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LIST: My Favorite Animals

23 Feb

Well guys, today I’m going back to elementary school, and letting you know what my favorite animals and creatures are.   So let’s jump in.

1.  Hedgehogs–It’s a miniporcupine that can’t stick you.   They are so adorable, and watching them just wander about is like watching a toy!

2.   Seahorses–Unearthly, odd creatures that look like something made in a scientist’s workshop.  They also are one of the few creatures where the males carry the young.

3. Black Panthers–These are the bad-ass cats.   Unfortunately they are genetic mutations and not a real breed of anything.

4.  Golden Retrievers–While I generally like dogs, the Golden Retrievers I’ve met have been exceptionally loyal, intelligent, playful, and warm.   There’s something about them that makes me melt a little.

5.  Raccoons–Many see these creatures as pests (which they certainly can be) however, they are so very smart that I can’t help but be impressed with them.

6.  Dragonflies–Unfortunately dragonflies live in places which have other less beloved insects, but I think they are beautiful.

7. Preying Mantis–Another one of those creatures that look like something made in a  lab.

8.  Otters–The funnest most playful creatures around.

9.   Hummingbirds–I run into them now and then here in Portland.   They sound like they’re made of electricity.

10.    Goldfish–They are very common, but I think they are absolutely stunning.   Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful.

Best of 2013: The Books

1 Jan

2013

 

Ok, I know it’s 2014 (and happy New Year!) but I still need to wrap up 2013 before moving on, and the most important part is in books.   Now these are the most significant books I read in the last year, I don’t think any of them were actually published in 2013.  Hell, half the time I’m lucky if I’m reading a book from this decade.   So keeping that in mind, these are the best books I read in the last year.

1.  The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain:  This is a little bit cheating, because I’m not quite done with this book yet, however, I’m pretty close, and I am quite happy to have read it.  I thought it would be basically Mark Twain making fun of travelling, which he does, but really it’s joining one of the best minds on a tour of Europe.   Now, he’s firmly in 18th century politics, so there’s a bunch of stuff (particularly politically) that hasn’t aged the best, but what’s amazing is how little has changed at the same time.  You’ll recognize his fellow passengers, and while there’s many funny parts, he really is trying to have us take a virtual tour with him, so there’s sometimes that he just marvels at the beauty of it all.  Wonderful.

2.  Set This House in Order  By Matt Ruff:  MPD/DID is a very contraversial diagnosis, however, you really need to put this aside to read this book.  Ruff isn’t really writing about that anyway, and the biggest thing I love about this book is that while it has abuse victims as the main characters, he never makes it about that.   A wonderfully human book that is way better than it has any right being.

3.   The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Water Moers:  This german book is a storybook for adults.  Loosely written and wandering, it’s not the sort of thing that people who want a tight story woudl be into.  However, that’s why this is such a charming book, it’s a series of events in an imaginary land that just move from one thing and another.

4.  Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead Sara Gran:  I already reviewed this, but can I just say “breath of fresh air” for mystery?

5.   The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliot:  Dark and wonderful.   I already reviewed this one too, but if you’re looking for something that is John Irving-esque with a twist, this is it.

6.  The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie:  His whole trilogy is great, but this book is what really sucks you into it.   Dark as pitch humor laced with fantasy, without the silliness that fantasy often has.

7.  Crusoe’s Daughter   by Jane Gardam:  This is the most beautiful book I’ve read all year by a long shot.   Meloncholy, elegaic, going into the nature of story and freedom.   Why isn’t Jane Gardam more famous in the states?

8.  The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton:  De Botton looks into the meaning of work–he’s got one amazing mind, he’s like a living encyclopedia.   Read this to get smarter.

9.  How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler:  This is one of the few self-help books that lives up to its  name.  Most people don’t read very literately, this book teaches you how.   Anybody could pick this up and learn a thing or two.

10.  Embassytown by China Mieville:  Georgeous slice of sci-fi that is thoughtful and urgent.   If I could only build worlds with half the depth that Mieville does.

11.  The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs:   Never before has queer mental health issues been written down this concisely for gay men.   I don’t agree with everything he says, but I can say that I’ve never met a gay man who hasn’t had to deal with at least some of the issues  presented here.

12.   Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh:  I really got into mindfulness this year, and this is the best book I ran into.  Very simple and accessible, never preachy, and doesn’t promise stuff if you do what he says.   This is the best guide for westerners to get into meditation and mindful livng.

What a great year for reading.  I hope that 2014 is even better.

Why I’m Quitting Facebook

3 Nov

Well it’s time.  I’ve finally cut the tie to Facebook.  We’ve had some lovely times, but it’s time to move our separate ways.  Here’s the reasons I’m leaving:

1.  Facebook is too intrusive.  Too many times things I don’t want posted on my page autopost on it.  It has this creepy spidery way of embedding itself in anything on the net and collecting it.  I’m not an occupy person, and at first the data mining did not bother me, but now it does.

2.  Facebook is a huge time waster.  I’m looking for ways to clear some room for bigger better things to fit in.

3.  Facebook connects to others too well.   There’s many people that I was thrilled to get back in touch with.  There’s others that I’m happier to leave in my past.   I can’t distinguish between the two without hurting feelings.

4.  Facebook causes stress.  People can get mad about Facebook stuff.   Arguments can boil over.  I’m really tired of Facebook rants.

5.  I’m not that interested in people’s mundane life details.   I’m glad you got a cookie, I’m glad you love cookies, I’m glad they make you happy.  However, I don’t need to know this.

6.  Facebook is a pale replication of actually talking to someone.

7.   Facebook has become the repository for all the “funny’ memes that people used to email to you.

8.  People use Facebook to be nosy.  It’s not a haven for people who want to mind their own business.

So.  I’m done.  I haven’t updated in months.  I want my life to be small and private, and more of a life.  I’m not cutting the internet altogether–it’s a good tool, but social networking will be at a minimum, at least for the time being.

The Things I’m Afraid Of

29 Oct

For Halloween I’m going to put down the I’m afraid of.

1.  Cockroaches–I’m afraid of and disgusted by cockroaches.   In Haiti, where I lived for a bit, they had HUGE roaches, like thumb sized, and they would come crawling out like disgusting hellspawn.   You could hear them clicking on the stone floors.  UGH.  Then in South Carolina they had the charmingly named Palmetto Bugs which were pretty much the same thing.   I remember sitting in a screened in porch as they crawled up the outside of the screens.   YUCK.

2.  Driving–I HATE driving, and will avoid it at almost any costs (thank god I’m in a city with good public transport!)   I’m not quite phobic about it, but it’s something that gives me an absolute headache to do.

3.  The Grind–One of my more metaphysical fears is that I will end up spending my life toiling in my current job or one very much like it with nothing to show for it at the end of my life.   I don’t mind working, but a life built around working, specifically a life built around working that has very little significance for me, sucks.

4.   Groups–I’m not agoraphobic or anything–I get very uneasy when groups get an unhealthy sort of vibe–when gossip is going thick and fast, and they seem to be acting out beyond each individual like some sort of hydra.   Like sharks that sense blood, they can get very bullying and nasty if you’re at the wrong end of it.

5.  People who think it’s ok to intentionally harm other people just because “they deserved it.”  They are my true definitions of monsters.

6.  Being Stranded–I can handle some losses, but the idea of being stranded somewhere with NOTHING, I don’t even know how I’d get out of that one.    Complete helplessness would be about the worst thing I can think of–no income, no way to function. .   Worse would be being stuck somewhere where everybody thought of me with hostility.   I would never survive jail.

Pop Culture Friday: Captain Phillips is a Rap God of the Storm Front

25 Oct

1.  Rap God–By Eminem—Sheesh—there are people who do think of Eminem as a rap god, and yes, his beats are really good, and he slams ’em down better than nearly everybody.  I’m just a lil’ bit tired of him playing the provocateur.     I don’t think that he is homophobic (though it’s hard to tell), I do think he will say things just to get people’s backs up, and that he seems to target lgtb people doesn’t really make it better in my eyes.   And yes there’s violent lyrics and some women bashing lyrics too.   However, he’s being so sarcastic here it’s not like I think he’s telling the literal truth on all these matters.   Here’s my biggest issue:  what’s the point?  I mean in 2000 Eminem was talking about the current pop culture as it stands, and taking down some sacred cows–and while I don’t agree with the manner he always did this, he did have a point in doing it.   Now, he’s a middle aged man just spewing out the same stuff he did then.  And yes, I know that Slim Shady is a character, but isn’t it a little disingenuous to take a character so you can say stuff that you otherwise wouldn’t get away with?  Especially because he sounds like that kid in junior high who just says crazy stuff in order to cause a reaction.  Well here’s my alter ego–Fat Britey with a message for you Slim—Grow Up.

2.  Captain Phillips–It’s nice to see Tom Hanks in a big movie again–it’s like seeing a familiar old friend after a long while and being pleasantly surprised when your relationship immediately returns to a comfortable place.   The movie itself has a basic under siege plot, but the characters are so well drawn that there’s both action and some good thinking points in here.   Ok, so Tom Hanks has a Boston accent that fits him as well as a wrecking ball fits Miley Cyrus, but after that fades, we’re all good.

3.   Storm Front–By James Patterson–Erm–another book going in the Da Vinci Code stuff?  Sigh–I’m sorry the Da Vinci Code was ever written.

Pop Culture Friday: Wake Me Up, Gravity, I’m Gone Edition

11 Oct

1.    Wake Me Up by Avicii–I really like Avicii, though this is not my favorite song.  I’ve noticed a new trend in pop music moving away from dance music and towards a folkier sound, a greater earnestness.   Mostly I applaud this, because it’s far more interesting than some of the other stuff, and after the high tech bleep blop years of the last 10 years it’s nice to see things that are earthier and simpler.   However, this song still shows its pop roots, particularly in the video which has the same overbearing product placement, and a concept that’s either dumb or simple which ever way you go about it.   These two girls live in a redneck town and have tattoos that look like play symbols.   The townsfolk (who are all ugly) don’t like them.  The teenage girl goes to the city, meets a bunch of attractive people with the same tattoo and goes to an Avicii concert.  She returns to get her little sister, because they’ve found a place where they belong.   It’s a little manipulative–playing off everybody’s desire to belong someplace, even though belongingness is not reality.  On top of that, I don’t imagine the place I would belong as being filled with people just like me.   In fact, one could argue that she moved to a place where she simply becomes the townsfolk there, and someone else will be excluded.   The “Wake Me Up” lyrics seem to be about wanting to sleep through the difficult years until you are adult enough to chart your own course.   The funny thing is that this is an adolescent view on adulthood, because most adults are no more able to freely do whatever they want than kids–they just have different limitations.    There’s a new theme recently about longing to find your crew, your tribe, real people and real experiences–the longings of a generation who have lived most of their lives behind a computer screen.   It’s interesting, and though I am a bit critical of it, it’s still way better than most pop fare.

2.  Gravity–I already reviewed this movie, but watch it for God’s sake.   You won’t be sorry.

3.  Gone–by James Patterson–Patterson is a pulp thriller writer that has written dozens of books, this is number six in a series.  Here, the detective Michael Bennett has to go into witness protection with his 10 adopted children, as a terrorist kingpin in a white suit kills a bunch of people.   Wow.  I have no intention of reading this, but 10 adopted children?   That’s a lot to hide–I mean did they move him across the country?   Is it like 7th heaven with crime?  I don’t like thrillers because they reinforce suburban fears about strangers walking in and destroying your life, which, yes, can happen, though much bigger problems usually happen through people you know (just saying.)

Well America, your book is kinda blah, but the movie and the song?  No complaints here!  Keep ’em comin!

 

Pop Culture Friday: O’Connor 2? Cloudy 2? Shining 2? edition.

5 Oct

Ok, so I’m doing my Pop Culture Friday on Saturday, because I was out and about yesterday, and I almost was going to skip it this week, but stuff is just too big for me to let them pass by.  So let’s start.

1)  Miley Cyrus, Wreckingball:   When I was looking up the charts (I always do the top ranking song that I haven’t already reviewed) I missed this one and went to Avincii, I was really getting into him, thinking, wow this is really good.  And then I noticed that I had skipped Miley Cyrus.

I really did not want to do Miley Cyrus, and I specifically did not want to do this song.   But I listened to it, and watched the video…and wow.

The song in itself is nothing to write home about–though it’s not horrible.  She clearly is trying to sound like Lana Del Ray, and the music for the verses is ok, but then there’s a generic chorus that just blasts right in like a wrecking ball (but not in a good way.)

Then there’s the lyrics–and if you take out the love bits, it’s kind of like she’s talking to the American public about how she came in like a wrecking ball but she got wrecked instead, when all she wanted was to be in.     It’s a little sad, but not in the way that Miley intends.

Then there’s the video, which has images of her fake crying, intercut with her riding on a wrecking ball naked, licking a sledgehammer, and writhing around on broken cinderblocks.   It is terrible partially because she’s trying too hard.   Not to mention that the video doesn’t match the song in the slightest.

Also there’s the Sinead O’Connor foofaraw:  so Miley said that this video was inspired by O’Connor’s classic video for  Nothing Compares 2 U.   Sinead wrote an open letter to Miley asking her to consider her career and to not sell herself like this.  The letter actually seems very heartfelt and authentic, and hearing the reasons for writing this letter (O’Connor was being pestered with questions about Cyrus and wanted to put out her response so she didn’t have to continue with it) is understandable.   The letter gets a little preachy, as O’connor is wont to do.   However, to repeat, it seems to be coming from a place of concern and kindness.

Miley responded by making fun of O’Connor’s mental illness, comparing her to Amanda Bynes.  Then there was some back and forth where neither of them looked good, but the last word is that O’Connor is stepping back and being the adult here in recent interviews.

I just want to point out the difference between these two artists.  O’Connor certainly has had her share of controversial actions.  However, O’Connor was trying to use her public image as an activist.   Whether she was effective or not is a question we can go on all day–but in the end, I believe that O’Connor’s statements and actions come from a sincere place, even when they don’t play out so well.

Cyrus, on the other hand, does not seem to think at all.   She is acting out.  The thing that makes me feel a little bit sad about her, even though she’s acting like a brat, is that I don’t think she’s in on the joke.  I think she perceives herself as acting hip and edgy, when she comes off as desperate and trying too hard.    The reason I think it’s sad is because I don’t think she can be sincere if she tried–I think she only works on external validation, and there’s not a self below that to express anything.

Also, I bet you that Miley Cyrus rips up a picture of Sinead O’Connor tonight on Saturday Night Live.  (Unless there’s a lawsuit possibility.)

2.  Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2:  After all that Miley Talk, we get a movie that I have very little to say about.   It looks like a very mainstream family movie.  It doesn’t look particularly funny or clever, but it’s also not something that looks annoying either.   Huh.  *Shrug*

3.  Stephen King:  Doctor Sleep:  Wow, I haven’t really thought of a current Stephen King release since I was a teenager.   He just has slowly lost relevance over the years, particularly for a period where it seemed like he was rewriting is old works.   He’s still busy, and I’m sure he still has a fanbase, but he seemed to have peaked around The Green Mile and then lost his way somewhere.   Doctor Sleep while having a pretty stupid title (is that supposed to be scary?  It’s not.) sounds like a horrible idea, but then it’s not so horrible after all.

Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining.  Yes, when I heard this I was ready for this to be awful too.  After all King has done sequels before and they haven’t always turned out so well.  On top of it, The Shining is arguably King’s most notable work.  Also, I didn’t finish that book thinking “gee, I wonder what happens next?”  it just seemed like the story was closed.

While normally I don’t base my reading choices on reviews, this was a special situation.  I did not want to bother with it if  bad Stephen King was there, but if good Stephen King showed up, then maybe…?   And the reviews are solid.  And the book is not bad–it certainly seems like King has seriously thought about the plot and characters here, which has been questionable for a while on his part.

Ok, America.  Sequels that aren’t sequels seems to be your theme this week.  So I’m going to rename my apartment America 2 and I know it will be popular.