Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Dangerously Reading v. 7
My selection for July was Jane Austen's Persuasion. I always wax eloquent about how much I love Austen. But when it comes down to it, I haven't really read that much of her. So this challenge gave me the opportunity to change that. From page one, I was in love.

How does Austen manage to be so subtle yet tackle so much in each work? This book has it all: romance, sibling rivalry, sharp critique of class-based discrimination, and a strong female lead. I adored it.

When I began the book, Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) was firmly entrenched in my number one spot of endearing heroines. But Anne Elliot now rivals her. She has the strength, wit and independence of Bennet but is a bit more open. Austen's understated writing gave me just the right bit of emotion and romance from Elliot. It was never too much or cliche. Rather, her monologues and inner thoughts were moving and real.

Persuasion is Austen's last work. And I can't help but notice it is also her most mature and the one most marked with regret. Makes you wonder if Austen had made peace with all her decisions as she neared the end of her life.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Jumping in
As if I need to procrastinate even more....

I've joined Twitter. You should as well. I'm still a little scared of it. People are funny. How can people be funny in 140 letters or less? I need to figure this out.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008
A Little Sunday Reading v. 13
I've read two very lovely books this week: The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout.

Both were so beautifully written that I could not stop reading. I felt I was living with the characters. A the very least, I was their diary and was privy to the most intimate of details. And I love intimate details. Olive Kitteridge, in particular, was enjoyable because of my recent obsession with short stories. The book was told in 13 separate stories.

Both books has a few things in common. I want you to read them both (back to back) and agree.

First, Greer and Stout have the "flawed character" down. Pat. The characters in these books were so flawed. Yet Greer and Stout seemed to withhold judgment. And managed to provide me with just enough empathy that I did as well. Unusual. I normally judge the pants off of flawed characters.

Second, the way Greer and Stout portray marriage and partnership was simultaneously harsh and lovely. I ached with the hardships and smiled at the loving details.

Last, I've begun to be a bit obsessed with plots that introduce you to multiple characters and then weave them together in a subtle way. It seems so difficult. To make the reader wonder why you're reading this and then smack them over the head with the obvious connection. Love that moment of discovery.

Both books are great summer reading. And if you'd like more suggestions, NPR has your back.

And to read more reviews, be my friend on goodreads.

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Friday, July 11, 2008
Friday Flicks v. 7
For many, summer means sunshine and outdoor time. Well, I'm Irish. I burn. Badly. So I spend my summers watching movies. In the dark. With air conditioning. Drinking. Whiskey.

Ok, Not the whole summer. But I have watched a lot of movies recently.

Some recommendations for all you fair skinned beauties out there....

You know that super popular book from a few years ago The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time? The one everyone loooooved? Well it bugged me. Overkill. I found myself getting irritated with the autistic narrator. You know what makes someone feel like crap? Being irritated by a fictional autistic child. My family still hasn't let me live it down. Well, I found a much better and less annoying version of that book in the film Snow Cake. Snow Cake tells the story of a high functioning autistic woman and a man involved in a fatal car accident. They have this really interesting connection. And it is lovely. So funny. And so sad. A total emotional roller coaster. You must check it out.

I'm pretty sure I've written about how much I enjoyed the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I enjoyed it a great deal. A. GREAT. DEAL. So my film junkie (soon to be) brother-in-law decided that we should watch Julian Schnabel's earlier film Before Night Falls. It is a very intimate look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas. I didn't like the movie as much as Diving Bell but I liked it. I had trouble with the disjointed narrative and time line. However, the cinematography is so breathtaking and Javier Bardem so talented that I overlooked it. Plus, Diego Luna is in it. So is Johnny Depp....wait for a cross dresser. *snap*

Then She Found Me was another great film. Helen Hunt directed and starred in this charming story that was always on the cusp of being too much. But it managed to stay on the right side of the line. And instead of finding it overwhelming, I found it enjoyable. Colin Firth is just so darn funny. I want to tousle his hair.

Wristcutters: A Love Story was a dark, quirky, totally awesome movie. I had no idea what to expect yet the film was far and away better than I anticipated. And! I'm obsessed with Shannyn Sossamon's hair. See?!

Totally cute!

I finally watched There Will Be Blood. I know. Welcome to 2008. I enjoyed it. Although not as much as the rest of the American population. I can recognize how talented the cast was and how sophisticated the plot was. But I was a little bored. So there's that.

Hopefully these suggestions give you a week or so of movie watching pleasure!

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Weekly Geeks v. 2

This week's theme is magazines! I almost didn't participate this week because to do so means admitting just how much of a problem I have. Yes. My name is Kristen and I'm a magazine addict. Truly. But the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Right. On with the therapy.

My first must read every month is Real Simple. There is nothing bad about Real Simple. I love their charming articles, the helpful organizational tips, the great pictures, the easy recipes. I love the way the magazine feels in my hands. I love that they include a bookmark with each issue. I love this magazine. And they have a great website as well.

Next up is In Style. Each month I flip through the pages and imagine myself leading a ridiculously chic and stylish life. Of course, I'll never have the money to consume all they try to sell me but it is fun nonetheless.

Glamour and Marie Claire are my guilty pleasures. While you may occasionally find a powerful story on a feminist issue or an opinion piece written from an interesting perspective, these issues are for fun and occasionally fill me with feminist guilt.

To make myself feel better, I read Bitch every time it comes out. I wish it was published every month but such is the life of a feminist. Bitch has great media criticism and their articles are timely and funny. The publication really helped me teach my Women's Studies classes. My students loved every article I selected for their class reading. Many of them now subscribe as well. In fact, one of my great teaching moments happened when a student brought in a copy of her recently purchased magazine. She had highlighted articles and placed tabs on things she wanted to re-visit. Feminist victory!

My mom sends me all her issues of The Week. The Week is a great publication that features all the top news articles from the week. It also has great book, movie and music suggestions. A quick read that will fill your brain with great information.

There are two magazines that I don't subscribe to but end up reading every issue either because I buy it, borrow it or read it while browsing at a bookstore. Everyday with Rachael Ray is helpful in finding easy meals that we use each week. Plus, you don't have to deal with Rachael Ray while you read. Win win! And Harper's is pretty much the best political magazine out there. When I'm through with grad school, I suspect I'll start a subscription.

Last but not least, my hubby gets Paste magazine every month and I almost always browse through that. Paste is so awesome. Each month, you get a mixed CD filled with featured artists and songs. The reviews are always really good and they also have lots of interesting stories (like the best record stores). It is a must read for music junkies.

Rest assured, we recycle all the magazines so I'm a responsible reader!

Phew. I feel better now.

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I can't stop laughing my sad, wry laugh that I reserve for true ridiculousness.

Via Feministing

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief who is now the Republican National Committee's "Victory Chairman" and a name oft mentioned as a McCain VP, argues that:

There are many health insurance plans that will cover Viagra but won't cover birth-control medication. Those women would like a choice.

Allow me to add some emphasis. WOMEN WOULD LIKE A CHOICE.


Fiorina is right. Women would like a choice. Too bad McCain has opposed funding for family planning programs and voted against requiring insurance coverage of birth control. This has earned him a zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the lowest rating possible in the U.S. Senate.

A zero rating. Seems to me McCain is definitively anti-choice.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008
I-Tues v. 13 Mix Tape Edition


I made a mix tape of all the music I'm enjoying right now. Some songs are new, some are old. All are the soundtrack of my summer. You should make one, too. Let me know in the comments when yours is up!


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Sunday, July 06, 2008
Dangerously Reading v. 6
I finished my June selection on the last day of June. We were returning home from vacation and I spent a majority of the car trip reading. Before you go jumping to conclusions about how I procrastinated, let me just say that I started reading Jane Eyre in May. May. I know. Jane is a beast.

It took me over a month to plow through this dense work of (feminist) art. It was worth the labor and time.

Published in 1847, Jane Eyre can probably best be described as a proto-feminist piece. The protagonist and title character is an independent, educated and self sufficient woman. She works as a governess for a wealth family and when she falls in love with her employer, refuses to become his mistress and dependent. Instead, she sets off--penniless and alone--to discover herself and all that she is capable of.

The story was intense and some of the old English distracting. But the development and evolution of Jane was magical.

I suppose it is possible and useful to question the proto-feminism in the story. Mr. Rochester is very mean (almost abusive) to Eyre and at a time in the story, I was uncomfortable with how easy she overlooked the mistreatment for the benefit of "love."

But at the heart of the story, I argue, is a sense of female empowerment. One of my favorite passages can provide the proof:

Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people the earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

Additional passages of note:
You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not; I need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both sentiments yet to experience; your soul sleeps; the shock is yet to be given which shall waken it.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.

Lovely, lovely novel. I would recommend it to all but I know not all would enjoy. Proceed at your own risk.

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The Summer of Rafa!
In what I can only describe as the best tennis match I've ever seen....Rafael Nadal stripped Roger Federer of his Wimbledon crown. The demolition comes one month after a complete face crush of Federer in the final of the French Open.

While I don't dislike Federer, I adore Rafa. I'm a happy girl!

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