Friday, December 31, 2021

The Books I Read in 2021


Of these, the best was The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard. It's the fictionalized story of the forbidden love between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's so good and so sad. The Hawthorne character is exactly how I always imagined Nathaniel Hawthorne would be. Herman Melville is, surprisingly, extremely relatable. 

I haven't read Moby Dick, and honestly I probably never will because I asked my dad what it was like and he said, "Boring." We both like the Last of the Mohicans novels, so if he thinks it's more boring than James Fenimore Cooper's six pages of descriptions of trees, it's probably pretty boring, even if it is an extended Symbolist metaphor for love. 

Just know, as a bit of background information, that classic American literature lives rent-free in my mind at all times. 

There are a lot of really good ones in this middle photo, but I think my absolute favorite was State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. My copy belonged to my grandma, who loved Ann Patchett, especially Bel Canto. State of Wonder knocked me for several loops and, although it may seem counterintuitive to read about diseases in the midst of a pandemic, actually a good read for the COVID-19 outbreak. I highly recommend it. 

Carmen Maria Machado's graphic novel The Low, Low Woods is excellent, and of course reading Alex Trebek's memoir was a bittersweet pleasure. I think my favorite of these was the first one I read, Ayiti, a short writing collection by Roxane Gay. Everything Gay writes is phenomenal. And I'm not even that upset that she and her wife moved (moved back, in Gay's case) to Omaha and don't live in West Lafayette, Indiana anymore (where I always hoped I would accidentally run into them. Oh well, Indianapolis still has John Green). 

What was your favorite book that you read in 2021?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

December 2021 Currentlies

Currently Watching: I'm currently watching the new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) kid on the block ("the block" in this case being Disney+): Hawkeye, starring Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton and Hailee Steinfeld as the younger Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. 

Hailee Steinfeld also stars in another current fave series, this one on Apple+, which I just got this year: Dickinson. The series is loosely based on the life of Emily Dickinson, but it uses the Civil War-era setting to comment cleverly on current events. Plots frequently revolve around the love triangle between Emily, her brother Austin, and their mutual paramour Sue. Guest stars include comedian John Mulaney as Henry David Thoreau and Billy Eichner (voice of librarian Mr. Ambrose on Bob's Burgers) as a wonderful, openly queer Walt Whitman. My favorite guest star, though, is musician Wiz Khalifa as the personification of Death, who frequently stops his phantom coach for Emily. 

Of course, as a teen, Steinfeld famously played Juliet opposite Douglas Booth's Romeo. She also has a fantastic singing voice and my little pop-loving heart appreciates her as a recording artist. 

I hope Hailee is having a happy Hanukkah 5782.

Here are some of Emily Dickinson's recipes, via LitHub, by the way

Currently Reading: Continuing with the American literature theme, I'm finally reading Mark Beauregard's The Whale: A Love Story, a fictionalized account of the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's so good. Hawthorne's characterization is exactly the way I always imagined Nathaniel Hawthorne to be. 

I'm also midway through Rainbow Rowell's Attachments. No, I have not read the third Snowbaz book yet. I hope to get to it...someday. 

Further, I'm reading this book I picked up at the Book Warehouse at the outlet mall my husband and I recently visited:

It's not great. I was really hoping for a more folkloric book about contemporary urban legends, but what it really is is a lot of eyewitness accounts of alleged sightings of abnormally large dogs with Anubis-like ears but surprisingly humanoid faces. This seems to be a common misperception or hallucination that apparently a lot of Americans have had, but I wanted more theory and fewer examples. 

Readers of this blog will recall that I don't literally believe in the supernatural, but I did, in real life, have a misperception experience that took the form, in my mind,  of a weird black dog. It was over by the Center for the Homeless (where I used to volunteer) in South Bend, Indiana. I looked down the street and saw what appeared to be a black dog moving very quickly away from me in a very unnatural way. It looked like a dog on a skateboard, only I didn't see a skateboard; it looked like it was floating rapidly down the road. What it probably was was a black garbage bag being blown down the street by the wind. But for the record, I did momentarily have a weird canine experience once. 

Currently Listening: These were the podcasts I mentioned in October 2020: 

Omnibus with Ken Jennings and John Roderick

FireStarters Podcast

None of This Is Real

Terrible Book Club

- Book Vs Movie Podcast

You're Wrong About

Here are some of my other top podcasts:

- Big Gay Fiction Podcast. This episode is an interview with Sara Dobie Bauer; I know her from Tumblr.


- The History of Literature

- ArtCurious

- Black History Year

- Useless Information

 I (still) listen to all of my podcasts on Spotify Free, but many of these are available across numerous platforms. Curious about what music I listen to on Spotify? Here's a snapshot of my 2021 Spotify Wrapped:

Yeah, it's mostly Lady Gaga. So sue me.

The ultimate favorite is There Might Be Cupcakes by author Carla Pettigrew Hufstedler. I get stupidly excited every time Carla has something new to say. She introduced me to the tradition of Victorian Christmas horror stories, and I'm looking forward to another spooky Victorian episode this month. 

What are your currentlies? What are you making, reading, watching, and listening to? Everyone is welcome to comment. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Happy 63rd Birthday, Madonna Louise Ciccone!

Express yourself, don't repress yourself

Encyclopedia Madonnica 20: Madonna from A to Z by Matthew Rettenmund: Find it on Goodreads

Madonna made a face, the face she made in Truth or Dare when threatened with arrest if she performed the simulated-masturbation “Like a Virgin” dance. The face that tells you she intends to do what she pleases, fuck you very much. If the gods or man ever devised a way to counter this attitude in Madonna, I haven’t heard of it. 

Seeing this, Guy took another long drink from his bottle of Guinness and resigned himself to it. With that, they took their leave of the VIP room of the Hooters near the United Center. 

Erin had spent the night at the Palmer House Hilton. Her closet was full of clothes she’d bought earlier in the day on Clark St. She lay on the bed, sipping the tiny bottle of Skye Vodka from the mini bar. Undecided about which new outfit to wear to the club, she was about to go down to the bar to people-watch and mull it over when the phone rang. The front desk told Erin she had visitors. 

“Who?” she asked the clerk. 

“It’s Madonna, her husband, and Dennis Rodman. Should I send them up?”

“Certainly,” Erin said in her most distinguished tone. In a moment she heard the knock on the door. She opened up and the unlikely trio came tumbling in. 

Madonna looked hot. She was out of her nun’s habit and into a black spaghetti-strap top and a sheer black blouse, a bit like what she wore in “Vogue,” slightly toned down, and very flattering to her body, shaped as it was by yoga. Guy was out of his cardinal’s chasuble and had put on a decent suit. Dennis showed off his freshly waxed legs in red patent leather pumps and a red tulle ballerina skirt. He wore a black shirt, half unbuttoned, and brought together the black and the red with a Louis Vuitton handbag.

“Are you wearing a bra?” Erin asked, standing up to find herself face-to-face with Dennis’s lean, muscular chest. 

“Yes,” Dennis said, opening his shirt further to show her the lacy pink lingerie. “It was Victoria’s Secret, but I guess it’s not a secret anymore.”

“He’s not much of a lady, though,” Madonna said, giving Dennis a playful slap on the ass. “It doesn’t match with his thong.”

Read more in:

Friday, June 18, 2021

Fic Rec: "Twice"

Friends, Sokovians, countrypersons, lend me your reading eyeballs: I found an extremely sexy fic on Tumblr featuring my problematic fave Baron Helmut Zemo as not-a-villain. No murdered kings of Wakanda here, only a university setting in which the brown-eyed boy is a heavily-accented polylingual history professor. 

Unburdened with the sadness of losing a wife and child, all he has is an ex-fiancee who didn't work out. (She's fine; she ended up marrying a Zemo cousin and presumably they're happy together.) 

The stakes and angst level are low. There's an age gap - she's 20, he's 39 - but they're both enthusiastically consenting adults. It's the same age gap that Jo and Friedrich have in Little Women, honestly. (I refer to the book, not the 2019 film in which director Greta Gerwig cast French hottie Louis Garrel as the Professor.) 

These links link to mostly text, perhaps with a few safe-for-work images. The text is explicit, rated M for mature, and most definitely not safe for work. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The author's social media name is J.D. ~ J.D., I salute you. If this were posted on An Archive of Our Own, I would definitely leave a nice comment and some kudos. 

Daniel, Sant Jordi, 23 April 2013 by Tasnim Aslam. The feast day of Sant Jordi - Saint George - is the Catalonian equivalent of Valentine's Day, but instead of cards and candy, Catalonians give books and roses. (Red roses symbolize dragon's blood.) It's a custom we definitely should import to the U.S.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Trouble with Caviezels

I have to share this episode of QAnon Anonymous about Jim Caviezel and his connection to America's most destructive alternative facts. Pun intended, it's simply relevant to this blog's interests. 

Content warning within the podcast for antisemitism, racism, mention of sexual harassment, and homophobia. 

Some of these stories are rather amusing tales from the set of Person of Interest; others are harder to listen to. Jim Caviezel, it seems, is not only not a very good person, but also not a very smart person. I'm chagrined but not surprised, because straight white men are so often disappointing. 

(I know Not All Straight White Men. My dad is one. I'm married to one. I know a great number of you guys are kind, thoughtful, wonderful people. If you're not doing unkind things to people, then you should have nothing to feel defensive about.) 

Not problematic in any way: Taraji P. Henson. In fact, according to The Grio (which I believe is from the same parent company as the NBC television network), she has started a mental health campaign for African-American children called The Unspoken Curriculum. Taraji is as beautiful on this inside as she is on the outside, and she's very beautiful on the outside. 

Taraji, like my unproblematic straight white male fave Jon Bernthal*, is from Washington, D.C., which may soon be our 51st state. (Taxation without representation is problematic, which is why I also support statehood for Puerto Rico, if my fellow Americans in PR want it.) If you want to support students in the arts in DC so they can grow up to be future Tarajis and Jons, you can check out this book:

Sometimes I Have to Be Brave was written by student authors during the quarantine. It's a project of 826DC, a nonprofit company that gives kids in DC schools the tools they need to express themselves in writing. 

If you'd like to learn more about the Indianapolis Sikh community, you can read The Art and Spirit of K.P. Singh. Mr. Singh shares his visual art in this book as well as his writing. He was born in India and has lived in Indianapolis for over 40 years. I saw him on the local news this morning and I like having the opportunity to share something nice and positive after our city had a trauma. 

*He genuinely does seem to be a good guy, just acting and hanging out with this nurse wife Erin and their two sons and a daughter at their ranch in Ojai. I doubt we'll ever catch Jon Bernthal doing anything antisemitic, since he is Jewish. 

P.S. The Night at the Museum trilogy is on Disney+ now, if you want to see Jon as Al Capone. It also has Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.