Tuesday, June 30, 2009
freedom week: don't forget to dance
Know why these people are so happy? Because they got help making a fancy fresh mixtape for their 4th of July party from the brilliant bloggers over at Don't Forget to Dance!

If you too want to be happy, then I suggest you drop on by. We'll be celebrating Independence Day all week long with some block-rockin' beats, eloquent eloquence and patriotic zeal. And remember - freedom isn't free. It takes bravery, firm resolve, a minimum of seven American flags, and a shit-ton of dancing.


Monday, June 29, 2009
"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing."
(From E.B. White's Charlotte's Web)

I don't know who makes these rules, but little girls are supposed to have best friends and for the longest time I felt a certain sort of paranoia that I had never really had one. Sure, there were several girls who claimed that title, but it never really felt true - like we were forcing round pegs into square holes and then we'd act surprised when our relationship eventually deteriorated to a mess of sullen glares, terse conversations and tears. It may have been because we moved around a bit so I often felt like I was trying to claw my way into a social scene, accepting friendships even when I knew they weren't really the best of fits. Perhaps it took me longer than others to care less about myself and more about other people, a basic requirement of close friendships. Or, it may have just been bad luck. Regardless of the reason, by the time I was twenty I had all but resigned myself to the fact that, though I may have plenty of friends, I would never have one BEST friend.

Of course, I was wrong. It just so happens that my best friend was waiting for me to be old and wise enough to appreciate her. And the older I get, the better I understand this one truth: The most precious things are those that may take a bit longer to find but are always well worth the wait.

So, happy 30th birthday, Carrie. Thank you for making me laugh, for listening to me and caring about the things I say, for being so good at correspondence when I am so very awful at it, for being a peacekeeper, for your endless empathy, and most of all for simply being my friend.

Friday, June 26, 2009
weekly book review: the story of edgar sawtelle, by david wroblewski
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a massive, yet effortless and engaging book that I very nearly didn't read thanks to the hype machine. (Sorry, Oprah. I just don't trust your book club.)

Borrowing a bit from Shakespeare, Stephen King and Kipling, Wroblewski's story is, as the title suggests, the story of a mute boy named Edgar Sawtelle, born to a family of dog breeders. Although Edgar's handicap is a hinderance at several key moments in his life, communication is, ironically, one of Edgar's strengths. He's a wordsmith, develops his own unique system of signs, has an uncanny ability for communicating with animals, and at several moments in his life he even appears able to communicate with the dead.

However, while often a gift, Edgar's disability makes him uniquely vulnerable, and so, like Mowgli from The Jungle Book, he has both a human mother as well as an adoptive animal one - a dog named Almondine who is his constant companion from birth. Similar to Mowgli, Edgar has to abandon human civilization at one point, surviving in the woods alone save for three dog companions while he tries to sort out a plan for dealing with his uncle Claude. Here's where Wroblewski takes a page from Shakespeare. Like Hamlet's uncle Claudius, Claude moves in to take the place of Edgar's father after his sudden, suspicious death. After seeing the ghost of his father, Edgar becomes convinced that his father's death was not an accident and that Claude was the culprit, but with no proof to back up his suspicions, Edgar quickly becomes overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and rage. Sprinkle in some more ghosts, a mysterious wild dog, and a creepy town psychic and you've got a book that, although familiar at times, constantly left me guessing and wanting more.

Unfortunately, I didn't always get what I wanted. While I really admired the first 5oo or so pages, the last 60 frustrated the bejeezus out of me. I feel a little better about the ending after taking some time to reflect on it, and without going into too much detail I guess my biggest problem with the book was this: I didn't really want to read a heartwarming tale of a boy and his dog, but after deciding that that's what it was and that I was enjoying it anyway, I had geared myself up for an ending that satisfied like a heartwarming book should. That is not what I got, and so I suppose I felt a bit cheated.

So make no mistake, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle may be a book about a boy and his dogs, however, it reads more like King Lear than Where the Red Fern Grows. Prepare yourself accordingly and you should do well.

David Wroblewski
2008, 562 pages

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Thursday, June 25, 2009
r.i.p., michael jackson
Too many people will probably remember him for the hot mess he became, but I have one very fond memory of learning to moonwalk in my friend's driveway, another of listening to a vinyl copy of Thriller in my cousins' basement, and countless of dancing to his songs at weddings, parties, in bars, and while cleaning my house, and those are the moments I recalled upon hearing of Michael Jackson's passing.

Above everything else, he was a phenomenal entertainer and I'm really going to miss his crazy/talented ass. And so, in remembrance, moonwalk with me:


Wednesday, June 24, 2009
speaking of emo...

On this, the hottest day of the year thus far, as I was scrubbing out my un-air conditioned bathroom, listening to some old Sunny Day Real Estate and dressed all in black because I was using bleach and like a challenge, it struck me how much I, what with my get-up and my pastiness and my sweatiness, must look like a goth in hot weather.

To mark the moment, I stopped scrubbing out the tub just long enough to pen a poem about the agony that is existence and the sweet release that only death may bring.

That is all.

(Image via)


every shining time you arrive
Recently, it seems as if there's a constant stream of '90s bands releasing new albums: Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, and now Sunny Day Real Estate. Personally, I really don't need another Dinosaur Jr album and although I've always appreciated Sonic Youth I've never really been much of a fan, but I must admit that the prospect of another Sunny Day Real Estate album makes my 20-year-old emo heart do a little flip. The Rising Tide was practically the soundtrack of my early 20's; that is, until some heartless bastard broke into my car and absconded with it. And far be it from me to begrudge a man his 'music to sit and be sullen to,' but I would have happily burned him a copy if he needed it so badly.

Consequently, if I know anything it is this: when a girl's emo music is stolen, the days ahead loom quiet, long and dark...


Tuesday, June 23, 2009
blog recommendation: my milk toof

I must have spent an hour yesterday catching up on the lives Ickle and Lardee, two baby teeth whose adventures are chronicled over at My Milk Toof. It's a very silly place, but I love it. Perhaps you will love it too.

That is all.

(Via Jezebel)

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Friday, June 19, 2009
favorite songs of '09: slow club's "it doesn't have to be beautiful"
Besides being a more consistent blogger, I've spent much of my first week of summer vacation giving my house a deep and thorough cleaning - tackling nooks and crannies that haven't been cleaned in at least a year, if not much longer. And in the words of Captain Walter E. Kurtz, "I've seen horrors..."

So maybe it hasn't been too terribly pleasant, but wadding in the muck and the grime has given me a chance to catch up on some new music I've been saving but haven't had the time to give a close listen to. In fact, I've sampled so many new things that I'm thinking about making this a weekly event (though we'll see how that goes...).

Anyway, one of my favorite new bands is Slow Club. I've already written about them once over here, but I think they're so nice I've decided to post on them twice. They're British, fun, a touch quirky, and sound a little like Tilly and the Wall. So, really - what's not to love?

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Thursday, June 18, 2009
weekly book review: twilight, by stephenie meyer
Yes, I did it. I read Twilight. I blame peer pressure.

If you happen to live under a rock (a nice rock, but a rock just the same) and have no idea what Twilight is about, then this is really all you need to know: Girl moves to a town filled with vampires, girl falls in love with vampire, vampire loves her back, girl falls down a lot, vampire glitters in the sun, girl wants to become a vampire, vampire says, "Oh, hell no!," girl pouts. It's essentially a romance novel but with no sex and vampires. And every teenage girl in America is OBSESSED with it.

Now, I could compose a thorough review of this teen phenom, however, I'm pretty well convinced that another review of this bloody book is the absolute LAST thing the world needs. Hence, here's some scattershot (and mostly snarky) thoughts instead:

  • Bella Swan (aka "girl") is positively ridiculous. Her name is ridiculous, her overplayed clumsiness is ridiculous, and her complete and utter disregard for her own safety is ridiculous. The very moment she meets Edward (aka "vampire") she's ready to die for him. There's never even a moment of uncertainty, really. She truly doesn't seem to care whether she lives or dies, and the number of times her life is in danger in this book is absurd. She can barely walk out of her house without risking a piano falling on her head. I guess that might be attractive to a predatory vampire, but pleeeeese.
  • Stephenie Meyer's writing is close to awful. I could almost see her struggle to use the word "literally" correctly. She sprinkles the beginning of her book with obvious and clunky references to Adam and Eve's apple, but then seems to forget about the allusion after fifty pages or so. She writes primarily in independent clauses, but when she wants to get fancy she'll connect them together with a semicolon. Hence, there are far too many semicolons. After seventy or so pages I managed to ignore the bad writing (perhaps it got better?), but it very nearly made me quit before I got too far.
  • Even though it's a vampire book, it makes a certain sort of sense that it was authored by a Mormon. The teens in this book have very little parental supervision, yet there's no sex, no booze, no drugs, no swearing, and no smoking. I don't even think there was any coffee.
  • It's a perfect book to read on the treadmill. Big font.
  • Sunlight, rather than hurting vampires, turns their skin to GLITTER. Twee!
  • Despite all of this, Twilight is addictive. However, it's addictive like MD 20/20 is addictive - it'll do in a pinch, but it will leave you with a fierce headache and wondering why you woke up on the railroad tracks wearing your pants on your head.

In short, do not let anyone tell you this is a good book. It is not. HOWEVER, its appeal is undeniable. I knew it was sort of awful, and yet I COULD NOT PUT THE BLOODY THING DOWN. Glittery vampires in love, yo! Pass the MD 20/20, 'cause I'm thinkin' 'bout getting New Moon hammered!

Stephenie Meyer
2005, 498 pages (Paperback)

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009
random posts of pretty: dina goldstein's "fallen princesses" photo series
For every little girl who's a little too fascinated with Disney fairy tales and happy endings, perhaps?

(Via Jezebel)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
random posts of pretty: iranian street art
Like many of you, I've been following what's been going on in Iran with a mixture of disgust and awed fascination. Since cable news has proven to be absolutely worthless when it comes to reporting this story, most of my information has come from a combination of blogs and YouTube videos, and although I don't use Twitter as a news source, most American news bloggers have admitted to getting much of their inside information from Iranian tweets. This is a separate source of disgust/fascination - where were the "legitimate" journalists when this story was breaking, and who would have thought that fun social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook could be so essential at picking up the ball when the "real" news drops it?

Apropos, one thing we can learn from the current happenings in Iran is to never underestimate the power of youth. The seasoned can dismiss their hobbies and forms of expression, but they do so at their own peril. Iran's youth are currently showing the world that they are engaged, modern, creative and desirous for change. Proof of this abounds, however, some of the street art that's been springing up on the streets of Tehran only furthers the point:

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Monday, June 15, 2009
FAIL: the time traveler's wife movie trailer
No, Hollywood! This is ALL WRONG:

Romance isn't usually my genre, but I LOVED Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. It was maybe one of the most romantic things I have ever read while still being well-written, smart, original and complex. However, if this trailer accurately depicts the tone of the film adaptation, it looks like Robert Schwentke had turned something beautiful, strange and special into another run-of-the-mill, cheesy date flick. I hate the way that it's cut, I hate the stupid song that's playing, and I hate how completely ordinary it looks. Blerg.

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Friday, June 12, 2009
so long, and thanks for all the shrunken heads
Things have been quiet 'round these parts this past week, and this is largely due to the fact that I've been a flurry of end-of-the-school-year activity. Cleaning out my classroom, weeding through a mountain of emails, and grading final projects and papers has left very little time for play, hence I've been a very dull girl. HOWEVER, I am now officially a lady of leisure, and as I type this I am sitting on my deck drinking a large glass of sangria, working on my first sunburn of the season, and have just noticed that a fairly large wasps' nest has formed on the inside of the umbrella from under which I sit. So I imagine that something fairly interesting is bound to happen any minute now.

Wait for it...

Anyway and retrospectively, this year's been quite the mixed bag. In some ways it's been one of my most successful, easiest school years to date. I had a wonderful, unusually bright and friendly group of kids, I mentored a student teacher who was fairly capable, thus could help shoulder some of the enormous burden this job can be, after seven years of the same I FINALLY got to teach a new class, and that new class is both awesome and a joy to teach. So, yay.

However, for all its successes and joys, it's been a beastly year as well. I had three preps and last hour planning, which meant I was teaching like a frenzied maniac until the very last hour of the day, I had to share a classroom, which made it virtually IMPOSSIBLE to get anything done on my prep hour, I had some of the most demanding parents I've ever had, I decided THIS would be the year I'd write a novel in a month, and I handled all this while managing some personal stresses which, more than once, made me want to phone it in. However, it is now done, and I'm fairly comfortable saying that I was friendly, helpful and supportive more days than I was not. I just hope my students felt the same.

Regardless, a glass of fruity wine and a long stretch of lazy sunny days lay ahead of me, and I'm anxious to start enjoying both. (Barring, of course, a vicious wasp attack and/or my pasty, pasty skin lighting aflame, either of which are bound to happen any second now.) So to conclude, I leave you with two things my students left me.

This, which housed a multigenre research paper on Things Fall Apart, and which I plan to somehow sneak onto my Principal's desk next year:

And this, a line from one of my students' final exam essays:
"Lady Capulet was persistant and medling and says things to Juliet like 'what are you busy, ho?' Which just isn't nice. She was alot of things, but a ho? No."
Yep, we sure learned good this year. We learned real, real good.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009
field trippin': the heidelberg project
This past Saturday Nate and I caught the Art Spiegelman exhibit over at Detroit's Museum of Contemporary Art, and since we were only a stone's throw away from The Heidelberg Project we decided to finally go and see it in person. For those who don't know what this is, allow me to quickly summarize the backstory:

When Tyree Guyton returned to his home on Heidelberg Street after a brief stint in the Army in the 1980s, he was shocked at the rapid deterioration of his neighborhood, remarking that its looked as if "a bomb went off." Unfortunately, there's no shortage of neighborhoods like this in Detroit; however, rather than pull up and abandon his street to the rats and the weeds, Guyton felt compelled to do something. In 1986 he covered his own house in polka-dots, and from that grew The Heidelberg Project: an outdoor community art project that's part political protest, part museum, and part love song to a fallen neighborhood. (Source)

Although I've known about the Heidelberg Project for years, this was my first time seeing it, and ....wow. Approaching Heidelberg Street is like entering a total fantasyland - an entire street's worth of mostly abandoned houses covered in paint and garbage. One house is completely covered in trashed stuffed animals. Brightly painted discarded doors form sculptures that sit on now-empty lots. Shopping carts and old shoes hang from the trees, old tires are now sculptures, and a row of broken vacuum cleaners topped with gloves form a waving line. It looks every bit as crazy as it sounds, but it's also totally MAGICAL. These artists have taken a street that would otherwise have been a dangerous eyesore and turned it into this amazing, warm, welcoming place that's become a must-see tourist spot.

I fear that my pictures don't even come close to doing it justice. You really need to see this thing for yourself, but here's the best of what I could capture on "film" just the same:

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Friday, June 05, 2009
today's "new" post
For a variety of reasons (none of them particularly interesting) today's drive home from work happened at a snail's pace, so I had an opportunity to read a few signs posted alongside the road that I would ordinarily blow right on past. Unfortunately, I wasn't moving slowly enough to snap a picture of any of them (otherwise I would have had two stellar contributions to make to The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks), so you'll just have to trust that these signs actually exist in the world.

The first read:

"New" Pillowtop Queen-Sized Mattress for "Sale."
Still "In" Plastic.

And then a few miles down the road came:

"Professional" Bra Sizing

And THAT, kids, is why grammar matters.

Unless, of course, someone isn't really selling a used mattress and someone else is offering to feel strange women up for free. In that case, and should you be in the market for either, I have some phone numbers for you.

(If not, then I hope you have a "great" weekend just the same.)


Thursday, June 04, 2009
speaking of zombies...
These are everywhere today, so they might as well be here too. By Flicker user dbx1, ZOMBIE MY LITTLE PONIES!!!:

As much as I loved My Little Ponies as a wee girl, I doubt I would have wanted one of these bad boys then. NOW, however...



Wednesday, June 03, 2009
weekly book review: pride and prejudice and zombies, by jane austen and seth grahame-smith
It's only been out for a little while, but Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has already received so much Internet buzz that I feared my little review would be a bit redundant. However, I get paid in orange cream soda and Monopoly money to write for this here weblog, so I guess redundancy is the price one must occasionally pay for being a follower of pretty to think so. I simply can't be the first one to report on each and every trend, doves. ACTUAL paychecks must be earned, else the repo men come and carry my laptop away, and then where would we be?

I'll tell you where. Holding a lovely orange cream soda, however Internetless. That's where. (Shudder.)

Anyway, I have quite shamelessly cheated on my New Year's reading resolution by reading Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies rather than finishing Austen's original novel, something I've been half-heartedly trying to do for roughly ten years or so. It was, however, a necessary shortcut seeing as I suffer from Britlitaphobia. Makes me all twitchy and glassy-eyed and irritable. Not pretty. BUT, since the addition of zombie mayhem makes most things better, I figured it could only improve Austen's beloved classic.

And did it? Why yes. I'd say so, yes. And here's some proof:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." So begins Austen's novel. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." So begins Grahame-Smith's version. Clearly, both are good, however, the second is obviously much, much better. It's a truer statement with fewer commas and more zombies. Better.

In the original, Elizabeth Benet is a feisty, witty, fiercely independent young lady who will not stand to be insulted. Which is good. But in P&P&Z, she's all of these things PLUS a blood-thirsty zombie slayer, trained by a Shaolin master in China to protect her beloved England from a never ending hoard of "unmentionables." Which is clearly better.

Darcy is still Darcy, but here he cracks jokes about the male anatomy and threatens to cut Miss Bingley's tongue out if she doesn't stop her idle chatter. Lydia is still Lydia, but now her empty headedness is rewarded by spending the remainder of her years married to an invalid, forever changing his soiled bed linens. Charlotte is still Charlotte, except it now makes more sense why she would marry the clearly revolting Mr. Collins: in Grahame-Smith's version she becomes infected, is slowly turning into a unmentionable, and wants a taste of married life before she joins Satan's army. So, her decision to marry a boring, chubby sycophant finally makes some sense. Better!

Furthermore, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has pictures:

"Mr. Darcy watched Elizabeth and her sisters work their way outward, beheading zombie after zombie as they went."

...as well as discussion questions at the end:
"Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the authors' views towards marriage -- an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won't die. Do you agree?"
Which, again, makes it bet-ter.

In all honesty, I'm not sure how well the joke will hold up for someone who hasn't already read (at least in part) Austen's original novel, but if you 1) are in possession of a sense of humor, and 2) are already familiar with the source material, I think it's fair to assume that you'll have fun reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It's exactly like reading a Jane Austen novel, except better. It's actually interesting.

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
2009, 319 pages

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009
random posts of pretty weird
Today's LA Times featured this photoseries of Yemen's Socotra Islands, nicknamed the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean" for their isolation and, thus, strangely unique biodiversity. And seriously, the place looks crazed. Like where Ompa Loompas come from or something:

The image above is a picture of a dragon’s blood tree unique to Socotra, so named because a "red resin drips from its bark when pierced." This tree BLEEDS. Redonkulous!


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