children don't choose their books from the library? So it's not mentioned. Get over it.

Monica's post about teaching reading sums up what I hope teachers are doing. No one could accuse Monica of not having a good relationship with her librarian (the incredible Fairrosa), or of working in a school that doesn't value the library..

I'm more concerned about Cushing Academy, where the library is being gutted in favor of electronic resources. At MPOW we're moving to more eBooks/databases than before, but the value of print still resonates. Even worse, at CA they don't appear to have librarians (or it's sloppy reporting and no one asked a librarian what they thought of this new phase). As one friend pointed out, they're using free resources, not paid-for databases. Free's good, don't get me wrong, but the implications of only using free is problematic: what if the resource suddenly becomes "pay for"? who assure the accuracy and usefulness of the resource and/or information? And devaluing the library in this way smacks of balancing a budget without thinking about the consequences. I'm also troubled by the statements from the students of using Google and Wikipedia as sources, rather than being taught how to do research and evaluating the information they find.

In short, let's pick our battles more carefully. A school encouraging readers does not necessarily mean it's a school that doesn't believe in libraries - but a school decimating its collection in favor of an internet cafe is to be fought at all costs.

Priorities, people.


ETA: There's a wonderful post and discussion on the YALSA blog about CA's decision.

25.8.09

How remiss of me!

While in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I stopped by the Doug Forsythe gallery. Marsha Forsythe's works spoke to me - so, of course, I had to pick up a print to add to my "gallery.

Nice, eh?

11.8.09

Culture Vulturing, Summer Edition

I've been a busy Lazygal over the past three weeks, spending time on travel and Culture. It's been fun - of course, the problem is, as always, being away from home and the comforts therein. Without further ado, here's what I've had going on in Chicago and Niagara-on-the-Lake:

Shows:
Up (Steppenwolf Theatre) I've been a fan of Steppenwolf since working (front of house) on Balm in Gilead in 1984. Yet I've never been to their theatre... until this summer. Up is based on the true story of Larry Walter's 1982 balloon/chair flight. I can see this transferring to Off-Broadway, because it's not a Big Play, something the current gods of Broadway seem to require.

Little Brother (Griffin Theatre) is an adaptation of Cory Doctorow's book/polemic against Homeland Security. The production was a little frenetic, and my first impression was that this would make a great college/high school production (it's akin to The Laramie Project). Beyond that... I clearly remember September 11, and don't want to live through another day like that one. Thing One's comment was that, as someone who had protested Vietnam and who held freedom dearly, watching people jump from the Twin Towers' windows made him reassess how he felt about losing some of those freedoms (for those of you that don't know, he works on Wall Street and his office literally overlooks The Pit - he saw the second plane go in to the Tower).

Brief EncountersBorn Yesterday* (Shaw Festival) is, of course, the play upon which the Judy Holliday movie is based (ok, there was also a remake but let's not dwell on that, shall we?). The Shaw's production has an incredible set and the main actors are wonderful in their roles. "Billie" did have a few ticks (it took me a while to realize she was more like Carol Burnett than Ms. Holliday), but the chemistry between her, Verrell, Brock and Devery was very real and made for many amusing (and dramatic moments).

Star Chamber (Shaw Festival) was part of the original Tonight at 8:30 series that Coward wrote - apparently he decided it was too on-the-nose and it has rarely been produced since. This year, the Shaw undertook to present all ten plays, something rarely done. Clearly, this was an update in terms of costume to the 1960s and the Mods but really the themes here are timeless. Self-absorbed actors? Check. Flustered and ignored lawyer? Check. Desire to Do Good albeit blindly? Check.

Albertine in Five Times (Shaw Festival) tells the story of Albertine's life using five actresses ranging from 20 to 70. Her sister interacts with all five, asking questions, prompting memories and helping Albertine make sense of (and come to grips with) her past. Tremblay's play is very powerful and I now need to see more of his works.

In Good King Charle's Days (Shaw Festival) reminded me why I never go to certain shows and talk about certain topics with my father, the Emeritus Professor of Physics. Since one of the leads here is Isaac Newton, of course he had an opinion - not about the acting, or the portrayal of the character, but on the historical figure (note, he's commenting on the person not the accuracy of the play). Thing One and I enjoyed the play up through the last act - yes, Shaw pontificates and bends history and does things to get his point across. But as a work of drama, the first two acts hold. The third act is very weak, and the ending? Let's not talk about that. Benedict Campbell's Charles was well-worth the next strain (we had second row seats), ditto Graeme Somerville's Newton and Ric Reid's George Fox. The others were varied in their abilities with only one totally miscast.

Back to Coward, with Play, Orchestra Play. Usually one thinks of Coward as a writer of relatively light, frothy fare, but in Shadow Play he disproves that. Fumed Oak reminded me of The Autograph Hound (henpecked husband finally rebels, except here he leaves), and Red Peppers had moments but mostly felt like bickering for bickering's sake. None of these grabbed me as Must See Again plays.

Finally, Brief Encounters brought my Coward total to seven. The performance was saw was the final one of an all-day Coward marathon put on by the Shaw. 300 intrepid souls made it to the end; we saw the last two shows of their day. Perhaps the knowledge that this was a Big Day inspired the actors, because this was the perfect series to end on. Hand Across the Sea was (is) the weakest of the series, again proving that Coward can be hit-or-miss. Even there, though, Thom Marriott manages to be watchable - and his Albert in Still Life is lovable. As for We Were Dancing, how many Coward plays leave for intermission with a Bollywood musical number? Truly an inspired choice.


Food in Chicago:
Pops for Champagne I love fries, and Pops has some of the best I've tasted. Couple that with some rose champagne...

Eno. Wine... cheese... chocolate. Who needs more? Oh, all right. Add some olives and charcuterie to the meal. (ps - try the Serena with your dessert)

Adobo Grill This is my new favorite Mexican restaurant! I'm a huge fan of avocado, but not such a huge fan of guacamole... until I ate here. They make it at your table. And the ahi tuna ceviche? Those two are all I need to have a yummy meal. (Thing One and I aren't sure if it's better than, or equal to, Tamales... guess we'll have to eat at both again and judge!)

Misc:
Shedd Aquarium (Chicago) The last time I was at an aquarium was in the early 1980s. Perhaps I've held on to some romantic notions of what they're like, but the Shedd didn't live up to any of them. A visit to Coney Island or Boston is called for, methinks.

Peller Vineyards
and Inniskillen Winery - two of the many that dot the Niagara peninsula. Lunch at the Peller is a must, but take a tour of the many vineyards; I promise you'll develop a real appreciation of icewine.

Nothing cultural on the calendar for quite some time - I trust you'll agree that I've been there, doing quite a lot and now deserve some time with my books and Netflix.



* thanks to Everything O for pointing out embarassing typo!

4.8.09

Building an ARC

(I know, it should be "ark" and honestly, given that the Pacific Northwest and the Atlantic Northeast seem to have traded places this summer that wouldn't be bad but this post is about books, not boats)

Sassy, among others, complained that there were too few ARCs at the recent ALA conference. Me? I got about 60, my norm. Granted, I grabbed with abandon, but I could have gotten more had I been less discriminating. The trick? Get 'em first thing in the morning, Day One of conference. Beyond that they were pretty scarce on the ground.

LizB and I had a conversation about the whole business about blogging and ARCs. There's been a movement from someone (the IRS? someone else?) that I agree with... sort of. Yes, if you're provided with a product and then paid to review it, you should consider that as "income". But people like me and my bunhead friends who pick up free copies of books, read them and then review? Not so much. On the other hand, I completely agree that we should be transparent about where our books come from - if they're from the publisher, whether requested, won in a twitter contest, or grabbed from a pile in a made frenzy, say so.

The blog with integrity movement makes sense.
BlogWithIntegrity.com


The other issue we talked about is that there seem to be fewer ARCs out there, that publishers are cutting back the number sent and to whom they send them. That's too bad. Not just because I love me some free books, but because it lessens the number of opinions Out There about said books. Granted, not everyone that gets an ARC blogs. But the vast majority of my friends that read ARCs are enthusiastic readers and equally enthusiastic pushers of books.

When I read The Lightning Thief, I knew I'd found a great series. And I've raved about it here. Reading that ARC was so exciting: my next step was to talk to a student, Jacob, and tell him about it. How the lead character reminded me of him and how I knew - just knew - he'd love this book. Know what? He did.

Getting ARCs of new series (eg, The Hunger Games) but an established authors of other series is great. Ditto new directions by authors (I'm thinking Benjamin Black, aka John Banville). New authors? Wonderful. More, please. What I don't need quite so much are second books in a series (although I did not pass up the new Skulduggery Pleasant or Catching Fire), so if publishers are looking to cut back, there's a great place.

The thing is, we rely on three sources for ideas for our next read: friends we trust, professional book reviews, and professional readers (book bloggers and librarians). Cutting back on that will lower the excitement for new books, new authors, new series, and stifle conversation about books. Honestly now: when was the last time you read a bad book review in the newspaper? or a bad book blurb? And how many books a week (or month, or year) does your local paper review?

So bring on the ARCs, bring on the conversation. And let's be honest about where we got our copy. Win-win-win.

20.7.09

Notable Quotes

The ping of an email or chirrup of a text message promises instant communication without the intimacy of a handwritten letter.

19.7.09

I'm in love with a big, blue frog

Glasses? check
6' 3"? check
Rhythm? check
PhD? check
Best of all: he loves me!

So of course I had to buy this for my father:


(don't know the song? for shame!)




(And, ST, you can't possibly top this for an earworm)

1.7.09

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Another banner quarter with 66 books read - at this pace, I should hit over 200 books this year (a personal record!). All reviews are over on Lazygal Reads.

Biography
Milk: A Pictoral History of Harvey Milk; Dustin Lance Black
Leaving Glorytown; Eduardo Calcines
Duchess of Death; Richard Hack
A Round-Heeled Woman; Jane Juska
Hold On to Your Dreams; Tim Lawrence
In Hanuman's Hands; Cheeni Rao
alibaba; Liu Shiying

Children's/Young Adult
Chains; Laurie Halse Anderson
Murder at Midnight; Avi
What I Saw and How I Lied; Judy Blundell
Beige; Cecil Castellucci
Catching Fire; Suzanne Collins
Tombstone Tea; Joanne Dahme
Candle Man; Glenn Dakin
Metamorphosis: Junior Year; Betsy Franco
Secrets of Truth and Beauty; Megan Frazer
Inkdeath; Cornelia Funke
Angel in Vegas; Norma Howe
Back Home; Julia Keller
Sahwira; Caroline Marsden
Exposure; Mal Peet
Jimmy's Stars; Mary Ann Rodman
Immortal; Gillian Shields
Horrid Henry; Francesca Simon
How to Say Goodbye in Robot; Natalie Standiford
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love; Lauren Tarshis
Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have; Allen Zadoff

Fiction/Literature
The Children's Book; A.S. Byatt
The Winter Vault; Anne Michaels
The Moviegoer; Walker Percy
Goldengrove; Francine Prose
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle; David Wrobleski

Horror
ghostgirl:Homecoming; Tonya Hurley

Mystery
The Kill Call; Stephen Booth
Sworn to Silence; Linda Castillo
To Kill or Cure; Susanna Gregory
Midnight Fugue; Reginald Hill
The Blood Doctor; Barbara Vine

Non-Fiction
Totally Awesome Money Book for Kids, Revised and Updated Edition; Arthur Bochner
Other Powers; Barbara Goldsmith
Eco-Barons; Edward Humes
Three Cups of Tea (Young Readers Edition); Greg Mortenson
I Used to Know That; Caroline Taggart

Science Fiction/Fantasy
City of Ashes and City of Bones; Cassandra Clare

Books left on Mt. Bookpile: 326
Books added: 53
Net gain/loss: -13 (yay!)

21.6.09

Culture Vulturing Roundup

This is one of those "you should really get that post up... but there's an event soon so maybe if you wait you can add that" posts. In the interest of clearing the deck before the summer culture vulturing (I'm counting at least eight - 8 - plays scheduled already), here goes.

First event was the Columbia Ballet Collaborative's performance at Columbia. Some of you may have read about them in the NYTimes, and when I received an invitation to see them in action, I grabbed the opportunity. Full disclosure: I know several of the dancers from MFPOW. So, how was it? The solos by Emily Hayden, Lydia Walker and Tess Reichlen ("on loan" from NYCB) were wonderful. The other dancers were varying degrees of great to pretty good - the telling thing (for me) was whether they'd had Ballenchine's training, and who the choreographer was. While not everyone gets a position in a company, there's something about that training that means the lines are a little crisper, the technique just a little sharper... others can be good, but, well, not quite as good. And some of the choreography didn't seem to showcase the girls well; there were one or two pieces that were a little too experimental for this old fogie.


Thanks to my prep school's efforts to not just be about fundraising! They scheduled a "Perfect Pairings" event (wine + food) at the Sean Kelly Gallery. At that time, the exhibit was of Gavin Turk's works, an artist completely new to me. According to the curator, Turk is one of the Young British Artists, exploring the bounderies of art, expression, identity, etc.. I loved his take on Pollack, where he deliberately dribbled his name over and over and over again, ultimately obscuring it and creating an abstract work with hidden depth (something I don't always find with Pollack). Definitely an artist to watch.

The next stop on my cultural tour was Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. Why? To hear Solange Merdinian perform Vayomer Shlomo (a new work by Judd Greenstein, created as part of the Osvaldo Golijob and Dawn Upshaw Young Artists Concert program). Thing One and I sat through the first piece, which was a little like Yma Sumac-meets-Philip-Glass, so we didn't have high hopes for this one. How wrong we were. As Greenstein says "Vayomer Shlomo is a philosophical/musical rumination on the meaning of the King Solomon story, and the texts ascribed to him by later writers. OK, wake up. The thing is, it's also my most successful integration of a number of musical influences - Afro Beat, 70s Steve Reich, and western vocal technique. Doesn't that sound a lot more interesting? Seriously, this piece is no joke." If you get a chance to hear it, go. You'll be pleasantly surprised (and if you get a chance to hear Solange, run!).

Finally, there was the annual trek to SAB's Workshop. This year they opened with Serenade, which I'd never seen. It was just stunning - the technique, the grace, the choreography. (No, I'm not the best reviewer; I know what I like, but putting it into words is sometimes difficult). The next piece was one of those "ooooh! cute!" pieces, Harlequinade, starring SAB dancers as young as (I'm guessing) 6. You can't go wrong with cute kids in adorable costumes dancing on a big stage, can you? Finally, Stars and Stripes, with a huge cast and crowd pleasing music. This was the second time I'd seen this work, and both times it reminded me of my (mercifully) brief career as a dancer: year-end-recital that entertains and showcases the best while making the others look good as well. Not that I, or my classmates, were anywhere near SAB's standards, but it felt the same.
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What good is culture without good food, or wine?

While not quite the Quest for the Perfect Blueberry Muffin, good pizza is something I'm always up for. SwissToni'd mentioned Lucali and, well, it's right around the corner from where Thing One and I used to live. So, of course, we had to try it. While I wouldn't say "go to Brooklyn just for this pizza", GQ seems to say that and who am I (or you) to argue with GQ? (A good second is La Pizzetta, also near Thing One.)

As mentioned up above, the Gavin Turk exhibit was part of a "pefect pairing". Who knew that there were wines that went really well with deviled eggs? or tuna ceviche? Well, Sarah Sutel at Pour Wine knows, and a whole lot more besides. She's in my Delicious links, and when I run out of wine, I'm heading on over to get some great wines to go with my usual nosh.

____

There you have it. Look for more food and fun reviews in late August, post conferences and post vacation.

Dear John

(by which I mean "NYTimes")

After 30+ years of togetherness, I'm calling it quits. You've gone from my daily read to weekends only and now? Let's just say that when we were in the early stages of our relationship, I could spend hours with you on Sunday. Today? I clocked it at 47 minutes (not including the Magazine). Thanks to your last price increase, that's 47 minutes with a paper that will cost me more than I pay for coffee? No thanks.

I read your articles about Iran, the rogue cancer unit, the proposed health plan, the Tibetan monks, and the war crimes trial in Cambodia. The free-speech in MO was kind of interesting, but gangs in suburbia? Triboro postal markings? Why was the Mess in Albany next to the obituaries (perhaps that was meant as irony?)? Half an hour of real reading, 17 minutes of skimming to find something more to read. It's been that way for a while now.

The price jump is just too steep for me. I hung in there during your plagiarism problems, the cancellation of the TV section (which cost me the price of a TVGuide subscription), the more and more overt showing of your biases, etc.. But $5 for 47 minutes for all that?

For several years I've also subscribed to the Globe & Mail. It's not even close to being my local paper yet I find I get more out of it than I do your august pages.

So, Dear Times, we're going to have to say au revoir. If you go back to your former glory, maybe we can get back together again.

Fondly,

Lazygal

(ps - your Public Editor may have a point, but at $5 for 47 minutes, I repeat: no thanks)

30.4.09

Swine Flu

Having lived through a norovirus epidemic at work, I'm not all that worried about the swine flu (although having a compromised immune system might be a problem). However...

Thing One's niece attends St. Francis Prep. She had swine flu. Thing One's boss' daughter attends St. Francis Prep. She had swine flu. Thing One's boss? Yep, he has swine flu. So how is Thing One doing? HPOW has consulted lawyers, locked and disinfected at least one room, and has asked him to take the rest of the week off. He feels fine, despite having had a flu-like thing two weeks ago. Having seen his doctor last Saturday for an annual check-up, he even has a clean bill of health (for now).

MPOW is staying open... for now. With AP exams set to start next week, I can't see schools wanting to close (although the College Board should consider a reschedule given the heightened sensitivity to this outbreak).

I've been working with my 8th graders, asking them to synthesize their research know-how to find out the truth behind the virus (surprise! you can't get it if you eat pork products). Perhaps they'll be able to help quell any fears in our Middle School. Still, people are nervous and the media aren't helping.

Yes, it's a pandemic. Yes, washing your hands will help. Yes, you have the right to be concerned. But no, you don't have the right to panic and spread fear. Just get informed. And be careful out there.

6.4.09

Notable Quotes

My family did the same ridiculous thing on their trips, posing in every picture they took, the landmark out of focus and obscured behind them -- a subtle and subversive proclamation that my family, with their clothes wrinkled by travel, the boredom poorly masked by the we're-taking-a-picture-now smile, was far more important than the eye-candy that had inspired removing the lens cover.
Cheeni Rao, In Hanuman's Hands

1.4.09

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Wow! What a quarter: 57 books read (35 in March alone). Reviews for all books can be found on Lazygal Reads.

Biography
A Different Life, Quinn Bradlee
The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris

Children's/Young Adult
Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson
The Amaranth Enchantment, Julie Berry
No Such Creature, Giles Blunt
Darkwood, M.E. Breen
Skeleton Creek, Patrick Carman
Fire, Kristen Cashore
Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Gennifer Choldenko
The Secrets of Greymoor, Clara Gillow Clark
The Plague, Joanne Dahme
Never Cry Werewolf, Heather Davis
Along for the Ride, Sarah Dessen
If I Stay, Gayle Forman
The Homeschool Liberation League, Lucy Frank
Operation Redwood, Susannah T. French
Deep in the Heart of High School, Veronica Goldbach
The Softwire: Worm Hole Pirates on Orbis 3, PJ Haarsma
A Taste for Red, Lewis Harris
North of Beautiful, Justine Chen Headley
Breathing, Cheryl Renee Herbsman
Need, Carrie Jones
Skunk Girl, Sheba Karim
Also Known as Harper, Ann Heywood Leal
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, Kristin Levine
Well Between the Worlds, Sam Llewellyn
Fragile Eternity, Melissa Marr
Jack Tumor, Anthony McGowan
Peace, Love and Baby Ducks, Lauren Myracle
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Twenty Boy Summer, Sarah Ockler
TMI, Sarah Quigley
Punkzilla, Adam Rapp
When the Whistle Blows, Frank Slayton
Strange Angels, Lili St. Crow
Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork
Chasing Lincoln's Killer, James L. Swanson
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nagaru Tanigawa
Access Denied (and other eighth grade error messages), Denise Vega
Peace, Locomotion, Jacqueline Woodson
Absolutely Maybe, Lisa Yee

Fiction/Literature
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
You or Something Like You, Chandler Burr
The Moonflower Vine, Jetta Carlton
Don't Cry, Mary Gaitskill
The Believers, Zoe Heller
The Taqwacores, Michael Knight
The Blue Notebook, James Levine
The Bellini Madonna, Elizabeth Lowry
While I'm Falling, Laura Moriarty
Love or Something Like It, Deidre Shaw
The Weight of Heaven, Thrity Umrigar

Horror
The Birthing House, Christopher Ransom

Mystery
Darling Jim, Christian Moerk
Bone by Bone, Carol O'Connell

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Dark Volume, Gordon Dahlquist

Books on Mt. Bookpile: 339
Added: 67
Net Gain: 10

30.3.09

Notable Quotes

"Things are different now," I said. "Kids grow up faster."
My mom shook her head. "No, they don't. You're just exposed to things at an earlier age. That doesn't mean you can handle them.
Denise Vega, Access Denied

29.3.09

Serial Questions

This post follows a discussion I had with some students at MPOW - I'd read Fire, the follow-up to Graceling and asked them about the idea of sequels, series and follow-ups.

Here's where the confusion started: Fire takes place in the same world as Graceling, but with a completely different set of characters. Does that make it a sequel? The argument could go both ways. What about a book like Leaven of Malice. It's part of a trilogy. Does sequel apply to the second book of two, or do we use "series"?

Mystery and science fiction authors often write entire series, and we don't talk about the "sequel" to the first book, we usually talk about the "follow-up". And what about books like Wide Sargasso Sea. Is that a sequel toJane Eyre? A follow-up?

How do we break down the differences when we talk to students about books? Does it matter?

16.3.09

Notable Quotes

When the soy farmers need to protect their crops from the harsh sun, they use veils of white plastic cloth with string woven through it; despite being lightweight and almost transparent, it is indestructible. Entire fields are swathed in this material, which resembles enormous sails. The white fluttering sails do not stop the sun from entering and making the crops grow; the clarity and intensity of the sun is dulled, however. This is true of regret. It is a veil, and like all human emotions it serves to soften the impact of reality. It is a failed belief that we cannot experience the true brilliance of the light, but it is through fear that we veil ourselves from that brilliance.
The Blue Notebook, James A. Levine

9.3.09

Notable Quotes

[A] friendship's like a garden.
You have to water it and tend it and care about it.
Stephen Sondheim, Franklin Shepard Inc.

8.3.09

Meeting Musings

The Meeting I attend is very small (almost laid down last year!) but there is strength in those numbers - some of the most gathered Meetings I've been in have been with only a few people Waiting.

Today, with the sun shining, we decided to have worship outside on folding chairs rather than inside on the benches. As I sat there, centering, waiting for (and listening to) the Light, my mind would sometimes wander. Each time it did, a breeze sprang up, as if to sweep away those thoughts and recenter me.

Truly, Someone was tending to my condition.

26.2.09

Reading... reading...

How many of you have seen the BBC Top 100 Books list? It's become quite the meme, found everywhere on Facebook and on blogs. There are problems with the list, none the least of which is the inclusion of both "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", and "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" and "Hamlet". Of course, any list compiled by survey is going to raise eyebrows and create problems.

Then there's The Western Canon, the 1,000 books you Must Read, and any number of other lists of great books, decided by various people based on various criteria.

Terry pointed out The Elegant Variation's comments on James Wood's take on the Western Canon.

My thoughts? If I look at all these lists, I get overwhelmed - I feel as though I don't read anything, as though I'm nearly illiterate. Nonsense, you say? Well, it's true... by their standards. Yes, I read more YA literature, more genre fiction, and fewer "quality" books than I might if I weren't working as a school librarian. Or I might not.

Letting lists like this define my fiction intake? A mental clutter habit I need to break. On the other hand, these lists do make for fun reading...

16.2.09

Notable Quotes

A snob, incidentally, I tell them, is interested in a person because they are of high class. An elitist is interested in a person because they are interesting. That's the difference

14.2.09

Things my mother was right about (in the past 24 hours)

Sometimes, mother really does know best. For example:
  • It wasn't very smart to not have chicken soup and saltines stockpiled (although I do get points for the ginger ale)
  • I really should listen to my stomach and not my tastebuds when feeling naseaus
  • When you're sick, ice cream = medicine. But only if it's vanilla
  • If you're really sick, add ginger ale to the ice cream.
  • A "fever" of 97.1 does not mean you're dying.
  • I will feel better in the morning.
  • Don't rush things.
Thanks mom!

11.2.09

18.1.09

Antidote to Lazy

Sometimes people think that I'm not really a lazy gal. Read this from Susan Pivan's blog:
I interviewed him for an article I’m writing for SELF magazine about how, according to Buddhist thought, being too busy, rather than a sign of success, is considered a sign of laziness. But how can being in-demand, committed, and loaded with responsibility be called lazy?! Because you’ve allowed your agenda to run you, not the other way around. ...
“Laziness,” David says, “is basically a lack of courage.” He describes being too busy and disorganized as a “pretty effective behavior to avoid the intensity of being alive. What you might find if you slow down is who you really are. (When you do,) you’re reminded of how magnificent you are.” Dramatic pause. “Are you ready to stand up to that?”
That's me. Too busy, too committed, too lazy.

17.1.09

Now this is just ugly

Young girl reviews book negatively. Author goes on offensive. (þ: Bookshelves of Doom)

I've had authors not like what I've said about their books. I've had readers not like what I write on my blog. And I've not liked books or blogposts I read. You know what? You put something out there, you open yourself to praise and condemnation. It's fine if you want to disagree with what you read or to defend your position, but to deny that someone's opinion is less than valid is just wrong.

12.1.09

Notable Quotes

Deliver me from timidity of spirit and from storminess...From all heedlessness in my behavior, deliver me O Lord.
St. Gertrude (þ: Kathleen Norris)

2.1.09

The year in words

It's been an interesting year in words, methinks. Which words are in, out and overused say so much about our culture and our times.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word of the year is bailout (any guesses why?). The runners-up held no surprises, unlike in 2004. On the other hand, Lake Superior State University says "bailout" is on 2009's banished words list.

Britannica Blog takes on those words dropped from the Oxford Children's Dictionary. They do have a point:
But let’s think for a moment about how a child might actually use one. Would the average child of today be likely to look up “blog,” “chatroom,” “celebrity,” “voicemail,” “broadband,” “MP3 player,” or (in Britain and Europe) “Euro”? Adding these to the book, as Oxford has now done, is just the lexicographer’s (or, more likely, his marketing manager’s) way of saying “look how up-to-date, not to say hep, we are!” Dictionaries are more likely to be used to look up words with which one is unfamiliar, wouldn’t you have said? Words that a thoroughly modern child is less likely than his grandparents to have encountered, words like “ivy,” “goblin,” “sin,” “aisle,” “heather,” “empire,” “monarch,” “mistletoe,” “abbey,” “willow,” “chapel,” “bishop,” “devil,” or “marzipan.” All of the latter have been removed from the dictionary.
It's true, isn't it? I don't look up words I know, I look up words I don't know. Can't imagine children are any different!

Whichever words you choose to use (or not use), have a verbose 2009.

1.1.09

Year-end Reading Round-up

Counting down from last year's 3952 books left to read, I've got 3773 more books enjoy. 329 of them are sitting on Mt. Bookpile as I type!

What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2008 reading analysis (2007 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2008: 180 (120)
best month: July - 29
worst month: April - 5
average read per month: 15 (10)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 6 (16)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 65 (44)
mystery as percentage of total: 13 (25)
books read that were published in 2008: 77

180 books... not as good as Jandys, perhaps, but not shabby either. The sad thing is that I also added 131 to Mt. Bookpile. Oh well, there's always 2009!

Other Reading Round-ups:
Asking the Wrong Questions
Bookgirl's Nightstand
So Many Books
And many, many links at Semicolon

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Biography:
Children's/Young Adult:
Fiction/Literature:
Mystery:
Non-Fiction:
Number removed from Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 35
Number added to Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 29
Net loss: 6
Status of Mt. Bookpike: 329 books to go!