Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Monk Readalong Announcement & Schedule Page

It's not very good! We've been threatening to read it for years! Here it is. October, 2015. It's Matthew Lewis's The Monk Readalong Time.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS RIGHT NOW, for I have the readalong schedule, and chapters 1 and 2 are to be done on the FIRST of October. That's right, we're posting on Thursdays this year, so when you've forgotten to do the reading over the weekend, you still have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get it done. What a relief. How great. Good planning, Alice.

October 1st Vol. I Chapters 1-2
October 8th  Vol. I Chapters 3, Vol. II Chapters 1-2
October 15th Vol II, ch. 3-4
October 22nd Vol. III ch. 1-3
October 29th Vol III, ch. 4-5

The free edition for Kindle has it broken up into volumes (we're reading a three volume novel, just like in Oscar Wilde!), so if you have some weirdo different edition, let me know and I'll figure out what you're supposed to be reading. LINK UP BELOW, you know the drill. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Hard to Finish Books, Y'Know?

lana parrilla typing

It's the last day of August, so let's look at what I've been reading and not finishing for the last couple months:

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans 
This is what I'm currently devoting the most time to, and I'm pretty into it. I can tell you about some major shit that went down in New Orleans at the turn of the century. Also there were prostitutes. A whole lotta prostitutes.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I've never been interested in the movie, or Hunter S. Thompson in general, but y'know, he invented gonzo journalism, and since that is my JAM, gotta thank him for it. Also I'm fascinated by how very many drugs he can pump into his system in this book and still not die.

The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture
Lesbians as ghosts! Only usually not literally! Terry Castle makes some pretty good points about how our culture "ghosts" lesbians because they don't quite get how that whole thing works, so it probably doesn't actually exist.

It's that book that Alley recommended! Maybe I didn't remember her summary enough, but I also didn't get that "inspired by the life of Margaret Mead" basically meant "I am writing Margaret Mead fan fiction," which I SUPPORT, but maybe you should publish it in the Margaret Mead section of ao3 or fanfiction.net. Because I would find that hilarious.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Remember how I super-like anthropology? WELL HERE WE ARE. Sapiens is pretty ambitious, but the pages are printed on shiny paper and there're lots of color pictures and that's all I really need in a book, TBH.

josie and the pussycats alan cumming smiling

Friday, August 28, 2015

Archaeology, Murder, and Giant Ground Sloths: Why am I not reading about these things?

There are subjects I tend to read books about, and then others I am VERY INTERESTED IN that I don't. This isn't on purpose; I've just realized it's the case. So here're a few:

1. TRUE CRIME all the true crime. I grew up with a mother who doesn't like detective novels, but loves true crime. I skimmed books on the Night Stalker on road trips, and am extremely well-versed in shows like City Confidential, Forensic Files, and American Justice. I also know way too much about serial killers, possibly because young females are the primary target, so if you learn about them you can avoid them. Maybe. If you try hard. But probably not.

2. GIANT MAMMALS OF THE PAST. Maybe there hasn't been a good book about them? I never really had a dinosaur phase (aside from my eternal and undying love for Jurassic Park) but I love giant mammals of the past. Also birds. And snakes. Ok, basically anything that isn't a dinosaur.


3. ARCHAEOLOGY. If you're not Jenny from Reading the End, who endures me sending her basically daily articles on stuff someone dug up, please now know that I love the shit out of archaeology. Our past is buried in the ground!! Let's dig it up! What's down there! I don't know! I think I'm not reading books on it partially because I'm more into articles that're like "Look what someone found in a medieval garbage pit!" and then there're pictures of the things.

These all seem like solid book topics. There're probably some bangin' books about all of them, and the reason I even thought of this post was because I saw the book Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood and was like

I just wanted you all to know that even though I don't post about books on these topics IRL I talk about them a fair amount. Except for the archaeology one. I don't talk about that much. I'm also really interested in anthropology, but I post a lot about Neanderthals on here, so I figure that one's more obvious. 

In conclusion, I am totally going to read that Tinseltown book. And hopefully it somehow involves them digging stuff up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman: Mysteries! Also, I love Now and Then.

Give me all the books about Mysterious People With Mysterious Pasts, please. Especially if someone has died and there are DARK SECRETS AFOOT. Have I made it clear how much I love dark secrets? Maybe not. Well, it's a lot. I love them a lot. All the dark secrets, please.

I was sent this book with the understanding I'd review it, this did not impact my review except for the fact I wrote it, etc etc.

Every Secret Thing is about two 11 year old girls who commit murder. OR DO THEY. Oh, and big big warning for those of you who can't handle that sort of thing: the person who dies is a baby. But was it negligence? Pity? SOME OTHER REASON? This totally gets answered and I was pretty satisfied with it. It was a nice little mystery book. Albeit with the whole dead non-adult part in it, but that's not delved into too much, y'know? 

I looked up a lot about the Slender Man stabbings while reading this, and then got into a few discussions about whether it's ok to try juveniles as adults for particularly heinous crimes. I don't know! If I were still judged by how I was as an 11-year-old, that'd be pretty damn terrible. But I also never murdered anybody. I just crushed a robin's egg against my brother's skateboard ramp, an act I STILL REGRET TO THIS DAY. 

I was also reminded of Heavenly Creatures with this book, despite a ton of dissimilarities, mainly because it's two adolescent girls and they do a Thing. (but whyyyy do they do it -- ooh, you should read the book) Two adolescent girls don't star in things often is my point! Think about it. When has that happened? Now and Then if you expand it to four girls, and yeah, that's a good movie. A great movie. One of the defining movies of the mid-'80s girls generation's childhood, you might say (and I do). But how often does something as truly amazing as Now and Then come along.

(I just found an article called 30 Reasons Now and Then Was a Defining Movie for Girls; I'm not saying that I'm right, I'm just saying that I'm really really right)

Since Every Secret Thing is pretty much a quick mystery read, I'd maybe see the movie instead, although I haven't seen it yet, so maybe it completely strays from the book, who knows. But the cast is a wacky mix of actresses, and I'm interested to see The Runaways' Dakota Fanning in scenes with Must Love Dogs' Diane Lane. And I'll bet they do the The Mystery Is Now Solved scene really well. With like, dramatic music and stuff in the background. And maybe one of the characters freaking out in a way that actor worked really hard on. WE SHALL SEE. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Straight Outta Compton: How much am I allowed to like this and the music it contains?

On Friday, I went to visit my parents/see my nieces/spend time with my little brother. Said little brother and I went to the movies, 'cause that's one of the only things there is to do in my hometown. When we got there, there was a quick debate about what movie to see.

"Let's see Vacation."
"I already saw that, and it's got a 27% on RottenTomatoes."
"Oh. Then...Ricki and the Flash?"
"Aliiiice, let's see The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I already saw that too and it's hilarious."
"We're not seeing a movie you've already seen. We are going to watch Meryl Streep as an aging rock lady, or whatever that movie's about."
"Let's just see Vacation."
"You said you've already seen it AND it has 27%!"

So we bought tickets for Ricki and the Flash, and then the second our tickets were torn, I saw that the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton was playing in the theater next door at the same time, annnd we ended up seeing that. So. I apologize, filmmakers, for my money going to help Meryl Streep's career when she doesn't need it at all, but we really didn't know until we headed into the theater. Little Brother didn't even want to see it, because he said the trailer was "stupid," but I said it was probs gonna be more culturally enriching than Ricki and the Flash.

I got conflicting FEELINGS about this movie. Meaning I thought it was pretty well done (some of the actors felt cast more for resemblance than talent), but it glossed over the more problematic parts of N.W.A., so it pretty much solely made them look like heroes. Which they have a right to do! It's Ice Cube & Dr. Dre's movie, and it's about them, so they can do what they want. Also it was already a 2 hour 15 minute (+ previews) biopic, so....maybe we didn't need more. But the SECOND the movie was over, I turned to my brother and said ".....do you want to listen to NWA on the way home?" And yes, yes he did. And while their music is fan-damn-tastic, it's also reeeeeeeeeally derogatory towards women.

So I spent the weekend listening to N.W.A., Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg, and kind of...ignoring the fact that women are completely and totally objectified in all their music, meaning legit treated like objects and Less Thans, and I want to ignore it by being like "Well, that was the world in which they grew up," but that can't be true, because the movie shows Dr. Dre's mom, and she seemed pretty kickass. So. Hm.

There's also the whole thing about white privilege and HOW ridiculous is it for me as an Ann Taylor-wearing 30-year-old white girl to be listening to N.W.A. on the morning commute to my office. IT FEELS SUPREMELY NOT ALLOWED. Like "Look at me, co-opting the parts of a culture that I want to while not doing anything to help the South Side. SHOULD I help the South Side?? Is that patronizing? Maybe! Ahhhhh!"

If we skip over these questions and focus once more on the movie: it does an excellent job of putting things like Fuck Tha Police in context. My previous assumption would've been "Oh, you guys are trying to look badass." But the scene leading up to that song's creation was done so well, by the time Ice Cube started screaming into the recording studio's mic, the whole theater felt he was completely justified and that this needed to be said

It's also completely possible the movie makes some claims about N.W.A.'s importance that are kind of but not totally justified. Which I would have no idea about, as evinced by this conversation with Oldest Brother:

I'd see the movie. Then tell me whether I'm allowed to listen to Ice Cube a whole lot, because that is definitely what I've been doing.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

You guys, comics used to suck

So ages and ages ago, I bought the new Elektra volumes by Haden Blackman and Mike Del Mundo, because they're beautiful and gorgeous and well-written. Mmm. But right after starting to read them, I thought 'Ah, Elektra seems to have been created by Frank Miller for the Daredevil series, so how about I read her stuff from the beginning? That sounds like a wise move.'

Unfortunately, the show Daredevil had just come out on Netflix, so it took LITERAL months and months for the Daredevil Omnibus to come in at the library. Until finally today it did! And off I went to the library to finally obtain this surely amazingly-done treasure. So many people had been in line before me. Frank Miller has been so praised. So IMAGINE MY CHAGRIN UPON ENCOUNTERING THIS:


Both of the panels I'm posting here are legit in the first three pages of this comic from 1979. Might I remind you that by 1979, we'd already had the first Star Wars, all of Tolstoy, Dickens, and that Tootsie Pop commercial where the owl destroyed our minds with his Gordian Knot solution to the Tootsie Pop. So it's not like these people didn't have examples of good writing. And yet they persisted.


You know why a lot of girls are only getting into comics now? Because comics used to SUCK ASS. You know what comic I read today? Volume 1 of Manifest Destiny -- that comic where Lewis & Clark battle monsters in the forests of North America. You know what they don't think to themselves as they're battling a minotaur with the head of a buffalo?


Friday, August 14, 2015

Cahokia Mounds! Truly the moundiest place in Illinois

Last Saturday I undertook a trip I've been meaning to take for QUITE SOME TIME: Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois.

COME WITH ME ON A JOURNEY to the largest urban settlement in the Mississippian culture of the Native Americans.


Cahokia existed from about 600 AD to 1400 AD, right around St Louis (so where southern Illinois and the Mississippi River meet Missouri). The people who settled there built up giant mounds of earth, the tallest 100 feet high, by carrying baskets and baskets of dirt to one spot FOR DECADES UPON DECADES. The highest is Monks Mound (seen above, it's the one in the distance), which got its name from early 19th century Trappist monks setting themselves up on it. One of them later baptized the son Sacagawea gave birth to on her trek with Lewis & Clark (Jean Baptiste Charbonneau).

Illinois is pretty much all about Abraham Lincoln, and occasionally we sneak in some Mormon history (prophet Joseph Smith was shot in one of our jails: repreSENT, scared and prejudiced Illinoisans of the past). So when I found out we actually have something older than the 19th century, I got real damn excited.

Monks Mound today in all its bigness

Girlfriend and I drove 5 hours (by which I mean she drove, as the rental car was in her name, and my self-appointed job was to try to get her excited about One Direction, which didn't work at all). We finally arrived in rather muggy but tolerable Collinsville, Illinois, which is the nearest town to the Cahokia site, and stopped at the barbecue place that was rated the #3 restaurant in Collinsville, according to Yelp and therefore according to the binder I made for the trip.


Then off! To see the remains of the Cahokia civilization, by which I mean walk through the air-conditioned museum (thank God) that was actually pretty well done, good job, team.

They were not shy about boobs and headless deer in this exhibit

These are some top knotch figurines, guys

Oh yeah, the people of Cahokia traded with E'RYBODY.
I mean shark teeth in Illinois, can you IMAGINE.

These are ax heads! They get fitted into a wooden club, but I'm still not sure
how they make them stay in the club unless it's with twine or something, and
I think I need to figure this out for when the apocalypse happens and we need
to make axes again.

"Menstruating women were shunned or feared by Indians." OF COURSE.

After the museum and a fun 15 minute video, we walked around the grounds, where there were TONS of dragonflies, which I thought was pretty much a Chicago thing right now, but apparently not. The problem with walking around this grassy park is I have little to no imagination, so picturing it as this:

was a little challenging. 20-40,000 people lived there around the 800s. On Saturday, it was maybe 40 tourists.

There is also a woodhenge! (seen to the far left in the above photo) 

I walked into the middle of it, whereupon this conversation with Girlfriend ensued:

"Isn't this how that lady from Outlander disappeared?"
"Yes, but that was rocks and Scotland."


We finally left, and then almost immediately stopped again, because there is a place nearby called The Pink Elephant Antique Mall, and while it was closed, its ice cream stand certainly wasn't.

This is why you roadtrip in America.

We then left and then pulled off the road AGAIN because Girlfriend is very nice and went "Oh, there's a Mother Jones memorial in Mt Olive. Do you want to see that?" And I said "No............yes." 


We rolled back into Chicago around midnight, OLDER AND WISER. And having walked up a giant mound of earth from which we could see St Louis. AN EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE FOR ALL.