Monday, September 19, 2011

one sentence book reviews: catching up on the 25 book challenge (17 down, 8 to go)

ROOM, Emma Donoghue
Don't read if you don't like baby talk -- someday I'll learn that just because something's a best seller doesn't mean it's good.

Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott
I love me some Anne Lamott, and this is a beautiful picture of what it means to be a family figuring out adolescence. This is the kind of book that makes you feel like the characters are still off somewhere living their lives after you finish reading. Crap, that was two sentence. Now three! Curses.

Cracking Creativity, Michael Michalko
For a book on creativity, it sure is boring.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
A good young adult book about a nerdy, skinny Native American kid trying to leave behind but still respect where he comes from, but not one that translates very well to adult reading.

Electric God, Catherine Ryan Hyde
I enjoyed this book, but I think it says something that I can't remember what it was about two months after the finishing it.

Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, Dan Hotchkiss
Man, I hate reading books like this, but as a necessary evil, there were some good tips on stuff they never teach you in seminary.

Push, Sapphire
So unflinching, a story of hope and resilience and the power of being given a voice.

Jim and Casper Go to Church, Jim Henderson
A Christian and an atheist go church-hopping, and the atheist gives an objective opinion of what church looks like to an outsider with little church experience. (Should be called Jim and Caspar go to Big Churches though, I was like "let's get some love for the little churches!!) (Parenthetical remarks don't count as sentences) (in case you were wondering)

Listening is an Act of Love, Dave Isay, editor
So. GREAT. (emphatic use of periods also don't count as sentences). Basically a book of true stories recorded all over the country, spanning 9/11, family illnesses, love stories, general amazingness.

Like Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Another entertaining novel that I don't really remember

A Pale View of the Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro
See above

Love in the Present Day, Catherine Ryan Hyde
(Apparently I was on a Catherine Ryan Hyde kick). THIS one I remember, the story of a 20 something guy who ends up having to take in a 5 year old boy when his mother disappears.

Home Town, Tracy Kidder
(I debated counting this, because it was my "bathroom book," meaning I only read it in the bathroom --is that TMI? -- so it took me over a year to read it. But I finished it in 2011). I love the way Tracy Kidder sinks into the atmosphere he's writing about (in this case small town New England) and I especially loved the people he brought to life: the cop tied with tight strands to his home town, his troubled, abusive friend, the rich man with crippling anxiety, the single mom struggling in the upper class world of Smith College.

So there we are. All caught up and back in business. What are you reading?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Three Things You Should Definitely Do in Charlottesville VA

Last week for a part of my vacation I went to visit some friends in Charlottesville, VA, totally missing Hurricane Irene.It rained a little on Saturday, but Sunday, the day folks back in Boston were "hunkering down" (if I had a dollar for every time a newscaster said some version of "hunkering down" in the days leading up to Irene, I would not need a face painting career)

Go to The Flat
The Flat is my friend Lauren's lovely little "takeaway creperie."  I lived with Lauren for two years and she's very good at making yummy things, but she is especially good at making crepes. She uses a lot of fresh, natural ingredients, and my personal favorites were the "Babe in the Woods" (local, woods-raised sausage, Chev and cheddar cheese, spinach, and onions) and the "Sexy Cheesemonger" (full disclosure: I did not try the Sexy Cheesemonger. But isn't that a great name?) If you can't get there, like them on facebook. It'll be almost the same thing.

Get coffee and see a band at Rapunzel's
 This little coffee shop/book store/entertainment venue is in Lovingston, VA. Here's the thing. Lovingston is like an hour outside of Charlottesville. Totally tiny town. Totally in the middle of nowhere. But yet there's this funky little spot with great coffee and an even greater atmosphere. My friends and I saw We Are Star Children, and the crowd there was a crazy mix of older people, goth teenagers, hippies, and kids. Awesome.

Experience The Waltons Mountain Museum
Of the "classic" TV shows my parents DVR and never watch, The Waltons is my favorite. The show always managed to keep a good balance between the weekly angst and hardship of Little House on the Prarie, and the aw, shucks wacky hijinks of Andy Griffith or Leave to Beaver (could anyone else not stand that Andy and Ward were ALWAYS right? I mean, could Aunt Bea or June have their day? I'm just sayin') Also, I  had a little crush on Jason, with his high waisted pants and his earnest piano playing and guitaring.


Anyway, The Walton's Mountain Museum is in an old elementary school in Schuyler, VA. Two older women sit inside at a round table and shuffle over when you show up to collect your name and your $8.00. Some of the highlights of the museum:
  • Taking your photo with Ike and Corabeth cutouts at the general store
  • Measuring yourself against all the Waltons (I'm shorter than Jason -- phew!)
  • Seeing a real, locally confiscated recipe machine (recipe=moonshine, obvi)
  • Experiencing just how much Waltons paraphenelia there is in the world (John Boy and Mary Ellen paper dolls, anyone?)
  • Appreciating Earl Hamner for the prolific writer he was. Earl Hamner wrote the Waltons based on his own life (he was John Boy), but he also wrote the film story for Charlotte's Web, the TV movies of Heidi and Lassie, episodes of The Wild Thornberrys, as well as the decidedly less family friendly fare of The Long Hot Summer.
In conclusion: Eat Crepes. Drink Coffee. See Jason.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

8 things I do in my car with my broken radio

About 6 months ago, my radio died. The CD that was in the CD player (a podcast, which is entertaining but doesn't stand up to multiple listening) wouldn't come out. The radio, which was on a soft rock/adult contemporary station (Magic 106.7), wouldn't change stations. As a result I've spent a lot of time in my car, listening to soft rock or sitting in silence.

1. actually listen to Magic 106.7. This has mixed results. There are songs that Magic 106.7 loves to play, and I have grown to hate those songs (if I ever liked them. If they were songs I hated already, now they make me shake with rage -- what's that song about someone being your crying shoulder and love's suicide. OH. MY. GOSH. That song burns my brain). The other day Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" came on and I almost cried, I was so happy to hear something that I actually liked.

2. gripe about all the songs that Magic could play, but doesn't. Soft rock, right (what does soft rock even MEAN)? Adult contemporary? Easy listening? Why don't they ever play folk? That would fit into that category. There are a million Sarah McLachlan songs they could play but they only "Angel." What about all the other Tracy Chapman songs?

3. make up stories. Someday I'm going to pay my way through a doctorate by writing a series of novels about a single female pastor in the city, all the terrible dates she goes on, and all the quirky experiences she has with her church. I use my time in the car to think up how I can change my real life stories to make them unrecognizable, or making up fake stories.

4. organize my life. Grocery lists, plans for how I'm going to start cleaning my apartment more often, in a structured way. Of course, these organizational plans don't usually come out of my car, but at least I think them.

5. call people who don't pick up the phone. The problem with being a pastor is that I'm driving around when other people are working. So I want to talk on the phone to amuse myself, and if my friends do pick up the phone, they're not likely wanting to chat. They are more likely to say, "What? I'm working."

6. sing to myself, usually show tunes. I can get very animated doing this. "Tell them how IIIIII'MMMMM deFYing GRAAAAvity!"

7. think about what might be playing on NPR. Sometimes this makes me sad, sometimes it makes me happy. Magic has almost no talk, and sometimes I want the latest news or weather.  But sometimes I think, "if this was NPR, they'd be talking drearily about the economy again." I'm ok with avoiding that.*

8. plan my face painting career. A early in June we had a children's singer come to our church who usually charges $400 for an HOUR's worth of entertainment. He was entertaining, but not so entertaining that I would ever pay him $400. But someone does, so he's clearly doing something right. So I got to thinking about what I could do in one hour that would earn a lot of money. Legally, of course. I came up with face painting, but if you have other ideas, pass 'em on.

*UPDATE: since composing this post my radio had a moment where all the buttons worked. I took that moment to change the station to NPR, drearily talking about the economy (except for a few days ago when they were talking to a guy who wrote a whole book on bananas. Weird!) Also I got a radio for my birthday that has yet to be installed. So things are looking up.