Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs  (Hannibal Lecter, #2)The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Clarice Starling, FBI agent-in-training, is sent to interview Hannibal Lecter, psychopathic and cannibalistic genius, to help the FBI catch a serial killer.

First thoughts: The book is just as creepy as the movie, and maybe creepier with my imagination. I had a hard time reading this after dark and an even harder time reading on public transportation - every stranger turned into Buffalo Bill or Dr. Lecter.

Favorite quotes:

"We rarely get to prepare ourselves in meadows or on graveled walks; we do it on short notice in places without windows....In rooms like this, with so little time, we prepare our gestures, get them by heart so we can do them when we're frightened in the face of Doom." -p159

"His empty hands hanging palms forward at his sides, he stood at the window looking to the empty east. He did not look for dawn; east was the only way the window faced." -p280

Strong Women, Strong and Weak Men: Knowing that this book was written in the late 80s, I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of several female characters, especially Clarice. She kicks butt, and in the face of institutional misogyny no less. The men fall more on a spectrum, as there are more of them, so we get a few solid ones along with a few not so great one. Either way, our heroes had weaknesses and our villains had backgrounds that gave them motives for their actions. What more can we ask of a criminal psychology thriller?

Final thoughts: In the great book vs movie debate, there is no clear winner here. Both are great. The movie draws straight from the book and gives a sinister visual to the text. The book shows us the inner workings of several characters and stands the test of time. This was a great snuggle in blankets, drink tea, and don't leave the house book.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Report Card Pick Up

Growing up in a small school district (ie, worlds different than CPS) means I never experienced a Report Card Pick Up day as a student. Report cards were mailed home or handed to us, and Parent-Teacher Conferences came later - not during the school day. As a current teacher, I can only guess that teaching and conferencing must be exhausting to do on the same day, knowing they both tire me out on their own. This tiredness is the good kind, though. The kind that means you got things done.

Since Citizen Schools isn't graded, we aren't on our students' report cards, but we still set up a table in the cafeteria to talk with a good number of parents about what we're doing in program and to tell them about our upcoming WOW! (like an exhibition or showcase for our students to share what they've been creating in class this semester). It feels good to be at a point in the year where I know what we're about and can start to visualize what success will look like at this school. It felt even better to meet some of my students' parents in person, and to share with them the progress their child is making.

I'm happy to be heading towards Thanksgiving break with those positive interactions under my belt. I'm excited to build on those interactions in these last few days of class. Finally, I'm looking forward to finishing out the semester on a strong note when we get back in December!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Martian (Movie)

Jesus and I saw this movie with my parents when they visited last month (and lucky me, I get to see them again in just a week...maybe we'll go see the final Hunger Games installment, *wink wink*). When I first saw the trailer, I almost spoiled Interstellar for Jesus (Matt Damon needs to be rescued from space in two movies?), but luckily it would take more than that admission to spoil this gem. The book version has made its way to my list out of curiosity's sake, but on its own, The Martian is visually transporting.

Yes, the movie brings up many questions: should we (would we) spend millions of dollars in resources and time and risk other human lives to save one man? How much value do we place on certain lives over others, and on certain information above taking the safest course of action? What amazing things could we accomplish if/when we reach a state of sending humans to Mars? And, most importantly, what do space potatoes taste like?

Beyond those questions, though, The Martian takes us on an expansive ride to another planet and deep inside the mind of a solitary individual. The pacing of the film made sure we never laughed or cried too long before switching back to the other, and it was easy to leave the movie thinking, "Yeah, I could grow plants on Mars too," and also "I'd never be so positive after all those obstacles." In other words: Matt Damon was at the same time a regular, relatable guy, and also an inspiring and razor sharp optimist. I am both relieved and jealous I'll never be an astronaut.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Wife

The WifeThe Wife by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): On the surface, the story of the Castlemans' trip to Helsinki, where Joe will receive and award and Joan decides she wants to leave him. Deeper, the story of the Castlemans' entire relationship, and how their marriage brought them to this point.

First thoughts: I couldn't decide if I felt bad for Joan, or if I felt that her life was the natural consequence of her own decisions. Her marriage, while awful, wasn't as simple as an inattentive husband. Neither were her reasons for wanting to leave as simple as two people growing apart.

Question for the author: Where do you come up with all of these characters?? I've read a lot of Meg Wolitzer's books in the past few years, and all of her characters are different. They're all complete, mostly dynamic people. How? I'm jealous.

Favorite Quotes:

"Language only felt intimate; instead, everyone swam through surprisingly narrow channels when they spoke or wrote." -p110

"'Listen,' we say. 'Everything will be okay.' And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is." -p184

Final Thoughts: [spoilers] That last line is creepy - Joan could start writing on her own, but with her words: "Joe was a great writer, I'll always miss him,"...she's not admitting to being the source of all Joe's talent. When she returns to America, no one has to even know she was going to leave him, let alone that she is the real writer between the two of them. This is a frustrating story of stifled ambitions.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

As the Philadelphians Do

This past weekend I attended my final wedding until 2016, and the 5th wedding of my 13 MercyWorks roommates. (Numbers 6 and 7 are next year, and are also coincidentally the same wedding!) It was in Philly, which means I flew to the East Coast three times this year (Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia). This time I took a few days off work and made a vacation out of it with Jesus and several other MercyWorkers.

While I didn't eat a cheesesteak, I had plenty of other great food (not to mention drinks!) to make the weekend memorable. By chance, I reenacted several scenes of National Treasure (and by plan, one very important scene of Rocky). I did it all with my person, Jesus, and we marked our 4th anniversary with a romantic breakfast date at Jamba Juice in the airport before I napped pre- and during flight.

Travel Recommendations:

Liberty Bell / Independence Hall - One of Philadelphia's most well known landmarks/historical sites. Both are free, though Independence Hall does require tickets for the guided tour.

Reading Terminal Market - Part food court, part indoor farmer's market, part dream store for all event coordinators. Featured in one of National Treasure's chase scenes, RTM is a humming hub of happenings close to Center City. Go for lunch, stay for people watching!

Mütter Museum - There's a wall of skulls. Need I say more? This museum is perfect for those with morbid curiosities, American Horror Story fans, aspiring doctors, and anyone with curious imaginations.

Map of Philadelphia, with major roadways as neurons
Rodin's Thinker - If we had had more time, we planned on visiting the Rodin Museum to see the largest collection of Auguste Rodin's sculpture outside of Paris. Instead, we stopped by The Thinker outside, took a stroll around the garden pool, and gazed on The Gates of Hell.

"Rocky Steps" - We didn't go to the museum attached (Philadelphia Museum of Art), nor did we run all the up, but we did take our picture by the statue and climb to the top of Rocky's iconic steps for its sweeping view of Philadelphia.

Tria Taproom - We happened to meet the owner of this trio of bars, and on his recommendation stopped by the Taproom (not a bottle to be found - even the wine is on tap!) for a few drinks and appetizers before dinner one night. It was classy, yet comfortable. And the cheese curds were satisfying, even to this Wisconsin girl!

Irish Pub - Yes, it's really called that. We hung around here for the extended happy hour, and chatted with our bartender (who was also attending a wedding that weekend). She gave us the rundown of the neighborhood, and where to go the next time we're in town.

Dinic's @ Reading Terminal - After this roast pork sandwich, I didn't even want a Philly cheesesteak. Dinic's doesn't offer all the extras, just roasted meat, a few choice toppings, and a sandwich to hold you over until a late dinner.

La Colombe - Tasty, no-nonsense coffee. Not native to Philly, but a great addition to our morning routine!

Dom's Loft in Rittenhouse Square - Perhaps the defining aspect of the trip was our lodging, a truly quaint Airbnb in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. This loft, a renovated dining room of a large mansion, was all things Philadelphia: historic, artistic, classic, and a little gritty. We loved the intricate details of the woodwork, the wrought iron spiral staircase, and the literally "off the path" entryway.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What I Know About My Boyfriend...

...after living with him for three months. I've learned a lot about myself, my new apartment, my new neighborhood, and my new job in these past three months. It's safe to say I've even learned a few things about my boyfriend and forever roommate. I thought now would be a good time to share, considering that we celebrated four years together this weekend. To me, four years is a long time to know someone, but I'm still learning new things every day!

I Know...
  1. He compulsively takes off his socks and leaves them lay wherever he happens to be. I find socks everywhere.
  2. He loves sleeping with pillows. He has three. It would be obnoxious if it weren't so darn cute watching him spoon a body pillow.
  3. On that note...He is always up for a nap. And he'll do so anywhere...bed, couch, a pile of dirty socks...
  4. He must have music on to wash dishes. Or a podcast.
  5. He hangs up his tank tops...which I guess makes sense considering that's his every day uniform.
  6. Meal times are sacred.
  7. He Googles three things every day: a) Pokemon, b) UFO sightings, and c) Loch Ness Monster. He says he wants to be the first to know any "new" news on these topics.
  8. He always locks the door when using the bathroom.
  9. He's my never-judging, always-up-for-a-cuddle, sensitive-yet-silly person.
I'm excited to see what I learn in the next four years...and all the years after that!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Things My Students Say 2

Besides overhearing hilarious conversations, I also get a lot of great one-liners from my students directed towards me. Do they mean to be so funny? Rarely.

"Those glasses make you look old."
"You look like you work at a bank. Chase Bank." 
"Are you 32? Do you have a house? Do you have a son?" -still fishing for personal info. 
Me (to a student who had gone on our field trip to O'Hare): I heard you guys saw Air Force One!
Student: Yeah! And we saw the plane that President Obama rides in! 
In the middle of a test: "TATTOOS EQUALS LIFE!" 
"You're basically middle-aged, right?" 
"I heard that if you get your nose pierced you lose your sense of smell." 
"You look old. It's not bad, it's just how you look."
Same student, a week later: "You look young today. Sorry, should I stop talking?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Brookfield Zoo 2015

We may have only set our clocks back an hour this weekend, but by the feel of things we fell back several months - 70 degree days in November? Nah, must be July.

Jesus and I took advantage of the sunshine with a trip to Brookfield Zoo, which we enjoy mostly for the space (it's much larger than the Lincoln Park Zoo so we do more walking) and the people watching (people are hilarious, and sometimes even more interesting than the animals).