Monday, December 28, 2009

Bad news

Haven't updated in a while. Been busy at work preparing for Christmas & post-Christmas sales. Also came down with a wicked stomach flu a few weeks back and missed Andrea's grad school graduation and didn't get to hang out with Matt's family a whole lot while they visited. But I did get to spend a Saturday with them exchanging gifts, and I recovered in time to spend Christmas Day with my family.

It wasn't the best Christmas. I'm not complaining about gifts or anything like that. If anything, Matt's mom & my family were too generous. I got a Kitchen Aid Architect Stand Mixer, a Wii Fit Plus with balance board, a new down comforter, the first Glee cd, several volumes of the Fruits Basket manga, several novels by Octavia Butler (one of my favorite authors), and other various goodies.

Matt & I woke up & did our little gift exchange at home. Mom called to see if we were heading over to their house to exchange gifts. She was worried that the weather would be bad, so we said we'd be over earlier than later. When we got there, Mom, Dad, and Adam were packing up some food to take over to Gram & Pa. I asked why they were taking them a meal, and Mom said that she was worried that if the weather got bad, they wouldn't be able to go out for a meal, and that Gram "doesn't cook anymore." That struck me as odd. Was Gram sick? "Why doesn't she cook?" I asked, but Mom changed the subject. We loaded up the Kia and headed to Gram's.

We greeted my grandparents and Adam gave them the meal he'd prepared for them - ham, green beans, and browned potatoes. We stayed for a few minutes, talking about the Christmas Eve party at my Uncle Glenn's that I had missed (thanks, work!) the night before. Nothing seemed wholly unusual, so when we got back into the Kia to head home, I asked again. "Why doesn't Gram cook anymore?"

Mom sighed. "Your grandfather has been doing a lot of the things that Gram usually does lately. When I asked him about it, he let it slip that your grandmother's doctor believes that she's showing the first signs of Alzheimer's."


It's not completely out of the blue. We've noticed a change in my Gram. She's been getting thinner and quieter, like she's fading away. She used to be so chatty, always holding court and being a bit of a smartass, to be honest. I'm not exaggerating when I describe our family as close-knit, and when I say we gather every Sunday at Gram's just to hang out, I mean that we gather every single Sunday. It may not be everyone every week, but you can find at least half the family there. But now, when there's a large group around, she seems almost overwhelmed, and doesn't play the hostess anymore. She doesn't even participate in conversations like she normally would.

My mother noticed this change, and mentioned it to her sisters. They didn't even want to think about it being Alzheimer's. They offered alternative diagnoses, thinking it might be linked to all the different medications Gram takes. But Mom pushed Pa to talk to Gram's doctor about it.

I guess he finally did. It couldn't have been easy for him. And so far, Mom's the only one he's told. She's trying to convince him that everyone needs to know, all of Gram's siblings and his siblings and so forth. He's apparently been doing everything and trying to hide the fact that he's doing it.

As for me, I can't stop crying when I think about it. I love my Gram. The thought that one day, she won't know me anymore, or my mother, or my Pa, or anyone... it fucking terrifies me. The disease itself terrifies me. And when I think of my Gram forgetting how to do things for herself, even forgetting who she is... all I can do is cry.

So that's what I've been up to lately. My Cannonball Read has fallen by the wayside as I try to get caught back up in my wedding planning and as I deal with this news. I just don't know what to do. Matt and I were talking about it the other day. I was telling him stories, different memories I have of the times I've spent with Gram. He told me that, if nothing else, I should be happy that I have all those memories. He never knew his grandfather, and his grandmother was ill by the time he was adopted. I am truly thankful for those memories, and for her, but I don't want to lose them, or her.

Gah. I'm a mess right now as I sit here typing. But I needed to let it out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book 7: Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is an author whose novels have unfortunately been categorized as chick lit. When I hear a book described as "chick lit," I tend to avoid reading it. Chick lit to me means a story about a pretty girl who is successful in every way except one - she can't find Mr. Right, and the entire book revolves around her pursuit of her dream man. Usually, she meets someone, hates him, then comes to love him. Or, she's rescued in some way by him. Chick lit is fluff, and while it can be a fun distraction, it doesn't usually stick with you when you've finished reading.

But Ms. Weiner's novels transcend that label. Her characters are fully-fleshed out, real women who have cushioning on their hips, brains between their ears, and do not require a man to rescue them. They deal with real problems, beyond finding a good sale or finding Mr. Right. The protagonist of her latest novel, "Best Friends Forever," Addie Downs, is trying to deal with the reappearance of a long lost friend after 15 years... under auspicious circumstances.

Addie is a greeting card artist who lives alone in her childhood home. She works from home by day, and spends her nights visiting her brother Jon, who lives in an assisted-living community. She rarely ventures out except to shop or go to the gym. On the night of her 15 year high school reunion, she is at home when there is a knock on her door. It is Valerie Adler, her old best friend, whom she hasn't seen in 15 years. Valerie is in trouble and asks for Addie's help. But Addie isn't thrilled to see Valerie, thanks to an incident that occured their senior year. However, Addie finds herself helping Valerie, and soon they are on the road, trying to avoid getting caught for an accident that Valerie committed that may have left another fellow classmate, Dan Swansea, injured or even dead.

The book flips back and forth between Addie's narration, a third-person narration of a detective's involvement in the case, and the description of what happens to Dan Swansea. It's interesting that Ms. Weiner chose three different ways to tell the tale from different perspectives, rather than sticking to Addie's voice. The story unfolds quickly, and Addie sheds light on how she and Valerie first met, to how they grew apart, to the fateful incident that completely tore their friendship apart, and sent Addie down the path to becoming a 350+ lb. shut-in by her early 20s. Ms. Weiner describes Addie so well that you can't help but understand and ultimately empathize with her.

My only quibble with the book is that the ending is rather anticlimatic. There's a buildup that sorta peters out in the end. Of course, the book isn't a thriller or crime novel, but I still expected more of a showdown between Dan and Valerie and Addie. But I recommend the novel, especially if you're looking for something a little more substantial than chick lit.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book 6: Paradise Alley by Sylvester Stallone

That’s no typo in the title. Rocky wrote a book, y’all. A terrible, horrible, no good, just downright pathetic attempt at a novel.

The Carboni brothers are a trio of Italian-American clich├ęs who live in Hell’s Kitchen in 1946. It’s difficult to refer to them as anything more than that – there’s nothing to flesh them out into real people. Victor, the baby Carboni, is a “gentle giant” – big as a house but harmless, and as dumb as a bag of beauty pageant contestants. Cosmo, the middle child, is a con artist who prides himself on his wit and clever schemes, none of which ever actually make him any money. He’s also the character most given to speaking in incredibly hackneyed New Yawk patois – “No, I ain’t been keen on that fleabag of yours, but El Suppa’s monkey haz class!” (Don’t ask about the monkey.) Lenny, the oldest Carboni, is a disabled veteran of World War II who spends his days working in a morgue and his nights drinking his pain away.

The female characters don’t fare much better than the men. There’s Annie, the dancer who dreams of being an artist but can’t seem to find her way out of the slums. There’s Bunchie (seriously), the prototypical “hooker with a heart of gold,” whom Cosmo respects as much for her advice as for her… other services. And then there’s Rose, Victor’s girlfriend, who’s more of a cipher than anything. She’s his faithful, devoted gal who dreams of one day leaving Hell’s Kitchen and moving on up… to a houseboat in New Jersey. Dream big, kids.

But I digress. Victor works as an iceman, delivering giant blocks to residents in the sweltering heat of the summer. It doesn’t pay well, and he’s not getting any closer to that dream houseboat he so desires. One night, he and his brothers are out drinking, and they run afoul of a local buncha mooks lead by Nickels Mahon. (It physically hurts to type these names. Seriously, Nickels?) Victor ends up clobbering the big thug, Frankie the Thumper. After the fight, Cosmo realizes that he has a veritable gold mine in the form of his baby brother, so he convinces him to wrestle for money down at the local club, Paradise Alley. Victor goes by the name “Kid Salami” – because he’s Italian? Or he really likes cold cuts? It’s never explained, but damn if it isn’t the dumbest name I’ve ever heard.

At first, Lenny opposes the idea of Victor wrestling, but as Victor starts on an undefeated run and the money comes rolling in, Lenny comes around and takes on the role of Victor’s manager. Cosmo, on the other hand, begins to realize what a physical toll the fighting is taking on Victor, and starts urging him to give it up. Tensions build between the brothers, and it all comes to a head at a big final match between Victor and Frankie the Thumper.

The story moves incredibly quickly. In one chapter, Cosmo is completely gung-ho about making money off his little brother. Then suddenly, he thinks it’s a bad idea. This is a guy who, at the beginning of the novel, wanted to use a dead hooker’s body to make some money by selling her “services” to drunks who wouldn’t realize they were fucking a dead body. I’m supposed to believe a louse like that would really give two shits about his brother taking a few hits to the head? Likewise, Lenny is against the idea, then all of a sudden he’s all for it and totally ignoring his little brother’s pain. And he goes from pining over his old girlfriend, Annie, to blowing her off to go screw a hooker. There’s no progression or explanation for the changes. It’s all action and dialogue, no development or discussion or anything really resembling storytelling. It’s kinda like reading a screenplay rather than a novel, only minus the technical elements. So it comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that Stallone adapted this into a movie that he directed and starred in AND for which he sang the theme song (he is a man of many hats). I have not seen the movie, but I imagine it’s pretty awful based on the original material.

My biggest question after reading the book is, “WHY?” Why bother to write a novel when he was clearly thinking the whole time about how the screenplay and thus the movie would work? I suppose he wanted the honor of being recognized as a published author. Somehow, I doubt he received the praise he sought.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book 5: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Gotta get this review in quick - there are cookies to be baked!

Shirley Jackson knows how to weave a spooky tale. She is, of course, best known for her short story "The Lottery," a tale that showed that underneath our modern veneer lies an uncivilized and barbaric heart. In her novel "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," Jackson again shows how society can take its toll on the individual as she tells the tale of sisters Mary Katherine and Constance Blackwood. This time, she explores the lengths to which one will go to protect oneself from the dangers of the world... and from other people.

Mary Katherine, or Merricat as her sister calls her, and Constance live in the secluded Blackwood manor with their disabled Uncle Julian. They are ostracized from the nearby village due to a highly publicized tragedy that occurred six years ago. Their family is dead from poisoning (arsenic in the sugar at dinnertime), for which Constance was arrested, tried, and found not guilty. Despite this verdict, the townspeople of the village believe she got away with murder, and so Constance has become agoraphobic and shut away in her home, away from gossiping villagers. She spends her days cooking and cleaning and taking care of Uncle Julian, who is in a wheelchair and suffers dementia possibly as a side effect of arsenic poisoning (he is the lone survivor - Constance never took any poison, nor did Merricat, who had been sent to bed without supper that night). She and her sister have their routines - they do not like change. No one is allowed into the house except close family friends: people who were close to their parents and still drop by for tea - perhaps to keep up appearances, but most likely to gawk at the house and its odd inhabitants.

The story is told in Merricat's voice. Merricat spends her days burying things for fun; running with her cat, Jonas; and thinking of ways to protect her sister and their home from the hateful villagers. She seems to believe in magical thinking - she chooses words that she cannot speak aloud, and by not saying them, she can prevent changes from happening. Also, she has talismans to prevent others from breeching the safety of their home - for example, she nails a book of her father's to a tree to "protect" them. One day, she notices that the book has fallen off the tree, and she immediately recognizes this as a bad omen.

Their safe, routine lives are disrupted by the sudden appearance of a distant cousin, Charles Blackwood. He is allowed into the house, as he is family, but Merricat does not want him to upset the balance of their home. It is clear that Charles is seeking the rumored Blackwood fortune. His presence seems to wake Constance to the fact that they have been in hiding all these years, and as she starts to think about going back out into the world, Merricat becomes more and more distressed. She decides to find a way to drive him out, but her actions have powerful consequences and spell doom for all the Blackwoods.

I don't want to give too much away, because I thought this was a fantastic novel. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good spooky, creepy read. Jackson knows how to draw you in with only a few sentences, and she can weave a tale in under 200 pages that will stick with you for days. (Unlike, say, Stephen King, who drones on and on for 1000s of pages... edit, man, edit!) And she could teach today's horror writers a thing or two about being scary or creepy without being gory and violent (cough King cough - am I bitter or what?). She sets the mood early in the story, with the very first chapter that describes a typical venture into town for groceries, and carries it all the way through the tragic ending.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book 4: Waiting by Ha Jin

Ha Jin's "Waiting" tells the story of Lin Kong, a meek, obedient doctor in the Chinese Army who is torn by his duty to Communist China and his desire to find love. Lin is married to Shuyu, a woman who represents the old ways of China through her bound feet and their arranged marriage, but while in the army he meets Manna, a young nurse who falls for him despite the fact that he has a wife and daughter in the country. Lin does not love Shuyu; he only married her to please his dying mother. She looks much older than her years, and he is embarrassed by her bound feet. He only spends 10 days a year at home with her and Hua, their daughter, during leave from the army. In contrast, Manna is young and attractive, and over time they develop a desire to be with one another. Manna convinces Lin to divorce his wife, and so on his annual trips home, he takes Shuyu to the local courthouse to obtain a divorce. And year after year, his wish is denied. However, according to military rule, after 18 years of living separately, a husband and wife can divorce without the wife's consent, so on his 18th attempt, Lin wins his divorce, and he and Manna are free to marry. From there, the story moves quickly, and by the end of the book, Lin has realized that he has spent his entire life doing nothing but waiting - for a divorce, for marriage to Manna, for him to finally experience that elusive thing called love.

The most interesting thing about the book was the glimpse it gave into life in Communist China. Growing up as the Cold War was ending, I don't recall having the spectre of Communism hanging above my head. For as long as I can remember, our enemies have been in the Middle East; our major conflicts have been the first Gulf War and the current mess in Iraq. I don't even recall learning much in history class - it was mostly Civil War, World Wars I & II, and then Mother Russia hated us and the Berlin Wall fell. The end. (Ok, history was my least favorite class, and I may have spent most of my time daydreaming, but I really don't recall learning much about Communism.) Ha Jin was himself in the army while he lived in China, so his portrayal of the Lin's struggle to remain true to both his country and his desires is very realistic. It's amazing to realize just how devoted Lin's countrymen were to their duties. There's also some descriptions of everyday propaganda used by the government to promote their ideals and keep their citizens in line.

And I struggled at first to try not to despise Lin. His reasons for wanting to divorce his wife angered me - she was ugly & looked old, and her feet embarrassed him? She was also very devoted to him, took care of his parents on their deathbeds, and raised his daughter single-handedly. However, I realized that I was letting a cultural divide prevent me from enjoying the story. In America, arranged marriages are very rare, and divorces are incredibly easy to come by. If a guy doesn't like a woman, he won't marry her just because his mother wants him to... but if he does, he can easily divorce her shortly thereafter. In 1960s China, one of the most important values stressed by the government was the idea of a strong family - which meant divorce was frowned upon and hard to obtain, particularly in the country. Once I got over my biases, I found the book to be a vivid, well-written glance into a culture that I admittedly know little about, but came to understand a little better.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ballroom With a Twist

Just got back from the Community Arts Center. We went to see "Ballroom With a Twist," a production directed & choreographed by Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance" fame. It featured various ballroom routines performed by a dozen dancers. They did jive, quickstep, samba, rumba, cha-cha, and others I recognized from watching SYTYCD but couldn't quite name. In between numbers, David Hernandez and Trenyce of American Idol (seasons 7 and 2) came out to sing a few numbers and (attempt to) banter with the audience.

1. Allison Holker of Season 2 of SYTYCD was one of the dancers! Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons (along with Season 3... oh Pasha, how I miss you), and I still watch it from time to time. So seeing her on the playbill made me a little excited. I don't get starstruck, but in this case, I was thrilled. She even performed a few contemporary solos, and they were honestly the best part of the show.
2. When they announced David Hernandez, the girl next to Matt literally squealed. I mean, really? You're going to squee over a 12th place finisher?
3. While Trenyce was getting her Whitney on with a cover of "I Have Nothing," a woman in the row in front of us started clapping at the end of the first chorus. I'm not sure if she thought the song was over, or if she was just overcome by Trenyce's fierce gutteral intonations (girl was full-on growling by the end of the song), but I suddenly got the church giggles and had to plug my nose to prevent snorting.
4. One of the dancers kept referring to us as "Williamsport... Pennsylvania," like we didn't know what state we were living in. And she had this really dramatic pause after Williamsport, when she was clearly trying to remember where the hell she was.
5. One dancer had some amazing high kicks that reminded us of Benji Schwimmer. And then we were sad that he wasn't there.
6. Trenyce and David came out to talk to the audience and kill some time during the second half. They asked if anyone had any questions for them, and the spontaneous clapping lady in front of us shouted out, "ADAM!" I guess she was referring to Adam Lambert, the most recent winner of AI. Which has fuck all to do with the show tonight. She was clearly on something. They ignored her and proceeded to ask each other what they had in the works so they could shamelessly plug their upcoming projects.

The second half was better than the first, full of sexy sambas and a great group finale. Considering our tickets were free (yay for student tickets from Penn Tech), I would say it was a great way to spend an evening.

And I am really looking forward to this weekend. I got the whole weekend off from work, so Matt & I are headed out of town. We booked a last minute hotel room and decided to spend this weekend relaxing, just the two of us, before our families gather for the holidays. We didn't plan it this way, but our anniversary happens to be coming up, so it's kinda good timing. So I hope y'all have a great weekend, because come 5 pm tomorrow, I'm disappearing until Monday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book 3: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

I've been meaning to read this book for a while. Truss, a British journalist, fed up after years of witnessing major abuse to the use of punctuation in all walks of life, has written a witty guide meant to teach and illuminate its finer points. She delves into each separate punctuation mark and discusses its history from inception to modern-day uses (and abuses). Her writing is sharp and funny, and her examples are clever. From the chapter on apostrophes, here are some examples of the use of "it's":

It's your turn (it is your turn)
It's got very cold (it has got very cold)
It's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht (no idea)

It's Truss's wit and true love for punctuation that keeps her writing from turning condescending and dull. Of course, I'm the person at work who takes down signs that have errant commas, so I'm pretty much her intended reader. I love her idea of "sticklers" coming together to fight for correct usage of apostrophes and so on.

The book is a quick, enjoyable read. The version I read wasn't adapted for American audiences, so a few of the references were lost on me, and I had to remind myself that some of the English rules don't apply to American printing. But overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves grammar... and those who could use a few pointers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book 2: Multiple Blessings by Jon and Kate Gosselin

I have never been that girly girl who dreamed of her wedding day. Likewise, I've never had any sort of maternal desires. At all. The thought of having a kid fills me simultaneously with fear and disgust. It's just not for me. So reading this book was like a glimpse into another world... one where it's all babies, all the time.

Multiple Blessings lists both Jon & Kate Gosselin as the authors, but the book is told entirely from Kate's POV. It's the story of how Kate grew up wanting children, got married, had two kids, then decided to try for just one more and got 6 instead. Having seen their TLC show, and knowing all about their recent troubles thanks to their non-stop media blitz, I was fairly familiar with most of their story, but the book sheds some light on how difficult it was for Kate to get pregnant. It also refers to Kate's unwavering faith in God to pull her through her difficult pregnancies.

The book doesn't contain too many surprises, given that the Gosselins are a very public family thanks to their TLC show and recent media blitz. But I did learn a few things. Kate is one of those Christians who believes that God has a plan for everyone, and she refers to it repeatedly throughout the book. I knew that the Gosselins had turned to infertility treatments to help them conceive, but I didn't know that she had Polycyctic Ovarian Syndrome, which meant that she never ovulated... ever. Now, a more cynical person than I would interject at this point, "Perhaps that was her God's way of telling her she's not supposed to have kids?" But luckily I'm not that cynical.

Also, Kate underwent all sorts of medical procedures and endured a lot of problems during her second pregancy... probably because the human body is not meant to carry 6 fetuses at one time. Her complete disregard for her own health is a little disturbing - she describes being obsessed with providing for her babies in the womb, but what of her other children? If she had died from complications while pregnant, she would've left behind two little girls - if she had died after childbirth she would've had 8 children who would've had to grow up without a mother. Her singlemindedness was astounding. Her doctor even encouraged her to use selective reduction, and reduce the amount of fetuses to a more viable number, but she and Jon wouldn't hear it. And yet... she mentions praying that her God would reduce the number for her. Whether God or the doctor does it, it's still eliminating a fetus... but if her God did it, she wouldn't feel any guilt.

But my opinions aside, this was a really easy read. I did find myself looking for clues to explain the implosion of their marriage, but the book doesn't really go much deeper than discussing her pregnancies and the first few years of the sextuplets. I suppose I'll have to read her next book (is there one? I'm sure there's one in the works at the very least) if I really want to know.

I don't think I do.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

CRII: Book 1: The Dark Tower (book 7) by Stephen King

Well, I picked a hell of a week to read an 800+ pager. But... it is DONE. Don't know if this is necessary, but *spoilers ahead*:

Stephen King's Dark Tower series is his "magnum opus," as he calls it. It is, to be brief, the tale of gunslinger Roland Deschain of Gilead, son of Steven, of the line of Eld, and his quest to reach the aforementioned tower. It is his ka, his destiny, to do so. In his travels, he draws three others to him - they become his ka-tet - and they fight not only to help him reach the tower but also to save existence itself.

Yeah, I'm glossing over the first six books a bit... but this is all about the finale, right? Say thankya.

I knew, going into the series, that Stephen King had written himself into the series. I recall reading a thread on Pajiba that talked about an upcoming movie adaptation. I read the comments and decided that I wanted to read the series for myself, but not before I caught that King had made himself a character. So I was expecting him to make an appearance... but I wasn't expecting him to use himself in such a meta fashion. And, to be honest, I found his presence rather frustrating. As I read the first 5 books, I found myself becoming engrossed in Roland's world(s), becoming invested in these characters, and wanting to know what would happen when Roland's ka-tet finally reached that damn tower. But King's presence took me out of that world. And then, in the final book, King steps in and saves the characters from a villain named Dandelo by introducing a deus ex machina... that he specifically calls out as such.

Talk about breaking the glammar.

But what about the tower, you may be asking? Well, Roland does reach it, and I actually wasn't too surprised at what he finds. Ka, after all, is a wheel.

And he reaches it without his ka-tet at his side. I found myself tearing up as one character after another reached the clearing at the end of the path... but the epilogue turned those tears into ones of joy.

I have my quibbles. King can be incredibly loquacious and blather on and on for pages, like when describing the journey the characters went on to reach Odd Lane, but then be frustratingly vague about other things. Like the Crimson King - all that build-up about this hugely important villain, only to have him undone by a f*cking eraser? And who the hell was he? This entire time, I expected him to be revealed as Merlyn, in line with the whole "Arthur the Eld" theme.

But King would probably say I was missing the point. To me, it seems the whole idea is that he has no control over what he writes, but that it controls him. Like poor Roland, who is fated to make that long, treacherous, and lonely trek to the tower ad infinitum... until he gets it just right. To King and his gunslinger, it's all about the journey, not the destination... no matter how much it calls one's name.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

T-Minus 4 hours...

Our newest kitty, Sohma Kyo (aka Kyo-kun) watches me blog.

CR II starts tomorrow! I have been fighting the temptation since Friday to start a new book. I finished the Dark Tower 6 just in time, so my first book shall be the final Dark Tower! It's HUGE, so I may as well get it out of the way. To my fellow readers, good luck and good reading!

And Happy Halloween! Not a single trick-or-treater tonight. Wasn't expecting any out here in the boonies, but still... a very quiet Halloween at home. Hope y'all are having a great time with the ghoulies and goblins tonight.

P. S. No one's figured out from where I got Kyo-kun's name. Any guesses?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Everyone loves a parade!

Today was the annual Mummer's Parade in my hometown. It was postponed from yesterday thanks to the tsunami that blew through here. I have many fond memories of marching in the parade in high school, but it's much nicer to be able to sit, relax, and enjoy the whole thing with my family.

There were some very creative floats this year, including a great Sweeney Todd float. And lots of cool costumed characters were walking the route. One guy was dressed up in the most elaborate Death costume I've ever seen (wish I'd taken a picture) - he looked like the Ghost of Christmas Future from the movie Scrooged, but amped up a notch. I got a few photos of his cohorts over on my FB page.

The highlight of the parade for my little cousins is always the candy they throw out to the crowd, and this year, they didn't disappoint. We sit near the end of the parade route, so we tend to get whatever's left over. So when the Frito Lay float hit us, we made out like bandits. They literally dumped boxes of Cheetos and Funyuns over our heads. And the Pepsi Co float handlers handed out cases of soda.

But the best moment of the parade wasn't one of the floats or the free swag. No, for me, the highlight came from my little cousin Julian, shown at the top of the post. He's 6 and he's precocious and devilish - a bad combination, to be sure. We were sitting sandwiched between two other families. As the parade passed us, the people giving out candy would throw candy to the family on our left, then walk past us, then throw candy to the family on our right. I'm sure it was just due to the pacing of the parade - you can't really throw candy to everyone. But that's not how little Julian saw it. After about 3 or 4 groups passed by without giving us any candy, Julian turned to me and said, "They're only giving candy to the white people!"

I lost it. I completely cracked up, and grabbed him and smothered him in a hug. Then I reminded him that he is half-white, but I don't think it really mattered.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ahhh, Saturdays...

I've never been a huge sports gal, save for playing tennis, but since I've been with Matt, I've turned into a college football fanatic. And there have been some amazing games today! Penn State kicked Michigan's sorry butt, Terrance Cody from Alabama became Tennessee's worst nightmare today, and that last minute TD in the Iowa-Michigan State game was unfuckingbelievable. I really thought Stanzi wasn't gonna win that one... ah well.

The 'rents took us out for my birthday dinner tonight. We went to Ichiban, a local Japanese hibachi/sushi restaurant. They always put on a great show, and the food is fantastic. After dinner, they brought out a cake and sang to me, with a gong to punctuate each line. It was goofy and fun. And my dad was in fine form this evening. He's a very garrulous guy, but I love him despite his (sometimes embarassing) ramblings.

He was super excited about the birthday card he'd picked out for me. It was one of those cards that plays a little message, and it was all about surprises. Well, he'd apparently thought it was the funniest thing on earth, and spent the last week playing it over and over, cracking himself up. My brother said he'd seen Dad laughing so hard that he started crying. Over a card! Finally Mom had to tell him to stop playing it or it would be dead by the time I got it. He made me open it in the restaurant, and then again when we left.

Cut to Matt & I in Wal-Mart tonight. We stopped on our way home to grab some stuff, and as we passed the greeting card section, Matt suddenly made a beeline for a card. It was a Halloween card that had the same characters as my birthday card, and a similarly goofy message. I can't wait to see the look on Dad's face when he opens it on Saturday... if I can wait 'til then to give it to him. What can I say... he's goofy, for sure, but he's my dad, and I wouldn't want him to change for the world.

We had plans to go out tonight with some friends, but they weren't planning on gathering until 10:30. I had to work this morning for the first time in months, so I am super exhausted and the idea of waiting until 10:30 to go out? Isn't too enthralling. Call me an old lady, but right now nothing sounds better than snuggling in my nice, warm bed... and maybe watching some Home Movies before bed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Wednesday

It's my birthday today. I am 27. I don't really have any strong feelings about getting closer to 30, and I'm not gonna do any big introspective entries about my life tonight... but suffice it to say that I didn't expect to be this old and living in my hometown again.

It's been a quiet birthday. I woke up early, bought myself some breakfast before work, treated myself to lunch as well, then came home to an empty house. Matt's still at school, so I have no idea if we'll even celebrate tonight - if he even has a celebration planned. I guess that's a downside of getting older - it's not a big deal anymore. I did get some nice messages from several friends... and a few emails from some radio stations down in Orlando. (I must've signed up for a contest & ended up on their email lists.)

I've already jumped the gun on the Cannonball Read. I FINALLY got the sixth book in the Dark Tower series, and I was too eager to start reading it to wait two more weeks. So now I have to try to finish it before November 1.

Our apartment has been invaded by ladybugs. As I sit here now, I can see about a dozen on the wall & ceiling, and several more flapping around the ceiling light. Folklore says that finding a ladybug in your house in the winter is a sign of good luck... but I'm still gonna vacuum these suckers up.

I got the New Moon soundtrack the other day. Sure, the books & movies are crap, but the Twilight soundtrack was great, and I had high hopes for this one. I mean, look at the list of artists on this album - Bon Iver, Muse, Thom Yorke, Lykke Li, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ok Go, etc, etc. And yet - the album is the meh. It's kinda slow and low-energy and sluggish. I suppose, in retrospect, I should've known it would be like that. For the uninitiated, New Moon is the book in which Edward decides he and his family are putting Bella's life at risk (gee, you think?!?), so he totally bails on her. Bella spends the rest of the book pouting and brooding and being a complete waste of life (moreso than usual)... so it only makes sense that this soundtrack would be very, very mellow. Ah well. I also got the latest from Stellastarr*, and it's much more upbeat than their last album.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Workin' on the reading list

I raided my mother's library yesterday. She has an impressive collection of books, thanks to an old bookstore in town that used to have "Buck-a-Book" sales. So now I have a few books to get me started on the CR. I will be reading:
  • Waiting by Ha Jin
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
  • The Horse and His Boy (book 3 of the Narnia Chronicles)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (book 4)
  • Slander: Liberal Lies About The American Right by Ann Coulter
Yes, I've never finished the Chronicles of Narnia series. I've read the first two books, and I figure now's a good a time as any to finish the series. I'll have to hit up the library for the rest.

As for the Ann Coulter book... I was surprised to see it in Mom's collection. And when I confronted her about it, she was just as surprised. She swears she didn't buy it, and I believe her. I bet one of our conservative relatives gave it to her. I've decided to read it for myself. Might be nice to do a scathing review.

If anyone has any science fiction recommendations, I'm more than willing to listen. I'll be raiding the library for Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, and the last two books of the Dark Tower series. But beyond that, I could use some suggestions.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

...well, here goes nothin'

Alright. I gave in and got one of these blog thingymabobs. Not because I have anything terribly interesting or profound to say... wait, where are you going? Come back, I have cookies!*

No, I've finally given in and started a blog so I can participate in the second annual Cannonball Read. For those of you asking, "Wasn't that a terrible movie starring Burt Reynolds?," first of all, NO, that was The Cannonball Run and it was hi-larious**, and secondly, it's a competition to read 52 books in a year - and review them all on here. See linky for details.

So, that's all for now. Look for book reviews, wedding updates, ramblings, random stories about Rilo Kitty, and much, much more to come in the future!

*I have burnt chocolate chip cookies. Still edible.

* *Or so I've heard. I've never actually seen it. But I enjoy the fact that it's called "THE" Cannonball Run, like how people call Ohio State "THE" Ohio State University. Terrell Pryor still sucks, no matter how many articles you add to the school's name.