Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Reading

Ah...summer reading. Thinking of light hearted paperback reads? Ha. Well, apparently I have missed the memo entirely on what is appropriate summer reading. I will just blame it on grad school. I put off reading things I have wanted to read because of grad school, so the summer is when I do my "for myself reading." Don't judge, but these are two books I would recommend, though I must emphasize, not for any fun, or escape value. If you are looking for something to get your mind off anything of a serious nature, these books are most certainly NOT recommended.

I started my summer off with The Kite Runner. I really felt like The Kite Runner had an amazing story of confronting the awful things we do, trying to reconcile and sometimes hide from them, and finally reaching redemption and confronting the costs of our decisions. The hope of love, amidst the most awful of circumstances, was illustrated vividly in this well written story. Most people I have talked to really have liked the book, but be warned, it deals with some hard story lines and some intense violence. It is set in Afghanistan beginning with the Soviet take over. It follows the story of a wealthy boy, and his boyhood friend through a moment that alters their lives and friendship. I was riveted and could not put it down. I felt the book was beautifully and simply written.

I just finished Massacre At Mountain Meadows, and lets just say, this book makes The Kite Runner seem almost cheery. I mean no disrespect to the awful events in The Kite Runner, but at least there is a sense of hope in the power of love and redemption at the end of The Kite Runner. Massacre At Mountain Meadows just made me wonder exactly how much evil lies in each human heart. I am sure most are aware of the basic events of the horrific story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I, however, somehow have never taken the time to learn the details of what happened and was horrified at the atrocity that occurred. The book is wonderfully researched and written and tells a very clear and gripping story. I was riveted by this book. I haven't read anything else on the Mountain Meadows Massacre to compare it to, but I felt the book was fair and balanced and painted a clear picture of what was happening in Utah at the time of the event. The authors really tried to explain the actions of the leaders in Southern Utah, and how the massacre was eventually carried out. It is very informative. However, despite the explanations of what was happening with the Utah War, society, mindsets of the time, etc., etc., I was left with the most sickening feeling in my soul about what evil must rest in each individual heart if allowed to be manifest. The authors really tried to explain how such mass violence occurs, and tried to explain the context, but at the end of the day, a group of men methodically masterminded the deception of emigrant men, women, and children and massacred them with their own hands, and the hands of ill-fated Native Americans. I was, and am more than ever, unsettled at how this happened. The book did not answer that question, and I am afraid no book ever can. But it was VERY informative, well written, and--I felt--balanced in the treatment of something so horrific I can't even comprehend it.

So, hopefully your summer reading is much more cheery, but I do recommend both of my summer reads thus far!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Love

Things that go through my brain read a lot like news briefs from the radio these days. Wonder why? Ha, ha, ha. I have listened to a lot of NPR, it is true. I feel very informed, adequately alarmed, and cautiously hopeful for the future because of my news listening. And I like to pass on interesting things you may not hear other places.

Okay, this is why I love people. Since 1929, a giant red light has flashed on the Pittsburgh's skyline and spells out the name of the city. On July 4th, Tom Stepleton was watching fireworks with friends and realized there was a K in the morse code. It was not just an errant K...the spelling of Pittsburgh had become Pitetsbkrrh. On Monday, the name had become Tpebtsaurgh. They say the code still runs on 1930's technology. So, I'm thinking it is time for an upgrade.
NPR link: (there are You Tube videos of the blinking lights...and yes, I watched them)
I love this because a) Pittsburgh actually has a red light spelling out the city name, and b) someone actually knew what a K looked like in morse code.

[On the flip side...I don't love tourists and escalators. I thought maybe it was just a DC thing. Nope. It extends to all corners of the country.]

Other things I love this summer.
Convenience Stores. Yes, I love them. I am going to chalk it up to my drive across the country. But where else can you find only junk food, soda as far as the eye can see, snacks, and very interesting people? I find I feel compelled to stop at them now...even though my trips have not exceeded 2 hours one way thus far into my summer.

Almond Joys. This is linked to the above. When my dad shared an Almond Joy with me over the weekend, I forgot how tasty they were! AND he informed me they sell cookie versions of them. Though generally only at convenience stores. Thus, the conversation about c-stores. (And no, I have not found the cookie version yet, but I am actively looking).

21 Guns. The song (hence the italics), not actual guns. I ignore the blatant anti-war message [I will post about my views on our war(s) later...**]. I personalize the message to my own, personal, life. It speaks to me in a very bizarre way. A few songs have done so in the recent past...Viva la Vida, for example. 21 Guns is a bit depressing, so I won't quote any lines here. But, it is what it is.

Chex Mix. The kind you buy (I would never be ambitious enough to make it...). It is so good and has a much better zip than my old love, Goldfish. And I just realized a lot of my loves revolve around food. I promise I do not weigh 500 pounds yet...

**I am not pro-war (like I think war is an answer), but I am also not pro what Green Day is saying about war. I have other opinions I will share later, I am sure.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Soap Box For The Day

I am sorry, but I just have to say it. $1.4 million for a funeral?!! Are you even kidding me with that? And from a state that is in such an economic mess that they had to issue IOU's to people! IOU's! I understand that Michael Jackson was a great musician. I really do and I appreciate his music and legacy to the musical industry. I value the creative process. I value the arts. Good job. But really? Coverage and tributes 24/7. We are fighting two wars, Iran and western China are in a bit of chaos, North Korea is lead by crazy town with nuclear capabilities, but please, lets focus on Michael Jackson every second of the day. My grandma was reduced to watching a dog show on tv because there was nothing but Michael Jackson coverage (and that was before his funeral/tribute)! I too like to escape this crazy time we are in, I really do. But consider this. We (myself included, don't you worry) love to hate Bush for the way America is viewed around the world. But $1.4 million for a musician's funeral. Could the rest of the world possibly dislike us for other reasons? And it is no wonder California is millions of dollars in debt.
[I am not supporting Bush, by the way, with the above comment. No worries, I could provide another post about Bush and how I feel about him. But I won't.]

Okay, I'm done. Sorry. I tried to refrain. But for me, someone who is just trying to make it through grad school, watching her family struggle in living honest, decent, good lives while trying to raise a kid, run a farm, and pursue their own creative ventures, it is just crazy to see the focus we give to music/sports/movie stars. How about a little attention to those giving their lives for our country, working to find cures for diseases, or participating in causes to help out the human race in very personal and real ways? I is a soap box.

And understand that I do think Jackson deserves tribute and more than normal recognition. The bottom line is the over the topness of it all. But the media does overkill really well. I will always, in the end, blame it on the media! Ha... I won't even get started on Sarah Palin. Overkill. Okay, I'll just say one thing. She needs to disappear and quit talking. I am bound to never vote Republican again if they use her as their poster candidate. If she would just stop whining about being picked on! What did she expect?!!