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Samuel Johnson's House: A Tour

Dr Samuel Johnson, writer of A Dictionary of the English Language and frequent contributor to Familiar Quotations, has a home in London that is still standing

This is italicized because after watching numerous videos of the Blitz while walking through the Museum of London, I'm shocked any building survived (aside from St Paul's, which anytime they talked about its symbolizing the indomitable British spirit, I immediately cried).

I didn't know anything about Johnson, but I love a good house museum, so off I trotted to right near Fleet Street, through some alleyways and up to this fun entrance:



There an old man buzzed me in, and when he asked what I knew about Dr Johnson and I said "Didn't he do the dictionary or something," he immediately launched into how totally awesome Johnson was, and when I said I was mainly interested in women's history, he was like "AH-HA! Did you know Samuel Johnson was a huge supporter of women writers?" NO I DID NOT, SIR…

When Dimple Met Rishi: I hate this book

Everyone was reading it. So I decided to read it. It didn't pan out well for The Help, but it was perfectly fine for Girl on the Train. But When Dimple Met Rishi?



For those unaware, When Dimple Met Rishi is a YA novel about an 18-year-old Indian-American girl named Dimple who's just graduated, is going to Stanford in the fall, and really wants to go to a summer coding program called Insomnia Con so she can create an app, meet her idol and BEGIN HER LIFE OF CODING.
I was super on board at this point.
She also has an overbearing mother who she thinks wants to see her married and with a family immediately. Dimple never wears makeup, is very open about her opinions, has wild hair (the book keeps coming back to these points), and is very anti-the marriage thing. What she does NOT know is her parents are letting her go to Insomnia Con because they have set her up with Rishi, the son of their friends. Rishi knows this, though, and boy, do hijinks ensue.
HERE IS MY MAIN PROBLEM WITH THIS …

Inhumans by Paul Jenkins: SO STRESSFUL

OKAY. I love the Inhumans. For those unaware, they're a part of Marvel's ever-expanding universe of ridiculous proportions. They live on an island called Attilan where EVERYTHING IS COOL except they maybe have a slave race? Unclear. I was introduced to Medusa in Ms Marvel where I was like who is this lady with amazing hair and why does she live on a separate island with this giant dog. So I checked this out. The ISSUE with Inhumans by Paul Jenkins is it kind of assumes you already know a lot of shit about the Inhumans.

Here's what I learned from this book:

1. Black Bolt is the shit. He also can't speak, FOR THIS SMALLEST WHISPER WOULD CLEAVE WORLDS IN TWAIN.

2. Medusa is his wife. Her hair has the strength of steel? And she can manipulate it psychically to like...ensnare people. I don't get why this makes her queen of the Inhumans, but her hair does look pretty great.

3. Kid Inhumans wait for their powers to go through some metamorphosis thing, and that's when you …

Slider by Pete Hautman: Middle Grade Fiction That Made Me Cry BUT IN A GOOD WAY

I talked about this book for a WEEK after I read it.

Slider called to me from the floor of BookExpo back in June. The cover's eye-catchingly great and 100% the reason I stuffed it in my overly-full tote. Once BookExpo is over, I usually go through and see what I just grabbed in a frenzy of bookmadness and what I genuinely want. After reading the first couple pages and checking out the excellent writing, Slider stayed in the keep pile.

It's about a high school freshman named David who's really really good at eating. Eating contests are his passion. He has heroes in that community, and one of those heroes just lost a contest by half a hot dog. Someone's selling it on BuyBuy (basically eBay) for 50 cents, so David "borrows" his mom's credit card and bids on it with a max bid of 20 dollars. Only he accidentally put $2,000 and now he's a 14-year-old with no job who has to find $2,000. To pay for half a hot dog.


I don't know about you guys, but when I was …

The Uprising of the 20,000: New York and the 1909 Shirtwaist Strike

"An equal number of men never would hold together under what these girls are enduring."

You know what gets all the attention? The Triangle Factory fire. Which is understandable, because it was a massive public tragedy that improved New York's fire codes and led to greater safety for factory workers, as well as sympathy for the union.

BUT BEFORE THAT. There was the Uprising of the 20,000. Which was damn great and almost unprecedented.




In the late 1800s and early 1900s, workers had begun to speak up more and more for their rights. These were mostly male workers, from the Knights of Labor to the AFL (American Federation of Labor), the latter headed by the inimitable Samuel Gompers:



Women were traditionally not a large part of the unions, if allowed in at all. They were seen as part-time workers who could be disregarded as their investment in their jobs would only last until they got married.

This assumption was a mistake.




Shirtwaists' popularity had blown up in the early 190…

For the Republic! and so forth (Some Revolutionary War Lady Talk)

I'm reading more about 18th century women's history (yes, American, it's always American unless it's English), and just being GENERALLY enraged most of the time. Some women in the colonies had the right to vote? In New JERSEY? Until it was taken away in 1807. So not even just in the colonies! Into statehood time! 

That's just bananapants and the sort of thing where I'm like, if I did not know this thing, most people will not know it. That could sound condescending, but what it means is obvs that this is most of what I read about. And no one in my books had really thrown that fact around before. Until I was reading Gail Collins's American Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines, which is really great so far and has some A+ anecdotes, like how Margaret Brent basically saved Baltimore.



Honestly, HAD I BUT WORLD ENOUGH AND TIME, I would just spend all my days learning about every single woman who ever lived in history. But life is finite, etc, …

TBR Library Pile Self-Challenge

I'm sure at some point or other, we've all looked at our library items and gone "Hm. I seem to be one away from the maximum number of checkouts, which is 50." 
I find myself therefore treading this, as we have just discussed, very familiar path of having 49 library items checked out of the library. Because of this situation, I have determined, like before, but with much more determination this time, to not check out any more (minus incoming hold items) until I have at the very least gone through the ones I have strewn about my girlfriend's condo. They are (almost in their entirety):



The books are in preferred reading order. Comics are, y'know, whatevs. I'm kind of amazed by Rick Riordan's fourth entry in Heroes of Olympus right now (House of Hades). He has a character come out in a pretty damn decent way, and he's such a mainstream middle grade white dude author, I reeeeally thought this character being queer was a fan invention based on subtext. 

I&…

July 2017 Reading!

I READ SO MANY COMICS IN JULY.

Also some regular books, but MAINLY a lot of comic volumes. Marvel knows what it's doing. It has you reading a story and then bam! The story doesn't make sense! So you have to read another character's story. And then hey, who's that guy in that story? What's his deal? AND YOU KEEP GOING. I am this close to reading Fantastic Four because they seem to have some dealings with the Inhumans and omg what is life now.
By far, my favorite of July was Doctor Strange, which is weird because I REALLY wasn't expecting to like him. But his storyline is compelling. Then Loki: Agent of Asgard was also surprisingly good. "Surprisingly" because I'm not one of those "I like the misunderstood villain dude" people (I like the misunderstood villainESS), and I'm definitely not a Loki stan at all, but again, it's well-written and the story's good. Basically Loki is trying to redeem his past actions by doing tasks for Fr…

American Eclipse: How an Intrepid Band of Ladies (and Edison) Saw the 1878 Eclipse

American Eclipse, the nonfiction book by David Baron about the 1878 solar eclipse, was published just this summer in anticipation of the August 21st solar eclipse that will be visible across the middle of America, cutting a horizontal swath across the country, lingering longest in Illinois (yes, of course I'm proud of this) and being most fully visible in what looks like Kentucky and Indiana.



The book's subtitle is "A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World."

So that's fun.

It's really readable, and I say that as someone who thought The Martian was way too damn sciencey. Baron keeps skirting the edges of my interest but does not go over the cliff into the pits of Too Much Science Don't Care. Because he also talks about humans! I love humans!

The main humans involved here are University of Michigan astronomer James Craig Watson, Vassar astronomer and comet-discoverer Maria Mitchell, and then Thomas Edison.


James Cra…

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert: Damn, This Book Was Good

We are in the middle of the Sixth Extinction. Also known as the Anthropocene period, or Age of Humans. "Age of Humans" sounds grand, but it's less us being the center of it all and more us mucking up everything we touch. But don't worry! We've literally been doing it ever since we began existing!

The Sixth Extinction picks one type of going-extinct creature/plant per chapter, and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert chronicles the history of extinction as a concept, while explaining how we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event on Earth that we know of. Exciting, terrifying times.

I put off reading this for quite some time, because I thought it would just depress me. Strangely enough, it made it all seem kind of...normal. All while Kolbert and the scientists she interviews stress that this is very very not normal. Our oceans are being acidified, our global temperatures are rising, and we are almost OUT of Sumatran rhinos. But I did come out of it feeling that…

#24in48: Summer Time Reading Jamz

This past weekend was the 9th (??) 24in48 Readathon, where people try to read for 24 hours out of 48 total, because some of us are old and need sleep. Or young and need sleep. Basically we all like sleep.

As with Dewey's Sleepless 24 Hour Readathon, I always make some kind of halfhearted attempt to participate. Halfhearted because my attention span is as that of the highly distractable gnat and I do not think I can do anything for 24 hours in a 2 day period. Also because, y'know, it's summer, and there're usually competing plans.

SUCH AS I WENT WITH MY GF TO STARVED ROCK. Starved Rock is an Illinois state park, and the legend is that a band of American Indians were surrounded by two different tribes, and they made their last stand on a high-reaching rock. Where they then starved to death. And now we hike there and take selfies. The story isn't verified, but it's still depressingly called Starved Rock and we're all kinda like "okey dokey, let's hike.&…

Dickens's American Notes Summarized So You Never Have to Read It

Dickens's American Notes is the worst travel writing I've ever seen.

Do not read American Notes. Think of this summary as a service I can provide to humankind so not one more person needs to slog through the 250+ pages of Dickens saying things like "Philadelphia is most bountifully provided with fresh water," or this section, which is one sentence (don't read all of it):

That these visitors, too, whatever their station were not without some refinement of taste and appreciation of intellectual gifts, and gratitude to those men who, by the peaceful exercise of great abilities, shed new charms and associations upon the homes of their countrymen, and elevate their character in other lands, was most earnestly testified by their reception of Washington Irving, my dear friend, who had recently been appointed Minister at the Court of Spain, and who was among them that night, in his new character, for the first and last time before going abroad.




Here are some bullet points:

D…