Tony Hinkle: Coach for All Seasons

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Today's book; "Tony Hinkle is a Hoosier legend, a man of the 19th century who played it his way, an uncomplicated old-fashioned way, until 1970. In an era of televised college sports, big dollars, and professionalized college athletics, when the athletic departments of major schools are run like corporations, it is startling to think that Hinkle served from 1934 to 1970 as the head coach of the three major sports - basketball, baseball, and football - and was also Butler's athletic director, a post he held continuously from 1932 until his retirement."

Today's book was suggested by my Uncle Andy, who never misses a chance to bring Butler into the conversation. So naturally, he suggested I read a Butler-related book. Uncle Andy was a lineman for Butler in the year. . . well I won't tell you the year because I have a birthday coming in a few months and I don't want the quality of my gift to suffer (Note to Andy: The previous joke was in no way meant to imply that people would assume you were old if they knew the year, it was merely meant to be cute and clever. Love you.) Uncle Andy is a teensy bit obsessed with Butler, and he has made it his life's mission to convince as many of his relatives to attend as possible. When we were children he started what I like to call "The Butler Indoctrination Program," which consists of stories about how great Butler was, tuition related bribery, offering to give us Butler sweatshirts for birthday and Christmas gifts, finishing sentences that started with, "I want. . . " with ". . . to go to Butler. Yeah." And then there was the biggest attempt of all, when he took us on the trip that my sister refers to as "The Great Propaganda Tour of '97." The Propaganda Tour involved what we were told would be a day of shopping in Indianapolis, and a brief stop to the Butler campus. In this case brief should be translated to mean 3 hours in which we were forced to go on a nature walk through the campus, tour a few buildings (read: sneak into a few buildings and peek into the classrooms while trying not to get caught and thrown out), and stand and stare at the empty football field for what felt like an hour but was probably more like 20 minutes. I was always surprised when I would meet someone who had never heard of Butler, and then I had to remind myself that constant references to Butler weren't woven into the fabric of most people's childhoods.
I'm going to put up a few pictures now so you can feel like you've been on the Propaganda Tour as well:

I call this postcard, "Wow, we're looking at an empty building. Can we go now."

I call this picture, "Nature hike? No one told me this brief trip to the Butler campus was going to include a nature hike."

And I call this picture, "I'm bored. I'm going to go sit in the car. I'm really glad I brought a book along for this brief trip to campus."

As you can see from the picture captions, I was not as swept up in the magic as Andy had hoped I would be (not that it matters since I dropped out of the college that I did attend about 40 days after starting). But, all was not lost, the Propaganda Tour was 50% successful because my sister did end up going to Butler.

Like I said in a previous entry, the sounds of sports makes me feel like I'm losing the will to live. So I enjoyed today's book about as much as a person who hates sports could enjoy it. I didn't hate the book or anything, but the parts that talked directly about sports registered in my brain like, "Blah, blah, blah." Actually is registered more like "wahwahwah," like the way the adults talk in Charlie Brown.


"What's that you say? The rules of basketball were different in the 20's than they are now."


"The center jump was required after every point was scored."

I'm sure that information would have been fascinating to me if I had any idea how basketball is played now. But since I don't, I'm going to have to take the author's word for it that the whole center jump thing is different now. (If anyone would like to explain what the heck that means to me in the comments section, feel free, although I do have to request that you explain it to me the way you would a four year old because that's about the level I'm on when it comes to understanding sports.)

Fun facts about Tony Hinkle and basketball:

  • His real name is not Tony Hinkle - his real name is Paul. (I think the name Tony was a definite improvement. Although I probably shouldn't say that on a blog because every time I say I dislike a name there seems to be someone sitting very nearby who has that name or named their kid that. So, apologies to anyone named Paul. It is not the intent of this blog to emotionally harm anyone by the name of Paul. And for those of you who may have named your child Paul, all I have to say is: Paul? Really? Was that really the best you could do?)

  • Basketball was invented in December 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, by Dr. James Naismith. (And, because I never trust something just because I read it in a book once, I looked this up and discovered another fun fact: The first game was played using peach baskets as the basketball hoops, but since the baskets still contained bottoms, the basketball had to be retrieved manually every time a point was scored.)

So, dear readers, I leave you with this final thought, if you want to have a happy life, go to Butler. (I hope that last comment was enough to make up for the old age slip I almost made earlier in the entry. I guess I'll find out when my birthday rolls around).

The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Before I start today's entry, it's time for the end of the week count.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,775

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 2,368

PAGES - 31,102

Today's book; "A dying criminal confessed that his loot had been secreted "in the tower." Both towers of the mansion that had been looted were searched, but in vain. It remained for the Hardy boys to make an astonishing discovery that cleared up the mystery."

One of the dear readers of the blog (iv) and I are having our own little book club today - he's decided to get out his childhood copy of The Tower Treasure and read it today as well. Today is also his birthday, so that puts a little pressure on the book to be good, because who wants to read a crappy book on their birthday. So, Happy Birthday iv - I hope you had fun reading today's book. I certainly did. I'm a newly converted Hardy Boys fan (in fact, I think I liked it better than Nancy Drew).

Wholesome thoughts about today's book:

  • I'm so glad I was able to find the original version of this book, because I really didn't want to have to settle for the 50's butchered (I mean rewritten) version. When I read one of the Nancy Drew books all I could find was the 50's version and it felt like it lacked something (and the cover was hideous).

  • I really enjoy the introduction to the book. I usually find the introductions incredibly boring and they general give away too much of the plot - but this one focused on the process of creating the Hardy Boys series. My favorite line from the introduction was when the author discusses how it was decided that, ". . . relations between the Hardy boys and their girl friends would not go beyond the borders of wholesome friendship and discreet mutual esteem." I just love the way people talk in old books, apparently even in the introductions. I think from now on people should skip the usual "It's not you, it's me" breakup speech and instead say, "I don't think our relationship should go beyond the borders of wholesome friendship." Or the next time someone in public is undressing with their eyes you can walk over and say, "I certainly hope that look was meant to be one of discreet mutual esteem and nothing more." Of course there's the very real chance that the other person will have no idea what you're talking about - but I don't think you should let a little thing like that stand in your way.

  • I also loved the scene where the Hardy boys were almost run off the road by a roadster (I love that word by the way). Before you start thinking of me as a monster who enjoys seeing children almost die, let me assure you it was what came after they almost got run off the road that I was amused by. How did the Hardy boys respond to their near death experience? Did they panic? Why no, they're much too resourceful for that. Did they give the other guy the finger and call him every name in the book? Of course not, they're too wholesome for that (although there was that scandalous moment when one of the boys called him an idiot, and don't think I wasn't shocked by that moment). Instead, they gasped and called the guy a road hog. I think I'm going to take a lesson from the Hardy boys - the next time someone cuts me off in traffic I'm not going to yell profanity at him (not that I would ever do something like that), instead I'm going to be wholesome and retro and call him a road hog. Although, I'll probably be yelling it and shooting him a dirty look - which is a tactic I'm not sure the Hardy boys would approve of.

  • At one point during the book, Mr. Hardy (whose first name is Fenton - remind me to add that to my list of baby names for future children along with Hurd, which is the unfortunate name of another character in this book) returns home from work and his children are anxious to discuss with him any clues he may have gathered throughout the day at his job as a detective. But, alas, Mrs. Hardy spoils the fun because she doesn't want to hear about the clues. Or, as the book puts it, "She seldom asked questions about her husband's work, being of a gentle nature that instinctively shrank from any discussion of crime." Okay, show of Internet hands, who thinks that Mrs. Hardy isn't really all that gentle? Who thinks the real reason why she didn't ask questions is because she's bored to tears by her husband's work? My theory is that the real reason why she walks out of the room every time her husband starts with the shop talk is so she can escape the boredom, and so she can mutter stuff under her breath without the children hearing, stuff like, "Does he ever even bother to ask about my day? No he doesn't. And yet I'm supposed to hang on his every word and pretend like he's the most fascinating person who ever walked the face of the earth." Or maybe I'm reading too much into that scene.

Here's my favorite line of the book; "She was a faded blonde in a gown of a fashion fifteen years back, in which every color of the spectrum fought for supremacy." - That's such a eloquent way of saying, "My goodness would you look at that hideous, tacky outfit that woman is wearing."

Eight Men Out

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Today’s book was suggested by Matt who requested that I read this book for Opening Day. Unfortunately, the person who checked the book out from the library before me liked the book so much that they decided to keep it several weeks past it’s due date. So, sorry for the delay Matt.

Today’s book; "The headlines proclaimed the 1919 fix of the World Series and attempted cover-up as "the most gigantic sporting swindle in the history of America!" First published in 1963, Eight Men Out has become a timeless classic. Eliot Asinof has reconstructed the entire scene-by-scene story of the fantastic scandal in which eight Chicago White Sox players arranged with the nation's leading gamblers to throw the Series in Cincinnati. Mr. Asinof vividly describes the tense meetings, the hitches in the conniving, the actual plays in which the Series was thrown, the Grand Jury indictment, and the famous 1921 trial. Moving behind the scenes, he perceptively examines the motives and backgrounds of the players and the conditions that made the improbable fix all too possible. Here, too, is a graphic picture of the American underworld that managed the fix, the deeply shocked newspapermen who uncovered the story, and the war-exhausted nation that turned with relief and pride to the Series, only to be rocked by the scandal. Far more than a superbly told baseball story, this is a compelling slice of American history in the aftermath of World War I and at the cusp of the Roaring Twenties."
Thoughts on today's book:
  • I was a little bit nervous about reading today’s book - because I don’t like sports at all - in fact, the sound of sports on TV makes me feel like I’m losing the will to live. So I approached today’s book with a trepidation, fully expecting to be bored out of my mind by it. I’m happy to report that I was wrong - I really liked the book. Maybe it’s because baseball is the only sport I understand. Actually, understand might be too strong of a word in this case - it’s the only sport that I’m totally confused by. I was that kid in gym class standing in the middle of class, getting hit by the ball, while whining, "I don’t know how to play this game." Baseball was the only game I could play without embarrassing myself.
  • I found the story itself fascinating, but I think in the hands of the wrong writer I wouldn’t have enjoyed the story as much. I appreciate the way the author presented both sides of things. Some authors would have tried to paint the whole story as being completely black-and-white, or to turn it into a sermon (I can’t stand those kind of books). But instead, the author presents both sides, and so I walked away from the book feeling like I could understand both the outrage of the fans who felt duped (and justifiably so) and also the anger and frustration of those who threw the game (who were so clearly being taken advantage of by the team owner, Charles Comisky, who not only paid his team less than half of what lesser teams were paid, but often backed out of the deals he made with players in regards to bonuses, and it was written into the players contracts that if they didn't sign with the team again next year they wouldn't be able to play for any other team in the league) .
This entry is going to have to be shorter than I had intended (sorry dear readers), because I just have the patience to fight with my computer anymore. And, looking at the clock, I’m feeling very happy (and surprised) that I did actually manage to get this entry up before midnight.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to the second installment of Men of the Blog Week. Part of the reason why I decided to do Men of the Blog Week was because I was curious to see how many men are reading the blog. After looking at the followers list and the comments I get, it seems as if there are only a few, but I thought maybe there are more of you out there than I realized. So, stand up and be counted men, and start leaving some comments. I hear from the women of the blog quite frequently, but I rarely ever get comments from you. And for the women who read, I still want to hear from you too, and thanks for the frequent comments. I love hearing from all of my dear readers.

Today's book; "Call it a midlife crisis: Marchese didn't know how to use a hammer when, at 40, he bought a one-and-a-half-story Cape Cod fixer-upper in rural New York to tear it apart and rebuild it. In an attempt also to repair a broken relationship, Marchese (a sophisticated, urban-dwelling freelance journalist) asked his cranky, 73-year-old father (an opinionated, second-generation Italian immigrant and former construction worker) to help him. While several passages detail the intricacies of installing a dormer or erecting scaffolding, the book is far more fun than a standard how-to book. Marchese's humor and self-deprecation, as well as his frank and candid portrayals of his father (who at first laughed out loud when the author donned a tool belt), capture certain essentials about being a father and a son."

I almost didn't read today's book because the description made it sound like one of those touchy-feely, ridiculously trite, Tuesday's with Morrie kind of books. But I was happy to discover that I was wrong. The book was really good - it wasn't too sentimental, it didn't try to shove life lessons down the readers throats, and (mercifully) the passages that described actual home renovation didn't go on for too long.

My favorite passage from the book involved the author describing some of his childhood quirks; "There was a period when, inspired by some Disney movie about a child Sherlock Holmes, I went around with a hounds tooth fedora with a jaunty green feather stuck on my head and - could it be? - wore an ascot." - I don't know why, but I'm ridiculously amused by eccentric kids.

I was ironic that this book was about the author getting to know his father better, because the book led to me doing the same with my Dad. While I was reading it I kept thinking about the most interesting renovation project I've ever witnessed (I use the word witness loosely here, since I was about 3 and I only have the vaguest memories of it), which involved my Dad digging out a basement to the house that we were living in at the time . . . by hand. That's right, he went down there with a shovel and a bucket and dug a basement. I've always been fascinated by the pictures of this, but I've never actually talked to him about it, until now. I was really confused about where he started digging at, since we were living in the house at the time. His response; "We had a 2 car garage with extra room added to it for toys and bikes, so I used the area where we used to store the bikes and toys, ripped up the concrete and just started digging." He said it took him about nine months, working 15-20 hours a week, to finish it. Dad would like you all to know that he's taking questions, so if anyone wants to know more about this, feel free to ask in the comments section and he'll get back to you (he's really getting into the spirit of the blog.)

I don't remember every detail of the renovation, but I do remember how fun it was, and I also remember throwing an enormous temper tantrum because my Dad wouldn't let me go into the basement with him all the time and help. I've included a few pictures so you can experience the fun as well:

Here's Dad while he was still in the process of digging out the basement.

My brother and I finally talked my Dad into letting us watch once he got the support beams up and it was safe for us to be down there.

Here's the basement while Dad was in the process of laying up the cement blocks for the basement walls.

The Johnstown Flood

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It has come to my attention (well actually, my sister brought it to my attention) that I have been reading too many books that appeal to women and not enough that appeal to men. So today I'm kicking off


But before I get to today's entry, I want to make a retraction of yesterday's blog entry. Apparently, I do have another family member who reads my blog - my Uncle Andy began reading it about a week ago, and has been working on catching up on past entries - and he would like the reading public to know that he is in fact being supportive of the blog. And I'm certainly glad to hear that he's reading, because today's book is one he recommended.

Today's book; "At the end of the last century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hard-working families striving for a piece of the nation's burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam has been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was done about the dam. Then came May 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 townspeople. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal."

I've never read any books by David McCullough before, but I've heard good things about his books, including praise for McCullough from my Uncle who told me that his writing makes the story seem more real and alive than most books about history. I agree with him. I love history so I've read quite a few books on the subject - but I feel like this one focused a lot more on the history of the town as well as the history of people before getting to the part about the flood - so I felt a lot more connected to the characters. Despite my love of history, I have never enjoyed reading the kind of history books that focus such on the cold, hard facts - names and dates do nothing to inspire me to continue reading, I want to know what it felt like to live then, I want to know all the little details that make the story come alive.

Uncle Andy also told me that the book was so good he couldn't put it down. In fact, it was so riveting that he stayed up much later than he usually does because he just couldn't tear himself away. Normally he has the sleep schedule of a toddler (I'm saying that with love) - he goes to bed at 8 o'clock sharp, a fact that amused me endlessly when I was a child. I would get into bed at 9:00 and think I got to stay up later than Uncle Andy tonight, even though I'm only eight years old. He told me, "The book was so good that I stayed up until 9:30." (That's right, the 9:30 part was said much louder than the rest of the sentence.) I guess the book must have that kind of effect on people because here is it, dangerously close to 9:30 (how shocking), and I'm still awake. Isn't it scandalous?

Here's the part of the book I found the most startling; "The water moved straight on down the valley, picking up a little speed wherever there were fewer turns to eat up its momentum and slowing down wherever the course began twisting again. Estimates are that, in some places, it may have been moving as much as forty miles an hour. Theoretically, if its weight and the average decline in elevation (thirty-three feet per mile) are taken into account, it had a speed of nearly ninety miles per hour." - Ninety miles per hour? I'm trying to imagine what that would look like, and feel like, but my imagination is failing me. Survivors of the flood attempted to describe what it sounded like - reports varying from "a deep, steady rumble. . . that grew into an avalanche of sound" to "the rush of an oncoming train." I'm truly amazed that people actually survived that experience - not just the flood itself - but the shock of it. I feel sort of tense and edgy just reading about it, I can't even imaging the kind of shock it would produce to actually live through it.

Tune in tomorrow dear readers, for the second installment of MEN OF THE BLOG WEEK.

Honeymoon With My Brother

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Today's book was suggested by C.

Today's book; "Franz Wisner had the world by the tail. He was engaged to the beautiful Annie, with whom he shared a passion for conservative politics and a command of quotes from the movie This Is Spinal Tap. He worked as a government-relations official for a California real-estate giant, rubbing elbows with bigwig politicians. But then his fiancée dumped him days before their wedding, and his boss demoted him. So he dragged his younger brother, Kurt, a Seattle realtor and divorcé, to Costa Rica for his already-scheduled honeymoon. Both inspired and desperate, the two quit their jobs, sold their houses, gave away their belongings, and traveled the world for two years, romping through Europe in a newly purchased Saab, then hitting the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. Along the way, Wisner got to know his brother in a way he never had ("Kurt had become ... my new best friend") and fought to move past his failed relationship."

The author describes his hesitation in telling his family members about his plan to travel around the world with his brother. The first person he decided to tell was his Grandmother, whose response was, "I'll buy pins and chart your trip on my world map." - A family that is supportive of his project, what a novel idea. I'm kind of jealous, since I recently discovered at the last family gathering that my Mother and Sister are the only people in the family that actually read my blog (my Dad sits and listens while my Mom reads the blog entries to him because he "doesn't really like to read.") Each family member approached me as if they were going to confession, apologized for not reading and offered up an excuse (I swear I didn't even ask them if they had read it). The excuses for not reading were varied (and rather creative), and included the following:

  • I'm not allowed to use the computer (this did not come from a child, but a person in their 50's)

  • It hurts my eyes to look at the screen.

  • I can't remember how to turn the computer on.

  • I think my computer is broken.

  • I'm afraid if I go on the Internet my computer will be attacked by a virus.

This would be just hilarious if it wasn't my life. Since it's not your life, feel free to have a good hearty laugh at my expense dear readers - I don't mind.

My favorite passage from the book involves the author attempting to buy plane tickets for his trip around the world - he tells the woman working at the airline that he wants a ticket to everywhere they fly. Here's the conversation that follows:

"Sorry, sir, but that's not how these tickets work. You need to give us exact dates and locations. We calculate the fare based on the overall miles."

"You don't have something that'll just let me go to the airport and jump on any ride? Like those VIP passes they hand out at Disneyland?"

"No, sir."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, once you go Disney you just can't go back. Once you get used to have the staff sucking up to you 24/7, having your every whim catered to, having them pretend like they've been looking forward to such a challenge every time you make an ridiculous request - going back to regular forms of travel seems startling. It's like being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a cold day, and then all of a sudden someone yanks the warm blanket away without warning. Disney has ruined me for other forms of travel - not that I was ever a fan of travel that involved roughing it. I want air conditioning and food brought to be on trays and I don't want to have to see/think about/hear about/experience anything unpleasant. I'm a spoiled, soft, wimpy American - and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The closest I ever want to get to roughing it is reading about other people traveling that way - and quite frankly, I'm not even crazy about that.

The Legacy of Luna

Friday, April 24, 2009


Have you hugged any trees today dear readers? Or planted any? I didn't, I was lazy today (other than reading today's book).

Today's book; "A young woman named Julia Butterfly Hill climbed a 200-foot redwood in December 1997. She didn't come down for 738 days. The tree, dubbed Luna, grows in the coastal hills of Northern California, on land owned by the Maxxam Corporation. In 1985 Maxxam acquired the previous landlord, Pacific Lumber, then proceeded to "liquidate its assets" to pay off the debt--in other words, clear-cut the old-growth redwood forest. Environmentalists charged the company with harvesting timber at a non sustainable level. Earth First! in particular devised tree sit-ins to protest the logging. When Hill arrived on the scene after traveling cross-country on a whim, loggers were preparing to clear-cut the hillside where Luna had been growing for 1,000 years. The Legacy of Luna, part diary, part treatise, and part New Age spiritual journey, is the story of Julia Butterfly Hill's two-year arboreal odyssey."

Shallow (and totally immature) thoughts:

  • From the very first page all I could think about was Where and how did she go to the bathroom while up in that tree. In other words, when I read I think like a third grader. I can't seem to focus on the point of the book and instead get distracted by insignificant details. I just kept thinking Two years in a tree with no running water? No toilets? No Dallas dvd's. It's unthinkable.

  • Finally, after about forty pages of wondering, my questions was answered (the "toilet" was a jar, eeeeewwwww). Having that question answered led to me wanting to gag and also to have a few new questions: What about toilet paper? What happens if someone walks under the tree at the exact time that she was emptying the "toilet." The mind reels and goes flying in all sorts of disgusting directions. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe I just need to start acting more like a grown up when I read books like this.

  • The other part that I was horrified by was the paragraph that discussed how difficult it was for the author to wash her hair and so after a while she just stopped trying. I think it's time for another eeeeeewwwwww. Clearly I'm not mature enough to read a book like this. I should stick to reading light, fluffy books that don't have a point to make.

  • And my final thought on the book, which I promise has nothing to do with being grossed out by anything: I wish the book had included more pictures of the platform that the author lived on while inhabiting Luna. I'm a very visual person and I had a hard time picturing exactly what the whole thing looked like - so some pictures and a floor plan would have been nice.

Please join me tomorrow dear readers, for Suggestion Saturday - and I promise I will not talk about anything gross.

The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


But before I get started on today's entry, it's the end of week 16, so it's page count time:


PAGES - 1,731

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 2,248

PAGES - 29,327

Today's book; "The idea of Earth Day has flourished through three decades. Now more than ever, individuals need to create change from the ground up and the whole earth down. As citizens of the world and consumers of global resources, we hold a vast capacity for improving our environment and leaving a bright legacy for our children."

I almost didn't read today's book, because at first glance it appeared to be a children's book. When I realized it wasn't I was very excited because I figured a book with such a happy cover surely wouldn't end up being the typical doom-and-gloom-we're-all-about-to-die kind of environmental books I've read in the past. But I was wrong. There was still some serious doom in this book. I realize of course that it's necessary to talk about how a problem came to exist in order to correct it, but I'm too high strung to read/listen/watch anything that goes on and on about how hopeless everything is. I prefer a book that acknowledges both the bad and the good that has been achieved, and then actually points me in the direction of what I should next to help correct things: In other words, I want the author to do all the work for me. Is that so much to ask? I'm just lazy that way - in fact, I'm so lazy that I first attempted to read a book called The Lazy Environmentalist but it turned out to not be lazy enough for my taste, so I switched to this book. I want a book that will tell me in 100 words or less how and why we got here, and then give me a nice, easy list of things that I can do (preferably in ten steps or less) that will fix things. Is that so unreasonable? Alright, so maybe it is.

But, I don't want to live in a barren, treeless world, so I'm continued reading anyway. The author did provide some helpful tips at the end of the chapters, but there was so much depressing information on the way to the tips that I felt kind of deflated by the time I got there.

Nevertheless, the book did inspire me to make some changes (or scare the crap out of me to the point where I felt like the earth would disintegrate tomorrow if I don't make changes, depending on how you choose to look at it). So here is my contribution to helping the environment:

  • I changed all the light bulbs to energy saving ones. (The word I is used rather loosely here since when I say "I" what I really mean is that I was in the room, watching - supervising if you will - while someone else changed the light bulbs. Okay that's a lie, I wasn't actually in the room, I was watching General Hospital instead. But the important thing is that the light bulbs have been changed.)

  • I'm going to stop using so many paper products. (I compulsively wash my hands - not enough that it would qualify as an illness, but more than a normal person would - and I need to stop doing that, and not just for the sake of the environment but also because I'm sick of people looking at me funny. I also need to stop wasting paper on stupid stuff like trying to figure out what I would have named all 18 kids if I was one of the Duggar parents or rewriting the endings to movies that started out well but ended badly or putting my to-read lists in alphabetical order.)

How did you celebrate Earth Day dear readers? If you spent it watching General Hospital like I did, well then shame on both of us (Just kidding, I don't actually feel any shame about watching soap operas, even though I probably should. And wasn't it a great episode!)

Cleaving: The Story of a Marriage

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Today my Grandparents are celebrating their 63rd Anniversary, and I wanted to do a special blog entry in honor of that. Please indulge me for a moment dear readers as I share pictures of people you've never even met. Here are my Grandparents on their wedding day, April 21, 1946.

It's so weird for me to see their wedding picture in black-and-white because I grew up looking at the colorized version - the badly colorized version - of this picture that used to hang in my Grandparent's basement. The color was so weird that I used to stand there and wonder Why is Grandpa wearing make-up in that picture.

I never saw a colorized version of the second picture, so I had to consult with my grandmother to find out what color the bridesmaid's dress was, she said it was green. Then I asked my Grandpa to confirm that since Grandma's memory can get a little sketchy sometimes and he said, "Could have been." That was pretty much his standard answer for every question I had. I asked them where they got engaged. Grandma said, "At the fair," and Grandpa said, "It's possible." I didn't even bother asking him how they met, and instead consulted with my Grandma who informed me that they met as children at a Halloween party in which my Grandpa was dressed up as a girl, and she says she remembers this so vividly because she thought he "made the prettiest girl." Make of that what you will dear readers. It's certainly not the stuff of a romance novel, but at least it's honest.

I attempted to get more information about their marriage from her, but most of the stories seemed to revolve around some Lucy Ricardo type escapade, the most vivid example being when she accidentally set herself on fire and she and Grandpa discovered that the "stop, drop, and roll" technique really does work. Other family members chimed in which stories of Grandpa having to acquire a tractor to set Grandma's car back up again after she accidentally tipped it over, how they didn't have indoor plumbing for the first three years of their marriage (how very Little House on the Prairie), and of one of their babies accidentally getting drunk because they left him unsupervised with what they believed were empty beer bottles (what great parenting.)

Now on to today's book:

Here's the description from the back cover, "Told in the authors' alternating voices, Cleaving is both the story and the understory of a marriage, unique in its particulars but universal in its resonance."

First things first, the word cleaving is definitely going on my list of least favorite words, right along with moist, squat, lady, and purse. There's just something so unappealing about the sound of that word. If I hadn't been looking for a book that related to the topic of marriage I think I would have skipped this book entirely based on the title and the unattractive. I don't understand why some publishing companies can't seem to grasp that some of us are really shallow, and we need a good cover and a decent title to make us pick up the book in the first place.

But, I pushed aside my reservations, telling myself The book is on the subject of marriage, this will be perfect for today. Whoops. As is turns out the book isn't exactly about a stable marriage. For those of you who don't want to waste the time reading this book (and I would strongly advise that you not), here's the book in a nutshell: The authors drink a lot, write a lot, and cheat on each other a lot. About the nicest thing I can say about it is that it's a very honest book.

I did learn one random fact that you can impress people with at parties, or cause them to make fun of you in the car on the way home (depending on what kind of crowd it is): The largest Amish community in the country is located such south of Wooster, Ohio. I'm just thankful that I don't live anywhere near that. After my 45 minutes of being lost in the Amish community near where I live I'm thankful that there were only a couple of dirt roads to desperately circle around. And now, here's your helpful hint for the day dear readers: If you ever get lost in an Amish community, and you get really bored from passing the same barn over and over again, you can distract yourself from your boredom by trying to figure out what your family would be like if you were all Amish. Which family member would be the first to get shunned? Which one would drive you the craziest if you all had to live together in one of those houses that has 17 additions to it? Who would look the best in a bonnet? It passes the time, and will distract you enough that you won't end up getting angry in front of those delightfully wholesome Amish people and accidentally teach them a few words that aren't exactly Biblical.

For Land Sakes: 73 Years in Real Estate

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Today's book was suggested by my Grandpa, and it's a book about the town I grew up in. The book is out of print, and took some effort to find, so I was unable to find a picture of the cover. So instead I decided to use a picture of downtown Elkhart from the beginning of the time period this book covers.

Today's book; "The foundation of all wealth is real estate. Realizing this the author decided to put down on paper some of the many interesting stories of tenants, buyers and owners of real estate. This book has to do with the numerous interesting experiences of Mr. Fieldhouse and his father during their combined total of seventy-three years in the real estate business in Elkhart, Indiana."

I found today's book quite interesting - but it wasn't a book that was really well written so I'm not sure if it would appeal to anyone who hasn't ever lived in Elkhart.

For those of you who aren't from Elkhart and don't want to read the whole book, here's the CliffNotes version, or as I like to call it The AngieNotes Version:

  • The book opens with a story about how the author's uncle was originally headed for Chicago with his field of sheep, and ended up passing through Elkhart on his way. He was headed for Chicago because he heard that there was great pasture land in the part of Chicago that is now known as the South Side. I'm trying to imagine that part of Chicago as being a huge pasture, but my imagination is failing me on that one. I just can't picture it. But the next time I get lost in Chicago and end up doing a figure 8 through the South Side (and there will be a next time because I'm directions impaired) I'll try to imagine it again.

  • Later in the book the author tells of the creative ways his father found for evicting tenants who refused to leave. One such family stayed for nine months without paying rent, and his father was unsuccessful in getting them to leave through proper legal channels because the judge felt sorry for the family and refused to make them leave, so his father removed all the plumbing from the house. This failed to motivate the family to leave, so then he told the family they had seven days to leave or her was going to remove all of the windows in the house, which was very motivating since it was the middle of winter. - That last story should give you some idea of just how boring a town Elkhart is, since that's about the most interesting thing that's happened here in the last hundred years.

  • My biggest complaint about the book is that there weren't very many pictures. I loved looking at the few pictures the book did contain, of houses that were built in the 1890's, most of which are still standing today. I used to drive through the part of town where those houses were and try to imagine what it was like when they were new and the houses still smelled of new wood and fresh paint, and then I would try to imagine the excitement the new owners felt when they first moved in . . . and that's right about the time when I was shaken from my daydream by the anger drivers in the car behind me. Some people just have no sense of history.

  • My favorite part of the book was when the author was discussing how sometimes a whole life can change by buying a certain property in a certain area. And he gives two examples, one of which has personal meaning for me. He talks of a skating rink that his family had operated for years, and how the manager of the skating rink once told him that many people who get married meet each other for the first time at a skating rink and it had happened at least a dozen times during the ten years he had been managing it. I checked to see when this book was written (the mid-50's) and how long the author's family had operated the skating rink (30 years as of the writing of the book) and realized that the skating rink in question was the skaking rink my Grandparents first met at. Not the Grandpa who recommended the book, in that case I wouldn't have been so startled to run across that information and would have just figured that was the reason he liked this book, but my other set of Grandparents. So I guess the author is right, sometimes a whole life is changed by a certain building in a certain place. And for those of you who are reading this who are familiar with Elkhart, the skating rink in question was located in a building that still exists (but is unfortunately now a liquor store) on Main Street that's right next to a McDonald's. . . ahh romance.

Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Today's book was suggested by Raggedy Girl. I didn't realize until I went searching for a picture of today's book that Dolly Parton has written two autobiographies, so I hope I read the right one.

Today's book; "In concerts, movies, and on TV, Dolly Parton's rafter-shaking signing and refreshing, honest personality has charmed millions and turned them into fans. She has never before talked openly about her life - until now. In her unique Tennessee twang, Dolly tells her long-awaited rags-to-riches story, as only she can - with integrity, insight, and her unfailing sense of humor."

I was only on page two of today's book when I already knew I was going to enjoy it. And here's the passage that made me feel that way, "I hope to tell in this book how I have become the best Dolly Parton I can be, largely through trial and error, I can assure you, but it is up to you to be the best (your name here) you can be. If I can help in any way, then I feel good about taking your money for this book. If I don't help, I still feel okay about taking your money because I think you will at least be entertained." I enjoyed that passage for two reasons: It reminded me of that SNL skit Stuart Smalley, ". . . cause I'm good enough, and I'm smart enough, and dog gone it people like me." Those were the good old days of SNL, before it was ruined, the days of The Church Lady, Coffee Talk, Stuart Smalley, Deep Thoughts, and Toonces the driving cat (by the way, when I looked that up to find out the correct way to spell it, all I had to put in was SNL and T and the search engine instantly knew what I was talking about). The other reason is that I like the honesty of Sure I'll take your money, and I won't feel guilty about it either.

I had to stop myself from skimming ahead to the part of the book that talked about Steel Magnolias, a movie my sister and I were totally obsessed with in the late 80's/early 90's. We watched it so many times that we had every word memorized and would reenact entire scenes while getting ready for bed every night. And then of course there was the cup-a-cup-a-cup incident that I think I already mentioned in an earlier entry. For those readers who are new; there was a scene in that movie where one of the characters mentions a recipe that consists of a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, and a cup of fruit cocktail with the juice, that you just mix and bake until golden and bubbly. Curiosity got the better of me, and I had to find out if it was a real recipe or not. It's not. It wouldn't bake and ended up being nothing more than a big wad of dough.

I learned two interesting things about the movie Steel Magnolias that I didn't know before reading this book:
  • The direction originally wanted Meg Ryan to play that part that ended up going to Julia Roberts. (I'm always startled when I find out the people who were originally considered for TV shows and movies, like finding out that Frances Fischer was originally going to be Jill on Home Improvement or that there was originally a different dad playing Danny on Full House. It's so alarming.)
  • The movie was based on a true story. (I'm so glad that I didn't know that at the time I first started watching it, because the only way I'm able to get through really sad movies is by telling myself over and over again It's not real, it's just a movie.)

Here's a fun little tip from Dolly: If you want to feel closer to God, run naked in the moonlight. According to Dolly, it will make you feel closer to God and nature. Since I live in a neighborhood with an association, I'm going to have to take Dolly's word for it.

The Enchanted April

Friday, April 17, 2009

Today's book; "A recipe for happiness: four women, one medieval Italian castle, plenty of wisteria, and solitude as needed. The women at the center of this novel are alike only in their dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. They find each other - and the castle of their dreams - through a classified ad in a London newspaper one rainy February afternoon."

This wasn't the book I had intended to read today. I started out reading a different book but I just couldn't quite get into it so I switched to this book. Okay I'll be honest, that's not the whole reason why I switched books. The other book was a novel about a chef and I just couldn't handle reading anymore about cake that I'm allergic to. I tried my usual, "Why would I want cake when I can eat an apple," but that just wasn't cutting it when I got to the third page in a row that was describing desserts. I was starting to feel like the book was mocking me, so I stopped reading it.

I didn't really enjoy today's book either, and I really wanted to because I love the concept behind the book. I got to page 68 of today's book and I still didn't care what happened next, and I didn't like any of the characters, and I wasn't enjoying it at all. But by the time I realized that I wasn't going to enjoy the book I was too far into it to stop and try a third book - plus I think the problem is me. Oh my goodness I sound like I'm in the middle of a high school break-up, "It's not you, it's me. We just want different things." In this case I want to read a book with characters that aren't annoying the crap out of me, and the author wants to fill the book with people who either have no personalities or really bad ones. It's just not going to work out. I think the book and I will be better off going our separate ways.

The part of the book I enjoyed the most was the introduction. It wasn't the usual annoying kind of introduction most older books have where they give away the entire plot and make me think, Well what's the point of reading the book now. This introduction focused on the history behind the creation of the book, with a mini biography of the author and her really bad taste in men thrown in. Here's the most interesting piece of information: When The Enchanted April was first published the author was identified only as Elizabeth, leaving readers to spend the next year entertaining themselves with attempting to crack the mystery of the authors identity. It kind of reminds me of that reality show that used to be on called The Mole (which I'm almost ashamed to admit that I watched). Oh if only I had broken up with that show instead of wasting my time watching two seasons. Okay, three if you count the celebrity edition that I also watched.

Don't Touch that Dial

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I searched all over the Internet for a picture of today's book, and couldn't find one. So I decided to put up this picture of a radio instead, because radio is the subject of today's book.

Today's book; "For those who loved it, as well as those who missed it, this book brings to life old-time radio, which was often called a "theater of the mind." It is an entertaining and important history of radio programming and its role in shaping social values and thought in America. By merging an historic overview with a study of patterns in American life, the author allows us to view radio from anthropological, historical, and sociological perspectives in order to capture its monumental impact on American culture."

Today's book started out well, got kind of boring in the middle, and then became interesting again when I got to the chapter about radio soap operas.

Radio firsts:

  • The first scheduled, non-experimental, public radio program aired on November 2, 1920 and was an evening broadcast from the Presidential election.
  • The first collegiate football game was broadcast November 25, 1920
  • The first radio drama, The Wolf, aired in October of 1922.

Weirdest titles for radio programs:

  • Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
  • It Pays to Be Ignorant
  • Moonshine and Honeysuckle
  • The Stolen Husband

From the mid-30's until the mid-50's a program called Lux Radio Theater aired. The Lux program featured Hollywood stars re-enacting, in their entirety, popular movies such as; It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, and The Thin Man. The last time I saw my Grandmother we were discussing her favorite radio programs and she said that she loved Lux Radio Theater. It boggles my mind that anyone would want to listen to a re-enactment of a movie, but I guess in the pre-VCR/DVD/DVR days, this would have been their only opportunity to "see" a movie they enjoyed again. Every time I leave the movie theater I think about how annoying it must have been to watch a movie back then, love it, and yet know that you'll never be able to own it and watch it 4,000 times.

The other thing I was amazed by was how long soap operas continued to air on the radio. On November 25, 1960 the last four remaining soap operas went off the air. Why on earth would anyone continue to listen to soap operas when you could watch them? You would miss out on so much by listening instead of watching; that look the actors get right before they go to commercial break that looks like they're either thinking really hard or they're constipated, the way that some actors get a little too into their onscreen kisses and end up looking like they're going to swallow the other persons head, the way the furniture stays the same for 20 years . . . On second thought I may have just answered my own question. Maybe radio would be preferable.

When I was reading the part of the book that discussed radio magazines (a sort of radio version of TV Guide), all I could think about was how jarring that must have been for people to only hear some one's voice first, get a mental image of them, and then see their picture and find out they look nothing like the mental image they previously had. And then the next time they listen to their favorite program the mental image they used to have would battle it out in their heads with the image of what the person really looks like. I'm trying to imagine what it would be like to enjoy an entertainment program and have no idea what the actors looked like - it's such a startling contrast to today's celebrity world were you can see pictures of celebrities at the grocery store, the gas station, while chewing, while picking their nose, while adjusting their clothes . . . The more I write this entry the more advantages I'm seeing to radio programming. It might be kind of nice to not have a mental image seared in my brain of Miley Cyrus making that stupid peace sign in every picture (how ironic that a peace sign makes me feel so irritated), or Tori Spelling without make-up, or Jessica Simpson trying to sing. Some things are best left to the imagination.

The Boys of My Youth

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Today's book; "In this fierce, funny, and wholly unforgettable collection of autobiographical essays, ranging from earliest childhood to present day, some forty years later, a compelling new writer summons up a lifetime of romantic awakening and disillusion."

Maybe it's just the headache that I've had all day dulling my sense of humor, but I didn't find this book funny or unforgettable. It was just kind of blah. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it, and I'll probably forget all about it by tomorrow (although with my horrible memory that's not really saying much since I've already forgotten 3/4 of what I've read this year).

At one point during the book the author writes about childhood trips to her Grandmother's house and how they would always watch Bonanza together - which made me think of how Wheel of Fortune would always be on when I would visit my Grandmother's house as a child. This memory quickly led to me thinking about how The Judds would always be playing in her car, which led to a really unfortunate couple of hours where I had one of their songs stuck in my head, and to cap it off the song was Mama He's Crazy (which just might be one of the most annoying 80's country songs, right up there with Prop Me Up Beside the Jute Box if I Die). I think getting a Judd's song stuck in my head while I already have a headache just might be the worst possible time (not that there's ever really a good time to have a Judd's song stuck in my head). A headache, a boring book, and Mama He's Crazy playing on a constant loop in my head. . . is there no justice in this world?

I pushed aside the headache, and the annoying song, and kept reading - and I came across a passage that reminded me of my other Grandmother - in which the author's Mother and Aunt are arguing over how long mayonnaise can be left out before it goes bad. As I've said before on the blog, my Grandmother thinks of expiration dates as merely suggestions, suggestions which are meant to be ignored. She also believes that mold on food is to be ignored, and eaten anyway. Her motto is, "A little mold never hurt anyone." I'm going to channel Sophia from Golden Girls now; Picture is . . . Indiana. . . the early 80's . . . So as you can imagine dear readers, every one's hair was really big. My Grandmother and her 83-year-old Mother were in the middle of a knock-down-drag-out fight over a jar of jelly. The reason: the jelly has mold in it, and my Grandmother is insisting that she's going to eat it anyway, and her Mother is desperately trying to pry it out of her hand while saying, "Frances, give me the jar. Frances, you are not going to eat mold." But my Grandmother was able to get the jar from her Mother (she's cagey that way) and took a great big bite of mold-infested jelly so quickly that her Mother was unable to get the spoon out of her mouth in time (not that she didn't try). - After hearing that story I think you can all understand now why our family felt the need to supervise Grandma in the kitchen while she was cooking holiday meals, because we like to eat our food mold-free (we're so stuck up that way - we're just a bunch of food snobs is what we are).

And so in conclusion, I have three pieces of advice for you dear readers; skip this book (it's not that interesting), never listen to Judd's songs (or you will regret it for the rest of your life), and mold is not part of a balanced diet. Remember that sage advice and you'll live and long and happy life.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Today's book; "In the fourth of his books about the Disney empire, Koenig (Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland) takes an even-handed approach to chronicling the ups and downs of an American institution. Based on nearly a decade of research and 100 interviews with past and present employees ("cast members" in Disney-speak), Koenig explores the genesis of Walt Disney's east coast outpost. It began as Disney's dream for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT: a multilevel, glass encased, climate-controlled city. Part of that dream died with Walt in 1966-less than a year before construction began on Disney World-and it would be two decades before his severely altered plans would become reality. In erudite and fluid prose, Koenig takes readers on Walt's clandestine land acquisition exploits in central Florida, through the chaotic construction and frantic early years of the Magic Kingdom and into Disney's disastrous entry into the hotel business."

I was considering putting up a few pictures from our family's first trip to DisneyWorld for this entry, but there was some really unfortunate clothing choices made on that trip so I decided instead to skip it. I'm afraid to say there were waist packs, and clothes that had bows on them, and some really bad hair moments. And the truly sad part was that I thought my clothes were so attractive when I was packing them for the trip - I have vivid memories of planning out what I was going to wear each day and thinking about how great the clothes would look in the 3 million pictures my Mother always takes. But alas, hindsight is 20/20.

I had a hard time making it through today's book because I had to stop about every 4 pages and relive memories of past trips; the time when my Brother came along and spent the entire time in the hotel room watching sports, the three times in a row we got stuck on the Test Track ride, the look on my Mother's face when she had her picture taken with Mary Poppins (it was a look of pure joy not often seen on the face of anyone over the age of five), my Dad waiting in line with the six year olds to meet Buzz Lightyear (sadly I'm not kidding), the way the chefs at all the restaurants pretend like they've been looking forward to such a challenge when I ask them to make a dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free meal (Disney is one of the easiest places to travel if you have food allergies).

I really enjoyed today's book, not only because it reminded me of happy vacation times, but also because it was full of interesting information that I didn't now about before (which really surprised me considering I'm related to the human-Encyclopedia-of-all-things-Disney, otherwise known as my Dad). Here's what I learned:

  • Disneyland was originally designed in such a way that the lands (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, etc.) didn't connect. So if you were at the very back of Tomorrowland you would have to go all the way back to the entrance and then enter Fantasyland. This design had to be revised because it created major traffic jams at the entrances to all the lands. (I managed to stump the human Disney Encyclopedia with that piece of trivia).

  • Disney World is filled with small details that most visitors are unaware, that were nevertheless very important to the Disney family. For instance: When you cross into Liberty Square (the part of Disney World that portrays Revolutionary-era America), there are rocks on both sides of the bridge. Those rocks were bought at great expense from an area about six miles away from where Washington crossed the Delaware. Rocks could have been acquired from Florida, but the Disney company wanted rocks that had some significance. Some of the slate stoops of those buildings were bought in Philadelphia and were in place when our country was still going through it's Revolutionary War. (I told my Dad about this, and he said that he's going to pay much more attention to the stones in that area on our next vacation. I know what this means, we're going to spend 15 minutes staring at the stones and then my Mother is going to try to force us to pose for about 20 pictures with the stones. Crap. I never should have told him about that, I clearly haven't learned anything from the "Let's go take a picture of our feet next the brick we paid to have our names printed on incident.")

  • When Space Mountain was first built the company decided they didn't want to test the ride out just with volunteering employees. Instead they flew in Roy Disney's widow, 83-year-old Edna Disney, to test out the ride. She reportedly loved it. (And now I'm wondering what they would have done if she hated it. Would they have decided, "Oh let's just ignore the old lady" or would they have started over? I can't figure out why I spend so much reading time wondering about things that are so trivial.)

I know I already asked you during the last Disney-themed entry what your favorite Disney ride is - so this time I want to know which park is your favorite; MGM (which has a different name now, but I don't like it, so I'm still calling it MGM), EPCOT, The Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom? My favorite is MGM because I love the old-Hollywood feel is has.

Street Gang

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Today's book was suggested by C. and Alissa.

Here's the description from the inside cover of the book; "One evening in early 1966 a group of friends were gathered at a Manhattan dinner party, where the conversation eventually turned to a subject a number of them had been pondering independently: Why couldn't television be used to teach children? Although a few earnest attempts had been made to turn the medium into something more than a frantic parade of advertising for sugary cereals and noisy toys, it remained a largely untapped resource. That dinner, however, began a dialogue and a crusade that changed the face of television forever, for it was there that the ground was laid for one of the most influential, durable, and beloved shows in history. At long last, the three generations of viewers who have grown up with the series now have a book that answers the lyrical question, "Can you tell mehow to get to Sesame Street?" The answer lies between these covers."

Sesame Street was a huge part of my childhood, due in large part to my sister's obsession with the show. She absolutely loved Sesame Street, especially Ernie and Bert. She insisted on wearing red sneakers (which had to be called sneakers because that's what Ernie called them) and saddle shoes just like Bert's. We listened to the Sesame Street Christmas album from September until January, every single year. We went to see Sesame Street live several times, and we traveled to Indianapolis to see the traveling Sesame Street exhibit at the children's museum. The look on her face when were there was one of pure joy, and I have evidence of that:

(Please excuse the cut edges on the pictures dear readers, that was just some crazy thing I was doing with my photo albums in the late 80's.)

And then there's Big Ernie. I would describe him to you, but it will be a lot easier to just show him to you:

She never wanted to go anywhere without Big Ernie - and as you can see by the picture below, she rarely ever did.

She even brought him on vacation with us, and insisted and strapping him into the seat belt between us. I can only imagine what the people in the car behind us were thinking when they saw our powder blue mini van driving down the highway (or I should say speeding down the highway since that's my Dad's preferred way of traveling) with what looks like three children in the backseat . . . except one of them appears to be orange.

Okay, now on to talking about the actual book: The book is probably not the best pick for a person who only wants to hear the surface details behind Sesame Street. This book is much more in-depth than that, and includes a mini-history of children's television, as well as the backstory for most of the people involved in bringing Sesame Street to the airwaves. I enjoyed the whole book, but preferred the parts that dealt more with the actual creation of Sesame Street.

Fun facts about Sesame Street:

  • During the first rehearsal for Bert and Ernie Jim Henson was playing Bert and Frank Oz was playing Ernie. (I haven't felt this startled since I found out that Betty White was originally supposed to play Blanche and Rue McClanahan was supposed to play Rose on The Golden Girls).

  • The other names that were considered before Frank Oz settled on Grover were Armand and Hector.

  • Oscar was originally orange.

Live a Little

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm getting really good at reading while doing other things (walking, cooking, cleaning), but I still haven't gotten the hang of reading in the middle of noise and chaos. But I have several opportunities to try today. I had a lot of errands to take care of so I ended up reading all over town; at red lights, while waiting in line at the bank, while carrying in the groceries, at Walgreen's while waiting for my pictures to be done (while also trying to ignore the odd looks I was getting from strangers). What's wrong with those people? They act as if they've never seen a person reading a novel in the middle of a drugstore before.

Today's book; "Two bratty teenagers. One disenchanted husband. Twenty extra pounds. This is the daily existence of Raquel Rose, a California housewife whose life is much less than she thought it would be. Until she receives the shocking news that she's dying, and her world rocks sideways. Her kids stop taking her for granted. Her husband is attentive. And her picture-perfect sister - who has her own talk show - puts Raquel on TV where her story raises truckloads of money for breast cancer research. When her doctor tells Raquel that she's not sick after all (clerical error) she's reluctant to trade in her shiny new life for the jalopy it was before the (mis)diagnosis."

I really tried to see the humor in today's book, and it was obvious that the author was desperately trying to make it seem funny - but I just don't see the humor in letting people think you're dying when you're not. I still enjoyed today's book, in an "I can't wait to see what happens next but I''ll be glad when it's over" kind of way.

I sat down to read today's book vowing that today will not be the fourth day in a row where I mention TV in my blog, and then the author toyed with me by mentioning two of my favorite shows; Dallas and The Golden Girls. Although, it kind of bugged me that she mentioned a storyline from Dallas and then got the details wrong. When the author brought up The Golden Girls I was expecting her to mention the episode where Sophia throws her own wake and Rose forgets to tell the invited guests that Sophia isn't actually dead (I love that episode). What a missed opportunity. But I guess it's only natural that she didn't want to mention that episode, because reminding the readers about it would only make it glaringly obvious how much better (and funnier) the handling of this situation was on The Golden Girls than in this book.

The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking that I bet this book will be made into a movie sometime in the next few years. It'll be turned into a movie that isn't funny, but is supposed to be, and it's heartwarming but will be sold as the "feel good movie of the year." The images of different actresses kept battling it out in my head; Reese Witherspoon (not wait, that makes no sense, the main character is 43), Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts. I couldn't decide, but I'm sure the movie is coming, and when it does I will be skipping it. I didn't mind reading the book once, but I don't like the main character enough to want to spend anymore time with her. Or as one reviewer put it, "Green's third novel displays a charming, acerbic wit unfortunately employed in the service of an unlikable character."

Waiting for Normal

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Today’s book; "We’ve seen this situation before: a parent neglects a child, while the child seeks a wider community to find support. Here that child is 12-year-old Addie, who lives with Mommers in a trailer on a busy street in Schenectady after her adored stepfather and half sisters move upstate. Mommers has lost custody of the "littles" because of neglect, and though she and Addie can laugh together, once Mommers hooks up with Pete, she is not much for good times—though she brings the bad times home. Addie finds solace in occasional visits to her sisters and in her neighbors, especially Soula, ill from her chemotherapy treatments."

I’m all in favor of coming up with fun little nicknames for your mom, I have a few of them for my Mother as well (Mumsy, Musy-Wumsy, Motherkins), but there is such a thing as overkill, and the Mommers thing started to get annoying by the third page and by page 50 it was like nails on a chalkboard. Other than that one annoying little flaw the book was pretty good.

At the beginning of the book Addie and her Mother move into a trailer. In an effort to more fully relate to the book I decided to talk to two people who have actually lived in a trailer; my parents. They love to tell stories of their poverty-stricken trailer-bound newlywed days, so they were eager to share. When I was a child I used to love to tease my mother about having living in a trailer, to which she would respond, "Hey, it was a tasteful trailer park, not like those trashy ones they show on TV." When I talked to her about it today I reminded her of that comment, and she said, "Well it was. It was the nicest trailer park in the whole town." She seemed surprised when I started laughing after that statement. Then my Dad joined in the conversation and I began asking them trailer-related questions:

Me: So were you excited when you moved into the trailer park?

Mom: Oh yeah, compared to where I grew up the trailer park was a step up. (I’ve seen where she grew up and I can confirm for you dear readers that the trailer park was a step up.)

Dad: I was kind of proud, because it was all mine. . . well not mine. . . it was ours (Isn’t he good at covering his verbal slips dear readers?) And if I wanted to move a chair then I could . . . well I could check with your Mother and then move it.

I didn’t really have to ask anymore questions at that point because they both launched into anecdotes about trailer park living: the way the back door would freeze shut every night, how the hallway wasn’t big enough to turn around in, how the hot water heater wasn’t big enough for two hot showers in a row, how the trailer was so cold in the morning that they would have to put their towels and clothes in the dryer while they were showering to warm themselves back up again. And then they began to talk about how exciting it was to leave the trailer park; "When we moved into our first house it felt like a mansion. It was a house without wheels."

At this point in the conversation I got the theme song to The Jeffersons stuck in my head, except my version goes a little something like this:

We’re moving on up
To the subdivision
To a house without wheels on the land.

I considered continuing with the song, but I didn’t want to try your patience - so I’ll just leave it at that.

The Wife

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today is the end of week 14, so it's time for the chapter and page count.

For the week:
PAGES - 1,929

For the whole year so far:
CHAPTERS - 2,031
PAGES - 25,677

I also want to welcome all the new followers who have shown up over the last week or two. Even though I'm three months into this project, the excitement of new followers has not worn off yet. And I still can't quite wrap my mind around the fact that there people who actually want to read what I have to say - it's still mind boggling to me. So thank you to the new followers, the old followers, and those who are faithfully reading but haven't become followers yet. And for those who read but haven't become followers yet, all I have to say is: Come on, you know what to become a follower. All your friends are doing it. You would be so popular if you did. All the cool kids are becoming followers. Okay sorry, peer pressure time is over, I promise.

Today's book; "On the way to a big literary-award ceremony, the wife of a famous New York Jewish novelist—sick of his philandering, his self-importance, and his limited talent—decides on divorce. Her stingingly comic story of their marriage shows why. They met in 1956, when she was his writing student at Smith and he was the author of one very bad published story. Only after running off with his talented and self-effacing pupil does he burst into literary stardom. Although they have three (variously unhappy) children, he has always been the real child in the family, dragging her along to the fêtes at which he is flattered and flirted with while she drinks her jealousy away. Wolitzer never really develops her characters and savvy readers will guess her surprise ending quite early on, but she has great fun satirizing an all too recognizable stratum of literary life."

I really enjoyed today's book, which surprised me because I recently attempted to read another book the author and I got so bored with it and didn't finish reading. But I never hold that against an author because I believe in literary second chances - there's always the possibility an author could have started out not as great and then gotten a lot better or an author can start out with a great book and then slowly go down hill from their. It happens with TV all the time - Golden Girls didn't even really hit their stride until a few seasons in, and do we even need to talk about how badly Roseanne went down hill in the last few years - so I figured, why can't it happen with books. Of course reading a book every day has given me the freedom to do that - I'm not sure I would be so willing to give authors another shot if I had a really limited amount of time for reading.

I have no idea why, but today's book keeps making me think about movies and TV shows. I guess it could be that I'm experiencing TV withdrawal. I'm getting the shakes - but it's my own fault, I never should have cut down so drastically all at once - gradual would have been better, or maybe I need a TV patch or some TV gum to get me through this rough spot. First I was reminded of a movie when the book's main characters were discussing an author who was rumored to have been afraid of fruit. It reminded me of the scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant's character is on a blind date with a woman who is a fruitarian. For those of you who have never seen the movie, here's the transcript of that scene:

Keziah: No thanks, I'm a fruitarian.
Max: I didn't realize that.
William: And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush - that are, in fact, dead already.
William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots...
Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.

Then later in the book the main character, Joan is asked by her college professor if she is free Saturday night. She jumps to the conclusion that he is asking her on a date, only to discover that he wants her to babysit his child so that he can go on a date with his wife. I read that part and I kept thinking Why does this seem so familiar? And then I realized that the same thing happened on an episode of The Brady Bunch. Marcia had a crush on her dentist, and she thought he was asking her out, and then was devastated to the point where she "just wanted to die" when she found out the truth.

I think I should just go watch some TV and get it all out of my system so I don't end up mentioning TV in tomorrow's blog entry - which would make it the third blog entry in a row with a TV reference in it.

Sundays at Tiffany's

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I've started having nightmares about the blog. I had one a few nights ago that involved me looking up at the clock and realizing it was 9 o'clock at night and I hadn't read the book yet. I woke up from that dream, and for just a second I couldn't figure out if it was real or not. I sat in the dark, wracking my brain, trying to figure out what book I had read that day. And then finally I remembered, and I felt such relief. I spent the next ten minutes telling myself over and over again It was just a dream. I remember when I used to have nightmares about normal things; being forced to live somewhere ugly, being forced to go back to high school again. . . Okay, so I've actually never had normal nightmares, before but this one felt odd even for me.

Today's book; "AN IMAGINARY FRIEND: Jane Margaux is a lonely little girl. Her mother, the powerful head of a New York theater company, makes time for her only once a week, for their Sunday trip to admire jewelry at Tiffany's. Jane has only one friend: a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael. He's perfect. But only she can see him. Michael can't stay forever, though. On Jane's eighth birthday he leaves, promising that she'll forget him soon. He was there to help her until she was old enough to manage on her own, and now there are other children who need his help. AN UNEXPECTED LOVE:Years later, in her thirties, Jane is just as alone as she was as a child. And despite her own success as a playwright, she is even more trapped by her overbearing mother. Then she meets Michael again--as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they've really been reunited.AND AN UNFORGETTABLE TWIST: Sundays at Tiffany's is a heart-wrenching love story that surpasses all expectations of why these people have been brought together. With the breathtaking momentum and gripping emotional twists that have made James Patterson a bestseller all over the world, Sundays at Tiffany's takes an altogether fresh look at the timeless and transforming power of love."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because of how cheesy it sounded. I can't seem to turn away from a really cheesy sounding book, song, or TV movie. I'm not really sure why. It's been a few weeks since I've read a book with a ridiculous sounding plot, so it felt like it was time to read another one.

  • The plot of today's book wasn't the only odd thing about it. The book didn't feel very cohesive to me - in fact, I kind of felt like I was reading four short stories instead of a novel. The book started out well - with the exception of a brief mention of Leave it to Beaver which resulted in the theme song to that show getting stuck in my head for 30 minutes. Then it took a really odd twist, which required a complete suspension of reality in order to continue reading the book - but I've watched soap operas for years so I'm quite good at that by now. After the weird part, came a really boring part in the middle. It was so dull that I kept getting distracted by pointless, little details in the book (I wonder if the Oreos Jane ate were regular or double stuffed. Was the mustard on her hot dog regular or Grey Poupon?). It's never a good sign when a book gets so boring you have to pep it up by wondering about the filling in the cookies the characters are eating. Then it took about 5 or 6 more weird turns which kind of gave me literary whiplash (and not in a good way) - before mercifully ending. I enjoy a book that has a good twist to it, but I think there is a limit to how many twists a book can contain before it starts to feel exhausting. I feel totally worn out from reading this book - and I would go and rest but I'm afraid I'll fall asleep and have another blogging nightmare.

Mostly True . . . A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball

Monday, April 6, 2009
Happy Opening day dear readers. Okay so I didn't actually know that today was Opening Day until someone told me (thanks Matt). And since baseball is the only sport I actually understand, I decided to read a baseball themed book today.

Today's book; "Former columnist for the New York Times and author of The New York Cookbook, O'Neill de-emphasizes the cooking element here in favor of cozy family gatherings around baseball games. Her memoir begins even before the courtship of her parents, minor leaguer "Chick" O'Neill and six-foot, convent-educated "Bootsie" Gwinn, in Columbus, Ohio, in 1945, and extends to younger brother Paul O'Neill's retirement as right-fielder for the Yankees in 2001. O'Neill meanders lovingly through years growing up as the eldest to five brothers who channeled their adolescent hormones into Little League. O'Neill records her first forays into cooking inspired by an Ohio Power and Electric Co. demonstration given for her Brownie troop; her brothers worshipped her for making dishes from Spam and processed cheese. In college, she secured jobs as a cook and took over the kitchen at Ciro's in Boston by 1979. Her cooking segued into writing, first for the Globe, then New York Newsday. By the time she became a restaurant critic for the Times in the early 1990s, younger brother Paul had been traded to the Yankees, bringing the whole unwieldy family to feast in New York. O'Neill charts a long-winded, pleasantly nostalgic trip."

For a book that has the word baseball in the title, this book didn't actually contain all that many references to baseball. There was a chapter that talked about the author's family's time spent at the local Little League. Ah Little League, that brings back memories; my Mother sitting in her lawn chair because she refused to sit on the dirty bleachers, my Sister and I sitting on the giant powder blue blanket my Mother brought for us while playing with the ridiculous amounts of stuff we brought along (coloring books, crayons, toys, books, and for reasons which I still don't understand, a calculator), my Grandma in the background screaming "GO BABY, GO BABY, GO BABY" at the top of her lungs every time my brother was up at bat, while my Sister is trying to convince my Dad to order her a hot dog without the actual hot dog from the concession stand while my Dad stands there saying, "You want me to go up and order a hot dog bun with nothing on it from the concession stand? They're going to think I'm crazy" Ah, good times.

Despite the lack of expected baseball moments, there were a few other interesting parts of the book (although not many). Since the book wasn't all the interesting, I'm just going to list the interesting parts here so you can save yourself the trouble of having to read the book:

  • When the author was a baby her Grandmother put sugar, cream and rum in her baby bottle. (The fact that this was one of the more interesting aspects of the book should give you a pretty good idea of how dull the book really was).

  • I was amused by the part of the book where the author describes her family driving around town pointing out all the things other people are doing wrong with their houses/yards/lives. My parents did this quite frequently when we were children - although they never needed to leave the house to manage it. They would sit in the living room and say things like, "Everyone knows that's not the right way to. . . . (fill in the blank with dress/talk/live/be married/raise kids/work, whatever it was they disapproved of at the time). Which led to me occasionally referring to them as "The Council for Appropriate Behavior" - a phrase my Mother was definitely not amused by - but then she's rarely ever amused by me. They would be sitting in the living room, with my Mother laying out all the reasons why the offending behavior, with my Dad acting as Vice President of the when my Sister would attempt to walk into the room and I would whisper the warning, "Don't go in that room, The Council For Appropriate Behavior is having a meet. Mom's just about to lay out the acceptable alternatives. There are three critical steps to a CFAB meeting; 1. discussing in detail why the behavior in question is wrong, 2. laying out the acceptable alternatives (for instance, "I mean, it would be different if they had just moved in, but they've lived there for six years and they still haven't planted any flowers around the house."), and 3. recapping once again why the behavior is wrong. (Okay, I lied, I actually didn't find that part of the book interesting, I just wanted an excuse to use that Council for Appropriate Behavior anecdote).

  • And here was my favorite line from the book; "I do not recall a single moment of my childhood in which I was not imagining my family's life - or my own- as an epic tale."

So there you have it dear readers, those were the only parts of the book I found interesting.