Monday, May 29, 2023

7.29 Song

Bestest Friend and I are doing a blog project. Each day we will write a blog post on a pre-determined theme chosen by a random noun generator. The theme for the twenty-ninth day of the month is "Song."


I was recently listening to Chris Molanthy, host of the podcast Hit Parade, talking with the hosts on the podcast Culture Gabfest about Morgan Wallen and the ubiquity of his song "Last Night" even though he was supposedly canceled in 2020 for going to a party unmasked before he was supposed to perform on SNL and then using the n-word in a casual way.  ANYWAY. I missed the memo on his un-cancelation because I don't listen to music on the radio and I don't understand how songs become viral (TikTok? YouTube? am old), so it's not like I'm getting suggestions from Spotify for new music.

I digress AGAIN.

I want you to know that even if I did listen to terrestrial radio, I would not listen to Wallen because I am literally offended (OFFENDED) by his 2020 hit "More Than My Hometown," in which he basically sings to a girl that he loves her a lot, but "I can't love you more than my hometown." What sort of message is this? It's better to be miserable in your hometown than with the person you love in another place? WTF? I can't even with this guy. My husband and I heard this song when we were driving to the compost one day and we both stared at each other in horror. 

That's all. Also, I don't listen to Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, or R Kelly, either. I really try not to be too much of a hypocrite.

As a palate cleanser after discussing Wallen, I wanted to show you the cover of Sam and Dave's Hold On, I'm Comin' album, which was on a playlist curated by my husband and made me laugh and laugh when it came up on our drive over the weekend. They're on a turtle! Such bad 1960s photo splicing! What is going on with those poses? It's fabulous.

What's the best musical cover art you have come across?

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

Right now, everyone is talking about I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai. I was lucky enough to be able to get a copy from my library fairly quickly, so I'm feeling pretty fortunate to be able to join in the discussion.

The Good: Hm. Well, it's quite readable. It only took me a few days to get through it and it was certainly a page turner, although I think it's a problem that I didn't really care who killed the victim. 

The Bad: This book is a thematic mess. I just read Yellowface, which, regardless of whatever criticisms you might have of it, is spot on in terms of what it's criticizing and what its major themes are. This book is just a jumble. Is it a criticism of the proliferation of true crime media and its exploitation of victims of crime? Is it an exploration of the subtleties of the #metoo movement? Is it an indictment of racial and socioeconomic privilege? Is it another story about a white savior trying to single-handedly fix the criminal justice system in the US? Is it really just a story about a woman trying to solve the murder of a classmate fifteen years later? 

Here's the thing. The author probably thinks it's about all those things and maybe it is. It's just not doing any of them well.

The main character never interrogates her own privilege. Other characters repeatedly ask her who's taking care of her children (answer: her ex) and she's always so offended because it's a question people never ask men. Fair enough. But she doesn't ever stop to think about how lucky she is that she has a co-parent who can help her and that she doesn't have a co-parent who has a job with inflexible hours, a co-parent who is incarcerated, a co-parent who is disabled, or a co-parent who is just plain missing. 

She never stops to think about what role her own connections had in getting her to the boarding school she returns to or about the advantages that attending the school gave her in her further education and career. She never stops to think about how her experience as a fat white girl contrasted with the non-white students at her school. She never stops to think about anything if it didn't impact her own life.

Maybe that's fine. Maybe Bodie, our main character, is just self-absorbed and doesn't think about how things impact others. We were all teenagers who couldn't see anything past our own starring roles in our own tiny lives. Maybe it's fine if we're left to do the ruminating about the other people surrounding Bodie on our own.  Maybe it's fine if Makkai leaves us to determine what we think the main theme of the book is. (But I don't actually think it's fine.)

The Ugly: This is a Pulitzer Prize nominated author. Why is the writing so pedestrian? Outside of the dialogue, which I thought was well-done, the author spends way too much time writing uninspired exposition. Consider these two passages taken from random places I opened to:

I hesitated. This was where things fell apart for me. I didn't trust anything about you anymore...(page 214)

They ask for a hair sample, a saliva sample. I do that, and they let me go. (page 310)

It's the opposite of sparkling. There were moments of interesting writing, but I was underwhelmed. 

I don't know, friends. A lot of people like this book. I'm not one of them. 2.5/5 stars

Lines of note:

The dog licked my face, and I marveled at the little pocket her wrinkles made between her eyes. You could stash a spare piece of kibble in there. (page 31)

This. This shows me that Makkai can write fun, observational writing. Why didn't she do this through the whole book?

There had once been a pay phone here; now there was a phone charging station. (page 251)

I did like this as a way to show passage of time. Little things that represent larger ideas.

March 2022: I sent back a photo of my own face: airplane hair, glasses instead of contacts, a cloth mask with little ferns...(Page 292)

What? Why was someone wearing a cloth mask in March 2022? At that point, you were either wearing a N95/KN95 or nothing. 

My friend Elise, who loves astrology, told me I'd probably experience my Uranus opposition. It happens to everyone in their early forties, she said - a huge shake-up, a burn-it-all-down time, voluntary or involuntary, that rearranges your life. (page 301)

Is this a thing? Should I be waiting on the edge of my seat for a huge shake-up? 

List passages: One criticisms this book gets is that Makkai has entire pages that are just lists of true crime/infamous cases. I actually thought these lists were an attempt to link the #metoo and true crime criticism themes and sort of liked the puzzle of trying to figure them out.  

Passage #1

But I've cared as much, I admit, about people I haven't met. I care about Judy Garland (1) and Natalie Wood (2) and the Black Dahlia (3). I care about the lacrosse player (4) murdered by her ex at UVA, and the girl (5) whose boyfriend was definitely not working at LensCrafters that day, and the high school student (6) killed in her boyfriend's Shaker Heights backyard while everyone slept, and poor Martha Moxley (7), and the woman in the hotel elevator (8), and the woman shot through the bathroom door by her famous boyfriend (9), who claimed he thought she was a burglar. I have opinions about their deaths, ones I'm not entitled to, I'm queasy, at the same time, about the way they've become public property, subject to the collective imagination. I'm questions about the fact that the women whose deaths I dwell on are mostly beautiful and well-off. That most were young, as we prefer our sacrificial lambs. That I'm not alone in my fixations. (page 17)

My explanation of passage #1:

(1) Garland, an actress probably most famous for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, died of an overdose that some people think is more mysterious than it is. 

(2) Wood was another Hollywood actress. She drowned at age 43 after fleeing a yacht after a fight with her husband, actor Robert Wagner. Actor Christopher Walken and Captain Dennis Davern were also on the yacht. How her death occurred is shrouded in mystery.

(3) Elizabeth Short was found murdered in LA in 1947. Her case was highly publicized because it was gruesome and her corpse was mutilated. This in an unsolved crime.

(4) Yeardley Love was murdered by George Huguely V in 2010. He was sentenced to twenty-three years for his crime.

(5) Hae Min Lee was the subject of the podcast Serial. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was found guilty of her 1999 murder. There's been a lot of back and forth on Syed's conviction, but this sentence is referencing Lee's other ex-boyfriend, Don, who worked at LensCrafters, but whose alibi is shaky because his mom was the manager and (maybe?) the timecard was filled in by hand. 

(6) Lisa Pruett was just sixteen when she was stabbed more than twenty times. Kevin Young was tried and acquitted of the murder. Her boyfriend, Dan Driefort was also the focus of investigation, but he was never charged. 

(7) Martha Moxley was a fifteen-year-old who was violently murdered with a golf club. A member of the Kennedy family probably committed this crime, but his conviction has been overturned.

(8) Elisa Lam died of an accidental drowning in a cistern on the roof of an LA hotel. There's a video of her on an elevator making unusual movements and gestures. She was having a bipolar episode and it's all explainable, but some people really exploit this death as somehow supernatural. 

(9) Reeva Steenkamp was murdered by Oscar Pistorius, a former Olympic sprinter in South Africa in 2013. He is still in jail, but is unlikely to serve more than five or six years for this crime.

Passage #2

There was once a man they caught because he claimed he hadn't left the state - but the dead bugs on the windshield of his rental car could only have come from California. (10)

There was a man they caught because he'd ordered the knife on Amazon. (11)

There was a man they caught because his name was on the Starbucks cup in her trash. (12)

There was a man who was told that his wife's body had been found in the woods. He arrived on the scene and instead of running toward the police tape, he ran to the exact spot where he'd left her body. (13)

There was a guy whose claim of earlier consensual sex fell apart because his semen was in her body, but not in her underwear or pants. "Because dead women," the prosecutor explained, "don't stand up." (14)

There was a woman (15) who managed to cut her captor's driver's license into twenty little pieces and swallow them so when they found her body his ID would be in her stomach. And they arrested him. They brought him in for questioning. But they never pressed charges against him. (page 386)

My explanation of passage #2:

(10) Vincent Brothers killed his wife, his mother-in-law, and his three children. He created an alibi for himself by flying to Ohio to visit his brother. From there, he drove a rental car to Bakersfield, California and murdered his family before returning back to Ohio. Forensic entomologists showed that there were insects native to states west of the Rocky Mountains on the rental car's windshield. Odometer readings also supported the round-trip to California. Brothers was sentenced to death. 

To quote Dumbledore, at this point, I'm "entering the realms of guesswork and speculation."

(11) I'm less sure about this one. I think it's the case of the 2022 killings of Madison Mogen (21), Kaylee Goncalves (21), Xana Kernodle (20), and Ethan Chapin (20) in Moscow, Idaho. Bryan Kohberger has been charged with these crimes and some of the evidence collected from the crime scene include his DNA found on a knife that is the same kind as one he had purchased from Amazon months earlier. 

(12) I'm a bit stumped on this one. There was a case in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in which they caught the killer more than forty years later using DNA obtained from a coffee cup he used at an airport, but that's not the same as finding the cup in the victim's trash. Anyone know what this reference is?

(13) No real clue on this one. Sounds like an apocryphal story, but I'm here for it if you know what it is. 

(14) See #13.

(15) What even is this? Is this real?

Sunday, May 28, 2023

7.28 Meaning - A Day with Family

Bestest Friend and I are doing a blog project. Each day we will write a blog post on a pre-determined theme chosen by a random noun generator. The theme for the twenty-eighth day of the month is "Meaning."


My youngest nephew is obsessed with my oldest nephew. It's so gratifying to hear the older one being so patient and kind with him. It's so clear that the youngest sees the older boy as his friend, someone he can really share things with.

Young one: There's a kid in my class who has a new iPhone and he's always on his phone during class and it's distracting.

Older one: Wow! He shouldn't have it in class, should he?

Young one: I think I should have a phone, too. It's not fair.

Older one: You don't need a phone, dude.  You need to just ignore that guy.

Backyard games are all the rage. Can Jam and spike ball were on tap yesterday.  I was so proud that no adult intervention was necessary at any point for refereeing, although an adult was asked to provide scorekeeping duties.

Meanwhile, the two dogs, Hannah and Ginger the Terrier, alternated between running around like absolute lunatics and trying to get as much as sun as they could possibly get.

I'm not going to say a word about my neck, Nicole. Not a word.

Honestly, I find these gatherings so much more fun than I did I before the pandemic. Being away from my family for so long took its toll and I don't take for granted the time we spend together now. The beautiful weather, the crazy dogs, the boys screaming bloody murder, the excessive celebration of my sister-in-law when she scored a goal in Can Jam - these are all things that I reveled in yesterday.  Because this is my life and it's fun and it's wonderful and it's happy.  

Why can't the whole year be like the end of May?

Saturday, May 27, 2023

7.27 Priority - Privacy or Accommodation?

Bestest Friend and I are doing a blog project. Each day we will write about a pre-determined theme chosen by a random noun generator. The theme for the twenty-seventh day of the month is "Priority."

As some of you may know, I have been job hunting for what seems like a billion years. I do not want to talk about the job search much (because it is both humiliating and soul crushing), but what I want to talk about is the equal employment opportunity questions that frequently come at the end of an application - these are the ones that ask about race/ethnicity, if you're a veteran or not, and if you're disabled. The disability question frequently looks like this

and then asks the following question.

I have a lot of questions. First up, did anyone notice that Celiac disease is on this list? After filling out about a million of these forms, I asked my husband if he considered himself disabled. He very carefully answered the question about how with a well-controlled diet he is considered in "remission," but that he does need accommodations around food, which could be a problem with certain jobs (think: astronaut or soldier and even Catholic priest), so he'd probably check the "I do not want to answer box." Eating is a "major life activity" and he does have limitations.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter. My husband's disability (?) rarely comes up in his job. Yes, he's had some very awkward interviews. Academic interviews tend to take place over multiple days and generally include things like dinner with faculty members and lunch with students and my husband simply cannot eat at restaurants, so he definitely went and ordered salad and poked it around with a fork without taking a single bite to be polite, meaning he frequently went entire days without actually eating anything. But, in general, he doesn't need to eat while at work, so it doesn't interfere with his job.

But what if your disability did require some sort of accommodation, no matter how small? What if you need a special chair with lumbar support? Or reading screens to magnify the size of font? Or whatever.  

Would you disclose? Would it matter to you how large or small the accommodation would have to be? Or would you simply not answer? What do you prioritize in a case like this - privacy or accommodation? 

I don't know which I'd choose. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

7.26 Moment - One Picture Per Hour, Wednesday 5/24

 Bestest Friend and I are doing a blog project. Each day we will write a blog post on pre-determined theme chosen by a random noun generator. The theme for the twenty-sixth day of the month is "Moment." 

Stephany did a one picture per hour on her blog and I thought it was fun. Here's mine! I did Wednesday, which was our anniversary, so we both treated it like a day off, even if we did check our email here and there.

7:07am - Hannah and I are out for our morning walk. She was super annoyed I was making her pose on what is generally our "all business" walk. 

8:10am - I'm doing Duolingo while Zelda is doing her best kitty modeling. Just as a note, that mat she's on is Hannah's mat, but Zelda uses it a lot, too.

9:03am - I'm reading a book and drinking my second mug of tea. 

10:45am - Working out to a Caroline Girvan video.

11:50am - Finally got showered (it's almost noon!) and started slathering things on my face. 

12:45pm - The last of the cookies I made my husband for his birthday. He wouldn't eat them (*sigh*), so I took them to the neighbor's house and had some for myself.

1:05pm - Afternoon walk with Hannah. This trail has been flooded for most of the spring and it's the first time we were able to walk it since there was snow on the ground.

2:12pm - It wouldn't be a day in my life without going to the library, would it? I dropped off two books and picked one up.

3:14pm - We went to a Cat Cafe to hang out with kitties. It was our anniversary and we decided this would count on our date. Neither of us had ever been to a cat cafe before and while I'm glad I went, I probably won't go again. It made me kind of sad, all these sweet kitties who need homes. It also was sort of smelly and I can't imagine actually eating or drinking something there. Anyway, the people there were lovely, the kitties were adorable, and I'm glad I did it.

I think this is coming off as more negative than I intend it to. It's in a college town and I think I would have loved this sort of thing when I was homesick for pets as a college student. It's just not for me right now, I think.

4:17pm - After the cat cafe, we actually went to a different coffeeshop so I could get an iced americano. We did a brief walk along the lakefront (there is a SAGA about this lakefront that I might write about later), but we were scared off early by jerk redwing blackbirds who are aggressive in protecting their breeding grounds.  

5:43pm - Getting dinner started. Butternut squash soup for us tonight. 

6:48pm - I'm still putting the finishing touches up on dinner and Zelda the Cat crawled into Hannah's bed to watch me because you can see straight into the kitchen from this location. Note how Zelda sleeps in Hannah's places more than Hannah does.

7:39pm - It's trash night, so I snapped a photo of the line of bins.

8:08pm - My girls both looking out the window at the same thing! They're so cute.  

9:22pm - Getting Hannah ready for her last chance pee before bed.
10:04pm - Bed! Kindle! I read for twenty or thirty minutes before lights out.

What's your usual bedtime? Do you read before you fall asleep?

Flame of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters #6) by Juliet Marillier


Daughter of the Forest
Son of the Shadows
Child of the Prophecy
Heir to Sevenwaters

The conclusion of the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier is Flame of Sevenwaters. In this book, we follow Maeve, daughter of Jerk Sean, who was badly burned as a child and has terrible scarring on her face and an inability to use her hands. She has been fostered with her Aunt Liadan for ten years, but must return home because her skills at calming animals are needed. She does not look forward to returning to Sevenwaters, but once she is there, she is immediately drawn into the turmoil of the place.

Otherworld fey prince Mac Dara is causing problems (AGAIN) and Maeve soon finds herself in the Otherworld with her brother trying to save both the Otherworld and Sevenwaters.

Whatever. This book is mostly about dogs. I like dogs, I like books about dogs, and there was a twist about the dogs that I should have seen coming, but didn't, so I really liked that, too. Basically, the dog stuff was great.

(Sidenote: I thought this book dealt gracefully with Maeve's disability until it didn't. I feel like this was an attempt for Marillier to have her cake and eat it, too. I just wish that more media portrayed people with disabilities having a happily ever after without their disability just going away. It's why Talia Hibbert is a huge thumbs up for me and Abby Jimenez can suck a duck.)

But honestly, as an ending to the series, it was a tiny bit wanting. I still have so many questions about what's going to happen in Sevenwaters. What of Finbar? What of Ciaran's future? Are the Old Ones going to be okay? Will Maeve ever get another dog? 

And maybe it's fine that the ending is open-ended. I can put my own happy ending there with my own imagination. But it also made me sort of sad, like Marillier didn't care enough about the characters she created to plan for their future. 

Well, the first three books in this series are excellent and the last three are pretty good. If you're into fantasy, I think I can recommend Sevenwaters without any pause.  4/5 stars

Lines of note:
For my sister, Jennifer,
who opens hearth and heart to dogs in trouble (dedication page, ii)

A special thank-you to rescue dog Harry, who worked his way through three levels of obedience training while I was writing this book. (acknowledgments page, iv)

Between these two quotes in the front matter of the book and the black dogs on the cover, I was so excited about dog representation in this book before I even got started.

"Everyone is afraid of something. Know your fears and you're a step further away from letting them rule you." (page 13)

There are hidden gems like this just laying around in Marillier's writing.

"Upstairs," Mother said. "As for you" - she glanced and Bear and Badger [two stray dogs], and I imagined they quailed at the iron in her voice - "the least misdemeanor and you're off outside. And don't for one moment imagine you'll be sleeping on the bed."
I woke to find...Bear was on the bed. (page 144)

Ha ha ha! I loved this scene so very much. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

7.25 Relationship - Fifteen Years

Bestest Friend and I are doing a blog project. Each day we write a blog post on a pre-determined theme chosen by a random noun generator. The theme for the twenty-fifth day of the month is "Relationship."


When we first started dating, Dr. BB had one lone grey chest hair. We used to joke about it. And then suddenly there were three grey hairs. And now? Now most of them are grey. I used to have a normal neck, but now it's all sagging and wrinkled. 

Last week, we were preparing a recipe with lots of steps. It's a recipe we've made dozens of times and we have it down to a science exactly who does what and when. We do this almost entirely in silence. The communication is me dumping the stir-fried veggies into the blender and him knowing to heat up the grill and turn off the oven. The choreography of our routine is flawless.  

Not to brag, but we have grocery shopping down to a science. The list organized by section, the knowledge of who takes the cart down what aisle (I take it down the egg aisle, while he navigates the cheese aisle without it), the speediness of him scanning items while I bag them. We are the winners of the imaginary game of Supermarket Sweep we are playing.

Yesterday was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Fifteen years. 

In some ways, it doesn't feel like fifteen years. That's more than a third of my life, but it still seems like I learn something new about my husband every day. But in other ways, it does feel like we have a relationship shorthand that comes from being together for a long time. The wordless looks. The silent understanding of who is going to do what chore. The quiet contentment of knowing exactly what the other will order at a coffee shop. The glare that happens when someone skips a song on the playlist curated by the other. 

I love my husband. I love being married. Here's to the rest of our lives together.