Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Books I Read in 2012

Catch Up:

Best Books of 2011

Ok, I'm cheating a little bit. I'm counting a series as a "book." It's always hard to narrow it down to only ten, and a series was meant to read as a single unit anyway. That's my excuse, and it's my blog, so there.

The Best Books I Read in 2012:

10 - House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

This is a multi-generational book in my family - my grandma read it, and then I did. It's very tragic and very well-written. The narrative voice gets more chaotic as events in the characters' lives slip through their fingers.

9 - Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

If your nonfiction tastes run to neurology, then you probably know that anything Oliver Sacks is worth reading. He's never dry and clinical, but always engaging. Most important take-away lesson from this book? Hallucinations are common, often have an organic cause and are rarely a sign of "losing one's mind."

8 - Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

I am so glad that Lemony Snicket has started the All the Wrong Questions series. I'm not expecting any answers to the questions remaining from the Series of Unfortunate Events books, but I am expecting insouciant wordplay and copious literary references. The Maltese Falcon, Johnny Tremain, Little House on the Prairie, and "The Interlopers" by Saki are but a few of the literary works mentioned in this first of four novels in which we're introduced to Snicket as a 13-year-old apprentice to V.F.D.

In April 2013, we're going to get The Dark by Snicket, but it's an unrelated, stand-alone picture book, like The Lump of Coal or The Composer Is Dead.

7 - Shadow of Night/A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I can't believe I only read this books earlier this year - it feels like I've known this story for years and years. I didn't think I was going to like Diana Bishop at first, but what I didn't like about her was that her natural witchiness was so repressed. Once she started to come into her power, I really started to love her.

Also, if I had to marry a fictional character, it would be Matthew Clairmont. Seriously, give him to me. I anxiously await the third book, but a release date has not yet been set. 

6 - The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

This story is dramatic, heartbreaking and unforgettable - and nonfiction. With a dissolute aristocratic French father and a Haitian slave mother, Alex Dumas (father of the great French novelist) spent his life torn between French Revolutionary ideals of universal equality and harsh racism. Although his famous son was only four years old when Alex died, Alex's nightmarish captivity in Italy and his heroism inspired his son's great novels.

Despite what I said in In Which the Term "13-Inch" Is Thrown About Shamelessly, I'm putting The Count of Monte Cristo on my reading list for 2013.

5 - The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The blogosphere, all pumped up for the movie release earlier this year, got me interested in this series. I was surprised by how much I actually like it; it wasn't nearly as grim as I imagined, owing to Collins' skill in getting the reader inside the head of Katniss Everdeen.

4 - A Study in Scarlet/The Hound of the Baskervilles/The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Except for a handful of short stories in grade school, I'd never read the original canon Holmes stories before. This is what I was reading when 2011 turned over to 2012. I quite enjoyed the Holmes tales, though I still have one more volume on my bookshelf unread.

I read the full-length novel and the graphic novel adaptation, too

Maybe in the spring when there's more sunlight in the evenings, I won't fall asleep halfway through every dang episode of Elementary. Maybe then the lovely Lucy Liu and the lovely Jonny Lee Miller will inspire me to read more Sherlock Holmes. 
3 - The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

The ending to the His Dark Materials trilogy felt like Philip Pullman reached into my chest, pulled out my beating heart, and showed it to me, but it was worth it to learn what Pullman knows about love and about being a good person. (So many tears.) I don't think I can ever look at marzipan the same way again.

2 - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I kept thinking that since Wuthering Heights is the closest thing I have to a favorite book ever, it was silly that I hadn't read Emily Bronte's sister's greatest novel. I didn't think I would like it as much - I already knew the plot after watching the Orson Welles movie on AMC years ago - but it's really quite a compelling story. Best part? Jane and Edward's verbal sparring. The dialogue is brilliant, on par with Lizzie Bennett vs. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The best, best part? Jane's stubborn independence. Go, girl.

I started a GoodReads discussion of Rochester vs. Heathcliff here. Now I need a t-shirt that says "Team Edward" on the front and "...Fairfax Rochester" on the back.

Fassbender Rochester - hawt. 
My annotated copy of Jane Eyre suggested that since I liked it, I might also like Middlemarch by George Eliot, so I'm putting that on my reading list for 2013. I imagine that someday I'll also want to read Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea. I do feel quite a bit of sympathy for Bertha Mason Rochester already.

(I also feel a kinship with "that strange woman" Grace Poole, because Grace's job is strikingly similar to the job of a modern-day mental health technician, which I have been. I didn't keep a bottle of gin nearby, though. Just 7-Eleven coffee. That's the only difference.)

1 - The War Trilogy by James Jones

Am I obsessed with From Here to Eternity, The Thin Red Line, and Whistle much? My blog posts from summer and fall of this year would indicate that yes. I really had no idea that James Ramon Jones was such an amazing writer - I think he's quite underrated and under-read today. (I remind you that From Here to Eternity beat out Catcher in the Rye for the 1950 National Book Award.) I've spent so much digital ink on these three brilliant books this year, so I will simply tell you, good readers, what I told my cousins when they said they couldn't understand the 1998 film version of the Thin Red Line film, written by Terrence Malick: "Read the book. First read From Here to Eternity - not the heavily-censored 1950s film, but the book - and then read The Thin Red Line. Then it all makes sense."

My perfectly PG-13 comment to the effect got removed from this post about songs inspired by books, but I still say the Flo Rida song "Whistle" is inadvertent homage to the James Jones novel of the same name.

I have not read the newest, "restored" edition of From Here to Eternity, though, so I am going to have to get the new edition and read it all over again. Don't think I won't enjoy it, especially if one of the restored sex scenes involves Isaac Nathan Bloom.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

#XMasGiveaway Hop Winner + Calico #Caturday

Thank you all for your comments on my Gifting Books #XmasGiveaway Hop post. I have entered all the entries into, and the winner it chose was...

Daniel M!

Daniel, I'll be sending you an e-mail to let you know you won and get a mailing address. Enjoy The Black Count.

And now for some adorable Caturday cats. Giant feet, or tiny cat?

I caught it - now what do I do with it?

This adorable fellow is one of the polydactyl cats of Ernest Hemingway's Key West, Florida, home. Click this link to hear the National Public Radio story about the cats; it also has a link to a Hemingway cats video.

Here is a tiny calico kitten wearing a sweater.

This calico is trying to eat a book. I don't know, but I think it might be more than she can chew.

This is an affiliate link:

Think like Cat by Benedict Stewart. $1.99 from
Cats are probably the most adorable creatures on this planet. At least that is what cat lovers would say, but there are times when they can get very unpredictable and you would just want to get your way into their minds to think like cat. You want to know what a cat likes and does not like and before that, you would also want to know whether you should get yourself one or not.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

OHP: All Is Calm, All Is Bright

Stopping by from the #XMasGiveaway blog hop? Please visit this post for your chance to win.

Hopefully, you've had a lovely and peaceful December 25th. Perhaps today you're enjoying Boxing Day, if you live in one of the countries that used to be part of the British Empire.

I do not think that the figure below signifies any particular goddess. In the Germanic tradition, the goddess associated with this time of year is Frigga. Read more about Frigga here. 

The white stag is a beautiful symbol of winter. He always makes me think of James Potter's silvery-white stag  Patronus, but he also appears in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Snow White and the Huntsman. In medieval Christian lore, both the white stag and the unicorn were symbols of Jesus Christ, as discussed by author Denise Roper in "Harry Potter and the Bestiary of Christ, Part Three."

The association between the stag, or buck, and Christmas comes from Denmark, Sweden and Norway, according to Christmas Customs and Traditions by Clement A. Miles. It's a tradition in those countries for people to dress up in deer hides, hooves and horns to represent the Julebuk (yule buck). People are somewhat fearful of the Julebuk - some stories, for example, tell of young women who've danced with what they believed was a young man in the Julebuk costume, only to find out later their dance partner was the devil. Stories like these probably express an anxiety about combining Christian and Pagan customs.

In Japan, the goddess associated with the Winter Solstice is Amaterasu. The Solstice is the Japanese sun goddess's birthday. Read more about Amaterasu here. In Wales, the appropriate goddess for this time of year is Rhiannon (read more about Rhiannon here).

Merry post-Christmas/after-Solstice to all, and to all a good night.

This is an affiliate link:

The Impossible Quest Of Hailing A Taxi On Christmas Eve by George Saoulidis. $3.99 from
Scrooge Is Looking For A Taxi In this modern retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Scrooge is looking for a taxi to get home on Christmas Eve. But he will get the ride of his life, as he is walked through his past, his present and his future to end up a changed man. Set in modern day Athens, this science-fiction version of the classic ghost story is guaranteed to make you smile.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Few Favorite Quotes from 'Jane Eyre'

Stopping by from the #XMasGiveaway blog hop? Please visit this post for your chance to win. 

"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns." - Charlotte Bronte (writing as Currer Bell) in the preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre, dated December 21, 1847

From the novel:

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts just as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags." (Volume 1, Chapter 12)
"When you came on me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse; I am not sure yet." (Volume 1, Chapter 13) This is the first of many references Rochester makes to Jane being a witch or a fairy. Jane is an orphan, raised by her mean aunt in a house with a horrible male cousin before she's sent off to a boarding school, much like Harry Potter - coincidence? 

(St. John Rivers) "What will you do with your accomplishments? What, with the largest portion of your mind - sentiments - tastes?"
(Jane) "Save them till they are wanted. They will keep." (Volume 3, Chapter 4)

One final favorite Jane quote (again, she's speaking to St. John): "And I am a hard woman - impossible to put off." 

Next, on to reading Jane Eyre Laid Bare, the erotica mash-up by Charlotte Bronte and Eve Sinclair.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gifting Books, A #XMasGiveaway Blog Hop!

gifting books giveaway hop

Gifting Books Christmas hop was organized by Reading Romances!

Welcome to Pagan Spirits book blog, my little corner of the book blogiverse! 

What was the most special book you've ever gifted or received?

I wish I had one great book that I received for a Christmas or Hanukkah present that was really meaningful to me personally. I don't, as far as I can remember. One year, my parents gave me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and I love those. They're fun books, but I wouldn't really describe them as "special." In fact, my original paperbacks got water-damaged and I ended up having to replace them.

One year I really, really wanted a new novel that was a sequel to The Scarlet Letter, and I got that, but it wasn't very good (or at least I didn't think so at the time). I can't remember the name of the book now, or the author's name, although I think it was a male author. This was probably in the late 1990s, shortly after I read The Scarlet Letter as a high school assignment. Wikipedia is pretty clueless about the Scarlet Letter sequels, so if anyone's a rabid Hawthorne fan and they want to get on that, please do so.

(Update: I mean Hester by Christopher Bigsby, which is a prequel. It says in my diary that I got it on December 25, 1994.)

Come to think of it, the real reason I never got a "special" book for the holidays as a kid was probably that if I wanted a book bad enough, my parents would get it for me right when I wanted it. They taught me that books are never a waste of money, so when I want one badly enough, I just go get it.

I love to give books as gifts. This year my Percy Jackson-obsessed older niece is getting two books about Greek and Roman myths for Christmas. (Niece #2 is currently obsessed with Captain Underpants, but I hear  that Santa Claus will be bringing her the books in that series that she doesn't have yet.) Last year I gave my grandma The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. (Then after she read it, she got my mom to read it, too - that and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See are our three-generation books.)

The only one who won't accept a book as a gift is my hubby, Mr. Elingtin. He does not read - I read to him. (It's not that he can't read - it's just that he gets bored very easily. He's very visual and needs the free space in his head to imagine.)

What's the greatest book YOU ever got as a gift? Comment for a chance to win!

What you can win here: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss (paperback). If Alexandre Dumas' classic The Count of Monte Cristo is one of your favorites, you'll love the true story of Dumas' father, a general in the Napoleonic army. Held captive by the Kingdom of Naples, the real-life Edmond Dantes suffered many trials before he was able to return to his wife and children. 
Number of winners: One lucky winner
Open to (INT, US or US/CAN): U.S. only (sorry!)
How to enter: Leave a blog post comment, and make sure I can get in touch with you if you win. If I can find your e-mail address by clicking on your name, then all you have to do is comment. If not, leave your e-mail address in a "name AT Webhost DOT com" format within the comment. Being a follower of this blog is not necessary to win, but I would really appreciate it! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Nerd Girl Nirvana

I wrote this post in April 2011 as a guest post for another blog. That blog went off the Internet, so I'm reposting it here.

This is the piece of nerdiness that I’ll own: I’m a bookworm. I keep a book in the bathroom so I can read while I’m brushing my teeth. If I could figure out how to take them in the shower with me, I would. I keep Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen in the kitchen; there are two bookshelves there, one for cookbooks and one to catch the overflow from the office and the dining room. A drawer in the bedroom is stuffed with all the magazines I want to keep forever.

The height of my nerd girl nirvana is the semi-annual book sale in the city where I grew up. I can’t go alone, though--I have to take my grandma. I have breakfast with her every Sunday, and she always lets me know when another sale is coming up. We can’t go on the day when they open the doors to the public on Saturday, though. We have to buy the special Friends of the Library pass to get into the Thursday pre-sale.

We have a pattern. First I have to find her a cart. Between the two of us, we’ll need it. Grandma brings a list every time, but I like to take my chances. We skip the CD, magazine and children’s book sections and go straight for the new (well, gently used) hardcover fiction. She finds mysteries and mainstream fiction there. If I’m lucky, I find something paranormal. Some of my lucky finds have been The Passage, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf and Vampyres of Hollywood.

After the new fiction, there’s a huge section of older fiction. Grandma takes her time through there; I eventually wander off to the romance novels. They get picked over early, even when we show up within the first two hours of the sale. (You don’t want to be there at the very beginning; too crowded.) On a good day I might find a paranormal or fantasy romance. An anthology with Laurell K. Hamilton or MaryJanice Davidson is always nice. 

Grandma likes to wander the nonfiction shelves; I give them a more passing glance, unless there‘s a topic I‘m deeply into that week. By this time I’ll have added five or six books to the cart. This will cost me about $2.50.

We split up once again while I look at the DVDs. There are still a few seasons of The Simpsons I don’t have on DVD yet, and I’m always hoping to run across those. Barring a Simpsons find, the best thing I can hope for off the neatly alphabetized DVD shelf is a Christian Bale movie I don’t yet own. Okay, so I’ll admit to these two strains of nerdcraft as well: I can quote Simpsons characters for hours on end, and I have a squealing schoolgirl crush on Christian Bale. I’ll even watch Newsies.

After we pay for our reasonably-priced purchases, we load them into Grandma’s fold-up bookbag on wheels. At her house, we’ll separate hers from mine. On our way to the car, we might stop and look at the carts of free books outside. We don’t like to stand outside in bad weather, though. Besides, we’ve already had enough fun to last us until the next book sale.

Erin O’Riordan is a cool erotica writer, like Anais Nin, until you put a book in front of her and turn her into a drooling geek. 

Since I wrote this, Irish granny has had breathing problems and spends less and less time away from her house. We no longer go to the book sales together. In fact, she no longer gives me a list of books to get for her. Her eyesight has also gotten worse, and she doesn't spend a lot of time reading anymore. This is a scan of our last book list.

The 2012 book by Bob Woodward is actually called The Price of Politics, despite what my side note says. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 8: Zac Efron

I'm going to be bluntly honest and say that I do not enjoy the music of High School Musical. This does not mean that Zac Efron is not utterly beautiful. Zac is Jewish on his father's side, and his surname is the Hebrew word for the lark.

This Hanukkah hottie is also a young prince of literary adaptations. He was in Charlie St. Cloud (a Ben Sherwood novel), The Lorax (a Dr. Seuss classic) and The Lucky One, the Nicholas Sparks favorite which I read in April.

I saw the movie in November. It's not as good as the book, and  I don't think anyone will accuse Zac Efron of being the greatest actor of his generation. He brings a lot of heart to the role of Logan Thibault, opposite Taylor Schilling as Beth Green. They do their best with these characters, but the book versions are simply more powerful. The ending that works so well in print loses much of its suspense on screen.

Zac Efron is also notorious for dropping a condom onto the red carpet at the Lorax premiere.

I saw The Lorax in October. It was a pretty good cartoon, although not Despicable Me good. I didn't love the musical numbers, but I did think it managed not to garble Dr. Seuss' message.

The Hebrew word for the lark also belongs to one of 2012's saddest literary losses, the screenwriter, former journalist, essayist and New York Times best-selling author Nora Ephron. She passed away in June after a battle with leukemia. She was best known for writing the films When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle - neither of which I've seen. The Nora Ephron film I did connect with and thoroughly enjoy was her last, Julie and Julia, about Julia Child and the food blogger Julie Powell.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 7: Patricia Arquette

Look, I'm not saying that I don't like Rosanna Arquette. She's awesome in Pulp Fiction and the David Cronenberg Crash. She is, undoubtedly, a beautiful woman. But for me, when I think of the Hanukkah hotness that is the Arquette family, I can't help but fixate on sister Patricia.
Bonus Hanukkah hottie: Rosanna Arquette. Photo by Rita Molnar, Wikimedia Commons.
Three words:


True Romance.

Stigmata is a particularly bold choice, in which Arquette played a contemporary, female St. Francis of Assisi, receiving the wounds of Jesus on her body. This happens not because of Frankie's personal holiness - she doesn't even believe in God - but because she's been chosen as the messenger of a dead priest who discovered a suppressed gospel written by Jesus himself. The Church will do anything to keep the hidden gospel hidden, a plotline that anticipates The Da Vinci Code. The subplot is a romance between Frankie and Father Andrew Kiernan, a scientist/priest/investigator of alleged miracles, played by Gabriel Byrne.

If you watch American TV, you may have seen her recently on Law and Order: SVU as a prostitute assisting the SVU team in catching a spree killer who was one of her johns. Like P!nk and Jamie Lee Curtis, Arquette has taken her turn as a horror film vixen, appearing in the third Nightmare on Elm Street film, Dream Warriors.

For me, her most memorable turn as a literary character was her appearance in Holes as the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow. When I worked in a school, one of the books we read out loud to the 7-12 year olds was Louis Sachar's novel. The Kissin' Kate parts were my favorites, especially her sad romance with Sam the Onion Man.

She has also appeared in the film adaptation of Eric Schlosser's muckraking nonfiction book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal.

If you remember Patricia Arquette as a regular from a TV drama, you probably remember her as Allison Dubois on Medium. The TV character was based on the real Allison Dubois, an alleged psychic medium who has written several books about her experiences, including We Are Their Heaven: Why the Dead Never Leave Us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 6: Jason Segel

Jason Segel, best known as Marshall Eriksen on How I Met Your Mother, is the adorably goofy Jewish dude I'd most like to see lewd (sorry, Ben Stiller). If you want to see a Hanukkah hottie naked, all you have to do is rent/stream Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Jason Segel does the Full Monty. Let's just say acting is not his only gift.

He also does a musical puppet show version of Dracula - which is so awesome.

See also: Fuck Yeah Marshall Eriksen on Tumblr.

Jason Segel almost shares his last name with a beloved American Jewish writer, Erich Segal, the author of 1970's Love Story. Erich Segal died in 2010, but his daughter Francesca - an author, literary critic and columnist - is alive and well. They may be distantly related, but I have no way of confirming or disproving this.

Francesca Segal wrote this:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 5: P!nk

Happy 12-12-12! Tonight's Hebraical hottie is none other than Jewish rock star P!nk herself, a.k.a Alecia Beth Moore. The 33-year-old Pennsylvania native is the daughter of a Catholic father and a Jewish mother.
Jewish chicks - rockin' the cat-eyes black eyeliner look since we were slaves in Egypt.

Musically, P!nk had me hooked from her first hit, "There You Go." The grammar is appalling, but you must remember her crashing her motorcycle through her ex's window.

In "Slut Like You" from her 2012 album, P!nk isn't afraid to reclaim the "slut" label from those who would use it as a slur, or to apply it to guys.

For sheer musical girl power, you can hardly do better than the Moulin Rouge collaboration of P!nk with Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil Kim and Missy Elliot on "Lady Marmalade." This single was like the Spice Girls of the 00s.

In this Pepsi commercial, she must engage in gladiatorial combat - sort of - against Beyonce and Britney Spears.

She was a Weekend Crush once upon a time at Dorothy Surrenders. DS also clued me in to P!nk's collaboration with Peaches, the world's greatest bisexual Canadian rapper/electro musician of Jewish descent. The song is called "Oh My God," and I like to think of it as a sincere prayer as well as a song about women having sex with women.

P!nk is just teasing all the lesbian/bi/pan girls, though; she's a straight girl. She is, however, listed in The Bisexual's Guide to the Universe by Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski as having once said, "I'm trisexual. I'll try anything once."

Also, P!nk is in Catacombs, a mind-numbingly stupid 2007 horror film set at a rave in the underground cemeteries of Paris. The film sucks, but props to P!nk for taking her turn as a scream queen, a horror film convention perfected by Hebrew hottie Jamie Lee Curtis.

Hanukkiot Riot

Put on your kippahs - it's time for Hanukkah!

You know what that means - for four nights now, if you've been celebrating the Festival of Lights, you've been lighting your hanukkiah.

I know, I know - everybody calls them menorahs. According to Tamar Fox, to be technically correct, "Menorah" should refer to the original oil-burning lamp, located in the Temple of Jerusalem, that represented Moses' burning bush. In commemoration of the Menorah, we light a hanukkiah - the plural is hanukkiot.

That one was cookies; this one is made out of peanut butter and jelly.

Spiderman, the Hulk, Wonder Woman - not Jewish. Wanna know which superheroes celebrate Hanukkah? See this post.

My personal favorite is the one that's made out of books. I am a little concerned that this may be a fire hazard. (It's the Irish side of my family that has the firefighters, my grandpa and uncle.)

Finally, I give you the Hanukkiah Martini. The pin didn't link directly to the source, but I tracked it down to this page at (They call it a Menorah Martini, but you and I know better.) It's vodka, sweet vermouth and blue curacao.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 4: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

My original idea for Night Four was David Duchovny. 

It's been a few years, but once upon a time, I had a huge crush on David Duchovny. Today he may be best known for Californication, but back in the day, the Scottish-Jewish fox was must-see TV as Agent Fox Mulder of The X-Files

For David Duchovny, I saw a movie called Playing God in the theater. It's a bad, pulpy crime flick about a drug-addicted doctor who goes to work for a gangster. It did have a rockin' soundtrack, though ("Trigger Hippie" by Morcheeba? Still a great song). It was also the first movie in which I ever saw Angelina Jolie.

Oh yes, and Bree Sharp had a minor pop hit with a song called "David Duchovny:"

But now, I'd much rather do a post about the Hanukkah Hotness that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. At first, you just thought he was the kid from Third Rock From the Sun.

But then, hubba hubba. Oh, yeah, and isn't he in some kind of Batman movie or something? 

Of course you remember him in 10 Things I Hate About You, right? Based on The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things ranks among the greatest of near-Shakespeare films, right up there with Hamlet 2 and Were the World Mine

It is a science fact that a hot boy is 39% hotter when he is reading a book. 

With short hair or with long hair.

(Fun Hollywood Babylon fact: the book originally referred to Montgomery Clift by the nickname "Princess Tiny Meat," but Clift's lawyers made author Kenneth Anger take out the reference. I think I can say that without getting sued now, because Patricia Bosworth reported it in her biography.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 3: Ellen Barkin

Don't be fooled by the rocks that she got; Ellen Barkin's still Ellen from the Bronx. You may know her as the less-than-enlightened Nana on the NBC sitcom The New Normal, but you've gotta admit: at the age of 58, Ellen Barkin makes one hot granny.

Photo: Rosetta Argento, Creative Commons license

The stunning actress did do one thing ass backwards: she split with Gabriel Byrne to get with makeup mogul Ron Perelman. Silly girl - you're supposed to leave the plain guy for the Irish hottie, not the other way around.

Barkin and Byrne met filming Siesta, the second-best movie she's in with Julian Sands. (My Irrelevant friends will recognize Sands as Alistair Wesley on Person of Interest.) The cooler one is Mercy, an erotic thriller in which Barkin's character is bisexual.

As Dorothy Surrenders can tell you, Barkin is internationally world-famous for her salty-tongued Twitter tweets. Check her out:!/EllenBarkin

Unlike her character on The New Normal, she will not put up with any sexist bullshit. When Bret Easton Ellis said this about the Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker:

...Barkin fired back with:

Literary adaptations that star Barkin include This Boy's Life, based on the memoir by Tobias Wolff;  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the writings of Hunter S. Thompson; and Crime and Punishment in Suburbia, loosely based on the Fyodor Dostoyevsky classic.

But really, someone should just collect her funniest and sauciest tweets into a book, a la Justin Halpern's Shit My Dad Says. Shit Ellen Barkin Says has definite bestseller potential.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 2: Hank Azaria

Henry Albert (Hank) Azaria is my Sephardic Hanukkah Hottie, 'cause after all, you can't even spell Hanukkah without Hank. Why do I love Hank Azaria? The short answer is, The Simpsons. But he's so much more than the voice of Chief Wiggum, Apu, Comic Book Guy, Frank Grimes, et al.

Though that would be enough.

His literary-leaning accomplishments include:

  • Playing the role of Mitch Albom in the TV-movie version of Tuesdays With Morrie
  • Reading the role of Allen Ginsberg in voiceover in the PBS documentary Chicago 10
  • Playing Walter Plane in Great Expectations (the version with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow)
  • Appeared in a production of David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago in London's West End
I like the sound of that last one. 

Of course, when our people actually lived in Egypt, we weren't the pharaohs, we were the slaves.

David Mamet, by the way, is himself an Orthodox Jew. Along with Rabbi David Kushner, he wrote a series of Torah commentaries called Five Cities of Refuge, and he's explored anti-Semitism in works including The Old Religion and The Wicked Son.

My #1 reason for interest in David Mamet, though, is that in 2005 he wrote a screenplay for James Jones' Whistle. See this listing at IonCinema, for example. Apparently it's never been produced. That makes me sad. I want it to be produced, and I want Jim Caviezel to have a small role as, say, the doctor who wants to cut off Prell's leg, or something.

Mamet was a guest star on one episode of The Simpsons. He was supposed to have written the treacly 1980s family sitcom Thicker Than Waters, with which Homer becomes obsessed.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Hanukkah Hotness, Night 1: Barbra

Happy first night of Hanukkah! To celebrate the Festival of Light, who better than this member of the elite Oscar-Emmy-Grammy-Tony club?

If you are very young, you might only know her from her most recent project: playing Seth Rogen's mom in The Guilt Trip. If that is the case, go watch Prince of Tides now. Reading Pat Conroy's novel first is not a requirement.

My favorite Barbra Streisand quote? From her June 12, 1992 Women in Film speech:

"Welcome to the year of the woman. We’ve come a long way. Not too long ago we were called dolls, tomatoes, chicks, babes and broads. We’ve graduated to being called tough cookies, foxes, bitches, and witches. I guess that’s progress. Language gives us an insight into the way women are viewed in a male dominated society. Take our business for example. Though I’m sure this would hold true for women in positions of power in any field.

"A man is commanding – a woman is demanding.
A man is forceful – a woman is pushy.
A man is uncompromising – a woman is a ballbreaker.
A man is a perfectionist – a woman’s a pain in the ass.
He’s assertive – she’s aggressive.
He strategizes – she manipulates.
He shows leadership – she’s controlling.
He’s committed – she’s obsessed.
He’s persevering – she’s relentless.
He sticks to his guns – she’s stubborn.
If a man wants to get it right, he’s looked up to and respected.
If a woman wants to get it right, she’s difficult and impossible.

"If he acts, produces and directs, he’s called multi-talented. If she does the same thing, she’s called vain and egotistical.

"It’s been said that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Why can’t that be true for a woman?"

My favorite Barbra Streisand song evah? "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl. I know, I know - she does so many awesome renditions of songs by my historical Hebrew crush, George Gershwin. This number is irresistible, though!

I'm still a little pissed at Fanny Brice for getting that nose job, though.

Of course, I also appreciated that RevoLucian remixed her into "Bale Out." Christ(ian Bale)mas comes a little early this year.

In reality, Barbra is saying "Shut the fuck up" to a supporter of then-president George W. Bush who heckled her during a 2006 performance. The mouth on this one!

Endlessly talented, endlessly fascinating, Barbra even wrote the book on interior design. Literally. She has a fascination with architecture.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Post - Do You Prefer Reading About Sex to Having It?

Erotica gives men a lot to live up to. Sex in erotic fiction books is always hot, steamy and exciting, which is a far cry from the real world, where many women find that it can often be a letdown. The disparity between the quality of fictional sex and real sex has become so great that some fans of erotica even report preferring reading about flesh-on-flesh action to actually participating in it. In fact according to the New York Daily News, a recent poll conducted in Britain concluded that forty-four percent of women who took part would rather snuggle up in bed with an erotica book than engage in sex with their partner. Four hundred women aged between twenty-five and forty took part in the survey that led to these results and an impressive ninety-one percent stated that they had read at least one erotica book, meaning that these women were talking from experience as opposed to merely hypothesizing. What is it that makes fictional sex preferable to actual sex in some people’s eyes? Could it be that their partners simply don’t cut the mustard?

Fictional Men Do It Better

The male characters in erotic fiction are always prepared for sex. They never find themselves having to desperately search for a condom at the last minute or finding that they have ran out of Viagra and can’t get it up. You wouldn’t find the men in erotica having to rush to a twenty-four-hour supermarket for a packet of Durex or moaning that they didn’t buy blue pill supplies and are unable to get hard. It is perhaps little wonder that some men don’t like their partners reading this genre, although they should try and get used to it because the New York Daily News claims that sales of erotica now account for fourteen percent of books sold via retail website, making it one of the most popular literary genres.

Ideal Lovers

Perhaps one of the reasons that some women prefer erotica to sex is that enables them to let their imaginations run wild. They can visualise the characters in the books as looking however they want them to look and imagine them to possess characteristics that are hard to come by in the real world. It is also a damn sight easier to paint a picture of the perfect man in a book than it is to shack up with the perfect man in real life, meaning that by picking up an erotic fiction title, women can read about somebody that they perceive to be their ideal lover as opposed to somebody who is human and possesses imperfections.

Erotica Makes for Easier Orgasms

It isn’t all bad news for men though, as clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr Janet Hall claims that erotica can make women more receptive to sex even if they do prefer reading about it. She says that it can help to get women in the mood and often ensure that they are turned on to the point where they are able to orgasm. The problem is that this means that whilst a woman is having sex with her partner, there will be a strong likelihood that she will be thinking about a sex scene from an erotic novel. Whilst not many men are likely to complain about this if it means that they are in for a better quality of lovemaking, it still means that real life sex will always play second fiddle to book sex even when it results in the woman reaching the perfect climax. This is bound to be damaging to the male ego even if it does mean that they will be able to sleep with their partners more often than they would have been able to do if the erotic fiction genre had never come into being.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately men will never be able to compare to the characters depicted in erotica in the same way that women will never be able to compare to the fantasy figures that are created in men’s heads. Luckily most people are grounded in reality and realise that nobody outside of the domain of fiction is perfect and grow to love their partners’ imperfections. Is sex in erotica as good as the real thing? No because it lacks a genuine human connection and the emotional response that comes with it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

#OrnamentSwap2012 Reveal: Cute as a Button
Time for the reveal! My ornament swap partner was Julie E. from This is so cute!

Julie handmade this adorable button craft with the help of her eldest. I didn't tell Julie this, but I LOVE button crafts - I used to do them all the time when I was kid. My Irish granny bought me a box of buttons at a yard sale one time, and I was just in heaven. Thanks so much, Julie!

Not being crafty other than crafty with words, I did not make Julie's ornament. I picked out a mini cupcake ornament from Shana Lira's Etsy shop. Those who can craft do, and those of us who can't craft Etsy.

Hubby and I aren't doing our usual top-only Christmas tree this year - we're putting the wreath on the outside of the house, so obviously none of the good ornaments can go out there. Instead, I made a holiday shelf.

If your holiday shelf doesn't have room for Rainbow Brite, Bella-Edward-Jacob, Pat the Bunny, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and a sequin menorah box, then I just don't know how to begin to help you.

An eclectic celebrator of Winter Solstice holidays am I. Fortunately, when you're part Irish and you're part Jewish and you get excited about Hanukkah, there's a song just for you:

Yep, it's House of Pain's "Jump Around" remixed with a klezmer band. Happy Hanukkah (starting Saturday at sundown wherever you are), peeps!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

OHP! Ridin' Nerdy

It's not exactly Jane Austen Fight Club, but it's still pretty funny.

I personally made this one at SomeECards.

I didn't do this, but this is like the kind of silly book puns that I enjoy: On the Road is on The Road.

The children's classic Charlotte's Web could have gone a completely different way.

This only furthers my opinion that anything Erica Jong writes is worth reading.

This is all I really want for Christmas. It's from Nat B.'s blog, which used to be OhEmGee, but is now The Spunky Poser.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Let the Winter Festivities Begin!

Happy December! One week from today, at sundown, Hanukkah begins. It hardly even seems possible that it could be the first of the winter holidays already, but there it is.

Speaking of holidays, if you're on GoodReads and you read erotica (I hope you do if you're on my blog!), check out the Erotic Enchants holiday party for a chance to win books. Hint: if you're taking part in the scavenger hunt, there was a clue in yesterday's blog post.

It's Saturday, so it's time for:

These pins are from my Call Me Eleanor Abernathy board. I happen to think "Tard" the Grumpy Cat is the cutest thing in the world; I even follow her on Tumblr. This one's a little outdated now it's December; the world is ending THIS month.

Tard is not in the holiday spirit.

This business cat meme also cracks me up.

Of course, I enjoy anything that has to do with both cats and Harry Potter. (See yesterday's post for Harry Potter-themed tea blends.)

This kitty appears to be dancing for joy in front of a flag that reads "Peace."

This little sweetheart looks like she'd fit in the palm of your hand. See the red and green? She's ready for either Winter Solstice or Christmas.