Top Ten Tuesday- Movie Time

In my head I planned out a short (okay maybe, on the longer end of short) diatribe one the idea of not wanting any books being turned into movies, the topic of this week's The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten. But, I have no time or energy to be complete douchebag tonight, so here's my list:

Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Turned into Movies (assuming the people involved don't suck):

1. The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett- This was a decent travel memoir, but I think it would be made into a really fun movie (fine, fine, a chick flick). The premise is that three women quit their corporate jobs and spend a year blowing their money traveling to places around the world. This book is partially responsible for my life goal of conquering the Inca Trail (umm does anyone want to go with?). 

2. Room by Emma Donoghue- I know most people are familiar with this novel; kidnapped mother gives birth to baby in captivity and then escapes. Not necessarily literary, but entertaining. 

3. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett- Who doesn't love a good story about terrorists taking over a gala? 

4. The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Reif Larsen- This actually is going to be a movie at some point, and I am very fearful. T.S. Spivet is probably going to be what my future kids end up being with my genes, so I'm a bit protective of his character (please, please, please buy and read this book immediately). Raise your hand if you're tired of hearing about this book. Oh wait, no one? Great.

5.  Family Fang by Kevin Wilson- I'm actually not done with it yet, but this quirky book about a family of "artists" who entertain by causing social turmoil is undoubtedly going to appear on my favorites of the year list. Wes Anderson would need to direct, of course.

6. The Barbarian Nursery by Hector Tobar- I just read this last month and I think it's perspective on race, class, marriage, and immigration would make for a controversial film. 

7. Fall by Colin McAdam- This cerebral mystery about a murder at a boarding school is not only well-written, but has a great sense of pacing and character development. 

8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon- Everyone is lucky the blog started after I read this book; I was in love (it was my TS Spivet of 2009). Magical realism, mystery, humor, Spain. 

9. Rules by Cynthia Ward- I read this a few times to my elementary students; it's about a middle school aged girl who has a younger autistic brother. I think our youth needs to be educated on this condition- that's the first way to start developing a generation whose ready with compassion and patience for those that are different.

10. Slam by Nick Hornby- I think this is technically YA (gasp!), but I'm a Hornby fanatic, so it worked for me. I love this book because it talks about teenage pregnancy from the boy's view- something very rare (except, I remember being a teenager and seeing a made-for-tv movie that does this as well, except it was of course a dramatic custody battle). Pregnancy isn't glamorized or simplified (I adore Juno, but I don't think it was quite so realistic).

PS- I think most movies that are based on books really end up sucking; I have a theory that bad books make good movies, and vice versa. While I know this isn't always true, I am extremely skeptical of anything based on a book... Case in point: the probable butchering of Cloud Atlas.

April Reviews- Living Forever, Race, Homosexuality, and Running Over Kids

So this happened (somehow):

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
324 pages
I hoped this book was going to be better than it ended up being; it was about an English writer who writes serial fiction while trying to hammer our her overdue "real" novel. She ends up reading a book mistakenly (she is also a reviewer) and ends up semi-tackling the idea of whether we can live forever, while contemplating having an affair. This doesn't sound completely horrible, but the fact that at times it's downright boring ruins the novel as a whole. It could be worse, but it could have been much better. The cover is pretty cool, though. 

Verdict: Pass

A Single Man by Christopher Ishwerwood
192 pages
This groundbreaking novel was written during the 1960s in a time where homosexuality wasn't exactly embraced (not that it completely is today), which is just one of the reasons why I really appreciated it. It tells the story of a man whose partner has died and he must still live his everyday life while grieving and deciding how to fulfill his desires. The borderline novella takes place within one day, something that can be tough to do effectively for some authors. Yes it is a movie, and now I haven't seen it.

Verdict: I think it's a quick, interesting read. If you find homosexuality offensive READ IT ANYWAY and get up to speed with the twenty-first century

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw
272 pages
This will definitely be on my second annual "reading by the water" list. It was a decent read- not overly challenging, but not crap. It tells the story of a group of people that end up hitting, and killing, a little girl on the way home from a wedding. The story tracks them over the next few decades; which is where my problems with the book arise. I think the plot stays interesting, but Anshaw doesn't do the best job creating a cohesive text from beginning to end.

Verdict: If you like plot driven books than this is a good one for you; it stays pretty high-interest throughout. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
376 pages
I had to reread this for work, and I have to say it was a damn good thing I decided to. I remembered very little! This actually causes me great anxiety (like seriously, for reals, no joke) - what else have I forgotten?

Verdict: If you enjoy a good racial satire go for it. Honestly, everyone should read it at one time or another!

All Will Be Revealed by Robert Anthony Siegel
280 pages
Every time I think about the title of this book I start humming Kashmir by Led Zeppelin... Anyway, this novel was surprisingly really, really good. The main character owns a turn of the century pornographic catalog that allows men to order prints to "enjoy" at home. One of his models loses her baby and he ends up in contact with a psychic of sorts that changes his life. While this description makes the whole novel sound like a dirty fraud, I promise that it's really so much more than smut (in fact, it is never sexually graphic, as that's really not what the book is about). Well written and really interesting.

Verdict: If you're hoping for soft core porn, definitely don't even attempt this book, since it's anything but. If you're in the mood for something a little old-fashioned, slightly scandalous, and you like mental hospitals, you may enjoy it. 

The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar
432 pages
This was definitely my favorite book this month, as it reminded me a little of T.C. Boyle. This book is about a upper-class Orange County family that is slowly going broke. They accidentally/temporarily abandon their two children in the care of their Mexican (and illegal) nanny. The book ends up becoming a vehicle for discussing race, politics, immigration, class and marriage. It's definitely Tortilla Curtain's 2012 counterpart (well, 2011, since that was when it was published).

Verdict: I think everyone should read it, liberal or not. There is more to illegal immigration that one assumes.

I have my doubts how much I'll read in May, considering I feel like I'm drowning in work-related things right now (not in a bad way, I just have a lot to do).

Gimme Gimme Gimme

I want some stuff (you know, besides a cure for AIDS, cleaner air, the end of hunger, and total world domination):

1. BookBook iPhone Case: That bartender at happy hour is awesome to begin with (confession: I'm sort of proud that he "knows" us now), but when he showed me his BookBook case he moved up a notch:

source; phone inside w/ credit card slots

2. Scrabble Coasters: While we have a fairly strict no food or drink policy over the carpet rule in our house (and do not tell me it will be different when we have kids; the only thing that ever ends up getting allowed over the carpet is alcohol, and I do not plan on giving my children booze), I still really love these coasters from ModCloth:


3. A bookshelf necklace: These handmade necklaces from Coryographies' Etsy shop are fantastic: 


 4. "Write" Necklace: I actually really like the one that says "crap" too, but this one is a bit more relevant.  Piano Bench Designs makes many others with other various words:


5. Robot Bookends: I saw these while browsing for things I can't need or afford at Pottery Barn (you know, so that I can go buy knock offs at Target):

6. A Skee-Ball Machine: I love, love, love, love Skee-Ball and had sort of forgotten about how fun it is until some of the characters in a novel I was reading were playing. Would our future kids care if they had to share a room if they had their very own Skee-Ball Machine? I think not.

Add caption

Have a lovely weekend. I know I will (unless something happens and I don't...)!

"Fifty Shades of Gray" Read by Ellen

I know we aren't all Ellen fans, but I think she's pretty entertaining and I love anything that makes fun of this book (which I looked at the other day- my suspicions were true about the horrible writing and overall cheesiness). 


Some More Math

We're at the height of preparing for the AP Language and Composition test so I thought I'd bring you some more reading-related math. Hold on, let me pull out my abacus. 


I have 75 AP students*

Each will write approximately 11 essays in the next three weeks**

Each essay takes approximately 3 minutes to read***

Each student will therefore take up 33 minutes of my time

75 students x 33 minutes = 2,475 minutes/ 60 = 41.25 hours****

41.25 hours/18 days = 2.29 hours/day grading essays*****


2.29 hours x 2 drinks/hour = 4.58 cocktails/grading session*******  


*I really love them and teaching this course, by the way  

** Sorry guys, but practice makes "perfect"

*** Assuming it's legible and doesn't have five million errors 

**** Then length of time it would take me to read about 4 books

***** When the eff do I have time for this?

****** Shit

******* If you're a district official, minor, or recovering alcoholic I am totally kidding

We Came, We Saw, We Festivaled

Today was finally The LA Times Festival of Books at USC, and it turned out to be a really great day. A friend and I made the 60 minute trek out there and were able to see three author panels, check out the booths, and enjoy the awesome weather. While I still desperately wish it was at UCLA, I felt that this year was better than last year. Now, before I forget everything...

Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes (author and illustrator of Go the Fuck to Sleep)
These two guys were fantastic- I was a little curious as to what they'd talk about the entire time given the brevity of their project, but I wish they would have kept going past their hour mark. Adam Mansbach talked about the origin on the book (a joke on a Facebook status) and how the book literally blew up overnight through an intentional viral campaign. As an unknown novelist he quickly had to adjust to the attention- between domestic and international sales the book has sold over a million copies. They've recently launched a kid's version (I'm still on the fence about that one) and a movie is somehow going to be made of the original. Ricardo Cortes discussed some of his controversial projects, including It's Just a Plant: A Children's Story about Marijuana, which aims to help kids understand why their parents smoke pot, and I Don't Want to Blow You Up, a tale to help kids understand terrorism. Needless to say, both have been added to my Amazon wishlist. The publisher was also there, which allowed for additional insight on the publishing world and the advantages with going with a smaller house. These guys were a great way to start the day. Hilarious, but also very smart.

Judy Blume (author of many books, including the Fudge series and Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
I am blown away at how many people showed up to see Judy Blume and even more so at the amount that waited in line for over two hours to have their books signed by her (not us). She spoke about what it was like starting off in the publishing industry in the seventies as a young mother in desperate need of a creative outlet. It was fascinating to hear how different the publishing world was forty years ago; you didn't need an agent, just the address of the publisher you were interested in. She also pointed out how liberal and gutsy publishing was in the seventies and how that all changed in the conservative eighties. Judy was extremely mild-mannered and thoughtful, although she refused to answer questions about her favorite books, who she was influenced by, what she likes to read, or what she's doing next- I guess when you're Judy Blume you don't have to answer to anyone! I loved her quick vent on the Accelerated Reader (AR) Program in so many school these days- the program creates levels by computer analysis and encourages kids to churn through books as quickly as possible. She also made a veiled suggestion that the vampires and zombies of today's YA aren't here to stay- everything is cyclical. It was so great to hear the kids, and adults, who thanked her for the role her stories played in their lives and her gracious responses back to them.

T.C. Boyle (author of twelve novels, including Tortilla Curtain and When the Killing's Done)
Obviously I love T.C.- this is the second time I've seen him at The Festival. He's eccentric, self-assured, and a talented speaker. Today he read a powerful and somewhat depressing short story and then answered questions for about thirty minutes. I enjoyed his references to his time at the Iowa Writers' Workshop; he worked with John Irving and realized that he could write both short stories and novels. He also talked about his upcoming novel, his Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montecito, and how he's scheduled to be USC's Writer in Residence next year (sigh). Sorry, but I have to plug Tortilla Curtain for the millionth time: if you live in the California especially, and maybe perhaps think you have your views on immigration firmly set, you really should expand your horizons. 

A few other notes:
- I absolutely LOVE seeing all the families there with their kids, building a foundation for a future love of reading. It's a free cultural event that promotes literacy- what's not to love? My kids will go every year.
- Parking sucked balls.
- The booths and stages are organized a little haphazardly and none of the maps have "you are here" stickers.
- I was actually given a press pass for the even that I wasn't able to pick up (had to be there by five on weekdays). I find this hysterical, given the fact that I write a teeny tiny blog. Lesson: ask and you shall receive. 
- While I absolutely enjoyed the authors I saw, I am disappointed that The Festival isn't drawing bigger names anymore. I feel like the last two or three years has seen a lack of literary writers. 
- USC has kick-ass lemonade.  
- I really miss college; sitting in those lecture halls, passing by campus bookstores and just realizing how much more there is to learn desperately makes me want a redo.  
- Edited to Add: I also thumbed through a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray so that no one could say that I hadn't given it a chance. Crap. Pure, pure crap.
- Edited to Add: The Festival's App was really great in terms of keeping your panel schedule straight and being able to drop pins at certain locations. 


I currently have 49 unread books. 

This adds up to 18,936 pages.*

There are 256 days left in 2012.

To finish them all, and not buy more, this would require 74 pages a day.**

I got this shit.***

If we're reading in the same room it still counts as hanging out.

*Please don't ask me how I arrived at this figure, or when. I guarantee its accuracy.
**I may or may not have requested two books through Amazon Vine after calculating. 
***I really don't. But I could if I wanted to.

Pulitzers, Frogs, Festivals, Rowling, Readings, and Students

A few book-related thoughts:

The Pulitzer Surprise
Yesterday I was pleased to notice that I would be at lunch when the Pulitzer site was to announce their winners, so I happily ate my string cheese and Wheat Thins and refreshed the screen every thirty seconds. And then... nothing. The committee decided nothing was Pulitzer-worthy this year. This hasn't happened in over thirty years and the literary community exhibited very mixed reactions. Personally, I don't think it's the end of the world- I have other books to read. On the other hand, I think the accusation that nothing published this year was worthy is a bit harsh. From what I have read, the panel only has one author on it anyway. And, let's be positive- at least Fifty Shades of Gray didn't win. I hear the Pulitzer for best blog post title goes to this one (it was either that or "stuff").

I really want to go to the Calaveras Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee held next month in Angel's Camp (about 7 hours from where I live, or about an hour and a half from where I'm from). Maybe it's all the Huck Finn talk in AP Lang or the need for something a little rustic and slimy in my life, but I seriously would like to go. I like frogs, what can I say. And I really like events that are based on books.

The LA Times Festival of Books
While I'm still bitter that the event organizers moved the Festival to USC, I am quite excited to attend on Saturday. I am, however, a little pissed that my poster that came with the panel pass hasn't come yet. Anyway, the weather will be nice, I have tickets for three authors, and I managed to find a friend to bring. I will definitely be wearing a UCLA shirt, though. 

Another Reading
I'm also excited that I have another reading to attend on the books- this time graphic novelist Craig Thompson. I haven't read anything by him, but my husband is a fan and I love events at the Skirball Center, so I was of course game to go with him (oh, and it's free). Who knows, maybe I'll have to give Blankets or Habibi a go before May 10.

So, details emerged on the new, for adults, J.K. Rowling book this week. Called The Casual Vacancy, the novel depicts the citizens of Pagford, a small town full of people at odds. A seat on the town's council is opened after a death and an tumultuous election ensures. Like I said before, I have no true expectations; I am very curious to see if she can break out of her niche. I don't want her to fail, nor do I want her to succeed based on her Harry Potter success. I'm sure I'll buy it, since I am a fan (just not a crazy one) of her previous work; I just don't have her up on the pedestal that others do.

Students and the Blog
I was talking to a friend the other day about what would happen if my students found my blog and connected it to me. I don't believe any of them have access right now, and frankly, I'd like to keep it that way. Yet, I do know colleagues and even some district administrators that happen to occasionally read (I post updates on FB), so I know that there's always a slim chance it could somehow happen. I really don't think many would be interested, given the subject matter, but for the ones that actually read I don't think they'd be too shocked. I teach with the same tone (just with a tad less sarcasm and four-letter words) and it's no secret I'm opinionated. I guess that leads me to the debate about what teachers should be held accountable for in their private lives- another day, another time.
More things you get to know about my life because I'm stalling/And a few non-book related thoughts:

- I've given up most sugar again. It's awful, yet effective.   
- We're in middle of state-testing at school and since I have a first period prep I get to walk teenagers to the bathroom for three hours each morning. Parents, a lesson: don't let your kids consume liquids before school. Seriously. A little dehydration never hurt anyone.
- We won the lottery! The Half Dome lottery at Yosemite, anyway. I'm going with a few friends and couldn't be anymore excited for July.
- I've decided Chomsky is going to start running with me. Tonight. There's a 99% chance one of us will be dragged home in tears, and it's not going to be him...

I've sufficiently procrastinated enough. There is shit that needs to be done. 

Photo Credit: Blankets via author's website; Jumping Frogs via Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee

Top Ten Tuesday- Because I'm an Expert

This week's Tuesday Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the top ten book blogging tips for a newbie, and, since I'm such an expert and all (hello, I don't have sixty-one followers for nothing) I figured I owed it the world to chime in. 

1. Pick a cool name- Find something that will set you apart without being corny, juvenile, or vague (example: Bookishly Boisterous). 

2. Don't give away endings without spoiler alerts- Seriously, only assholes do that, and nobody wants to be an asshole. Am I right, or am I right?

3. Bigger isn't always better- Your reviews do not need to be 1,000 words. In fact, you don't even need to have reviews!

4. Organization- Lists are nice (for example, "Book Read in 2012" or "The Ultimate To-Do List")

5. Stalk others- You can't expect traffic if no one knows you exist; post updates on Facebook and Twitter and comment on other blogs (see below- all the cool people are doing it). Subtle self-promotion is key if you want to attract visitors. Also, drop by blogs that aren't book related- I comment on health and fitness blogs more than book ones, and I see some carry over.

6. Give credit- If you are lifting memes or pictures from others, make sure to obviously site original sources. It polite, it's professional, and it's the law.

7. Maintenance- Update your lists, your "about me" section, and, most importantly your blog! The main reason why I drop blogs is because of infrequent updates. Don't post just for the hell of it, though; post interestingly, and post often.

8. Sex sells- Fine, maybe not sex, but be controversial on occasion. You can be somewhat-polite while still voicing your opinion (hey, have you seen my post on The Hunger Games movie? Or Fifty Shades of Gray?)

9. Overkill- Please don't put five million challenge badges on your site. Takes longer to load and is visually cluttering. 

10. Spelling counts- So does grammar! While no one expects perfection, someone who is writing a book blog should probably be able to write coherently. 

In all seriousness, I definitely don't consider myself anywhere near worthy of handing out advice- there are far, far better book blogs than mine. I do love keeping up Bookishly Boisterous, though, which I think is half the battle- you have to love what you do!

Two and Half Hours and Ten Bucks Later...

So, I finally did it. I ponied up the $10, blocked out a chunk of my day, and braved the masses to finally see The Hunger Games. And now I'm going to attempt to express my opinion without insulting the 5 billion people who saw it and loved it (you know, since I'm all about protecting feelings when it comes to topics like this). Before I start, just know that I wasn't in love with the series; yes, it's fine for the YA genre, but it's not quality literature and got progressively worse as the trilogy continued. Also know that I'm not really a big movie-watcher, so two and a half hours proved to be quite tiring. 

I thought the adaptation, as far as turning a longer book into a movie was decent. I didn't love the change involving the mockingjay pin, but I think as a whole there was nothing I really had a serious problem with. Being a plot-driven book, it really couldn't have been much of a challenge. I think if I hadn't read the books a few parts they glossed over (like her father's death) may have been a little confusing, but for the most part I had no complaints in the book to movie translation.

I did feel like Gayle was pretty over-looked in this movie, which is unfortunate because I think his character may have been my favorite. Yes, yes, I know everyone is "Team Peeta," but I'm not really a fan of the squeaky-clean, boy-next-door romance story. He actually had some depth, compared to some of the other whiners.

This was definitely a movie geared towards pulling at the heartstrings of teens, as it was quite melodramatic at times (that one part where Peeta and Katniss embrace after they were worried each were dead and she says, "Dammit, I thought you were dead" made me laugh on the inside). There were a lot of long, drawn out shots, dramatic music, and intense stares. 

So Pretty
The set design and costumes were great- for me, the highlight of the movie. I thought the juxtaposition between the Capitol's employees in District 12 was well-done, and I loved Katniss' outfits. It'll be interesting to see how the other arenas are done in later movies.

The Acting
First of all, I think Jennifer Lawrence is a good actress (I did actually sit through, and like, Winter's Bone), but I think that the acting can only be as good as the material given... Peeta and Gayle were both a little flat, but I did think Haymtich, played by Woody Harrelson was  probably my favorite.  Lenny Kravitz' persona and style as a singer were a good match for Cinna, but I thought the execution fell short of what I imagined the portrayal to be.

The Verdict
Again, I know I'm defying the popular opinion, but I just didn't love it and think that it's probably a bit overrated, for the amount it made and the hype that was created. Partially because of my feelings towards the book, partially because I'm horrible at sitting through movies, and partially because of the actual film. I don't think it was horrible, it just wasn't something I walked away raving about. I probably won't see the next two in the theaters, but will wait it out until they're on Netflix or available to rent.

Dogs Hate Story Time

Today was one of those days that I actually said aloud "Thank effing goodness I don't have kids" after being home for about five minutes. My husband was at the office and the dogs expected frisbee and tennis ball action after being cooped up all day, not to mention that I was tired and cranky from life work. A chatty little child that needed help with homework, or a baby in need of a diaper change, would definitely not have rocked my world. Don't misunderstand- I absolutely want a chance to brainwash my own little spawn, just not today (or this weekend, because I have plans). 

I do, though, wish I had a kid to read to and buy books for- I have lately been adding books like crazy to my children's book wish list (no, I'm not pregnant; at a certain age you have to add this disclaimer whenever a maternal habit pops up). This is one of the only things I miss about teaching elementary school- the opportunity to read fun stories to a captivated audience. This is where you have the chance to truly help kids become life-long readers. There are so many great, creative kid's books out there that get overshadowed by the stupid ones with Pixar characters, sound buttons, or even those based off a phone app, all of which I'll do my best to prevent my kids from having (and, seriously, for the love of God, please don't "Oh, Christine you'll feel differently when you have kids" me). Here are some that I'll definitely buy some day:

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Olive Jeffers- The more books you eat the smarter you get (a good book to discuss fiction vs reality and book care with)

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty- Kid is obsessed with building things.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Wiliam Joyce- Same as the short that won the Oscar.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan- True story.

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown- A bear decides she wants a child as a pet.

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood- Kids should learn the beauty of shutting up.

That's Why We Don't Eat Animals by Ruby Roth- So, we might be a vegetarian household now (Lent is over and we're still meat-free). Not committing yet...

Blackout by John Rocco- Kid learns that you can actually have fun with things that don't require electricity. Gasp. 

In the meantime, I'm going to keep working on story time with Cordie and Chomsky.

A, B, C, etc... etc.... Z

There's a fun meme I saw floating around today (first on Literary Musings, who got it from A Guy's Moleskin Notebook) which asks you to list your favorite title form each letter of the alphabet. It's actually quite hard, and I took a few liberties:

A Atonement by Ian McEwan
B Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
C Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dosteyvski/ Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
D Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
E Everything's Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
F Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
G Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne
H The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
J Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
K Kavalier and Clay; The Amazing Adventure of by Michael Chabon (streeetch)
L Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
M Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
N Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell
O One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
P A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Q All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (love teaching more than reading it)
R The Road by Cormac McCarthy
S The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
T Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
U Understanding Linguistics by Elizabeth Grace Winkler (I actually enjoyed it)
V A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
W The World According to Garp by John Irving
X (E)Xtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (cheater)
Y (My) Year of Meat by Ruth Ozecki
Z Zadie Smith's writing (you know... in general)

At one point in this process I considered listing my books in alphabetical order by title. It actually makes sense, but will never, ever happen.

Photo Credit: A-Z Bookends

The Bunny Died for Our Sins. Right?

I used to love Easter when I lived at home- my mom hid baskets full of cheap trinkets and candy and we'd find them. Eggs were colored the year before, and the rest of Easter was usually spent being lazy. Simple and fun. 

At one point, we were going to church- apparently this is some sort of religious holiday. If I recall, the Easter Bunny dies for our sins and then comes back to life to spend eternity delivering crap to children in the middle of the night? Is that right? Oh wait... Anyway, we were a church-going family for awhile and we'd get dressed in our spring finest, take some pictures, and then head on out to hear about the version of Easter that doesn't include rabbits.

In honor of this holiday, that has been turned into something ginormous and commercial ('tis the American way), I bring to you the Brick Bible- a LEGO version of the Holy Text. Given my love of LEGOS I find this very amusing. It's officially on my Amazon wish list.

Back in the Day

Several months ago, after we bought the house, my mom gleefully dumped 8 boxes of my old belongings in my garage. And there they sat... until today. Parents, do your kids a favor and do not keep every stupid writing assignment, mother's day picture, and stuffed animal your child has ever acquired. They will forget about ninety-percent of it (unless you're my husband, who will forever be bitter about some kind of collectible Voltron toy that went missing in his parent's garage). Anyway, there were some gems packed away, like dance pictures from seventh grade, my old Brownie sash, a clay hippopotamus I made in eighth grade, and my two Cabbage Patch dolls, Wilma and Donna (Wilma has on her original clothes, just to let everyone know). 

There was also a lot of old artifacts that show how I became the book enthusiast I am today. For example, I wrote all the time in elementary school- my teachers gladly gave me supplies and whenever I finished my work early I read or wrote. My favorite were The Sophisticated Snobs from fourth grade (40+ typed pages, thankyouverymuch), The Panda Escape from third grade (complete with collage art), and Snow White's Party (I was "inspired" by a book I had already read that used real envelopes). I wrote rough drafts, edited and then made them into little books. If only I could channel some of that creativity now...

Nothing was better, though, than the time someone donated blank books to our class and I got to write my own book, which I promptly titled My Best Friend is an Alien (excuse the second grade misspelling, please). From then on, every time we went to a store I had to check to see if they carried those blank books so I could make more. 

This comment from my fourth grade teacher on a book that won a silly little prize hit home:

Then, of course was my library card (this is the second one), that I used all the time. I think kids today are really missing out on the whole "library experience." My parents, especially my dad, took us basically whenever we wanted. We could check out as many as we could physically carry on our own, and we were responsible for paying the fines if we forgot them at home the next library trip, or forgot to remind our parents of the due dates. It was educational and responsibility building. My kids will absolutely have their own little libraries at home, but we will for sure be rocking story hour and the check out system. 

And, last but not least, there were a few very random books tucked here and there in the boxes. A few Bibles, a book on Portland I think my dad "accidentally" took from a hotel room, a Shakespeare collection I requested in maybe sixth grade, remnants of my Chicken Soup for the Softy's Soul phase, and some other things that my siblings apparently didn't steal (where the fuck are my Little House on the Prairie books, dammit?). 

Now off to find a closet for the crap I did keep...

Top Ten Tuesday- Once, Daily

I always forgot about The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday until after I write my own post for the day... anyway, I thought this topic might be a challenge, so here goes it: top ten books that can be read in a day. I rarely do this, given the length and complexity of the books I tend to read, but there have been a few (pardon the snobbishness). Let's say you can read 40 pages an hour; if the average book on here is about 300 pages, that means you can finish the book in about 7.5 hours- way less than a full day. Any of these would make great "beach" reads (I hate that term), or ones that would be easy to pay attention to while at an appointment, in an airport, or during lunch breaks.

1. Ella Minnow Pea- Mark Dunn: Islanders lose letters from their alphabet (208 pages)

2. Bridget Jones' Diary- Helen Fielding: British single gal writes diary entries about dating, weight loss and all that fun mid-twenties stuff back before we shared way too much through blogs. The original Chic Lit (288 pages)

3. Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury: Great science fiction book that looks into the "future" at what happens when people stop reading (178 pages)

4. Room- Emma Donoghue: Woman gets abducted, has baby in shed, lives there for a few years, decides to escape. Definitely not literary, but interesting narrative voice (336 pages; don't let this deceive you, it's a super quick one)

5. On Chesil Beach- Ian McEwan: Newlyweds must come to terms with what marriage really means on their honeymoon (224 pages)

6. Beat the Reaper- Josh Bazell: Mobster turns doctor gets in some trouble- humorous and a bit gory at times (336 pages)

7. Shopgirl- Steven Martin: Older man falls for the girl who works at the department store (144 pages)

8. Into Thin Air- Jon Krakauer: Climbing Everest- you'll never want to put it down (416 pages, but seriously will keep you interested from beginning to end)

9. Election- Tom Perrotta: Snooty little teenager runs for class president and the teacher there through it all... (208 pages)

10. Going to See the Elephant- Rodes Fishburne: I'll never get sick of touting this magical realism book set in San Francisco about a man who tries to control the weather (304 pages)

Document This- "American Teacher"

"There's almost nothing harder"- Brad Jupp, Department of Education

Today I watched American Teacher, a documentary about public school teachers, narrated by Matt Damon. And, give the fact that this directly related to my profession, I have a few things to say about it.

1. First of all, it was nice to see public school teachers protrayed in a new light. In recent years we've been accused of being overpaid, mediocre (at best), and the reason why the United States is behind so many other developed nations in the core subjects. The film instead shows teachers as being hard working, devoted, educated, and underpaid. 

2. The documentary tried to capture different types of teachers from around the nation- a pregnant woman, one just starting out her career, an African-American that had left the field, and a Texan who worked two jobs to provide for his family. It also interviews many different experts from universities and the Department of Education.

3. The many different shortages teachers experience was discussed in detail. First of all, we are short time. We are expected to do so much in our contractual day that it ends up spilling over into our personal time (please note I use the collective "we" because I am too a teacher, not because I completely agree with everything being said). We also experience a shortage of supplies, many teachers reaching into their own pocket to buy basic supplies like paper and pencils. The film also mentions the shortage of pay over and over again.

4. The film doesn't really offer any true solutions. Yes, we need to pay teachers more so that retention and recruitment can increase. Yes, we need to make sure teachers have the resources they need to be successful. Yes, we need to make teaching a more respectable career in this country. But how? Where is the money going to come from? In a day and age where I see my friends get RIFed year after year how can we justify asking for a raise? Please, tell me, Matt Damon, where will the funding come from?

5. I did appreciate that the film did focus on a pregnant teacher, highlighting the difficulties related to maternity leave and post-partum work. As with many fields of work, teachers get six weeks of leave from the day they give birth (this is paid as long as they have the sick leave to cover it; if not they must pay for a substitute out of their salary). After that it's back to work unless you have a doctor's note. The teacher in the film was exhausted and was overwhelmed with trying to manage her first-grade class and get breaks to pump. Something lovely to look forward to in the eventual future...

6. One negative aspect of the film, in my opinion, was that it painted teachers as martyrs, or victims. I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the gig- I had studied salary schedules, I had done observation hours, and I accepted the shortcomings of the job. Yes, teachers are busy. But a lot of teachers waste a horrendous amount of time during the day, whether it be over-planning, grading every tiny assignment with a fine-tooth comb, or gossiping with coworkers. I'm not perfect, but I utilize almost every second I have between about 7 and 3 or 3:30 so that I can take home less work (by the way, that's an 8 to 8.5 hour day... just different hours). Also, we do not have to spend money out of our own pockets. I quit my third year of elementary and survived on what we had. Kids seriously just need paper and pencils- they don't need pencil boxes, stickers, fancy posters, etc... If teachers are okay making the choices to buy extra things and spend extra time than great. If not, figure out other ways to cope and stop complaining. Oh, and another plus- we also have great schedules, decent benefits, and retirement (well, at least right now).

7.  There were a lot of statistics that I found really interesting regarding teacher turn-over- again, crazy to me since teachers in California are clamoring to remain employed. 

8. American Teacher does focus on the compassion, energy, and love that goes into the profession. Good teachers are teachers that not only know the curriculum and content, but sincerely care about their students. I definitely agree; the years (like this one) that I've felt most connected to my students are the years that I've felt I've been most effective. When you care about your students you want to be the best teacher for them.

Yes, there are bad teachers, but there are also bad doctors, lawyers, and police officers. While not perfect, I appreciated that American Teacher tried to give credit to those of us who really try. I'm not sure if teaching was necessarily the field I was "supposed" to go into, but as long as I'm here I'll do my best to kick ass for those foul-mouthed, hormone-ridden, dirty-look giving kids I hang out with all day every day.

Should you watch it? If you're a teacher or parent, absolutely. 

Picture This

Books related from my 2012 Instagram so far:

PS- I really despise how difficult it is to deal with pictures with the new "upgraded" Blogger. Anyone have any problems? Tips?