eleanor & park

I had eleanor-parkhigh hopes for this book, it came with much acclaim as realistic (non-vampire) YA fiction and I came away with a feeling I had been manipulated. Granted, all fiction does that to some extent, but the turn off comes in the repeated, real-time realization. The work is enveloped by a pedantic, romtanicized, pandering, tone. Can we just agree bullying is bad? Please, let’s stop writing about it.

Rowell nails a ciphered, lost feeling well; her willingness portray real ugliness is riveting. Thankfully, I’m old because growing up is complicated.

The work is appropriate for an sensitive kid, and perhaps it could lead a few to discover an empathy for others at the risk of a reputation.


war, deceit, imperial folly…

The idea of reading this book was tossedlawrence-in-arabia-war-deceit-imperial-folly-and-the-making-of-the-modern-middle-east around in my head for months even after I read a number of recommendations. I’m over politics. This was not a title I wanted to ultimately abandoned because of a a writer’s political agenda.

This was different, and not really terrible. Author Scott Anderson weaves several stories together (it reminded me of Let the Great World Spin in that way), from T.E. Lawrence to Zionists and oil company execs creating an erroneous basis for U.S. policy that would muddle cultural understanding and dictate relations for years to come. Lawrence In Arabia is not without its spies, and meddling by foreign governments, however its easier to swallow than I first thought.

fast food and purgatory

Because anything I write today won’t be as funny as this. The typed transcript is below.

“We believe”? Wait, I thought fast food joints…huh. Don’t you guys think that they’re like of the Devil or somethin’ I was. Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint then ya just don’t believe in, thought you wanted to, I dunno, send them to Purgatory or somethin’ so they all go vegan and, uh, wages and picket lines I dunno they’re not often discussed in Purgatory, are they? I dunno why are you even worried about fast food wages because…Well, we believe an America where minimum wage jobs they’re not lifetime gigs they’re stepping stone.”

poverty and homelessness

homelessHaving recently attended a two-day conference on homelessness, it made me hopeful that we in the U.S., or in this particular conference’s case the upper Midwest, are turning a corner. There is a consciousness I’ve never seen before and an awareness of what the impoverished need. It has taken our society several decades to get here — we used to ignore the vagrant sleeping on the bench or screaming at the light post — only to realize that treated as human beings, these folks will usually act as such.

Anyway, over the weekend I read two articles that lead me to believe we are on the right track, whether intentional or not.

The New York Times: Medicaid Expansion Faces Major Logistical Challenges Among the Homeless

The Atlantic: Your Brain on Poverty: Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions and why their bad decisions may be more rational than you think

I can think of no better a time to consider those homeless souls — when we are all grateful for that which we have been given.

my congratulations and my apology to neil gaiman

ImageHaving originally begun this blog to write about books, it is a treat for me when I actually do. In the next few weeks, it is my grand plan to finally bring my faithful followers current on what I’ve read, and what I thought about what I read.

Let’s talk a moment about Neil Gaiman, shall we? I have excitedly described his writing to friends and others who cared to listen, but not well. I’ve referred to the style as, “kind of weird” and the themes as “intelligently disturbing.” This leads folks to think a mode of horror, when it is not that at all — although there are some wonderfully horrific moments in his work. I have compared him to Edgar Allen Poe mixed with a dashes of Jonathan Carroll and H.P. Lovecraft but not many have understood. At this point I should probably apologize to Mr. Gaiman. In my attempts to convert, I’ve likely put off an equal number with my awkward bumbling. His most apt response would be, “Get off my side.”

Now, Hudson Booksellers has named his The Ocean at the End of the Lane their selection for 2013 Book of the Year. And more importantly, at least for me, they have nicely clarified my incoherence: “Neil Gaiman has this voice, charming and humane but creepy, occasionally whimsical but capable also of evoking real dread; and when he gets dark all the effects amplify because you have been charmed and cozened.” Yes, that.

be thankful for potatoes and HR

ImageThere is a misconception regarding HR people that runs rampant through corporations and organizations everywhere. It is completely and wholly untrue that we enjoy haranguing employees; we do not look forward to confrontations, and Human Resources is not the fun police. That said, there is a reason that coffee cups are labeled with cautionary warnings about the contents being hot, because some miscreant didn’t realize the potential damage a cup of steaming hot liquid could do between his or her thighs. Likewise with HR. Don’t blame it on them, or in this case me, just understand that some non-thinking employee, somewhere, caused a need to have so many policies. And those very folks, the one who lack common sense, created the need for a 400-page rule book.

I’m not sure how I got off on that tangent, I simply wanted to share a recipe that came from my friends at hr.com, the very site of those infamous procedure writers and fun suckers, further proof that neither are true. At least not at Thanksgiving. We like our starch, too.

Make Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole
Serves: 12 to14

* 12 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
* 1 large white onion, chopped
* 1 pkg cream cheese, cubed and softened
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1-1/4 cups 18% cream
* 4 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp white pepper or pepper

In large pot of boiling salted water, cover and cook potatoes and onion until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return to pot briefly to dry completely. Mash until smooth; mix in cream cheese and butter until melted. Stir in cream, green onions, salt and pepper. Transfer to 13 x 9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish or casserole; smooth top. (Make-ahead: Double wrap with plastic wrap or foil and freeze for up to 1 month; or wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Defrost in microwave or thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours; add 10 minutes to baking time). Bake in 400°F oven until light golden and heated thoroughly.

lou reed, my thoughts

ImageI’m not alone in the sentiment that if Lou Reed hadn’t have been who he was, I would be who I am. Sure, I’d be alive, but I certainly wouldn’t have lived in New York. Nor would I have the musical taste I do. Many of my friends are probably thinking exactly the same thing right now.

People have been discovering Lou Reed for decades. For me, I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, before the instantaneous luxury of the internet when I saw David Johansen of New York Dolls and Buster Poindexter fame on late-night television. I had no opinion about David either way, I’m not sure I knew who he was really, until a friend said, “He is a Lou Reed wannabe in eyeliner.” I was perplexed, but nodded; to me Lou was merely the deep-voiced Walk on Wild Side guy.

Some months later, I’m a slightly older, not especially wiser kid in the Midwest, and the movie American Gigolo is the rage (there is a pun there somewhere – help!). Blondie music is all over the film and I began to read about that band, especially the female lead, Debbie Harry (click for her remembrances of Lou). I took note that she credited Lou Reed for the band’s push forward. I avowed to check him out, but only found one album at the mall’s record store – this was 1981 and shelves were stuffed with REO Speedwagon and Def Leopard. That day, I purchased The Velvet Underground & Nico. Then, I understood.

By the time I heard Waiting for the Man, I wanted to hear more; and with Heroin, even my school girl mind knew this was significant music. A short time later, I special ordered Transformer. Van Halen, AC/DC, Rush: were disappointingly sub par.

Rather than singing, he said things – ironic, unhappy, aggressive, sexy, mischievous, sweet things – Lou said them aloud. Sometimes even complete sentences, which were placed in such a way that it felt only a few of us were luck enough to be privy to an inside joke.

Through the years I dug deeper, discovering hordes of bands trying to emulate the New York City scene that the Velvet Underground had created and with which I identified – the New York Dolls, David Bowie, The Ramones, The Cramps, Talking Heads, B-52s, Patti Smith. It all goes back to Lou Reed. American Live Wire said, “Reed was glam rock before David Bowie, punk rock before the Sex Pistols, alternate rock before anyone even heard that term.”

I don’t think my interests would be so diverse had I not immersed myself in something shaped by Lou and VU. It’s as if when Lou spoke to me all those years ago, I responded with an acceptance of music, culture, and a City greater than what I could have assembled for myself. It all changed when I heard Waiting for the Man because the man was Lou Reed.