Bears Creator Gone

I love the Berenstain Bears- we had a million of them growing up and I always loved the fact that they lived in a tree. I was sad to find out that Jan Berenstain died over the weekend at the age of 88 after being apart of over 300 books.

I often want to buy kids books based on areas I feel they need improvement in. For example, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV for the couch potatoes. Or The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies for those that are spoiled. My parents bought us The Barenstain Bears and the New Baby when my mom got pregnant with one of my sisters. Doesn't matter where you're at in life- there's a Berenstain Bears book for you. Her sons plans to continue the franchise.

Watch and Love

The Oscars last night were pretty boring, in my opinion- Billy Crystal is old, the presenters sound like idiots with crappy dialogue, and Oprah of all people was recognized (oh, the humanity!). There were a few bright spots, though, like the horrible after show ABC did (I believe they set a record for most amount of reporter brush offs in an hour) and the Bridesmaids (wiener talk and a drinking game).

And then there was this, the absolute highlight of the show: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the film that won Best Animated Short (I guess it's also an iPad ap and a book to be released this summer). The story (no talking... apparently that was the theme this year) is about a man that works as a sort of guardian of a book collection for his whole life, learning to care for them, and them for he. It's whimsical, sweet, and glorifies books in their original form- page and covers. Just watch it (about 14 minutes and free):

My favorite scene is when the book is brought to life. Tear. The animation is really awesome- visit their website for more information.

An additional Oscar related thought- if you win a book (ahem, Hugo winners), thank the effing author that wrote it! I did hear some the winners for The Descendents (George Clooney and Stacey Keibler should make babies for sure, but the way) mention Kaui Hart Hemmings, but it should be the majority, not the minority.

Today's Lesson: Take care of your books and they will take care of you.

Books on Your Back- My Patronus

I noticed this shirt on a Book Riot Facebook post and couldn't agree more. A powerful bookwork, though, let the record show.

One for the Animals

At one point this blog was basically a tribute to TC Boyle- I was mentioning Tortilla Curtain on a weekly basis. The book was truly moving and I still firmly believe every Californian, if not American, should read it, as immigration continues to be such a controversial topic. This is a book that made me think. And so did the second Boyle book I got around to finishing last night, When the Killing's Done.

A quick synopsis: The main character, Alma, works for the National Park Service and is in charge of exterminating the rats of Anacapa Island and the wild pigs off Santa Cruz Island, both part of the Channel Islands (a boat ride out of Santa Barbara, California). This is being done as a result of native animals, such as foxes and birds, becoming endangered- both rats and pigs were brought by humans and interfere with the original habitat. Of course PETA and a fictional protesting group try to prevent this process, Alma's nemesis being an older, wealthier hippie named Dave Lovejoy. In the end, while I don't want to give any spoilers, Dave definitely pays for his interference. So, the question is, who should decide the fates of animals- humans or the animals themselves?

In true Boyle fashion, he's forcing me, the reader, to really examine my own ethics. Neither character is necessary likeable- Alma is all business, too rational for her own good, and a bit cold at times. Dave Lovejoy is a bit hypocritical (he's the owner of three high-end electronic stores, yet has dreads and defends nature), has a crazy temper, and goes out of his way to humiliate Alma. Both passionately believe in their causes, though, which are both centered at the idea of protecting wildlife. In essence, their hearts really are in the same place, just with competing animals.

In the past few years I've become more interested in vegetarianism and how we treat our furry/feathered/scaled friends. I cut red meat almost completely out of my diet a few months ago (I had only eaten it once or twice a month, so it wasn't hard) and for "lent" I decided to give up meat completely (still not a terrible sacrifice since I only eat in a few times a week). If both sides in the novel are trying to protect animals, who do you choose?

I definitely don't agree with Lovejoy's tactic- his group vandalized Alma's car, tried to reverse the effects of the rat poison on Anacapa, and bullied her in public. Alma, on the other hand, never really seemed to listen to her opponents. I can clearly see both sides in the debate- the side of me that gravitates towards science understands the need to step in and reverse the consequences that humans had unknowingly caused long ago. Islands overrun by rats and pigs is doing nothing to promote a healthy, diverse, stable ecosystem. On the other hand, Lovejoy has a point- nature usually has a way of controlling that sort of thing itself. It would probably take generations, but eventually natural selection would kick in. He staunchly believed that the animals should be left alone and that the island should remain untouched.

And alas, I'm torn. And this is why this novel is excellent and Boyle is a gifted writer- this won't be a book I forget about next week or next month. It's made me question myself and the ethics behind the decisions we make as humans for the sake of the environment. And it encourages people to consider both sides of all controversy, whether it be a as small as an argument with a family member, or as grand as eradicating thousands of pigs.

Read it.

J.K. Rowling, Adult Author...?

So, I'm sure everyone has heard the news, but J.K. Rowling has signed on with Little, Brown to publish a novel for adults. The title, synopsis, and release date are yet to be announced. Twitter was abuzz today with high hopes for Rowing's latest endeavor, but personally, I'm a bit skeptical. I don't want her to fail, but I think hopes are a bit high. How do you follow Harry Potter?

Head in Hogwarts
For almost twenty years (can you believe the first book came out in 1995?) Rowling has been submersed in
the world of Harry Potter, projecting her franchise to the top of every chart. The woman's life has been comprised of a fictional world where brooms fly, bathrooms have ghosts, and weird little creatures are obsessed with socks (aw, I love Dobby). Now Rowling must adopt a new cast of a characters, find a new setting, and develop a whole now plot line. Does she have the chops? She's been riding the series train for this long, can she successfully hop off and find a new one?

Why Now? Of Course Now!
I guess the obvious answer to that question is that the Harry Potter franchise is done/on hold and she's bored/is afraid to go back on welfare. But why not test the waters between Harry Potter books? Her name has become so well-known that it could be horrible and still sell, so I suppose waiting for this level of fame was smart. Too safe. If she really had balls she'd be publishing the adult book under a different name to see the public's honest opinion of it.


Harry Potter was loved by both adults and kids, but it was obviously child-age appropriate. As a book targeted as adults what are our expectations as far as content? The idea of the woman who created little Harry Potter writing about sex, drugs, and whatever else is almost awkward. For me, part of her charm is that she is a children's author; there's something innocent and wholesome about this breed of people. Crossing over age brackets can be hard, and while some authors have tried, many have failed. And will it be deemed "literary?" Rowling wrote quality children's literature, but I'm not sure if she has the ability to heighten her prose to a level where it can become quality adult fiction.

Let's Be Honest

I don't want an adult book book, I want another Harry Potter follow up. She's the ultimate series lady, no matter what my feelings on series are. Stay on the train! Write a new series focusing on the characters' kids that were on their way to Hogwarts at the end of the last book. Give the people what they love, dammit.

Obviously, she won't fail. She's J.K. Rowling- on
ce Oprah dies (hate her) she'll basically be She Woman of the World. The people that started reading Harry Potter fifteen years ago are all adults- she's ingeniously waited for her little minions to grow up. The lady knows how to work the market. Now let's just see if she can work the page of an adult book.

PS- I still really want to go to Harry Potter World.

Team Rowling for Adult Book Author? Yay or nay?

Top Ten Tuesday- Sentimental, Yet Practical

This week's Top Ten Tuesday (from the Broke and the Bookish) asks bloggers to decide the ten books they'd save if their house was about to be destroyed by fire/earthquake/flood/zombies. Here are mine:

1. Charlotte's Web by EB White- My first chapter book- the sentimental value is irreplaceable.

2. Our Wedding Album- While I understand this isn't necessarily a traditional book, it has pictures, words and pages- fits my criteria.

3. Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dosteyvsky- Not only is it my favorite book, but it's also all marked up from high school. I was so not as smart as I thought I was back then...

4. My journals- They're all in one place, so I'm going to consider them as just one entry (despite that there are probably fifteen or so). I'm sure a lot of people would be surprised that I journal, considering my distaste for scrapbooking and aversion to sappiness. But it became a habit over twenty years ago and will hopefully always be. There's no way I'd leave them behind.

5. My yearbook from senior year- Damn I'm turning this into a sentimental post. I love looking through it and reading what my friends wrote.

6. Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer- If my house is destroyed I may need some cash- this is worth a couple hundred bucks (it's a first edition).

7. Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook- I don't want to starve and have very few decent recipes stuck in my head. What if I need to bust out a souffle?

8. A book I've never read before- I'm sure I'll have down time, considering all my other belongings have been ruined. I'll need something to start a new library with.

9. The Road by Cormac McCarthy- In the event that the reason why my house has been destroyed in some sort of apocalypse, this book has some great survival tips.

10. Underworld by Don DeLillo- I'm going to finish this bitch one day. It's tabbed and possibly written in- I'm not losing that work.

Document This

I understand that I've made it very clear I'm not a movie person- they're long, I pee often, I get sleepy, blablabla. Documentaries are a whole other ballgame, though, and for some reason I feel like they're related to books, since I usually learn from them. And therefore (drumrolllll) I have now decided to add a new running little segment to the blog called "Document This," just like "Books on Your Back" and "Nonfiction Nagging." As always, I make no promises about how often this will be happening, but since I've started watching Netflix on my phone while working out it may actually be frequent (this is the ONLY reason why I'm open to an iPad- not for the eBooks, but so I can watch documentaries and TV shows while I work out and can stop bringing my laptop in the kitchen when I need to follow recipes).

In the future I'll probably do one or two at a time, but today I'm going for broke- 5 documentaries that I've watched lately. Nerd alert.

The Bu
siness of Being Born
Run Time: 84
Again, I'm not pregnant (I just went skydiving and twisted the hell
out of my core in yoga this morning- there's nothing in there), but I've heard some interesting things about this documentary from an economical perspective. It wasn't quite what I expected, let's just say. I saw a baby come out of a vajayjay. Like seriously, full on, "there's its head... there's it's shoulders... oh my god... oh my god... augh... ew, what's all that other stuff?" viewing. Traumatized. Anyway, that aside, it was still interesting. The USA has of course commercialized one of the most natural things there is (honestly, though, sometimes I wonder- is it really that natural to shove something the size of a football out through something the size of a golf ball?), and the push for drugs and C-Sections has become insane. The documentary did spend quite a bit of time on home and water births as well. While I can confidently say I'll be giving birth in a hospital, I am now armed with knowledge about Pitocin slowing contractions and what the hell a Douala actually does.

Should You Watch It? Only if you someday want to have a baby, or maybe if you have. Most men may not appreciate it...

Running the Sahara
Run Time: 10
3 minutes
I effing loved this movie. Three runners decide to run all the way across the Sahara and must learn to manage their bodies, minds, and personalities. It takes them well over a hundred days and there are so many obstacles in the meantime (like the threat of landmines and governments not wanting to open their borders). It was interesting watching how the men changed as they continued their journey, as well as how their relationships with each other and the rest of the crew were altered by various events. It's amazing what some people will put their bodies through just to prove to themselves that they can. I also loved seeing the scenery- I'm not very familiar with Northern Africa, so it was nice to see a different part of the world.

Should You Watch It? Definitely! It's a great adventure story and it's very inspiring. Not sure if you have the energy to get off the couch and do an hour of cardio? These guys ran a marathon a day! Shut your mouth and move your ass.

Page One: Inside the New York Times
Run Time: 91 minutes
This documentary is a really interesting view at the New York Times and their struggle to stay financially afloat, remain current, and maintain vitality in a constantly changing industry. Part of the film focuses on Wikileaks, which has really changed news and how it's made available. At times it was a little dry, but as a whole I th
ink the newspaper industry is really interesting and it's fascinating to see what the ones that are surviving are doing to stay relevant.

Should You Watch It? If you need to be constantly stimulated probably not; there isn't really a climax or even an end. But if you have a soft spot for news or newspapers give it a try.

Dog Decoded: Nova
Run Time: 54 minutes
I'm obviously a dog person, and I'm of course convinced they're both smart and perceptive. Turns out I may actually be right- evolution, natural selection, and adaptation have actually allowed dogs to become more similar to humans that we ever thought. Canine research is finally progressing on both the behavioral and biological level, since humans share a lot of similar medical issues with our furry friends (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, etc...). The documentary also focused on comparing them to their ancestors, wolves- work is being done in Europe that has attempted to isolate certain behaviors to bread for. I really appreciated the segment on the benefits to humans- petting a dog can release oxytocin, the chemical that bonds a mother and infant.

Should You W
atch It? If you're a dog owner definitely. It's not going to teach you how to train your pet, but it does provide a lot of insight on their origins and potential.

Blood Into Wine
Run Time: 9
9 minutes
I watched this documentary awhile ago with my husband, and consider it one of the reasons why I want to like
wine so badly. The film is set at Maynard James Keenan's (yes, the guy from Tool, a band I happen to hate) vineyard in Arizona and documents the work, passion, and struggles behind starting off a vineyard. The man may have a ton of money, but that doesn't guarantee the wine will be successful! Being a total wine-rookie, I'd be interested to hear from people who actually know something about whether Keenan, and his wine, are legit.

Should You Watch It: My husband, who isn't a drinker, even liked this movie- you don't have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy it. It's darkly humorous and truly educational.

Any great documentaries to recommend?

When Reading is Wrong/I Jumped Out of a Mother-Effing Airplane

I'm an adventurous girl, within reason. I've traveled around Italy with my sister, hiked up and down Half Dome, have ziplined, gone trapezing, and have made my poor body run too many half marathons, all without any substantial, pre-event, fear. And then yesterday I went skydiving and spent the three days prior scared shitless. Why? Because this time I did some pre-reading.

First of all, it's never good to Google "sky diving fa
talities" or "[insert company's name] accident report" before you decide to throw your body out of an airplane at 12,500 feet. But I did- I spent three days reading about the statistics and horror stories of people who collided mid-air, whose parachutes didn't open, or landed too hard. I read and I read and I read. In this case, knowledge was leaving me powerless.

I think as a society this habit of saturating ourselves in too much information can be harmful. Granted it can also be wonderful and allow us to be productive, enterprising, educated individuals, but sometimes not. Take the Web MD crowd- they sneeze twice in a row and all the sudden they have prostate cancer (whatttttt?!?!). Or moms that panic that their baby is developmentally behind because everyone else on the mommy boards reported their kid rolling over 2.35 weeks earlier than theirs. And then there's the average consumer that reads about a grapefruit recall in Britain and then panics because they realize that's what they had for breakfast and now they might die. The Information Age is a blessing and a curse.

Fortunately, I didn't back out. After opting out of
the marathon there was no way I was going to pussy out of this too, nor was I about to let the friend I was going with down. And as soon as her and I left yesterday morning I felt fine, and even better when the lady at Skydive Lake Elsinore's desk assured me that their company had never experienced a major accident with tandem divers. And so we suited up, learned how to fall out of an airplane, and then lifted off down the runway. After about fifteen minutes of flying up we were pushed out of the plane by an instructor and free fell for about a minute. My ears felt like they were going to explode and I temporarily forgot how to breathe. And then, all of a sudden there was the all-important jerk that the parachute opening caused and I enjoyed the few minutes we spent sailing down. And then my instructor and I landed and it was all over. No big deal.

Was it fun? Yeah, it was. Would I do it again? Not sure. But I am glad I went, and I think it was a significant "life" event. Sitting around reading about things doesn't make a life worth living. You have to take risks and get out there. When I look back at my twenties I want to be happy with not only the amount of books I've read, but what I've done. I don't necessarily care about buying things or having "stuff," I want to be able to break free of routine and do things. We'll see what's next.

Books on Your Back- Go to Hell

I really like telling people to go to hell. So short, so direct. I actually say it in my head (along with "shut the fuck up") approximately seven hundred and sixty two times a day. So, this shirt via Book Riot (via Murder by the Book) is near and dear:

Valentine's Edition- CILFs

Let's just clear something up right now- for 99% of men, and probably 50% of women, Valentine's Day is about scoring tail. You know it, I know it, and every Hallmark card maker knows it. There really isn't anything wrong with that, but let's just remember "I love you more than anything and can't imagine my life without you" just means "take off your clothes and jump in the sack."

So, in honor of this fun little holiday, I bring to you CILFs: Characters I'd Like to- well, you know. Make loooooooove to (is it just me, or does that phrase make anyone else want to vomit?). It's like a MILF, but for literature (still clueless? Visit Urban Dictionary and get with the program).

Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett)- There's something hot about an old school detective, es
pecially when I usually picture modern day ones as old, balding and fat.

Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)- Once you get over the fact that he comes with a little baggage (single dad alert), the man is definitely an option. Calm, intelligent, and passionate about what he believes in? Impossible to resist. Plus, I love the name Atticus and almost named my dog that.

Snape (Harry Potter by JK Rowling)- Every girl loves the bad boy that's not really completely bad. Plus, I thought it might be a little too dirty if I put Harry himself. Runner up- Dumbledore (the beard would definitely get in the way, though).

Guy Montag (Fahrenheit 451 by Rray Bradbury)- Another bad boy with a good side. Yes, he burns books at first, which is a definite turn off, but then he sees the light. He could have stayed at my house while on the run- we could read all night long.

Will Freeman (About a Boy by Nick Hornby)- Yes, I understand that Hornby may not have created the character under the pretense that he'd look like Hugh Grant, but it doesn't hurt. Bottom line- a jack ass that ends up liking a kid and changing because of what he learns. I'm such a sucker for that kind of crap (in life... not necessarily literature).

Gus Mcrae (Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry)- Fine, he's a womanizer and a little rough around the edges, but he's cowboy! There's just something about pirates and cowboys... By the way, I really love this book- all 854 pages of it.

Homer Wells (
Cider House Rules by John Irving)- Yes, yes, I know he doesn't necessarily look like Tobey Maguire, but Homer's an orphan, doctor, and all around good guy. Plus he ends up respecting Rose's "right to choose" after being impregnated by her own father. And he likes apples. So do I!

I hope your day is filled with drugstore-bought chocolate hearts and roses sold by the checkout counter.

Top Ten Tuesday- Heart Breaker

In honor (dishonor-?) of Valentine's Day, this week's Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish asks for heart breakers. Let's just say things break my heart for different reasons.

1. Marley and Me by John Grogan- I read the young adult version to my elementary students three years in a row and every goddam year I'd have to strategically approach the death scene. I'd have a bottle of water to drink from frequently, I'd stop every time I started to feel teary to yell at a kid for whatever reason, and read really, really fast. Poor, poor Marley.

2. White Oleander by Janet Fitch- I read this book in high school or college and remember being just horrified at the terrible life the main character, a foster child, had. I give all the credit in the world to foster parents who open their home to kids because they really want to help, not because they need a paycheck.

3. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale- While this book is a bit perverse, it really bothers me when chimps are mistreated or are sad. Seriously, I watched Planet of the Apes a few weeks ago and was completely traumatized.

4. Tell All by Chuck Palahnuik- This book broke my heart that I actually spent hours of my life reading this total piece of crap. It breaks my heart that someone with actual talent can lose their ability to be creative and successful so quickly. Quantity does not mean quality.

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy- I don't want to give anything away, but the total desperation the characters feel post-apocalypse devastated me. This was a book I thought about for days- how would I act if I had lost everyone and everything? What would it be like to live in a world where there was no hope?

6. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls- Again with the dying dogs.

7. Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun- This book tells the heartbreaking story of a teenage girl that runs away from home and lives on the street. This is definitely not a feel-good book, but it is raw and well-written. Never, ever take for granted having a warm bed to sleep in or a meal in your belly.

8. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik- This book makes me sad because it reminds me that I should have been a doctor. I appreciate my current employment and get a kick out of the kids I work with, but there is no doubt in my mind that I was supposed to go into medicine.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling- After reading the entire series and "seeing" those kids grow up, I was sincerely sad when I finished the last one. The nostalgic side of me hopes for another Harry and company story one day, while the literary side knows this should be it.

10. Charlotte's Web by EB White- Oh, Charlotte, why, WHY?!?!?!

Amazon's Attempt to Monopolize the Book World

As a bibliophile and staunch proponent of quality literature I am technically supposed to hate Amazon, and for good reason, especially considering their business moves in the past few months. And part of me does despise the fact they're slowly trying to develop a literary monopoly of sorts, yet the other part of me really appreciates their low prices and shipping options. I'm a conflicted woman.

Strike 1: Taking Money Away From Local Booksellers

Amazon has been criticized for years for squashing the little guys- independent booksellers are no match for the world-wide business that sells everything from tuna to Tolstoy. Most things are in stock, the reviews are in your face, and you can purchase what you need from the comfort of your holey sweatpants at home. The convenience factor has been a critical selling point, given the fact Americans are inherently lazy bums.

Strike 2: The Publishing Mess

Then, a few months ago things got even worse. Amazon had stared it's own publishing branch awhile back, but has recently seen legitimate growth, signing with authors such as James Franco and Deepak Chopra, as well as celebrities such as Penny Marshall. Along with these some of these publishing contracts are ebook exclusivity rights, which will only allow digital copies to play on Amazon's ereaders. Barnes and Noble fired back, announcing a boycott on selling any texts published by Amazon (ones that are not part of the exclusivity deal are still available online). Other booksellers, including some in Canada, are following suit. These companies are hoping that this will put pressure on authors to not sign with Amazon.

Strike 3: Rumors of a Brick and Mortar Store

Rumors have started swirling that Amazon will open an actual store in Seattle, focusing on books and Kindles. This, of course, has really put everyone in a tizzy- how is anyone supposed to compete? Amazon of course won't confirm anything, but the fact that Amazon has seen some profit trouble makes doesn't make it surprising.

What's a Thrifty, Book-Loving Girl to Do?

On a business level, what Amazon is doing is smart- get your product out there, everywhere, and for as cheaply as you can afford to. Simple Econ 101 stuff. On a philosophical level, I think they're being assholes. Why do they have to win everything? Stay away from publishing, stay away from strip malls.

Luckily, I don't see myself buying any new books for awhile, but when I do I'm going to have to make a choice. Go to the poor, wounded Barnes and Noble? Try to hunt down the books I actually read at the non-existent independent bookstores in the city I live? Drive to LA? Or guiltily place an order with the Book Devil?

If we look at it from strictly economic terms, I'm not necessarily doing anything wrong- the money I save from ordering from Amazon will be spent elsewhere, therefore still pumping my hard-earned cash into the lethargic economy. But, ethically, I'd be supporting a company I don't necessarily support (which I'm sure I unknowingly already do).

My head says yes, but my heart says no.

And if anyone leaves anything regarding the stupid movie You've Got Mail in the comments I'm going to scream. What ever happened to Meg Ryan, anyway?

Mystery in Edinburgh

As the internet is abuzz with this fantastic story, I'm sure most of you have heard about it by now. I was so captivated by it I thought I'd quickly share, just in case (The List does a much better job).

During the past year or so a mysterious Scottish sculptor has been leaving intricate paper constructions made of books in various "artsy" locations throu
ghout Edinburgh along with little literary notes (plus one extra for one of the authors involved, Ian Rankin). No one seems to know the creator (except a few people who are respecting the artist's privacy), nor does anyone want to- the mystery behind the surprise gifts is romantic in an age where libraries are being shut down. Seriously, read the article. My summarizing skills are seriously impaired tonight due to some sort of raging cold. I think someone needs to write a kids book about this whole thing. I'd buy it.

A few pictures:

[Source: Chris Scott]

Nonfiction Nagging- Get Your Geek On

Being a teenager can be extremely hard, no matter what clique you hang out with or what your family background is like. I'm around mostly fifteen and sixteen year olds all day, and they are definitely interesting creatures. Because of this close proximity and the attention bullying has gotten over the past few years, I decided to read The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandria Robbins. The author intermixes the stories of four teenagers and one teacher (the reader doesn't find out she's not a teen until a little way in) in with her sociological research and observations in a four hundred page book that offers some interesting perspectives.

Before I truly start I do want to point out that I didn't love this book; I appreciate the message, but I thought as a text it was a little contrived at times (no one IMs anymore, for crap's sake). The dialogue was frequently unrealistic as far as how teenagers actually talk, and the format wasn't always cohesive. I often felt that her "real" kids were actually characters based on interview compilations. It was also a bit too long; by about page 250 I decided to just read until the end because I was so anxious to be done. In all fairness, though, it was partially because it reminded me of something that would have been required for my credentialing classes.

I think the core message of the book was positive, though. Robbins' five subjects (their titles, which I found a bit stereotypically obvious and offensive, were: the nerd, the loner, the weird girl, the popular bitch, and the gamer) were eventually given a challenge that forced them to face their social fears in the face and make a difference. One girl was supposed to start a LGBT group at the school she taught at, another was supposed to break away from her current clique, and another start interacting with other groups of kids by means of his recycling program. Some did better than others, but they all learned that labels are permanent and a lot of the time our difficulties come from our own perceptions.

I think as an educator being aware of what is happening with out student is important- it effects what they do while we're with them. A lot of teachers tend to have a hands off policy, and I can understand that. I don't want to know what they do at parties or who comes over while their parents are out of town, but I do want to know if they feel like an outcast or are have trouble with other kids. So many students lack a place to safe, and school is the only place where they may have a hope. Teaching extends beyond the class and curriculum, whether we want it to or not.

I'm always so curious as to where and when the bullying, intolerant attitude begins. The five kids in this book were plagued by others, both on a hostile level and in regards to the pressure to conform. I think the easy out is blaming the parents, which I believe is definitely a significant factor. But there are plenty of nice parents that raise murderers, abusers, and just plain assholes. Nurture and society play a part, no doubt. I guess this then leads to the question of when, who, and where must the identification and prevention of these sorts of potentially dangerous personalities should start. Ideally it would be a team effort by families and educators, and one that didn't focus on punishment, but instead positive reinforcement and behavior modification. There's no right answer, but doing nothing is definitely not the way to go.

One of the characters in this book, "the weird girl," was actually a lesbian teacher that faced adversity by her colleagues. As adults we're no immune to forming groups and targeting outcasts. Even in our own department meetings we branch off into groups based on personalities. While I don't feel like there's any true adult bullying going on at our site, I do see that there are definitely the "cool kids" and then everyone else. As in high school I guess I find myself hovering in between, not necessarily in the mix of the fun but not feeling like a pariah by any means! I know there are much more hostile work environments, though, and I am thankful I personally have never had to experience it. Come one, guys. Set a good example. Be nice to the IT guy who has a Battleship Galactica screensaver and and talks about HTML like it's no big deal. Go out of your way to have lunch with a new colleague. Bring cookies for the divorced lady you know has nine cats.

As a society we also need to do more to embrace the different. In my AP classes there are a lot of different groups represented; athletes, serious students, the indies, the religious, the outgoing , the shy, those in band and drama, and the ones that just seem to exist. I have to say, they all seem to work pretty well together and I've never seen any sort of hostility. While I'm sure it exists, it's nice to see the kid with all A's playing around on the guitar of the kid who wears ripped Metallica shirts every day. There's also a very high level of tolerance in regards to sexuality that I don't see with my normal English 2 classes. Each week my kids have to write a response to an editorial and I usually get ten or so dealing with gay rights. Most of the students have no problems with same-sex relationships, and a few have said that while they don't agree they don't care if other people are gay because it doesn't impact them. If only all teens (and adults) could be so tolerant! I think the whole geek/nerd subculture is definitely become more trendy, but the fact that there are labels to begin with is unfortunate. Unfortunate, but realistic. They're not going away, so we must teach kids to be accepting of everyone, including themselves.

As far as the book, unless you're a teacher, a parent, or someone with a particular interest in this area of sociology, I'd probably say pass. Yup, pass on the book that's trying to help kids feel comfortable with themselves.

Word Vomit/Lack of Focus

Bookish thoughts for the evening:

- So many people are reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close b
y my boy Jonathan Safran Foer. I really, really enjoyed it and hope everyone else does too, although I'm a little bitter that the surge in popularity has been brought on by the new movie. While it's always great to see forgotten books see a increase in sales it makes me sad for the others of thousands of fantastic books that don't get that kind of publicity. In related thoughts, I'm really thinking about reading his Eating Animals book on vegetarianism, since I've been been reducing my meat intake.

- Twice in the last week I've been told by different grou
ps of friends that I will one day buy an eReader. It's not going to happen, folks. Never. Not never as in "I'm never going to drink that much again," but never as in "Sarah Palin is never going to say something intelligent."

- I have to cave in and order a book, despite the fact my "Ultimate To-Do List" is still an impressive (?) 57 items. It's for a good cause- the new book club selection is The Call, by Yannick Murphy (speaking of vegetarianism).

- I'm currently reading The Geeks Will Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins and am having some very mixed feelings. First of all, at almost 400 pages it's to
o long. Nothing against lengthy books, but this one doesn't need that kind of heft. Secondly, I find the dialogue from the supposed real teenage subjects a bit contrived. I do appreciate the message and am interested to see how it ends, but I must admit to being anxious to move on.

- I might actually go to the movies, willingly, to see The
Hunger Games.

- Speaking of movies, I absolutely abhor movie-tie in covers. They're so gimmicky and cheap looking not to mention the obvious marketing purpose. Tacky.

- I loved stalking the Twitter hashtag #agentday yesterday; literary agents wrote about what they did, while they did it. Going to buy stamps and conferences calls sound much cooler when they involve signing authors rather than your stupid friend from high school chronicling their every effing move. Being an agent is a lot like being a high school teacher- they read, edit, babysit, and drink a lot. Career change? Nonetheless, I did manage to pick up on some helpful hints in case my awesome novel ever decides to write itself.

- I watched a documentary not too long ago called Helvetica, on the story behind the type that has basically infiltrated the world. It never occurred to
me that a movie on a font could be boring- it was. I tried.

- I spent a good fifteen minutes devouring Flavorwire's "The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World" the other day, and have come to the important conclusion that all future vacations will include mandatory outings to independent bookstores. Lisbon, anyone?

- After each book I finish I contemplate reading The Girl Who Played with Fire (that's the next one, after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, right?) and I jus
t never, ever feel like it. I mean it's on the shelf and the money was spent, so eventually it'll happen, but I can't guarantee if it will be in the next five years. Consequently, my blog post comparing the first book the movie has become my most viewed piece. I find this amusing because it wasn't really all that thought-provoking or analytical. Thanks anyway, though, Google.

Off to read. Or watch an episode of last season's Chuck (speaking of geeks). Maybe I'll get crazy and do both.

Man, I love these guys [source]

Quitting Before I Start

For those that are here for the reading and the books, this is a running post, so proceed with caution.

Once I say I'm going to do something, I do it. I put myself through UCLA in 4 years, managed to get three teaching credentials and a master's, enjoy teaching high school, run eleven half marathons, and make yoga a part of my life. I finish what I start, and I do what I say. I don't back down, I don't give up. I make myself be energetic when I don't want to be. I make shit happen.

Until now.

Today I ran the Surf City Half Marathon, the race I actually PRed at last year. The run was okay, not my best, not my worst. A little warm, but nice because I had a good friend and my cousin there. But then at mile five I realized that I was no longer having fun. Training runs are never fun, but the races have always been something that I've looked forward to, until today. Training for the marathon is completely ruining running for me. I've spent hours and hours running to be prepared on the big day, and still have so much to do. Last week I ran about thirty miles with a long run of 12; the w
eek before the same, with a long run of 14. My bad foot hurts constantly and I resent the fact that I have to commit so much time to running on the weekends. So, from miles five to thirteen I thought long and hard about where I'm at in terms of my running, and fitness, and where I'd like to be.

I love exercise and being active- I've consistently worked out in some form 3-6 times a week for ten years. Right now I'm squeezing in yoga once or twice a week and running a lot. Too much. My spin bike is getting absolutely no use and I miss interval training that involved walking hills and running. Cross training is of course important in marathon training, but one day tops. My mind, my body, and my spirit are sick of it, and the longest runs in the training cycle haven't even hit (sixteen next week, eighteen the week after). Why continue if it's making me so unhappy? Why add to the stress in my life with something that's not necessarily required? I don't really care what people think of me in regards to my mileage (since most people I know aren't runners anyway) and I know not doing the full is the right thing to do (luckily I haven't paid for it yet). I'm not pleased with my decision, but I know it's the right one.

From now on I still plan on running, but to cut back to twenty miles a week; one long run on Saturday or Sunday (7-10 miles, since I want to stay half marathon ready), one "decent" run (4-5 miles), and one speed workout (30 minutes with 400 repeats). I'll go to yoga twice a week, cycle once or twice, and walk hills on the treadmill once a week too. Just writing that makes me happy. I plan to cut back to two or three halves a year (I've done eleven in the last eighteen months) and I'll focus on improving my times at that distance. I'm excited to have a more well-rounded fitness regimen, and I'm sure my body will appreciate it in the long run.

So, I guess this makes me a quitter. It the whole scheme of life I can live with that; running a marathon wasn't going to be my claim to fame, anyway. I'd rather write a book or save a quadriplegic orphan from a burning building. So I guess those of you who bet against me, you win. Congratulations.

And I'm not pregnant, so for those of you thinking those crazy thoughts you can go ahead and stop.

Books on Your Back- Shut Your Face

Roses are red.
Violets of blue.
My life is sooooo tragic.
Boo hoo hoo.

Shakespeare hates your emo poems. Just an FYI. Shirt from Threadless.