Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Troopers

I've been needing new shoes for a while now, but more than merely my dread of shopping has kept me from purchasing a new pair. You see, I more than liked this last pair. I loved them. We had developed a bond that evolves only over long periods of time through shared experiences.

We went to restaurants, church servies, plays, and concerts. Together, we stood through hour after hour and semester after semester of classroom lectures. I felt their support as we stomped up and down sidewalks to the mental soundtrack of Carl Orff. Not even our chiropractor's no-heel mandate could drive us apart!

But then the other day, I felt something strange: only a thin, papery shell remained of what used to give the balls of my feet such firm support. The clicks of my heels had become clacks of bare nail against floor.

Ah, my dears!

Although I did not want to let you go, I could not remain deaf to your cries of pain. I want you to know, that although it may not have seemed so at the time, much thought and care went into choosing your replacements. Don't let those hastily-spent ten minutes at Shoe Carnival fool you.

Goodbye, my loves.

1/26/10: Troopers

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jack Frost Nipping at my Nose

One of the most fabulous things about living in South Florida would have to be the weather. I would say that's why so many people move here every year. (Especially old people who are tired of shoveling snow off their walks and are past the point in life when sledding sounds like a good idea.)

You will imagine the unpleasant shock I received this morning when I finally ventured outside, bundled six layers deep in all of the clothing that I own (with a giant trash-bag taped over the outer layer for wind resistance) when what to my wondering (and horrified) eyes should appear but this:

1/6/10: Winter

FROST on my WINDSHIELD!

After checking my Ford Focus manual for information, I was able at some length to activate two helpful features called "heat" and "defrost." Although I had seen those buttons on my dashboard before, of course, I had no inkling as to their purpose and had assumed that they were decorative rather than functional (much like the button that reads "Passenger Side Airbag On/Off.")

There is an upside to this turn of events, though: I have finally found a multipurpose use for my jumbo-sized beach blankets: they are spread over the top of my bed for warmth.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

For Better or For Worse

Today my Sister and I watched the live online streaming of our friend’s wedding. We were very excited. We started out sitting side-by-side with a tin of popcorn between us, although she soon migrated up to the couch, leaving me on the floor directly in front of the laptop stand.

My Sister says that this is a far superior way to attend weddings with me, as she claims that in the past I have been known to whisper loud comments of questionable appropriateness during ceremonies.

For some reason, we could not access the sound, so we settled for inventing our own dialogue. However, because we’re us, this did not last very long. We soon fell to squabbling.

Things we bickered about:
1. Whether the guy standing behind The Groom was his best man or his body guard.
2. Whether or not the white guy behind him was our friend The Gospel Magician.
3. Whether The Groom was using his handkerchief to wipe away sweat, tears, or both.
4. Whether or not he would dip The Bride during the kiss. (One of us may even have begun chanting “Dip HER! Dip HER!”, but it didn‘t work.)

The bickering lasted until the candle-lighting ceremony, at which time we argued the merits of substituting a cigarette-lighting ceremony instead (a Camel lighting). It was also during the candle lighting that I attempted to sing some special music, only to be interrupted when my Sister kicked me in the head and tried to claim that it was an accident.

During the long periods of talking, or points at which the bandwidth seemed to be overcome and the screen became stuck on a particular image, my Sister and I indulged in more light chanting (“Give us the KISS! Give us the KISS!“) and discussed various “What If” bridal scenarios:

1. What if The Groom’s attempt to produce the ring resulted in an epic fumble-roo-ski, with The Groom bobbling the ring countless times before losing control of it and having to run up the aisle all hunched over in an effort to catch it as it rolled away.
2. What if The Gospel Magician produced the rings by magic, such as pulling them out from behind The Bride’s ear (or making them appear from a magic bag like he does with his disappearing egg).
3. What if the pastor accidentally said “And now it is time for the bows” instead of saying vows.
4. What if instead of processing up the aisle at the end, The Bride and Groom asked The Gospel Magician to make them disappear completely and transport them directly to the reception hall, where they would be ready to greet their astonished guests at their leisure.

We then fell to discussing plans for our own future weddings, in the highly unlikely event that either of us ever has to plan one. We debated the merits of:

1. Conducting the ceremony in Pig Latin (with subtitles for audience members who are not part of our immediate family and are therefore likely to be less adept).
2. Producing a full-on opera, with all vows sung and accompanied by a live orchestra (conducted by The Director, of course, who will surely be over his Shingles by then). Regardless of which of us were to be the bride, I would don a helmet with horns sticking out of it, and my Sister would wear a bronze breastplate and carry a spear.
3. The appropriateness of my stomping up the aisle to “Dies Irae” (“The Day of Wrath,” from Mozart’s Requiem).
4. A Masquerade Wedding, in which everyone carries those sly little masks on sticks to hold up in front of their faces while speaking with exaggeratedly rounded vowel tones. In that case, there would be nothing for it but to use Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Masquerade” for the wedding march.
5. A Medieval Wedding Feast, complete with a roast pig, tankards of frothy beverages, jugglers, minstrels, and a Fool.

This last one, my Sister has actually been considering for some time. She genuinely believes that if she ever does get married, this is what she will do.

She also says that when she does, I will be The Fool.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Reading Review

6/17/09: How to Move Bookshelves - 4

Total number of books read: 110
Total Fiction: 84
Total Non-fic: 26

Fiction Breakdown:
Misc. Fiction: 38
Fantasy: 17
Young Adult: 14
Classics: 9
Sci-Fi.: 3
Mystery: 3

Non-Fic. Breakdown:
Misc. Non-Fic.: 7
Travel: 4
Theology/Devotional: 4
True Crime: 4
Humor: 3
Biography: 2
History: 2

THE BEST OF 2009:

Civil War Stories, Ambrose Bierce
I have no idea how to describe the writing of Ambrose Bierce other than to say that I was both mesmerized and mortified. I was mesmortified.

An Actual Life, Abigail Thomas
In An Actual Life, Abigail Thomas has created one of the freshest voices I've come across in quite a while. The protagonist, Virginia, is truly an unforgettable character. Unfortunately, the story is about an unhappy marriage, something I hate reading about, so that took away from the enjoyment factor for me. Still, if you're looking for a common tale told in an uncommon way, this one's worth picking up.

Down Under and A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
If Bill Bryson wrote soup can labels, I would pay good money to read them. He's that good.

Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care, John McWhorter
If Doing Our Own Thing had not already been recommended to me by my friend eattheolives, I would have decided to read it based on the title alone.Rather than merely decrying the loss of love for the English language demonstrated by America as a whole, John McWhorter analyzes the shift in attitude and attempts to trace it to its source. Interestingly enough (to my utter delight) he sees the more recent breakdown in education as a symptom rather than a cause. (That is, since English is no longer either valued as it was in the past, and since complete mastry is no longer required for all but a small crossection of society, schools no longer teach English as they were used to do.)The bottom line is that McWhorter made a fair few points, most of which I found valid. If you are at all interested in languages, how they change, and the reasons behind the shifts, you should pick up a copy of this book.

The Farseer Trilogy
The Liveship Traders
The Tawny Man Trilogy, all by Robin Hobb
Fantastic! Complex characterization, multilayered plots, well-textured prose, and rich details all blend together in perfect harmony.

Destined for the Throne: How Spiritual Warfare Prepares the Bride of Christ for Her Destiny, Paul Billheimer
For such a slim book, this took me much longer to read than I had anticipated. Each section left me with much to mull over and ponder. Not every idea in this book was new to me, but of course some of Billheimer's conclusions/applications were. I strongly recommend this to any Christian who takes his walk with the Lord seriously.

Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
Gives a new perspective what exactly contributes to a person's success. Entertaining, informative, and well worth picking up.

Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care, Kathleen Parker
Now here's something refreshing: "Traditional values are traditional for a reason. They have survived the passage of time because they work."Debunking the claims of radical feminism, highlighting the ridiculousness of irrational political correctness, and exposing the roots (or lack thereof) of popular cultural myths, Kathleen Parker makes a strong case for the saving of (true) American masculinity. Her snappy witticisms and clever turn of phrase smoothed the path and helped make a few of her topics - which I would normally find uncomfortable - more palatable. (The chapters on human childbirth and the "V-na Monologues," especially.)Although I can't say authoritatively that I endorse all of her sentiments, I would recommend this book to anyone who is concerned with the "girls-rule-boys-drool" direction that a large cross-section of our society seems bent on taking.

There Is No Me Without You, Melissa Faye Greene
In There Is No Me Without You, Melissa Fay Greene uses one of my increasingly favorite styles (journalistic narrative nonfiction) to paint with clear strokes a picture of Haregewoin Teferra, a woman on a seeming single-handed quest to save Ethiopia's nation of AIDS orphans. (Warning: read with a box of tissues at your elbow. I am not even kidding. One night I actually came stumbling out of my bedroom sobbing, swatting around blindly for tissues. I think I scared Bethany nearly to death.)

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Classic Story of Seduction and Murder, Ann Rule
When I reviewed this on Facebook right after I'd read it, all I could bring myself to type was "AIEEEEEEEE, creepy!" In all honesty, I read in a sort of horrified frenzy, falling so completely into the saga to the extent that I had to constantly remind myself that this entire drama played it out long ago. For days after finishing the book, I would not let Bethany sleep with our apartment windows open, although that feeling has worn off slightly with time. But seriously, folks. This book unnerved me. But I would totally read it again. Some day.

Dracula, Bram Stoker
From page one, I found myself completely mesmerized. The muted horror contrasts nicely with the elegance of the prose, making for a smooth -- though deliciously creepy -- read. As for characterization, both the central and auxiliary characters are nicely textured, and I actually find myself at a loss as to choosing a favorite from amongst them! Not to mention the fact that it's refreshing in this current literary climate of overwrought, melodramatic vampire obsession to read a story in which the monster takes his rightful place as villain in the tale, rather than mooning around and as one of my friends put it: falling in love with his dinner. (Note: now I feel the need to read The Historian again!)

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
Elegantly written and deliciously dark. Lock your doors, pull down the shades, brew a cup of coffee, burrow down under the covers, and prepare to be pleasantly creeped out!Also, I am now absolutely slathering to visit Highgate Cemetery. Fortunately, I have the tickets to England already booked, so there's a high possibility that my rampant curiosity will one day be satisfied!

Columbine, David Cullen
Well done, Dave Cullen. Fabulously documented, flawlessly written, and emotionally controlled. Once I started reading, I became so engrossed that I gobbled this book down in two days. (I even read the chapter notes at the end!)

Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, Morris Dickstein
Remarkably interesting and readable, especially considering how little exposure I had to 1930s popular culture prior to reading this book.