Monday, December 01, 2014

Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone--Stefan Kiesbye

If there's one thing I've learned as a librarian, it's that if you can display an item, someone will get interested in it.

This is how I wound up with this book, an impulse borrow as I was checking myself at the library*

It has a fantastic cover design, featuring a girl modeled after the original "Village of the Damned" look with some rustic dead animals hanging in the background. There's an additional nice touch if you turn the book about 30 degrees to the side--the message "IF YOU TELL ON ME YOU'RE DEAD" appears on the cover. Super scary. It promises a tale about a small, isolated town and four friends who grew up there and compares it to both the Brothers Grimm and Stephen King.

The problem with this book is that Kiesbye had one great vignette that exposes the depravity of the town, a village cooking contest that puts various people on edge and ends with the murder of one contestant and her family by the whole town once the social order of who wins the contest is disrupted. Plus they have possibly just eaten human flesh and the murdered were newcomers anyway. After that, it's just going through the motions of murder, witchcraft, incest, rape and maiming until he caps it off with a mention that, hey, there was a concentration camp down the road. When the Nazis show up, they are not even frozen Nazi zombies And like in all horror films, the characters are thinly drawn and second to the shock factor.

There's a reason "The Lottery" is a classic. It's a short story, the horror builds, and once revealed it ends.

At just under 200 pages, this book was great for commute reading--I finished it on one day. But overall, it was just an irritating waste of time.

*Yes, in Arizona you check out your own books at a machine. We did not have that back in Ohio--has it finally become a thing there?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

So Cleveland. So Very Cleveland.

Apparently, Clevelanders are into boasting about how hardcore Cleveland they are because the Republicans are coming in 2016 and LeBron is rejoining the Cavs.

I'm so Cleveland, I still have the exact same job I got when I got out of college 20 years ago.*

I'm so Cleveland, I once punched an Oberlin student in the face at the airport for being annoying. No, they didn't arrest me. It was an Oberlin student.

I'm so Cleveland, I go to Lakewood and I name every bar that was there 25 years ago and who drank there.

I'm so Cleveland, you name a closed parish I can tell you where it is and what ethnicity the original congregation was.

I'm so Cleveland, I can tell you what Central European country your baba came from based on the curve of your nose and your last name.

I'm so Cleveland, I actual have ethnic stereotypes about the difference between Slovaks and Czechs.

I'm so Cleveland, I know how to get to Shaker Square. And when I'm there, I'm mourning the businesses that were there before they got evicted and they put in the Gap that closed 2 years later. (That was in '99-2000.)

I'm so Cleveland, I'm always surprised when an art museum want to charge me money to see the collection.

I'm so Cleveland, Case Western was my reach school.

I'm so Cleveland, I'm indignent when it's suggested I should change or evolve in any way.

*Seriously, my ex.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Watch The Bridge With Me This Summer. Please.

Season 2 of The Bridge started on Wednesday. I watched Season 1 last summer, and it was a delight. Well, okay not a delight--it is a dark and unforgiving show, just like the desert it's set in. Numerous people get killed in gruesome ways furthering the plot, but those deaths aren't titillating. Real events and news form the backbone of this story, and well if there's a weirdo serial killer hanging around, at least he's got a serious socio-political message.

And Lyle Lovett appears in several episodes, at one point carrying a three bean salad that's not a three bean salad, if you know what I mean. So while the first episode maybe didn't hook me, my 25 year crush on Lyle Lovett* kept me watching that second episode and after that I was devoted. I'm devoted because I like character driven dramas with incredibly twisty plots, sly touches of humor and excellent acting, and dialogue that dips in and out of English and Spanish appropriately.

To slightly recap season 1 (no spoilers, just the basics)--one night the lights go out on the bridge that separates El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico. When the lights come back on, there's a woman's body left in the middle of the bridge, half in each country. It turns out there's two half bodies switched, which brings police detectives Sonya Cross** and Marco Ruiz together to work the case. Also on that bridge was the car of local journalist Daniel Frye, local socialite Charlotte Millwright with her husband in an ambulance, and local weirdo/social worker Steven Linder, who has a woman in his trunk.

And from them it picks up strands of the drug trade, the prostitution trade, the missing women of Juarez, corruption in the Mexican police, smuggled migrants, and tells the story of what's going on with these characters and the symbiotic American relationship between America and Mexico. It's streaming on Hulu and Netflix at the moment, and the DVDs were released last month.

I was disappointed Matthew Lilliard (formerly best know as Shaggy from the Scooby-Do remake 10+ years ago)as reporter Daniel Frye didn't get an Emmy nod as he is fantastic in the role of a hardcore, functional addict whose journalistic brilliance is just managing to save everyone from giving up on him, kicking him in the ribs and leaving him in the gutter beside the taco stand. You understand why Adriana Mendez (another good performance by Emily Rios) sticks with him, and their actual friendship is refreshing.

Let me tell you, I would watch the spinoff where Daniel Frye and Adriana Mendez hangout and investigate and report on anything, a la State of Play (aka the fantastic British series that is the best thing about smart people thinking, writing and modern journalism that I have ever seen). Considering season 1 ends with them involved in the most local heartwarming story of a local 100 year old woman's birthday gone bad, I think we can look forward to this. Or maybe if we get Season 3, Adriana will do something on Mexican DIY abortion pill usage in Texas, considering what's gone on there in the last year.

So in case you also live in a place where it's too damn hot to leave the house (110 today!)give The Bridge a shot and come leave comments and let's talk and dissect.

*My other 25 year crush is on Henry Rollins. Make of this what you will.
**I promise, before season 2 is over I will deliver my epic Sonya Cross/Asperger's/superpower rant. Maybe multiple times.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

There's Always A Cost To Someone

I sneered a little when I heard about Starbucks' new educations benefits. In general, I am a big believer that a benefit that doesn't fit the individual isn't really a benefit. I can't manage online courses, that's not how I learn. I also don't learn well in 5 week cram sessions. What if you just want an Associate's degree in accounting form the local community college, and not a degree from Arizona State University? ASU is no Harvard. Others came up with other drawbacks of this new program.

Then I thought about it a little more--I live near ASU. They've cut staff and faculty positions at a ferocious rate since 2008 when the economy crashed and the state had its budget crunch (remember how Arizona sold their state office buildings for quick cash and then rented back the office space? Fun times!)during which they cut funding to the three state universities. So...who is going to be teaching all these new online students?

Adjunct professors, working on contract without benefits.

So Starbucks, which prides itself on being good for workers by paying higher-than minimum wages and offering benefits to part-time workers, is actually exploiting another pool of workers. Kind of makes those $5 Create Jobs wristbands seem ironic.

I wonder how Howard Schulz explains all this? Because it seems like fairness for all workers is what we should be striving for, not exploiting one batch to help another.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Best Thing I Bought Recently: Cat Edition

Cain is a big fatty. And as the owner of a pudge pudge, it's been hard to find a good carrier to take him to the vet and other places. He's too big for the Made In America plastic carriers with the side clips--the last one I bought came apart as I was carrying him downstairs. A wire cage is awkward to take on the bus. I had a padded mesh shoulder carrier that was intended for small dogs, but after several years he had torn holes in the mesh and it was only a matter of time before he escaped.

With a semi-annual trip to the vet coming up, I needed a solution. A browse around the internet lead me to dog carriers, and the Snoozer 4 in 1 Roll Around. The large size holds a 30lb dog, so I can put both Cain and Willa in it if needed. I intend to use it as a rolling suitcase carrier, but it also can be worn as a backpack, fastened into the back seat of a car, and folds out into a bed. The small and medium sizes can be taken on a plane and stowed under the seat.

The mesh is a thick rubber, but Cain hasn't even tried to claw at it. It's padded inside, and an easy to clean vinyl-ish material. The attachable pad for the bottom is harder to keep attached--it fell off twice--but I seem to have the trick of attaching it now.

I used it on today's trip to the vet. It got a lot of attention, because hey, crazy cat lady on the bus with a handsome cat in a super posh carrier. Cain still cried on the way up to the bus stop and meowed on the bus, but he seemed to like the rolling after a while and how he could see more of the world but still feel safe. No clawing, and since it has plenty of room it was easy to put him in and hold him while I zipped it up. I hope this is something that I can use to give the cats adventure in the fall.

By the way, I bought this with my own money and that link isn't an affiliate link.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

2 Toddlers, 2 Cats, 1 Adult And A 600 Square Foot Apartment

Tomorrow Peaches and the Plum are coming over for the whole day to hang out. It will be 103 degrees, so our outside time will be limited. I made a list of things for us to do.

Let's brush Cain

Let's give Cain a waterless bath

Let's be very quiet and hope Willa comes out from under the bed

Help Aunt Scar do her laundry

Aunt Scar's bed is a boat. Where are we sailing?

Hiding Monsters--Yes, it's an app, but the Plum likes to play his own version of hide and seek where he is the monster and someone has to find him.

Make a fort out of all Scar's books--I have a lot of books. I don't mind if the kids stack them like blocks.

Make a blanket cave

Watch the newborn kitten cam

Dance party

Take a bath

Take the bus somewhere--Maybe Essence Bakery? The kids like to take the bus.

Pit and eat all the cherries--It's May, therefore the start of the time when I spend half my takehome pay on cherries. I bought Raniers and regular sweet cherries today. So many cherries.

Go to the library--However, the library doesn't open until 1pm. Will we have enough to keep us busy until then?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Chihuly at the Desert Botanical Garden

Oh Saturday I took three buses to get to the Desert Botanical Garden to check out the blooming saguaro and the Chihuly exhibit in daylight.

I previously attended with my mom right before New Year, because I thought "Well, who else wants to see luminaria after Christmas?" Ha ha ha. Everyone wanted to see them. We were constantly dodging people who stopped in the middle of the path not to look at the sculpture but to take pictures. I find crowds uncomfortable, and then the added aggravation of people not even looking at the sculpture, and just mindlessly taking pictures to prove they were there and had consumed CULTURE, added to the general rage. So I put going back during daylight before the exhibit ends later this month on my to-do list. It was worth the sunburn.

Some of my experience this time around was colored by the fact I read Charles Stross's first two Laundry Files novels this week, and that makes the sculptures with their writhing feel particularly Chthulu-like.

See those snake heads?

Lilac polka dots do not decrease the feel of awe and energy.

And this gigantic thistle looks like an alien pod.

There were some lovely bird-like ones arranged around the pond that I saw at Christmas, but I believe that was closed due to the butterfly gardens. There are also more up the hill that are only visible at night.

You've got until the 18th to see them, and it was already 99-100 degrees yesterday (102 today) so get a move on! There's a reason they open the Zoo at 7am and the DBG at 8am here in Phoenix.