Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Serial

Today was a Hump Day for the books. I haven't watched TV on a weeknight since the summer, but tonight all I want to do is let someone else do the entertaining while I turn my brain off. Game 7 is turning out to be just what I need, but I'd also welcome a new episode of Serial if one were to show up early.

Serial is the newest podcast from the folks at WBEZ Chicago (the same folks responsible for This American Life). It tells "one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season." Its inaugural story is about a murder that occurred 15 years ago in Baltimore. New episodes come out Thursday mornings, so I'm eagerly awaiting tomorrow's segment. And cheering for the Royals.

If you haven't heard of Serial, or if you have and you haven't started listening yet, here's episode one (all episodes can also be found on the website, serialpodcast.org):

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Mondays

Today greeted me with a strong case of the Mondays. I couldn't want to do anything. Here's what Did and Did Not help along the way.

DID HELP:

Sunshine & 74 degree weather.
Coffee.
Listening to the most recent episode of Serial.
The practice of doing just one thing at a time. Then the next. And the next.
Knowing I had leftovers at home for dinner and wouldn't have to cook anything.
Pulling out my blog calendar and planning out November.
Part of a Seroogy's Mint Meltaway.

DID NOT HELP:

74 degree weather & my layered fall outfit.
Still being sore from this weekend's 5K.
Bear & Packer losses.
Getting spit on by some old guy at Whole Foods.
Wind.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: 5K Edition

What a weekend! Glorious weather, a visit from my parents, pre-Halloween fun, a 5K, lots of food and laughs...I had it all these past few days. I'm so happy October turned into such a lively and activity-filled month.
Making: friends on the 5K course. (It helps when people recognize your costume.)
Smelling: someone's toots at the thrift store. (I got out of there pretty quick.)
Cooking: lasagna after a weekend of gastronomic adventures.
Eating: a fried chicken sandwich, a spicy skillet, thin crust pizza, chocolate, pastries, chips, lo mein...
Drinking: a few sips from my free race beer before confirming my distaste for beer.

Introducing: my parents to Jesus's family.
Running: 3.1 miles in my Fionna costume.
Walking: less than I ran during the 5K. Success! 
Cheering: on the young girl dressed as Frida Khalo who really didn't want to finish the 5K. (She went on to win the costume contest.)
Putting: my butt into gear for the final stretch of the race. (And beating Jesus by one second!)
Watching: The Shining.
Getting: the final touches for my Scully costume.
Buying: a tapioca/watermelon/kiwi smoothie.
Missing: my parents already...these weekends go by too fast.
Reading: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Writing: book reviews and movie reviews.
Listening to: Serial. Who knew I would like a podcast so much?
Wanting: to run another 5K someday.
Needing: a recovery period first.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Night Circus

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First thoughts: YES! This was so fun to read. The first few chapters were confusing until I got the hang of the changing dates and locations. Once I got to know the characters and their stories the book picked up and I was off on a magical journey. I loved the little nugget-like chapters.

Favorite characters: Bailey, for being the most relatable. Mr. Barris and his architecture were cool. I loved the descriptions of Friedrick's clocks.

I'm interested to see how this translates to film. There's so much to be done with the visuals. Reading this also made me want to go to the circus (which I then did).

Where I read: in bed, on the couch, way too late into the night, all morning while I should have been getting ready for work...

Recommended for: circus/magic lovers, lovers of a story, dreamers, fantasy seekers, people who need a literary escape.

Favorite quotes:
"I have seen a great many things that I might once have considered impossible, or unbelievable. I find I no longer have clearly defined parameters for such matters. I choose to do my work to the best of my own abilities, and leave others to their own." -Mr. Barris

"You're not destined or chosen. I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it's not true. You're in the right place in the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that's enough." -Celia Bowen

Final thoughts: I know I'm late to this party, but party on!!


View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why I Enjoy Every Book I Read

If you are a follower of this blog in any capacity, you've probably noticed that I enjoy reading. A lot of writerly types do. (And should!) Most weeks (usually Saturdays), I post a review of a book I recently read (imported from my Goodreads reviews, which is a great site for me to keep track of books I've read/want to read). More often than not these are positive reviews, which could convince a reader that I'm too nice and not a trustworthy (read: honest) reviewer. How can I like so many books? Why are the bad eggs so few and far between? I assure you there is a logical explanation for this.

Four Reasons Why I Like Everything I Read:
  1. I read what I like. First and foremost, I don't start books I'm not interested in reading. I don't care how many other people enjoyed it; if I read summaries/reviews and I can't convince myself to try, I don't. There are way way WAY too many books for me to waste time on something that doesn't suit me. This right here is the biggest reason why I rarely write "bad" reviews. Can't write them if I don't read them. Example: Fifty Shades of Gray, etc. I feel no shame in not giving these books even a chance at a review.
  2. I test read. Once I decide I am interested in a book, I give it the 50-100 page test: I read at least 50 pages and usually no more than 100 before giving up or going full throttle. If I'm not impressed after that, I quit. Just like that. Again--there are SO MANY other books out there, so why waste time on something I'm not into? I know that many readers feel like they've "invested" time into books and don't want that time to go to "waste," but here's the thing: hating the book for the first half AND the second half doesn't save you any "invested" time...it just makes you hate the whole book and wastes a lot of time. You can always try reading that book later on in life--sometimes you need to wait for the right season in your life for certain books. I don't review books that I haven't finished (besides putting them on a Did Not Finish list on Goodreads, so if you want a taste of what I'm not into at this moment, check that out), so again we've cut down potential "bad" reviews. Example: Steve Jobs. I even read past 100 pages for this one because I was so sure it couldn't be as boring as it was. Spoiler alert: it's boring for someone not enamored with Apple in any way.
  3. I look for the good. If a book has passed both the initial interest and 50-page test and I finish it, there's a good chance it's because I legitimately liked it--but beyond that, I'm a silver lining type, so even if it was a rough read, I'll find something redeeming about the book. A character I liked, a concept that's intriguing, the pace, the cover design, the nugget of truth buried somewhere inside: all reasons for me to give a positive (though still honest) review. Example: Divergent, etc. I hated parts of these books, but they take a few hours to finish and they're set in Chicago.
  4. I take a step back. If a book passes the initial interest and 50-page test and I can find little to no silver linings, I might not like it. And STILL: it's a published book by a person who took time to write it. Just because it's not the right book for me doesn't mean someone else won't enjoy it, or maybe I'm just not reading it at the right point in my life.  Example: Ready Player One. This book wasn't written for me, but I can understand why others might enjoy it.
If, despite all tests and rose colored glasses, I truly don't like a book, then you'll know. There are books that I finish because I'm positive they can't end as badly as they're progressing. When they do end badly, I feel tricked. (Example: A Disorder Peculiar to the Country. So much promise, so little follow through.) I try not to get to that point, so I do what I can to read books I enjoy and books that make me feel, think, and want to write my own things.

I know there are arguments for reading "challenging" books that aren't necessarily enjoyable, but I don't believe challenging and entertaining are mutually exclusive. I'm also not a literature professor, (paid) book critic, or an editor, so I can read whatever I please. (If you made it this far, what I'm trying to say is: it just pleases me to read.) 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

We left our X-Men in 1962, after they intervened in the Cuban missile crisis. Fast forward to "the future" and 1973, and you have the setting(s) for the most recent X-Men installment, Days of Future Past. In the future, mutants have come under attack by Sentinels (robots built to annihilate mutants). A small group of surviving X-Men sends Wolverine back to 1973, when Mystique killed the mastermind behind the Sentinels (which only sped up their production and added to their mutant-killing efficiency, as Mystique was caught and her DNA was extracted for scientific use).

Wolverine's mission (and the bulk of the movie's action) is convincing Mystique not to go through with the assassination, in the hopes that the Sentinel program won't progress. There are, of course, several other things to take care of for that to happen and what seems like a straightforward plan gets a few snags along the way. Professor X--Charles Xavier--is holed up in his defunct institute while he staves off paralysis with the help of a serum that also dulls his telepathic powers. Magneto is imprisoned below the Pentagon. Mystique is as headstrong and unwilling to listen to logic as ever. Wolverine has his work cut out for him.

Luckily, as the viewer, all you have to do is sit back and watch him/them work. Which I suggest doing, preferably with some popcorn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

An Alice Survey

Instead of recapping my whole weekend in this survey, I'm going to focus on yesterday afternoon. Jesus and I went to an interactive adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, called just Alice. It was set not only in the Neo-Futurarium theater space, but also throughout the Andersonville neighborhood and in several local businesses.

Waiting: for our lobotomized White Rabbit to take us on our journey.
Playing: the part of Alice along with about ten other audience members.
Noticing: all the little details throughout our experience: chalk drawings, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, masked actors, unmasked but strangely dressed actors, treats, and tea were everywhere we turned.
Growing: far too big for some spaces.
Following: the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and through quite an adventure.
Shrinking: down to sub-normal height.
Agreeing: with the Dodos.
Disagreeing: with the Dodos.
Trusting: the White Rabbit despite warnings to do the contrary.
Smiling: at the antics of characters on the streets.
Listening: to the story of a very strange dream in an even stranger store.
Walking: down the sidewalk and
Keeping: an eye out for curious things.
Eating: a lollipop.
Dancing: in a tavern because why not?
Watching: chapter six as it played in the back of a van and I sat in a child's chair in an alleyway.
Drinking: tea under the table.
Playing: rock/paper/scissors with the Queen.
Wondering: how we came up on an extra Alice and what she carried in her suitcase.
Realizing: it was tons and tons of bouncy balls as her suitcase fell open and they went rolling and bouncing down the sidewalk.
Helping: her pick them up and watching her disappear again.
Trying: to learn a math lesson from the Mock Turtle.
Being: interrupted by songs and dances and silly lessons.
Singing: along with made up songs.
Standing: on trial for crimes we didn't remember committing.
Learning: arbitrary rules.
Hoping: it wasn't off with our heads.
Hearing: a spoken poem.
Closing: our eyes for the finale.
Opening: our eyes to see scattered playing cards in place of the people who we were sure stood in front of us.
Making: it back to the theater alive, awake, and Alice no longer.

Sometimes you're Alice, sometimes you're the Cheshire Cat.