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Showing posts from November, 2010

Child Soldiers

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An Amnesty International poster taken from this blog posting at One Tiny Starfish about child soldiers, war, and the cost of ignorance.

Our Saturday in Photos--11/27/2010

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Muffin jumped up to sit with Allie, the first time we've seen her do that. Allie doesn't look too thrilled, does she?

[Yes, I'm weird. Even though we don't "do" the whole believe in Santa thing at our house, we still go for the visit and photo at the mall.]

Decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus at the mall.

Waiting in line to see Santa.

Part of the booklet Maya made to give Santa.

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian

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Mark Mustian's The Gendarme (2010) is a fictional tale of a very real event, the forced deportation of Armenians from Turkey during World War I. (The Greeks, also a Christian minority, had the same kind of experience in Turkey during the period, though this book focuses on the Armenian story.)
Just finding a reason to look more into the historical period, which is something I did, makes this difficult book worth reading. I say "difficult" not because of reading level, but because of subject matter and perspective, for the hero of the book is a Turkish gendarme (or guard). This isn't unlike writing a book where you attempt to make a Nazi SS camp guard the hero.
And I'd say Mustian's results are as uneven as I'd expect.
Emmett Conn is a now-American, age 92, and suffering from a brain tumor. Conveniently, because of a head trauma experienced during WWI, he actually didn't remember his life as Ahmet Khan, Turkish gendarme, before the brain tumor. (I'll …

Faster

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Herb and I enjoyed seeing Faster for our Thanksgiving movie selection this year. Our original plan was Tangled, until Maya headed to my sister's house in Iowa with my mom for the holiday. Maya happens to love Dwayne Johnson (I think it's his smile), but she doesn't need to see all the violence/killing.

Although not even close to being the best action movie I've ever seen, Faster was a pleasant way to spend 98 minutes. I certainly wouldn't give it the D+ the reviewer in our local paper did--maybe a B-. Herb thought it could have used more actual action/killing scenes, and I'll defer to his opinion since action is much more his genre than mine.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays the most annoying hitman ever put in a movie. Seriously. I spent every scene including his character wishing someone would just kill him. Total waste of film. Herb thinks they included him to give the women something pretty to watch. Um, hullo? What woman would choose that annoying kid over The Roc…

Happy Thanksgiving

"We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning." ~~Albert Barnes "Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy." ~~Fred De Witt Van Amburgh "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." ~~Epictetus "I remember those happy days and often wish I could speak into the ears of the dead the gratitude which was due to them in life and so ill-returned." ~~Gwyn Thomas "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~~Melody Beattie "As w…

This and That

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With Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner, don't forget about Small Business Saturday. Yes, in the United States, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is now a day to encourage shoppers to support the small businesses in their community. One statistic I read said that 65% of money spent at a local small business actually stays in your community.

Maya and I spent a little time supporting two of our local businesses, located in Lincoln's Historic Haymarket, this past Sunday. You can see her enjoying some cookie dough ice cream from Ivanna Cone, where kids under 10 get a (huge) scoop of ice cream for $1, tax included. Wow! We also had dinner at my favorite restaurant, Vincenzo's.

I'm sure I can find a business--or two or three--for us to visit on Saturday, too!

Everyone seems to be having their Best Books of 2010 lists up and running. Are you compiling a list of your favorite reads for the year yet? If so, I'd love to see a link to your blog.

A couple of inter…

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

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I have a strong attraction to castles--in the abstract, anyway, though I'm sure I wouldn't be so enamored with trying to keep one afloat unless I had the resources for a huge staff and plenty of modernization--which caused the cover of Kate Morton's The Distant Hours (2010) to call out to me.

Synopsis:

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WW II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of t…

Things I Believe to be True about Love Relationships

I actually love making and reading lists, and I haven't done one in a long time for a blog posting.

Here are some random things I believe to be true about love relationships:

1. I don't believe that there's only, or necessarily even, One True Love for each person.

2. Giving your future wife your mother's engagement ring when your parents' marriage ended in divorce is the wrong way to start your life together.

3. Respecting each other's interests and hobbies is more important than actually sharing them.

4. If s/he isn't faithful before a marriage/"permanent" commitment, it's only going to get worse afterwards.

5. Getting a tattoo with a spouse/significant other's name is a death knell for the relationship.

6. Romantic love is over-rated in Western society. Other kinds of love are often undervalued.

7. Someone who can make you laugh, especially when you're angry or frustrated, is worth keeping around.

8. Children are indescribably hard…

Jane by April Lindner

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I'm not usually a fan of reimaginings of the classics, especially those I actually appreciated reading, but April Lindner manages to make Jane (2010) a very engaging modern take on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

Jane Moore, age nineteen, needs a nanny job because her parents' death leaves her unable to afford the tuition at Sarah Lawrence. Her older brother and sister are, at best, simply horrid, and she's alone in the world.

In his own way, her new employer, legendary rock musician Nico Rathburn, is also alone in the world--alone, yet covered with responsibilities.

You can certainly see the appeal of an intelligent, quiet, unassuming girl for a rock star with serious personal issues, as well as the appeal of the mysterious, brooding bad boy for the girl. They have definite chemistry, and they complement each other.

From Kindle location 1060-1068

[Jane to Nico] "What's your single trait?"

"It's changed over the years. I started out"--he sna…

Who is that Dog?

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Yesterday marked Muffin's first grooming session since we brought her home. She looks like a completely different dog now!

I won't have them go so short on her facial hair next time. She's still cute, just not so stuffed animal cute right now. :)

Life by Keith Richards

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Love the cover photo from Life by Keith Richards. And, I admit, from not being a Rolling Stones fan and being on the young side to actually remember when they were on the charts, that's the image I went into Life with as being Richards.

From reading the book, he's actually very charming, interesting, and (dare I say it?) sexy. I always rather thought he made more sense as the "sex god" for the group than Mick Jagger, and this book seems to confirm that.

Speaking of Sir Mick, I can only guess he can't be too thrilled with the way he comes across in this book. In one word: narcissistic. Really, though, he isn't present in as much of the book as I expected.

This is truly Keith Richards' life story from his own perspective. You really feel like he's chatting away with you, the reader, sharing the good, the bad, and the random.

I did get a little overwhelmed with some of the sections on drugs/stupid behavior, but I guess that adds to the overall feeling…

This and That

Maya's happy snow dance on Friday evening, as the flakes fell, helped enough to provide just a frosting of snow for us on Saturday morning. She spent about an hour playing in the snow, brushing off my car, shoveling the grass (only city girls--the sidewalk and driveway were clear, so she had to find something to shovel!), and making a little snowman, and then everything melted later in the day. That's my kind of snow, instead of the kind that stays for weeks and weeks, turning black with dirt and grime in the process.

I'm learning a lot with a Shih tzu in the family. Muffin, aka Little Miss Sunshine, is absolutely undeterred by any kind of scolding. When she's getting a firm lecture about her misbehavior, she just flaps her plush tail, seeming to say, "I'm cute and fluffy, and you know it, so just get over yourself."

Allie, our Rottweiler, would also add that Muffin is either dumb as a rock or likes to listen to herself yap because Muffin barks at my mo…

Book Cover Rant

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The above cover is for Whatever You Like by Maureen Smith (2010). Interesting cover, eye-catching, good choice for a romance novel with very frequent, very graphic sex scenes.

Should be a good fit for the story then, right?

Let me ask you something. How would you describe the race/ethnicity of the characters displayed on this cover? Would you say the man looks like an even "finer" twin of Idris Elba?


[This is Idris Elba, for those of you who may not have heard of the actor before.]

No, I didn't think so. This book is a love story between two African-Americans living in Chicago, not two white Americans living in Chicago.

File this under--1) Isn't this 2010 and way beyond a time where you need to, literally, white-wash characters to attract readers? 2) Shouldn't authors have the authority to at least veto, if not choose, the covers for their books instead of that falling into the hands of the publishers in the case of all but the most successful (meaning, well…

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

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I actually read Stolen by Lucy Christopher (2010) last month, and I couldn't quite get my mind around what I wanted to write in the blog posting because the ending bothers me. Usually, if I don't like an ending, I don't care for the book, no matter how much the earlier portions may have appealed. In this case, it isn't so much dislike for the ending as wanting something different.

Gemma is a sixteen-year-old drugged and abducted from Bangkok Airport while on a stopover for a trip with her parents to Vietnam. Her abductor, Ty, is a stalker, obsessed with the unaware Gemma for six years, who takes her to the isolated Australian Outback. (Yes, it bothers me that he first became interested in her when she was ten.)

Written as a journal or really long letter from Gemma to Ty, we go through the full range of emotions along with Gemma--terror, the need to survive and escape, and a form of pity and almost identification with Ty. For Ty isn't entirely incorrect in think…

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Penelope Trunk's blog posting today is about the biggest lie we tell ourselves. According to her, "The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that meditating is not a high priority."

That wasn't quite what I expected to read.

I have two nominations for the biggest lie we tell ourselves. (I'm seemingly incapable of limiting myself to one of anything. I have two favorite colors, numerous favorite books and movies, two favorite holidays, two favorite numbers, etc. Why start limiting now?)

The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we have time later to do x, y, z. No one really knows how much time s/he has, and I think we're incapable of truly putting our minds around the idea of our own mortality--or that of those we love.

The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that whatever we really want to do is somehow okay, even if we've judged others harshly for the same decisions and actions in the past. For example, someone might denounce adultery to the winds until such t…

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

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When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires. (It's three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will.)

They don't want to know that you'll never again eat birthday cake because you don't want to erase the magical taste of the frosting on his lips. That you wake up every day wondering why you got to live and he didn't. That on the first afternoon of your first real vacation, you sit in front of the ocean, face hot under the giant sun, willing him to give you a sign that he's okay.


So reads the back of the rather fliply titled Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (2010). Rather than being about the bet between best friends Anna and Fra…

Red

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My husband and I went to see Red, a movie with an all-star cast, including Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich. Although not one of my all-time favorite movies, I did enjoy the combination of comedy, action, and a little bit of romance. We were entertained, and that's good enough.

My favorite part? [This is at the beginning and not a spoiler.] Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) develops a crush on a woman (Mary-Louise Parker) he only knows from talking to her on the phone. He goes so far as to ask her what she's reading, and then he goes to read the same books. And we're talking, these are supposed to be Harlequins, though they don't use the brand name in the movie. Sniff. Isn't that romantic?

I gave my husband a significant look, and he leaned over to whisper, "Yeah, but how many times did he sit through that stupid miniseries [Pride & Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth]?" Hmmm--point taken.

A Good Fall by Ha Jin

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Maybe my expectations were too high because I enjoyed his collection of stories in The Bridegroom so much, but Ha Jin's A Good Fall (2009) sorely disappointed.

A Good Fall contains stories about Chinese immigrants making their way in the United States. I'd love to tell you about my favorite of the stories, but I really didn't find even one that I gave more than an "okay." I even started to fall asleep while reading, which never happens to me.

Jin's tales set in China seem, at least to me, to have more insight and passion than these stories set in the U.S. These characters aren't going to stay in my mind, and I don't really care what happened to them either before or after the brief slice of life portrayed within each story.

My overall personal rating of A Good Fall is a C.

Damon Salvatore

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Today's eye candy selection is Damon Salvatore, as played by Ian Somerhalder in the t.v. series The Vampire Diaries, in honor of my daughter, Maya, who has rooted for Elena to choose Damon over his brother Stefan since the show started.

Our conversation after work and school yesterday:

Me: "It's Thursday, and you know what that means."
Maya: "Vampire Diaries. . . . Mom, I think maybe Elena should pick Stefan because he's more nicer."
Me: "You're right; he is much nicer, and that's really important in a boyfriend."

Flash to an emotional scene in last night's episode where Damon tells Elena something really important. You know what I mean if you saw the episode.

Maya: "Damon's so cute. Maybe Elena can just move to their house, and they can both be her boyfriends."

Out of the mouths of innocent babes. . . .

Please vote in my new poll.

Andrew

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Happy 22nd birthday to my wonderful nephew, the first child I loved and spent a lot of time around.

Andrew, I love you forever plus a day.

The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson

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ForThe Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson (2010), I would reverse the order of the words love and Islam in the book title because this memoir is really the story of Wilson's journey of self-discovery and immersion in the Muslim world.

After coming from a non-religious family background, Wilson becomes Muslim. She even moves to Cairo to teach in order to experience living in a Muslim country. While in Egypt, she meets and marries Omar, a Sufi Muslim, and becomes a part of his close-knit family. She also learns Arabic, adopts hijab (the headscarf), and makes a visit by herself to Iran.

Despite Wilson's brief slam to Great Plains cities, like mine, that aren't Boulder (Boulder as wonderful?? Seriously??), I'm going to credit her with a decent awareness of her surroundings and the ability to report her personal experience in an interesting, engaging manner. Do I think she's an authority on Islam, conversion,…

James Purefoy

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I hope words aren't really necessary because he leaves me speechless. . . .

Alexander Siddig

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Continuing with the eye candy theme for the week, I dragged my best friend to see a little gem of a movie, Cairo Time, on Saturday.

Just by coincidence, this movie also features one of my all-time favorite on-screen kiss scenes. The movie trailer here includes the kiss, but the impact isn't the same as while watching the actual movie. (I'd actually skip the trailer if you want to see the movie--definitely TMI.)

Patricia Clarkson plays a woman traveling to Cairo for three weeks to visit her UN husband. When he gets delayed in Gaza, his friend (Alexander Siddiq) meets her at the airport and eventually shows her Cairo. (What kind of a man intelligent enough for an important UN job sends someone like that to keep his wife company? Talk about asking for trouble. . . .)

Although we don't get much of a back story, the overall impression is one of a married couple leading completely separate lives. The children are now grown (son's on his honeymoon; daughter's seeking a…

Richard Armitage

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Please participate in my new blog poll.

Okay, I admit it. I had no idea who Richard Armitage was, and I finally Binged (like Googled) him after reading at least my third blog posting from a blogger who wanted to "marry him and have lots of sex and babies" (to steal a Rickman line from Love, Actually).

Looking through the photos, I wasn't really seeing anything to generate that level of interest. Then I started looking through the scenes from North & South on YouTube.

Please click here to see the final scene of North & South, set in a train station. This is one of my all-time favorite on-screen kisses, and now I see why Richard Armitage is worthy of a serious eye candy rating.