Monday, December 22, 2008
Rilo Kiley - Portions for Foxes
Not much to say, I just really like the song. I made another person listen to it once who was in the middle of a Grey's Anatomy marathon, and he said it sounded like something that would be playing while Meredith was running through the hall way/obsessing over McDreamy (he'd only seen the 1st and possibly 2nd season, back when the show was still good). I don't know if it actually was, but I definitely get the comparison.
Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, but I really don't keep track of upcoming novels, so I was actually surprised to discover she had a new one - while she may be brillant, she hasn't exactly been prolific over the past thirty years.
When I read the first page, I was actually kind of intimated, and wasn't sure if I could handle anything quite that deep at the moment (stream of consciousness), but fortunately, she switches between narrators, and the others are much easier to understand than Florens. And even Florens becomes much easier to understand as the novel progresses, since the other chapters explain many of the things she had been referencing.
Since the narrative shifts in time, it is interesting to see where certain characters started and ended up. At first, Jacob is a modest trader, but in his chapter, which also takes place earliest chronologically, it is easy to see where the seed is planted that turns him into the man he became. After a confrontation with a rich planter, Jacob realizes that he, too, can own those types of things, and he becomes slightly obsessed with possessions. It is strongly suggested that he compromises his principles for his success, since during the last parts of his chapter, he is considering making money off slave trade in Barbados, and eight years later, he has the money to build a huge house.
For the most part, however, the narrative focuses on the women, their relationships and their pasts. Florens is shaped by the fact that her mother seemingly chose her brother over her, and gave her up (although anyone who knows Morrison or Beloved, and the extremes that a mother would do for her children in slavery will doubt that it is as simple as Florens believes). Lina takes on the role of a foster mother for her, and Sorrow is the odd one out at the farm. Through the events of the novel and Jacob's death, all these characters are transformed and find their positions and bonds much less stable than they thought.
After seeing Sorrow portrayed as the odd, crazy one who brings bad luck for most of the novel, I actually really enjoyed her perspective. I also enjoyed Rachel's chapter a lot, even though I hated what happened to her character.
However, I am not going to say too much more about this since I already read a review that pretty much says everything I could possibly say about this novel, and much better. I definitely recommend checking it out (the review and the novel).
With that, I'll wrap it up with a quote from the novel:
To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I can't remember if I heard about this on another blog, or if it was from an e-mail from Barnes and Noble, but the premise sounded interesting enough for me to add to my wishlist for later. I didn't realize that it was considered Christian fiction until I just looked at the bottom of the Amazon page, although that would explain why my list of recommendations lately has been including more religious reading.
That said, I don't feel like I was getting Christianity preached to me in this novel. There was one point when Abigail asked Lauren if she "talked to God" but since they didn't dwell on it, it wasn't a huge defining moment of the book. To me, at least.
The overall premise is that Lauren is a college sophomore from a priviledged background trying to do her own thing. In an effort to show some independence, she takes a job with Abigail to transcribe the diary of Mercy, a young woman that died during the Salem Witch Trials. The best parts of the novel were the inserts from the diary, describing the paranoia and fear that took over the town of Salem. While I also enjoyed the modern day parts, Abigail was a more interesting character to me than Lauren. Lauren actually kind of annoyed me at times with her whole rich guilt issues. It was just a little overdone. Still, she was a sympathetic character if just overly earnest and judgmental. Also, I thought it was very ironic how she kept feeling bad about her priviledge but doesn't even think twice about picking up the hundred + year old version of Robinson Crusoe, probably worth thousands of dollars, and reading it rather than getting a paperback copy at the store.
I read the book in just about one sitting since I had a long bus trip this week, and this novel worked very well for that. They also discussed books in the novel, and I always tend to enjoy books about books or stories (such as The Thirteenth Tale - I think that's the reason I got this, I thought it might be kind of similar).
Saturday, December 13, 2008
So anyway, I've come across a few posts that share my hate of Twilight and love of Buffy and Harry Potter and therefore must share (I am not actually obsessed with HP but enjoyed them; Buffy, however, is an obsession).
Amanda at Pandagon
Alisa at Racialicious
Back when I was much younger and still lived in Germany with my parents, we used to rent a lot of movies. Some of them were rather obscure on occasion, including an HBO film called Citizen X. I don't think I quite understood everything that was going on at the time (I was less than thirteen) or the context, but for some reason, I remember the movie. It was very dark. It's based on the true story of the investigation of a serial killer in the Soviet Union. At that point in time, I was too young and uninformed to realize that living in the Soviet Union might give a serial killer certain advantages.
This book is partially, loosely, based on that same case. The novel, however, takes place right around the time of Stalin's death, so there is even more fear and paranoia in the population, and the government isn't even willing to admit that a crime is being committed - after all, capitalism leads to murder and perversion; everyone in the Soviet Union is too happy to commit crimes.
After what should have been an usual arrest, Leo, the main character and a high ranking official in the MGB, starts questioning the system, and is demoted and exiled. While in his new position, he begins to see a pattern of murders, and despite the danger it puts him, decides to investigate it privately.
The novel is much more than just a murder mystery since it also deals with the repercussions of living under a controlling and paranoid state that's based on the idea of mistrust. Throughout the novel, Leo has to deal with the person he has been and the lies he has told himself throughout his life, discovering that his faith, his job and even his marriage weren't what they seemed. It's definitely a quick and entertaining read, but involves more thought than an average mass marketed thriller/mystery.
I've actually seen this book discussed in several other places online, and for the most part, the reviews have been positive, such as this one.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
In addition to that, it was Pivo's last week in country, so I hung out with him a few times, and somehow got convinced to help him clean his apartment before he had to clear housing. He had to give up his apartment on Friday, so he crashed at my place till Monday (and also managed to trash it in the process - I already had a bit of a mess in progress, but he accelerated its development - also, I'd like to think I would have washed at least one or two pots before dirtying the rest). I finally made it to Prague this weekend which was kind of his last hurrah although he'd originally been trying to get a huge group to go, and all but four of us got too busy to go. I enjoyed myself, especially since all the bars we went to had really fun sounding cocktail menus (except for the last one, but I'd already been cut off at that point of the night).
I ended up driving him to the airport, which I'd actually been expecting to for a while. I was honestly surprised when he told me a few weeks ago that he'd asked another person in our unit to do it - who then backed out on Thursday. Well, actually it really wasn't the guy's fault that he got assigned to a different task, however he could have called Pivo rather than mentioning it when Pivo called him to ask if he wanted to go to Prague. Anyway, I'm not sure if he hadn't asked originally because he just figured I hated driving, I'd have to drive back down later the week anyway (turns out that I don't anymore), or because he had an idea of what might happen and was just trying to avoid a scene.
Before Pivo left, I'd had two different people ask me if I was going to cry when he left. One person I told I didn't know, and the other one I just gave a dirty look due to the sarcasm in his line delivery. Turns out, yes. In the middle of the airport while in uniform.
Pivo was the second person I met from our unit after getting to Germany. My first weekend, three of us went out/got drunk twice, and both times Pivo and I were the more sober/less wasted, rational ones that were basically laughing at the third guy, especially when he started up the same story for the third time on two separate nights. Word for word.
Since we got along well, we hung out more, and eventually got involved (except it wasn't that eventual). We broke up while we were in Iraq, and the first few weeks were incredibly difficult for me, because he'd been my best friend down there, my work out partner, the guy I ate all my meals with, and the person I could vent to about work. Basically, he helped keep me sane. I even had him pin my rank on me when I got promoted instead of my commander as is traditional. After we broke up, he decided we needed distance, and we kind of started finding our own groups. In ways, it was harder for me to find a new group to hang out with because I tend to prefer one on one friendships (I don't need a large group of friends, but I always like/want to have that one person around I can depend), and you can't do that with an NCO (which is what most everyone in the Army is) without starting to get into fraternization issues.
Since we've been back in Germany, we've been hanging out a little bit more again. Despite everything, I still get along better with him than any of the other officers in my unit, and I haven't had quite enough time to become good friends with any of the other lieutenants in the battalion.
While I know that it's actually a good thing for me that he's gone (for some reason it takes me forever to get over people, I don't know if I get too attached or what), it still would have been nice if he'd been around a little bit longer. I guess now I'm going to have to really make the effort to get to know other people instead of using him as a security blanket, but I'd like to think I was making progress even with him still around. The thing is that even with our history (or despite it or because of it), I still feel incredibly comfortable talking to him about most things. As long as I don't go off on too much of a tangent about celebrity gossip or something like that, he generally listens. I don't really have anyone like that in Germany right now. All of my friends are now either in the States or deployed - basically, a phone call or an email away, but still a continent and a time zone to contend with.
Basically, it's just incredibly weird that he's gone because he's been such a big part of my life for the past twenty-two months. The guy that picked me up from the airport is going to be gone in less than a month. I'm no longer going to be the last of the officers to join the unit, I'm going to be the senior LT, and it's going to be me explaining the Army and Germany to a new platoon leader soon. If we ever get one. There are actually going to be a lot of goodbyes in the near future, this was just the first, most painful and most important of them.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Michelle Branch - Goodbye to You
I've always liked this song. This is the official video, and I also am posting a clip from Buffy. I'd already heard this song before they used in "Tabula Rasa", but it just fit perfectly with the scene and made it even more powerful. The fact that Tara left Willow was incredibly sad, and the song basically described everything Tara was feeling, too. God, I miss that show.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Also, I don't think my blog is quite anonymous enough for me to talk about certain things in my life because I'm afraid the people I'm poking fun at might read it (I don't think they do, but they could easily find it if they wanted to and then - awkward).
I need to aim for a balance between the amount of posting I was doing before November and this month. I'm not going to be updating daily anymore, but I will try to put more thought into the updates I make.
The only other Woody Allen movie I've seen is Matchpoint, and for the most part, the movie was entertaining enough. The narrator was obnoxious, because everything he said was obvious anyway, and at one point, I turned to the guy I was with and said, "this was definitely written by a man." I'm just not sure I buy the idea of one guy being that charming and amazing. I wouldn't have minded seeing more of Penelope Cruz outside that setting, and not just her as the crazy ex-wife.
One thing that I noticed that's kind of weird about myself was my reaction to the end of the movie (spoiler alert): I was really disappointed that Vicky stayed with her husband. It felt like she was simply settling and compromising. I'm not saying she should have run off with the artist, but it seemed like she was setting herself up for an unfulfilled and less than happy life.
A few weeks ago, Pivo and I actually got into a drunken discussion about this type of thing. It seems like the book The Game (apparently there's a TV show as well now) has become quite popular within the unit. A sergeant told me about it months ago, and gave me his copy as a must read to understand men. I still haven't read it. One of the other platoon leaders has also read it, and he lent it to Pivo recently. Pivo was talking about a part of the book where the main person, Mystery (?), got Scott Baio's girlfriend's number. I don't even know who Scott Baio is, but apparently it was supposed to be a big deal. I just made the comment that if you're dating someone, you shouldn't give or get someone else's number in front of that person. It's just rude - if the relationship really isn't working, end it; don't make sure you have a back-up before ending it and just stick around because you don't know if you can do better. Also, at some point, people make a commitment to each other which means they stop looking around for someone better to come along (while wasted, Pivo agreed with me on that point - I haven't asked while sober).
So based on that, I should have been happy with the ending of Vicky Christina Barcelona. I guess the difference is that Vicky seemed to be resigning herself to a life that was less than happy. While the guy may have been the catalyst, it was more about her realizing her discontent but accepting it. In the other case, it seems like people just can't be satisfied with their situation and think they should constantly be looking for something else. And of course, the whole lack of etiquette irritated me.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
La Sagrada Familia Exterior
Friday, November 28, 2008
I spent my Thanksgiving sleeping in, lounging around the house, and then finally went to a German restaurant for Schweinebraten and Knodel. It's kind of a German version of pork roast with potato balls. One of my friends went skiing, and a few weeks ago, someone had mentioned their Thanksgiving dinner to me, but I ended up deciding against it - if I'm going to eat turkey, I want my mom's, dammit. With her gravy and mashed potatoes. I'm not much of a turkey person, anyway.
Who knows - maybe next year, I'll boycott the holiday for the right reasons.
Really, though, Thanksgiving has never been a big deal to me. Ironically enough, I think my favorite Thanksgiving dinners took place in Germany. My mom would invite her parents and brother, once or twice I invited a kid from school (it's not like their families were celebrating Thanksgiving), and we'd eat once I got home from school. Plus, the food was just better. In addition to the usual turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberries that only my mother ate, and stuffing, we also had Knodel. I love potatoes so any meal that involves two varieties of them is a plus. After moving back to America, the Knodel fell off the menu.
Additionally, once we got back to the States, my mom tried having the family over once (way too much work that no one appreciated), we went to my grandmother's once (the turkey was pink), and then we gave up: Thanksgiving became just my parents and me, basically just like any other meal except with turkey (and my mom has on occasion made those randomly during the year). Since my K-7 education was all in German schools, Thanksgiving has never been about pilgrims "peacefully" coexisting with Native Americans, it's always just been some meal with lots of food and turkey. And really, we could do that any time of the year. In fact, wouldn't it make sense to have the holiday earlier instead of having all the family holidays overlap within in a month? It seems like every other country I know has their Thanksgiving, Erntedankfest (Harvest Gratefulness Feast), whatever in October so being the non-country person that I am, I'm assuming that's when the harvest generally comes in?
I started writing my Christmas cards today, and I gotta say, I think I was still hyped up on the election results when I bought them - I usually go for the most generic wording along the lines of "Happy Holidays," because I don't want anything that even suggests religion; this year I have cards that talk about hope being born. Maybe I should have sent those out in the beginning of the month.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Lisa Loeb - Stay
YouTube is evil. Way too addictive. The video is very '90s, but there's a cat, and I love this song. And the fact that it looks like it was done with only one video shot is kind of interesting, keeps things simple I guess.
Somehow, we kept ending up on La Rambla. It's the most famous street in Barcelona, and there are a ton of street performers there as well as stands. It was actually kind of interesting because they were sectioned off by what they were selling: first, we walked by a bunch of people selling birds, rabbits, hamsters and chipmunks, then came a block or more of flowers, and after that the souvenir/newspaper stands.
I really wish I lived in a city sometimes. A friend of mine lives in Bamberg, and while it isn't a big city, even they have flower stands like this which are much cheaper than flower shops. Every time I finally end up in a city where they have them, I can't actually take advantage of them because I won't be going home anytime soon. Plus, they have a much larger variety than any of the flower shops I've seen in my town.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Breaking Benjamin - The Diary of Jane
I've been wasting the last few afternoons looking up music videos on youTube. For the most part, I don't usually feel the need to see the video when I hear a song I like, so I've seen maybe one or two videos in the last few years, but I recently heard a song on the radio, and I figured it would be cheaper to listen to it on youTube than buying it iTunes. After that, I kind of got sucked in.
Anyway, since I'm incredibly tired right now, I'm just posting the music video to one of my favorite songs. Actually, the acoustic version is one of my favorite songs, but while available on youTube, there isn't a video to go with it. I've done this version for karaoke before. Both versions of the song are great, though. The original version just has so much anger and hate, while the acoustic version sounds like it's full of pain and despair (does this mean I'm screwed up?)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Last week, I had an hour to kill between the gym and a doctor's appointment, so I swung by the PX to pick up some make up remover, and figured I could get a magazine or book for the waiting room. I was pleasanty surprised to stumble upon Jose Saramago's Blindness as soon as I hit the fiction shelf. It's been on my Amazon wishlist ever since I heard about the movie for the first time, which also involved raves for the book.
I really liked the book. A lot. The premise is that a virus of sorts sweeps a country as one after another everyone becomes afflicted with a white blindness. The first to suffer from this condition are quarantined in a defunct mental asylum. As the situation on the inside (and outside) deteriorates, the blind must grapple with ideas of human nature, decency and morality. Living in filth due a lack of supplies and an inability to see anything, some of the people begin to turn on each other while others form close bonds. Saramago focuses specifically on one wing, which houses the doctor's wife, a woman who pretended to be blind to accompany her husband to the asylum. Her ability to see gives those around her a slight advantage, or at least allows them to hold on to their humanity more tightly. Saramoga's exploration of the people inside the asylum was very gripping, and high lighted all the best and worst aspects of human nature. It isn't long before a criminal element takes control of the asylum and uses their power to lord over the inmates.
The asylum was definitely the best part of the novel. Once they leave the asylum, the novel is still interesting but it seems much more familiar, even if the comparisons don't quite hold. By the time they leave the asylum, the group has been reduced to seven, and the idea of a small group scrounging for food, wandering from abandoned building to abandoned building very much reminded me of scenes from Stephen King's Cell or the movie 28 Days Later, for example. It's very different, of course, because there is no zombie enemy to hide from in Blindness, but something about the way that life had been completely destroyed and that these people were going to have to figure out how to rebuild their lives in a completely new world was reminiscent. Also, of course, there were many more people still alive, since in Cell and 28 Days Later, there are but few survivors. Despite that, there is the idea that the rest of the blind people, while not the enemy, aren't exactly friends, either. I would argue that this novel has some of that "us against the world" mentality that usually occurs in other post-apocalyptic fiction.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Anyway, expect more and different pictures in the next few days (because I'm sure everyone's getting tired of Paris).
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Shrine of St. Genevieve
According to the guide book I had, St. Genevieve is the patron saint of Paris. The church, St. Etienne du Mont, is dedicated to her and contains her remains. Now, one of the reasons I took quite as many pictures of things related to St. Genevieve as I did is my lack of knowledge of linguistics.
My name is actually derived from or has the same root as Guinevere. Seeing the name Genevieve, I thought maybe that was a variation of Guinevere, and actually got kind of excited about the whole patron saint/ name day thing. It's not. Guinevere and Genevieve are two completely separate names. The "r" apparently makes a difference. It's actually kind of funny that I got so excited about possibly finding a saint with my name. Despite my lack of religion now, certain parts of my childhood still occasionally take over. Whenever I walk into a Catholic church, even just as a tourist, I still put my hand in the holy water and cross myself. In Notre Dame and St. Etienne Du Mont alike, I put money in the collection box so I could light a candle.
When I was a kid in German school, we read lots of stories of the saints, and most of the kids in class knew exactly who their namesake was and what the story behind him/her was. It was impossible to find a St. Jennifer in a German-speaking country. I think they finally just either gave up or told me to go with Joan. It wasn't until much later when the internet was more prevalent that I was able to find sites with the meaning of my name and the root of it.
My grandmother actually always made a huge deal out of her name day, and expected to be called every Dec 4 and congratulated because of St. Barbara. And the funny thing is that Barbara was her middle name. I guess she had a better story than St. Bettina.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I can definitely relate to this quote. My dating life in high school was rather lacking, and it didn't pick up too much in college, either. Except in college, suddenly there were also a few, very occasional, creepy guys making passes at me, which was new. Given that, is it any surprise when I get really excited when a cute and normal guy acts interested?
Anyway, due to the large difference in the number of women and men in Iraq, the Soldiers have this phenonmenon they like to refer to as "Queen of the Year." Basically, women that would normally be considered average suddenly become a lot more attractive to the men around them and have lots and lots of options.
As an officer, this doesn't really affect me too much. A large percentage of the military is enlisted, and most of them know that fraternization is bad, and officers are therefore off limits. However, even within the officer world, there's many more men than women. Despite the numbers being in my favor, there was still only one other lieutenant that expressed an interest in me, and he, too, was "a mad, stalking elf." Well, not really, but definitely marched to his own beat. On drums that he probably made himself from animals that he killed with the bullets that he cased himself (casing bullets - now there's a fun conversation).
As far as I was concerned, I had no interest in the guy, but I occasionally got bored and didn't have that many people to socialize with so whenever he asked if I wanted to meet for coffee, I'd say yes. I never turn down a chance to go to Green Bean and get a White Chocolate Mocha Frappe. The first time I actually talked to the guy, we had an okay conversation; somehow after that, I just ended up sitting there bored out of my mind while he just went on from one topic to another. Usually I would have little to say, I didn't understand his segues at all, and whenever I did have something to add to the conversation, by the time he paused five minutes later, he would have moved on to the next topic and my comment would be completely random and out there. When he was the one who was random and out there.
A few people teased me and kept saying I had dates. I kept arguing that it wasn't a date, we were just meeting. Pivo was incredibly amused by the whole situation and just laughed at me, but warned me to watch out because in that guy's mind I was probably his girlfriend already.
Our last day on our FOB, a lot of us threw out all our pillows and extra blankets/sheets into the dumpster to travel as lightly as possible - we later caught another unit going through the trash, taking stuff to use for themselves, including our old pillows. It's one thing to dig something plastic out of a container that can be bleached and scrubbed but a pillow? We were joking around about it and one of my squad leaders, who is generally a very quiet and appropriate guy, great NCO, said, "well, we all know who took LT K's pillow." This NCO and Pivo had actually had an opportunity to run into the "stalker" the previous week, and after spending some time with the guy, had the reaction of "oh my god, is this guy for real?"
As I said, he was nice. But incredibly odd. And just completely oblivious and unaware. In a way, it was still pretty amusing - at least, he wasn't creepy like some of the freaks that hit on me in college. Just weird (and he wasn't actually a stalker, he just came on a little strong).
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
After walking past The Secret Life of Bees for ages with no interest, reading movie reviews actually inspired me to pick up the book. It was a little cliche at times (1960s era South, young white girl learns about race, crush on black boy being parts of the story though not the major plot), but then again, what isn't? With so many books on the market, there is no such thing as originality. It was a little sentimental on occasion, but I enjoyed the book (actually stayed up way too late reading it), and am looking forward to the movie. While I thought Dakota Fanning was an incredibly creepy child, she seems to have grown into a normal teenager, and I like Queen Latifah.
I also read Isabel Allende's Zorro. It's not one of her best, but it was an entertaining read. I think maybe now I've just read so many of her novels that I tend to recognize certain stock characters (in this one it was the larger than life aunt that echoed the larger than life grandmother of Portraits in Sepia).
Finally, I also read Vinegar Hill. I wouldn't exactly classify it as entertaining since it's a bit dark for that, but it was worth the time. The story takes place in the early 1970s in a rural town in Wisconsin, and talks about one woman's marriage and her life with her in-laws. The main plot concerned the main character's dissatisfaction with her life, and the constrictions society was placing on her, until she had to figure out a way to make herself happy rather than worrying about traditions and rules. It was once on Oprah's Book Club, so it's not as if those themes were a surprise. It was also interesting to see how in certain ways her mother-in-law's life may have helped her relate to her daughter-in-law but instead just made her embittered.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I did, however, learn a few interesting things that evening - they have assigned seating in German theaters, so it actually does make sense to buy them online, especially if there's a larger group. We got our tickets two hours before the movie started (we went shopping at the "mall" next door first), and since there were three of us, we had a choice of basically two places to sit. Once we were in the theater, Pivo started complaining that they put us in the corner and I, of course, couldn't prevent myself from lamely referring to a certain Dirty Dancing quote.
Also, there were about fifteen minutes of random advertisements, followed by the curtain closing again and the lights coming on, and then finally previews (in German, even though it was an English language showing - I have to say, though, that as messed up as Tom Cruise may be, he tends to pick movies that at least look like they could be entertaining). I think the movie itself started about half an hour after the listed time (and the ads were pretty crappy). Still, the theater itself was much nicer than the ones on post, and I got to see the movie now rather than in a month or two. The seats didn't have cupholders, though. I found that incredibly odd.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"Beer Bad" is one of those episodes of Buffy that tends to get a bad rap, but it's one that always makes me laugh, possibly because of the stupidity. Also, rewatching it, I was surprised to see that Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) was an extra/drinking buddy in this episode.
Basically, that describes my weekend. Except replace beer with vodka, tequila shots and butterscotch flavored schnapps and turn weekend into Friday. And throw in some Wii Mario Kart. Apparently my coordination gets better when I'm drinking because I actually scored higher drunk than usually.
We went out Thursday night, but made it an early night because the techno just wasn't doing it for us - where the hell are the clubs that play hip hop? Or was it the whole Thursday night thing? As a result, I was more than willing to drive over to a friend's house Friday night in response to a drunk text message about tequila and pickles (I brought a lime to prevent that disaster from reoccuring) - even though I hadn't updated for the day yet, and was trying to do the whole NaBloPoMo thing. I just didn't think I should just slap another picture on the web and leave. I'd like to actually do a thoughtful post here. I'd like to think I still have the occasional thought despite being out of school and in the Army for over two years.
I barely had time to recover Saturday morning before I was on my way back to Regensburg to visit a friend I've had since 7th grade. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that his mother had driven there as well because she was excited about seeing me (that actually makes her the first person to do some driving to see me instead of me driving to their place all the time - not even my grandfather was willing to go out of his way to meet me). I ended up staying there rather late, and by the time I got home I had about half an hour left in the day, and once again didn't feel like taking the lazy way out. So yes, I have failed at updating daily, but I figure a few real posts are probably better than me slapping a picture up all the time. Unless that were of course my theme. And I actually do have a few picture I still want to post, but most of them I want to do a little bit more with, and either go for themes (I have some awesome pictures of gardens) or something like that.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
From all I've read, part of the reason Henry was initially attracted to Anne was her intelligence and her wit. They don't engage in too many, if any, intellectual conversations, and it's hard to see how Anne would have kept his interest so long. Also, I think if she's really as ambitious as the film portrays her, she also would have been more subtle at points.
The showtime series The Tudors isn't perfect, either, by a long shot, but it does a much better job of dealing the politics and other issues that were also going on at the time, and giving context. Even though events are on an accelerated cycle in that show as well, they do a much better job of implying the passage of time.
But the dresses were nice.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Another check in the stupidity column for Peter is the fact that one of his main concerns and reasons for wanting to stop the virus is because he stranded the woman he loved in the future - okay, well here's the problem with that - you left her in that version of the future - if you now change it, wouldn't you just either leave her in an alternate universe or destroy the future she's in, thus destroying her existence? The only way to save her was to go back to the future, bring her back to the present, and then prevent the future from occuring. She couldn't come back without you, and since you can only travel to the future and not parallel universes, you can't find her anymore, either.
From what I hear the third season is even more obnoxious. The problem is that they've chosen to make Peter the main guy for the most part, or the superhero, and he is rather boring. And easy to manipulate. I'm not saying a superhero can't be human, but how about displaying some damn common sense? There are a few characters that are much more interesting, and they barely get air time, or get really crappy, almost pointless story lines. For example, I liked Mica's cousin Monica (who got so much air time I barely remembered her name), but she didn't have much of a story.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Monet is probably my favorite artist ever, but I always like to include the caveat that I don't much about art along with that statement. There are just a lot of artists I don't know anything about. Overall though, I tend to have a certain fondness for the Impressionist movement (I'm not a big fan of anything more recent). This portrait of Coco Chanel was in the basement of the Musee de L'Orangerie, and I really liked it. It was even cooler to discover that it was painted by a woman artist (go feminism!), Marie Laurencin, whom I'd never heard of before.
I also stopped by the Chanel store on Avenue Montaigne, and my god, that place makes the other couture stores look cheap. I saw a beautiful pair of boots at Christian Dior for 798 Euro and another pair at Prada for 750 (so pretty!) but the one pair I just happened to look at in Chanel were 10,000 - unless I read the label wrong (and I didn't even like them as much as the Prada ones). I don't think so, though. I wish I were rich (not that I could wear the clothes, because I don't think couture comes in anything above a 4, but I do like the accessories).
Saturday, November 08, 2008
It was fun although the second club we ended up with played more music of the techno variety than I would have liked. Throughout the night, we were rather amused by the random '80s songs that were remixed. However, one song in particular topped them all: at one point, they started playing a beat as background to someone speaking. After a few seconds, I realized, "that sounds like President Elect Obama. No, it can't be. It really sounds like him though." And then they got to the line, "yes, we can." I haven't been to any clubs in the States in a while, but the president elect being remixed to a techno beat just seems like something that would only happen in Europe.
And yes, I have seen the will.i.am video of "yes, we can" but he didn't exactly turn any speeches into a trance song.
Friday, November 07, 2008
This is Tour St. Jaques, a Gothic tower that is all that remains of an old church. The travel book described it as closed for renovations so I'm not sure if that means you can usually go up it or what, not that I would. I have a strong dislike of old, narrow spiral staircases.
I'm going to be out and about this weekend, so expect even shorter updates if that's possible.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I made Jaegerschnitzel and knodel. I'd invited Pivo over because I don't really like cooking just for myself, and I'm still working on the whole cooking thing, so he's kind of the guinea pig (last night I made cookies, and I didn't really like the way they turned out from the one bite I had, so I gave him half of them today to take home - he wouldn't take them all). He was a little surprised that I was using a premade dough for the knodel since I said I was making them, but that's how my mom always did it. Why make something from scratch when there are easier ways? And it's not like they were instant or out of the box. According to that argument, I didn't really make the Jaegerschnitzel, either - I just fried the pork and and then added water and a Maggi sauce powder. Either way, I heated, mixed and dirtied pots and pans - sounds like cooking to me. It's definitely a step up from my "take out of bag, place on cookie sheet/pizza pan and heat."
It actually turned out well, and I timed everything perfectly (for some reason, I'm really good at cooking pork; last time I made us chicken and noodles, and I got kind of irritated with the noodles, and boiled things over). And I got rid of some cookies. I figure this way I also don't have to worry about dieting too much because just the fact that I'm cooking with somewhat fresh ingredients has to be healthier than Iraq and my usual, pre-deployment diet. Of course, I am still going to keep a supply of Tombstone pizza and potato skins in the freezer. But I also have yoghurt and strawberries in my fridge. And I finally figured out where they keep the Brita filters in the PX - only had to ask two employees. I'll actually have cold water in my fridge again, and I generally prefer water anyway.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I was very excited about the presidential election but less happy with some of the other outcomes. I'm so disappointed that Proposition 8 passed but relieved that all the abortion limitations were rejected. California also had a proposition on its ballot to give farm animals more space (they'd have to be able to at least stand and turn around in their living areas, in simplest terms) which passed. It's cool but how is it that we just showed more concern and care for some animals than for other human beings by denying them the simple right to be married and have the same privileges as other couples? We care more about farm stock than people?
I have more thoughts on the topic, and am kind of annoyed with all the little comments I'm already seeing about how "there won't be change" (would it be judgmental if I removed everyone from my Facebook friend list that had an anti-Obama statement?), but I don't want to get too close to that line for the Army. Not that it isn't obvious to anyone that knows me* or has ever read a single post on this blog who or what I believe in and support.
*At least after a five minute conversation - the two other platoon leaders in the company have both told me that their very first impression of me was conservative Christian type because I was quiet and reserved, and that fit more in line with the idea of a conservative (because liberals are never introverted, and obviously all the stereotypes of a conservative including the good ole boy, are of shy, quiet wallflowers - people, come on). They were pleasantly surprised (not so much because of the political views but because I was more than happy to go drinking).
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The Final List (Aug '07 - Aug '08)
107. A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom
106. The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
105. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
104. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
103. Naked by David Sedaris
102. Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende
101. The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
100. The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin
99. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings
98. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
97. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
96. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
95. Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
94. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
93. The Space Between Us by Thrity N. Umrigar
92. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
91. Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin
90. He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti
89. A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans
88. Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan
87. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
86. Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett
85. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
84. Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
83. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
82. Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big or Why Pie Is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster
81. A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell
80. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
79. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
78. I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
77. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
76. The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
75. Imago by Octavia Butler
74. Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler
73. Dawn by Octavia Butler
72. Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body by Courtney E. Martin
71. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
70. A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe
69. The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by Matthew Currier Burden
68. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
67. Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? by Jen Lancaster
66. Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler
65. It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments by Amanda Marcotte
64. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
63. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
62. The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen: Passing, Quicksand and the Stories by Nella Larsen
61. Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
60. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
59. From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture by Lynda Haas, Elizabeth Bell, Laura Sells
58. The Street by Ann Petry
57. Patternmaster by Octavia Butler
56. Clay's Ark by Octavia Butler
55. Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler
54. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
53. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
52. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
51. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
50. The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez
49. The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel Maines
48. World Without End by Ken Follett
47. Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan
46. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
45. Psychoanalysis and Black Novels: Desire and the Protocols of Race by Claudia Tate
44. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
43. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
42. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
41. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
40. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis
39. Starting Out in the Evening by Brian Morton
38. Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist by Hazel V. Carby
37. Evelina by Frances Burney
36. Women of De Koh: Lives in an Iranian Village by Erika Friedl
35. A Feather on the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez
34. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
33. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
32. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
31. Excabilur by Bernard Cornwell
30. Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell
29. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
28. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
27. After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell
26. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
25. Kindred by Octavia Butler
24. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks
23. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
22. Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis
21. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
20. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
19. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
18. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" by Linda Williams
17. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate by Leila Ahmed
16. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
15. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body by Susan Bordo
14. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
13. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
12. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
11. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
10. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
9. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
8. Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism by Eva Illouz
7. The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis
6. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
4. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Volume I by Michel Foucault
3. Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
2. Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America by Laura Kipnis
1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
I took this picture in the Rodin museum in Paris. It's not exactly one of those stereotypically Parisian images or sites, but some of my favorite parts of my weekend actually included the Rodin museum, the Cluny (or the museum formerly known as the Cluny), and the Musee de l'Orangerie (Impressionist paintings, including Monet's Waterlilies). I really like sculpture, what can I say. About half the pictures I took at the Louvre were of various sculptures.
One of the reasons that this particular piece, Hands, appealed to me as much as it did has to do with my great-grandmother. When I was young, we only lived in the United States until I was five years old, and until our final and permanent return when I was 13, we only visited once when I was about 8. As a result, I didn't actually get to know my great-grandmother very well - I don't remember anything from before I was 5, I met her again when I was 8, and she died when I was in 5th or 6th grade.
Despite that, from the stories my dad tells of her and his childhood, she always sounded like a warm and caring person, a true grandparent. I was the first person in the family to be named after her (my middle name is Pauline), and depending on how one interprets the story of my younger cousin Paul, possibly the only (his mother really wanted a son she could nickname PJ, so whether Paul is due to our great-grandmother or because it was a P-name isn't exactly clear to me). After she died, my grandmother asked if there was anything my parents wanted as a keepsake to remember her by. Of course, at this point we were in Germany and really had no clue what was in my great-grandmother's room at the home, so my dad requested a picture/wall hanging that we had given her for Christmas a few years before. It's hung in my room ever since, and displays two hands linked in prayer. As a result, seeing a sculpture of two hands kind of reminded me of her.
I was actually thinking about getting a picture of this to hang on my bedroom wall, but for some reason, the prices on AllPosters.com are showing up in Euro. It would also be slightly more fitting for me than praying hands given my lack of religious beliefs.
Speaking of grandparents, my grandfather kicked me out of his apartment on Friday. Yeah. I don't know.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I'm also back in Germany. We arrived back home about two and a half weeks ago, and I finally got my internet up and running Thursday. Let's just say, that was a pain in the ass. I've spent the last few days catching up on two weeks worth of blog entries on Google Reader (and finally downloaded Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), and now that my still left to read list is down to the more manageable 100 rather than 1000+, I figured I had time to start focusing on my blog again.
After fifteen months in theater, my unit had no deaths or injuries - unless you count the basketball court and other sports-related issues. Through just basketball, one guy got stitches by his eye and messed up his thumb, another bent his finger in an odd way, and Pivo broke his wrist/hand, which he then followed up with a rolled/sprained ankle while playing kickball (after all those accidents, he was greeted by a sign with the words "handicaptain accessible" on his office door - the guy who burned himself with radiator fluid actually had a sticker put on his chair that said flame retardant). That's just the basketball injuries I can remember off the top of my head, not to mention scratches, bruises, soreness and limping ("he stepped on me").
Now that I'm back in Germany, my posting topics will probably be a lot more random, and not quite as book-focused. I've also decided to attempt to participate in National Blog Posting Month, which means I will be posting once a day for the month. Be forewarned, if I can't think of anything to say, I will consider a picture from my Paris trip a post. Actually, I might do that anyway - have a picture of the day drawing from my pool of London and Paris pictures (my two big pre- and postdeployment trips). That way, when people ask me to send pictures, I can just tell them to look online.
Friday, August 08, 2008
In this novel, Erdrich returns to the reservation and many of the characters from her first novel. She actually bridges the two previous novels, and has many of the citizens of Argus show up in the early part of Tracks. The novel takes place between 1911 and 1924, thus serving as a kind of sequel to the occurences in Love Medicine. I liked this one a lot more than The Beet Queen. Tracks tells the story and development of two characters in particular that were simply minor, though influential/mysterious characters in the previous novels: Fleur Pillager, who is later a type of medicine woman, and Pauline Puyat, who bears a different name in the other novels and is rather sinister. Pauline starts off nice enough but soon goes a little off the deep end, perhaps because she was always a little weird and couldn't fit in. It was interesting seeing the relationships develop between all these people, and the way it explained certain situations that occured in Love Medicine. For example, finding out that certain people were related shed light on their interactions decades later. In another example, it was kind of disturbing to discover that two people were actually related, making their relationship in Love Medicine somewhat incestuous.
The parts narrated by Nanapush were the best since Pauline is, well, insane. In addition to dealing with all types of personal relationships, the novel also explores some of the issues of reservation life in the beginning of the century, as the people are ravished by disease, hunger and must struggle to hold on to their lands.
I'd actually wanted to order Brother, I'm Dying by the same author based on this review, but when I looked it up on Amazon, I realized it was going to come out in paper back very soon, and decided not to spend the money on a hardcover as a result. Instead, I decided to give this a try.
I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, but I feel like it lost steam or something in the last half. Maybe I just felt like some things were left too open or unanswered (even though it's not exactly open-ended; I just felt like there could have been more). I'd definitely still recommend it, and will pick up Brother, I'm Dying.
After being raised in Haiti by her aunt, Sophie has to join her mother in the United States when she sends for her. Twelve year old Sophie doesn't remember her mother, and would rather stay with her aunt, but accepts her fate. Once with her mother, Sophie more or less adjusts to her new life, and her mother labors endlessly to give her daughter the opportunity to get a good education. When Sophie meets a man at 18, her mother worries about this upsetting Sophie's future, and also shows an abnormal obsession with ensuring her daughter's purity. As a result, Sophie and her mother have a huge falling out.
A few years later, Sophie returns to Haiti to visit her family, and get some clarity on her past. She discovers this obsession with purity also plagued her mother, her aunt, her grandmother and other generations as they were growing up, which makes it easier for her to understand and forgive her mother's actions. Additionally, she finally gets the whole story on her conception and birth.
While Sophie is in therapy to deal with her problems, it doesn't necessarily seem to be helping her too much. Her mother, however, is afraid to confront her past, and ends up being destroyed by it. Danticat not only explores the generational bond between the women in the novel, but also shows hints of the violence and unrest that were occuring as a result of politics in Haiti.