Monday, September 14, 2009
so long, and thanks for all the fish
Trust that I've been back and forth on this for ages, but after giving it MUCH thought I've decided that pretty to think so is officially on sabbatical. In short, despite the pleasure and joy of community that this wee little weblog has provided me for the past 4+ years, I have a life that - at least for the present moment - needs careful attending to and deserves my full attention.

How long will it last? Doves, that I do not know. But what I DO know is that if I cannot do something well, then I don't care to do it at all. So, when the time comes that I can devote more of my time and energies to writing things of wit, merit, and just general entertainment, then I will resume blogging anew. I still plan to post regularly on my beloved Don't Forget to Dance; however, I fear I may be done with personal blogging for the foreseeable future and I wouldn't feel right by you, my faithful reader, if I didn't drop a line to let you know.

So (and if you will), keep me in your thoughts and in your Google Readers, for this is not goodbye, but 'till we meet again. And UNTIL then, remember that:

Mrs White

Friday, September 11, 2009

Or will it...

(Photo is of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and is via here.)


Friday, September 04, 2009
so long, summer
Aye, me. It appears to be that time again. Summer's nearly gone, which means my life is about to return to a hysterical pace. Consequently, things will most likely be a bit slow 'round these parts while I try reacclimate myself to waking up before dawn, not going to the bathroom for an eight-hour stretch, learning 140 new names (though, truthfully, it's not so bad since about 30 of them will be "Katlyns" and 15 of them will be "Tylers"), and just generally trying to get my feet under me. I'd say I was excited about all those things, but...

Anywho, I'm going to be spending my Labor Day weekend camping in the wilds of Oakland County, Michigan. (He.) And we're going tent camping, which I haven't done in roughly ten years, so I'm pretty excited. No "glamping" for us, kids. There will be outhouses, meats on sticks, and wild beasties coming to investigate us while we slumber. I imagine it will be quite similar to how our early American forefathers camped, but with fewer Indian raids are more marshmallows. (Hmm.... marshmallows...)

Whatever your plans for the weekend are, I hope they go swimmingly, and I will leave you with the song that always pops into my head this time of year. As Martha Stewart always says, "a little Bananarama is always a very good thing."

(Damn, that video's ridiculous.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
summer reading, part 2: unaccustomed earth, the girl with the dragon tattoo, and march
Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri
(333 pages, 2008 - paperback)

Jhumpa Lahiri (The Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies) is a writer of meticulously crafted, melancholic stories of Bengali Indians in America. Many of her characters are second generation Bengalis, so it comes as little surprise that identity, exile, acceptance, culture and family are common themes. In that way, Unaccustomed Earth - a collection of five short stories and one novella told in three parts - doesn't really break new ground. The stories focus on the family lives of first and second generation immigrants living in the East Coast, many of whom - despite their PhDs from Ivy League universities - struggle to understand themselves and those closest to them. They are precise, beautiful, and written with an expert hand; however, very similar to her previous work. If you have not yet read Lahiri (and you should) then Unaccustomed Earth is a wonderful place to begin, but for those already familiar, don't expect anything particularly innovative here. I'm curious what would happen if she'd stretch her wings to write about something other than Bengalis...

My Grade: A-
(590 pages, 2008 - translated copy, paperback)

I adore a good murder mystery, and the late Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - though not perfect - is a pretty good addition to the genre. Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist finds himself accused and convicted of libel after pushing a little too hard against a too powerful tycoon. Shamed and stripped of his journalistic powers, he accepts a job investigating the forty-year-old mysterious disappearance of Harriet Vanger, niece of one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in Sweden. Harriet's disappearance is a play on a classic locked-room mystery - she disappeared off a island that, due to a major auto accident on a bridge, was sealed off from the mainland. An intense search ensued, yet no body or clues surfaced, the case went cold, and was Harriet was all but forgotten. That is, of course, until Henrik Vanger hires Blomkvist to look at the case with a new set of eyes. What follows is a nasty little mystery full of twists, turns, and and heaping helping of misogyny.

Larsson originally titled this book "Men Who Hate Women," which is a terrible title for a book, however apt for the story he tells. With the exception of one or two characters, the men in this novel are hateful and violent, and several of them are just plain sadistic. The violence depicted in this book is enough to make many readers squirmy; however, I eat episodes of American Justice for breakfast, so that's not my big complaint. My criticism is that, although the middle of this novel was totally gripping, the beginning was tedious and the ending lazy. That said, trust that I will soonly be reading the hell out of The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in this trilogy. Larsson's writing may not be perfect, but he hooked me. He hooked me good.

My Grade: B-

March, by Geraldine Brooks
(280 pages, 2005 - paperback)

I must have been nine or ten-years-old when 'Santa' left me a copy of Little Women under the Christmas tree. It was love at first read, and I can't think of a book I've loved as well or read as often. And I know I'm not alone here, ladies. Little Women is one of the most beloved books in American literature, so writing its sequel is an incredibly risky endeavor. I can think of so many ways that March could have failed, but instead Brooks managed to not only capture Alcott's magic, but add depth and dimension to her classic novel. Perhaps it's because Brooks - rather than focusing on the March children - decided to tell an entirely new version of the story by focusing on the family's patriarch instead.

March is the story of Mr. March, an ardent abolitionist who volunteers himself as a chaplain in the Union army at the "ripe old age" of 43. March's source material offers very little of Mr. March's Civil War experience other than a few upbeat letters written before an illness forced him to prematurely return home. Brooks takes these vague details and uses them to create a masterful piece of historical fiction. Unlike the version in Alcott's original, this Mr. March is flawed, vulnerable and fully fleshed-out. And unlike many Civil War stories, Brooks's characters are a far cry from their Uncle Tom's Cabin-esque stereotypes. I normally shy away from historical fiction, but March breathes life into what can be a dense and stale genre. March won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006, and it absolutely deserved it. I cannot recommend this novel enough.

My Grade: A

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Monday, August 31, 2009
the question that should not be asked
A brief conversation between two strangers, overheard inside a public restroom:

Woman 1: 'Scuse me - you pregnant?

Woman 2: Nah. Just fat.

Woman 1: Oh. (Pause) I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

(Interminable, awkward silence while I stand between them at the sinks, struggling to wash my hands without laughing.)

Woman 1: But really, now. You sure you ain't pregnant?

Woman 2: (Silent stink eye)


Tuesday, August 25, 2009
random posts of pretty
Even if you're already getting a bit tired of listening to "Two Weeks" off of Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest (though I, for one, am not), I'd still strongly encourage you to watch this GORGEOUS animated fan video made by some fella named Gabe Askew. I've watched it so many times today I'm surprised I didn't break the Internet. Someone had the time, will, and ability to make this for free and in his spare time, and to that I say, "YES." Love, lurve, squee...!

(Via dooce)

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Monday, August 24, 2009
bottle drama
Oh noes. The tofu hit the fan in my house after discovering that the lining in my SIGG water bottle - which I switched to after discovering my old Nalgene bottle contained bisphenol-A - ALSO contains BPA. Arg!

According to SIGG, all bottles manufactured after August of 2008 contain no BPAs, and bottles manufactured before that date contained some sort of chemical magic that bonded the BPAs so well that they didn't leach into the water. Hence (according to SIGG), all bottles should still be considered safe. HOWEVER, for a company that touted itself as the safe alternative to plastic water bottles and made loads of money selling children's bottles to scared parents, I am disgusted and appalled at this admission, and can no longer support this company.

While it's true that no one really knows to what extent BPAs are dangerous, they have been proven to hurt monkeys, which means they are most likely hurting me. And while it's also true that I am probably being inundated with BPAs on a daily basis since it's one of the most commonly used chemicals in the world, that doesn't mean that I need to knowingly increase my exposure, especially if I want children.

So, what to do about all this? First, if you are unsure whether or not your current SIGG's lining contains BPAs, then lookie here:

As you can see, there's a very clear color difference between the old liners and the new, (supposedly) BPA-free ones. Next, if you - like me - have made the unpleasant discovery that your bottle contains one of the old liners, then there's a few things you can do about it. SIGG is offering to replace old bottles with new ones at their expense. If you choose to go this route, you can email them directly here. I am considering a free switch, however, I also feel betrayed by this company and concerned with their lack of transparency, so I'm leaning towards recycling my old bottles and replacing them with a stainless steel version.

Baying Hound, a company out of Columbus, Ohio, is currently running a SIGG replacement program. Mail your old bottles to them (they will either recycle them or return them to SIGG), and they will mail you a 40% off coupon good for any of the stainless steel bottles they sell. I'm liking the Earthlust line. They are entirely BPA and aluminum free, contain a naturally safe unlined interior, are made with food-grade stainless steel, contain non-toxic paint, and the company is based in San Francisco, so you'd be supporting an American company. Also, they're gorgeous:

This is probably the route that I will go. (Orange birdie bottle, I got my eye on you...)

Am I making a big deal out of this? Perhaps. Am I throwing good money after bad? Maybe. However, the health of my family and friends is important to me, and since I turned a lot of folks on to SIGG in the first place, I feel obligated to share my concerns with you. From the sounds of it, the lining in the new SIGG bottles are safe, however the company won't share the recipe for their lining (supposedly due to fears of Chinese counterfeiters), so who can really be sure? Bottom line - I feel duped by this company and obligated to search out and share some options with my fellow SIGG users. Be warned. Be well.

(Bottle lining comparison image via Tree Hugger and initial H/T to The Consumerist.)

Friday, August 21, 2009
summer reading, part 1: the yiddish policemen's union, atonement, and new moon
Seeing how my reading of books has recently far out-paced my reviewing of them, I'm attempting to catch up with three mini reviews today and three more to follow shortly. Mea culpa for my tardiness, and enjoy your weekend, sweetness.

(418 pages, 2007 - paperback)

You may remember that I finally read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay last summer and loved it so much that it's now safely on the short list of my all-time favorite books. Eager to read more Chabon this summer, I dusted off my unread copy of The Yiddish Policemen's Union and hoped that it was at least half as good as "Kavalier and Clay." And half as good is about right.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is its premise. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a noir murder mystery set in an alternate world where Jewish refugees have set up camp in Sitka, a long strip of land along Alaska's panhandle, after the 1948 collapse of the state of Israel. Although the settlement is a massive success, the land is merely on loan from the U.S. government, so when the government suddenly decides to let the lease expire, the Jews of Sitka find themselves turned away from yet another home.

As the novel begins, Reversion is just around the corner and washed-up homicide detective Meyer Landsman has discovered that a murder has taken place in the flea-bitten hotel he's been living in since his divorce. Perhaps because every aspect of Landsman's life has turned disastrous, he becomes obsessed with solving the murder of his neighbor - a former chess prodigy who was once widely thought to be the Messiah. It's a mystery that no one seems to want solved but Landsman, but with little else to live for, it's a mystery that Landsman feels he must solve regardless the cost.

Again, the best thing about The Yiddish Policemen's Union is how imaginative it is, though that's hardly the only thing its got going in its favor. It's also quite funny in parts, a poignant love story, and a nice little mystery. Does it reach the heights Chabon achieved with "Kavalier and Clay"? No. But is it worth your time just the same? Sure. I'd say so.

My Grade: B

(351 pages, 2001)

Ian McEwan is one of those authors I've long been embarrassed at having never read, so when I found a hardcover copy of Atonement on sale for $2 at a used book store, I figured his time had finally come. And wow. I've been missing out.

By now I'm sure that most of you have seen the recent film adaptation of McEwan's novel, so I won't bother with too much plot summary. Basically, 13-year-old Briony Tallis, a girl who lives and breathes stories, is confused by something she sees between her sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, the housekeeper's son. When something much more deviant happens later that evening, Briony points an accusing finger at innocent Robbie and spends the rest of her life trying to atone for her crime.

Since Atonement was such a wonderful film, I almost made the mistake of passing on the source material. How I forgot the golden rule that the book is almost definitely better than the movie, I do not know. McEwan's Atonement is a masterpiece - gorgeously written, a successful experiment of structure and perspective, and a impressively accurate portrayal of the inner workings of a thirteen-year-old girl. Additionally, it's a true testament to the author's storytelling abilities that, having seen the film, I already knew what was coming, and yet I still found the plot absolutely engrossing. Simply put, Atonement is a freaking great book. There's only so many ways I can say it.

My Grade: A

(563 pages, 2006 - paperback)

Say what you will about me, but I ain't no book snob. I will read almost anything. I guess I'd rather be a part of the conversation than be able to claim some sort of literary purity. Enter New Moon. Now, if you ask my students about New Moon, they'd probably say something like, "Squee! Team Edward! Team Jacob! Like, ZOMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" But they're largely crazy people, so let me lay some truth on you instead.

Twilight is not a very good book for reasons I've already adequately spelled out here. But New Moon? Well, it's even worse. Meyer's writing is just as awful in this second installment, but heroine Bella is even more annoying and (I can't believe I'm saying this, by the way) the whole thing suffers from a long absence of Edward in all of his dreamy, glittering twee glory. Werewolf Jacob tries to replace him, but Edward proves to be - embarrassingly enough - irreplaceable. The Cullens are the Twilight saga, and if you send them out of town for much of the book, then New Moon is the result - boring filler while we wait for Edward to stop pouting and resume saving his bland girlfriend's life every couple of hours.

My Grade: D+

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
favorite songs of '09: gossip's "2012"
Ugh. So. I had a fairly lengthy post in mind for today, but then I went and waaaay overdid it at the gym; consequently, I haven't been able to do much more than laze around my house, whining like a little punk. I blame Beth Ditto. Working out while listening to "2012" gave me the very false notion that my abs could handle the most terrible trial I put them through today. Lessons were learned, friends. Lessons were most certainly, most painfully, most nauseatingly learned...

(Please note that this video is the best of what was available to me, and although the sound quality is surprisingly good for a bootleg, I really wish it zoomed in closer on the band. If you haven't seen it, then trust that watching Beth Ditto work a stage is a marvelous thing.)

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
feeling crafty: a quick fix for mirrored closet doors
The real estate market was very different five years ago when my husband and I bought our home. Back then, people were actually buying AND selling homes. For a profit, even. Ah, those salad days! My eyes; they mist....

The drawback to a healthy market, however, is that we had to make a few sacrifices if we wanted to buy a decent home with our limited resources. When we finally settled on our current home, it wasn't without compiling a fairly sizable list of things we wanted to fix, change, and replace as soon as our budget allowed. Now, five years later, we've managed to cross many projects off of that list, but the list was long enough that several cosmetic changes had to be given such low priority that I wasn't sure we'd ever get to them. One of those such projects was replacing the "delightfully" 80's-riffic mirrored closet doors that someone thought would look good in our dining room. When I first saw them, my husband and I both agreed that we had to kill that tacky and quick, but then roofs had to be repaired and rooms had to be painted ugly mirrored doors were relegated to the "perhaps we can learn to live with it" list.

Fortunately, something snapped in me this summer, and I decided that I did NOT have to roll over and accept fug in my home! Setting out to find a cheap, easy way to beautify my dining room eyesore, I happened on this from IKEA and I knew I could do something with it.

And voilĂ !:

Fugly no more.

Because I am a terribly impatient perfectionist (an absolute train wreck of a combination), this project took considerably more time than it should have, but if you have mirrored doors and you'd like to try this project then know that it really can be done both cheaply and relatively quickly. I, however, waaay overbought my Amorf Frost due to a combination of poor planning, a mistaken belief that this was a one-woman project, and IKEA's maddeningly vague pictorial directions. So please, learn from my mistakes.

1) If you want to copy my design, then you can accomplish it with four rolls of the Amorf Frost -which, at $4.99 a roll, should make this project run less than $20. 2) I recommend using a straight razor to cut the product, as scissors don't produce nearly as clean a line. 3) Hanging the paper is not a one-person job. Don't even attempt it without a second pair of hands. 4) Before applying the frosted paper, make sure your mirror is impeccably clean, as the frost is pretty unforgiving. 5) Finally, but most importantly, you will need to DRENCH your mirror (or window) with water before applying the product. Failure to do this caused me lots of wasted time, money and a few choice curses at Swedish illustrators.

Do all this, and you should be able to modernize your closet doors in an afternoon for $20-25. Well worth the time and effort, if you ask me.

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Monday, August 17, 2009
random posts of pretty
I'm looking at the date stamp on my last post and realizing that it's been an abnormally long time since last we spoke, and for no particularly good reason. Sorry about that. I wish I could say it was because I was doing all sorts of fascinating things in fascinating places, but the truth is that I've mostly been catching up on the second season of Mad Men and working on some household projects I'd like to get squared away before work summons me back. Fascinating stuff, to be sure. I do, however, have lots and lots of books to tell you about, but while I muster up the energy for what's sure to be a monster literary post, why don't you take a look at CG illustrator Macoto Murayama's flower illustrations. They look a bit like floral cyborgs. Floral cyborgs are purty.


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Friday, August 07, 2009
r.i.p., john hughes
As any good child of the 80s should, I adore John Hughes, and I honestly can't think of a single director who held a stronger influence over me during my formative years. Watching his movies as a child helped prepare me for what my teenage years would bring: heartache, confusion, frustration, social conflicts, and wily attempts to outsmart my high school principal. Wherever he is now, I hope he is well.