Saturday, January 24, 2009

Today we went to Comicon.

Lou Ferrigno was there. He still looks strong enough to lift a car over his head and throw it. I loved watching The Incredible Hulk when I was a kid. It was kind of surreal seeing him sitting there. I kept waiting for him to turn green and smash the table in half. Too bad it was $30 for an autograph and a picture.

My favorite part was seeing so many of the attendees dressed up. Most of them wore costumes and accessories they made themselves, of characters I did not know. There were several Jokers a la Heath Ledger, with messed up make-up wearing nurses uniforms. Scary. It made me feel happy though that all of these people had a place to go and be these other people without being looked at weirdly and, conversely, be revered. A lot of them were teenagers. At one point we were outside and there were hundreds of teenagers sitting around the lawn area in their un-vogue outfits. It made me feel like we were at the world's strangest high school, where everyone in their uniqueness fit in.

My favorite was a woman who was probably in her 80s walking around with a walker dressed up like Wonder Woman. She even wore blue shorts with stars on them. I pumped my fist in the air in my mind. Yes! I hope I remember to still be fun when I'm her age.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Only 285 shopping days until my birthday

They're not even made in China:
Or you get a Sharpie and make one yourself. I'll never know the difference.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, or 1 More Reason to Change Myself & My American Ways

I thought this book was going to be more anecdotal, but it was still super nonetheless because Barbara Kingsolver rules! The Kingsolver family vows that for one year they are only going to eat food they grow themselves, or that they can buy locally. They each get one caveat food but the rest is farmer friendly.

Within the tale of their experiment, I also learned the disgusting facts of our American food: how much fuel is used getting food to our stores (about $22 billion in tax dollars annually), how the Farm Bill no longer helps farmers and is instead used for corporate welfare, why 52 countries have banned our beef, why corn syrup is in everything and how it's making us fatter, why turkeys don't have sex, and why genetically modified food is so scary. Just to start with. Also the average household pays $725 in food-related taxes per year, some of which goes to the fuel mentioned above, and some of which pays for pesticides and chemical cleanups. Ouch.

It's not just a story to frighten you into growing your own food. Barbara shows you how to find a local farmers' market, and how to get involved politically to support local agriculture and healthy child nutrition. You can learn how to make your own cheese. Her daughter shares recipes.

Reading this book inspired me to take a personal field trip to my grocery store to see what I could buy from Arizona. I was shocked to discover that if I was going to go on the Kingsolver diet, Corey and I would have to survive on chocolate milk, bread, and honey. Those are the only things I could find from Arizona! I suppose we could also eat the grapefruits and oranges we grow in our backyard, but I can't say there were many recipes in the book for grapefruit honey casseroles. The other thing I noticed that was kind of disturbing is that all of the beef said it was from Canada, the United States, or Mexico. Thanks for narrowing it down for us.

Saddest Fact: "In India...150,000 farmers have committed suicide--often by drinking pesticide, to underscore the point--after being bankrupted by costly chemicals in a cycle of debt created by ties to corporate agriculture."

Most Awesome Arguments Against Buying Local Food:
Christian Science Monitor claims, " much local focus could breed 'unhealthy provincialism.'"
"John Clark, a developmental specialist for (where else) the World Bank argued that 'what are sweatshop jobs for us may be a dream job' for someone else--presumably meaning those folks who earn a few dreamy bucks from Dole, Kraft, Unilever, or Archer Daniel Midlands--'but all that goes out the window if we only buy local.'"

Funniest Quote: "I don't think of myself as the type to ply turkey menfolk with brandy and hoodwink them into fatherhood. But a girl needs to know her options."

So we've been boycotting Wal-Mart, we drive a Prius, we try to buy less from China, we helped the whales, we voted for Obama, and I guess now we'll have to add buying Holsum or Aunt Hattie's bread and going the the farmers' market to the list of things we're trying to do to make the world a better place. Barbara says, "Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't, add up to having been the thing that mattered." I hope they do!

P.S. This book fulfills my Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge to read a book with a food name in the title.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Feeling Good

The song I've had in my head since I was driving to work this morning:
Feeling Good by Nina Simone

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by you know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me yeah
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good

Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don't you know
Butterflies all havin' fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That's what I mean

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me

Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
Oh I'm feeling good

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's good to be back.

Monday I started back to school. I'm finally down to 21 students and it's so nice! I can actually spend one-on-one time with them. Weird.

Today one of my students told me, "My sister taught me this is my left and this is my right."
My response was, "Wow! Your sister is a good teacher!"
My student's reply was, "No she's not! She's just a kid!"

P.S. The crayon carvings were done by Diem Chau.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I just finished Brave New World this morning. This story gives us a picture of the future if science ran amok -- where people are not born, but made in test tubes, and are fed subliminal messages throughout their institutionalized upbringing.

At first I thought this was going to be a story about a strictly capitalistic society; one subliminal is, "Ending is better than mending." By the end of the book it's clear that Mustapha Mond (who I pictured as Daniel Day Lewis) just wants to control the population in general so there isn't any upheaval.

I actually grappled with whether or not a world as described in this book would be ideal or not. A caste system is in place, and an individual's position is based on how much alcohol they put in their test tube. Smarter people are then placed at the top, and dumber (more alcohol) at the bottom. Everyone has drugs (Soma) to take to keep them happy. People are preconditioned not to fear death, so no one is sad when someone dies. A world where there isn't any sadness or fighting sounds nice, but of course what is lost? In exchange you become a zombie, who never experiences true joy, art, or an intimate relationship.

PNEUMATIC, BRACHYCEPHALIC, SOLECISM, VIVIPAROUS - These words from the story sent me to the bookshelf to pull out the dictionary. I wound up just keeping it by my bed.

The fun thing about this book is that there are different main characters throughout. One person's story seamlessly becomes another's, all coming together to show us what a Brave New World would be like. I recommend it. The book...not mind control.

This is the first book for the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge; it's my Book With a Place Name in the Title.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Favorite Books of 2008

I read 25 books last year, and here are the 4 I recommend you read too. They are listed in the order I read them.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
I picked this book up off the bargain table at Borders for $6 because I was initially drawn to the cover. This story takes place during World War II and begins with the main character, a young boy, who loses his mom to disease. He develops Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a result, and escapes from life though reading books. One night he climbs through a crack in the garden wall and enters a world of twisted versions of the stories he's read. It's an amazing fairy tale with an incredible ending.

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
My book club selected this fictionalized story about artist/poet William Blake, who I hadn't even heard of before reading this book. This story takes place in England during the late 1700s. In order to overcome a family tragedy, a small town family moves to the city where they become neighbors with Blake and his wife. This is a tale of young love, the circus, the French Revolution, and especially of innocence, experience, and the crazy space between the two. I loved it and will definitely read more books by her!

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver is a genius! Ecology is the backdrop to this story where seemingly separate lives come together. A forest ranger falls for a coyote hunter from Wyoming; an entomologist inherits a farm when her husband dies and raises goats to try to save it; a crabby old man learns a lesson about environmentalism from his organic, apple-growing neighbor. I didn't want it to end.

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier by Diana and Michael Preston
I already wrote an entire blog post about my adoration of this book. Now that I'm done Corey is reading it!