Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Worst Children's Books

Courtesy of Reason magazine.

They critique the Rainbow Fish from a political/moral point of view. I'd argue that the writing and illustrating are also...bleck. I won't let it in our house.... of course, I have that awesome Kafka children's book bopping around somewhere, so.... (No...it's awesome, really! It's a Kafka Short Story, and the illustrations are done in the style of Magritte! I'm totally pulling it out once my daughter hits six or so!)

Awesome Essay on 'Writing Time'

This essay pretty much describes my 'writing life.' And probably yours as well!

H/T Writer's Beware Blog

Friday, July 17, 2009

BTW-- A note of links to Amazon

I'm a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, but mostly so I can provide snazzy links to books I like. I've never made a dime off it, and I don't expect to. But I have friends who read this blog who like to know when a new book by our favorite authors comes out, and who like to see the cover so they can pick it up easily while they're at the bookstore.

Since there's been controversy recently about blogging for profit, I thought I should clarify. THERE IS NO PROFIT FROM THIS BLOG. It's mostly to entertain me, and to let me have a web presence. Also, it's a big help when I have an opinion that's too long to post in the comments sections of my favorite blogs, or not currently on topic anywhere! =)

The Amazon links ARE endorsements, though, since I don't bother linking to books I despise! =)

Even More Boring Than Usual

Sorry to be even more boring than usual this week....

I have a self-imposed deadline for Sunday that I'm scrambling to meet. Then, I spent two days lost in books--


I'd been on the waitlist at the library for months, and then they both came in at one! So that pretty much ate up all my free time this week. But both books were totally worth it....

Except I have one MAJOR beef with Ally Carter's book. She ended on a CLIFFHANGER. And she's not even done writing book 4 yet! She'd better not pull a Robert Jordan or a George R.R. Martin on us.....

I was sad to see Percy's part of the story end at the end of "The Last Olympian," but I'm glad to know that Riordan is planning more books set in the 'Camp Halfblood' universe-- I'm a sucker for heart-stopping adventure laced with references to Classics!!

Anyway, back to working on the chapter from Hades.... (This is the same one I've been working on since EA kicked my butt in critique-- But I think I finally have a handle on how to write it so that it satisfies me, and will satisfy someone who hates being plopped down into a strange situation... we'll see....)

Monday, July 13, 2009

"There's No good YA out there...."

Every few months, someone who doesn't read much YA posts on how YA is all teen angst and nothing else: Give ME A BREAK.

YA is so rich and varied, I'm not sure you can actually define "typical YA" other than that the protagonist is usually a teen........

There are LOTS of great books out there.... (Admittedly, my tastes run mostly to Fantasy/Sci Fi, but still...) If your daughter is reading angsty books, it's because she likes angst, not because there are no options....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Culture of Contraception and Infertile Catholics

I posted this in response to A reprinted article at Inside Catholic. Well, not in response to the article as much as in response to some of the comments posted. I'm RE-posting it here (with a few edits.. yey Google spellcheck!), because I run into a lot of Catholics who think that, just because they don't contracept, they haven't bought into the contraception mentality. They're wrong. It slips in everywhere, and it shows, especially in our treatment of Catholic couples with few or no children.


I think our contraceptive culture is one of the reasons why the infertile people ARE getting blown off...

The culture of contraception has definitely leaked into the church... so where once people without children were considered "barren" and were objects of prayer and sympathy, they're now considered selfish, assumed to be using contraception or NFP with a contraceptive mentality, and we heap scorn and derision on them.

Look people, being an Orthodox Catholic does NOT automatically protect you from imbibing our culture's sick attitudes. Do you find yourself thinking that that wealthy, childless couple at Mass is living in mortal sin and has no right to be receiving communion? Maybe they just don't know you well enough to give you the complete history of their long line of miscarriages, or her hysterectomy. Maybe they're struggling to accept that God's will isn't theirs--that they desperately want children, but since they're unwilling to take immoral measures like IVF, they're stuck with parenting 'spiritual children' instead.

You really can't know from the outside. But you've drank deeply enough of the culture's tainted water that deep down, you believe fertility is a mechanism that can be turned on and off at will (either by contraception or NFP) and that if someone is 'off' it must be their will, not God's.

When a couple says "We're not planning on a baby right now," it's true that they could mean they're avoiding pregnancy. But often they mean "It would take a miracle for us to get pregnant right now, so we're trying to follow God's plan for us, and our medical history is none of your business."

I really admire those women. How they can take this constant questioning of their morality and fertility without bursting into tears or smacking someone is beyond me. They're hidden saints, the Sarahs and Elizabeths among us, and most of us treat them like dirt.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bekka Cooper: Bloodhound

I just finished reading the second book in the Bekka Cooper series:

It was a fun, fast read, as we've all come to expect from Pierce. I love Bekka's character, the insight into old Tortall (and into George Cooper's family!), and the supporting cast was great, especially Goodwin and Achoo.

My one big complaint is one that I've always had about Pierce, ever since I started reading her way back in 7th grade. Pierce seems to have this uncontrollable urge to throw at least ONE gratuitous Birth Control reference into every book, and make sure that her heroines come across as sexually 'liberated.'

The problem is, these encounters rarely advance the plot. Why on EARTH did Alanna need to sleep with Liam? (Jonathon I can kind of see, as sort of an ancient form of sexual harassment...). Why do all the girls run out and get magical 100% effective birth control the moment they hit adolescence? It was so jarringly obvious when I was in Jr. High that one of my friends, who loved the series, took to calling Alanna the "Magical whore!"

Meanwhile, the birth control/sex is just a tangent to the plot. The actual act never changes the characters' relationship to each other, and after the story moves on, the characters just 'get over' any disappointment or hurt feelings and agree to be friends.

So, in Pierce's world, pre-marital sex is always physically and psychologically hygienic. It's healthy and normal. Avoiding it is a sign of instability.

BUT --if that really IS how her characters view sex, why include it at all? It effects the story no more than a quick trip to the restroom, or an uninteresting, routine meal.

As far as I can tell, Pierce, who is otherwise an EXCELLENT writer---seriously, I love her stuff, which is why I still devour her new books, twenty years later, also has an agenda. She wants to push her view of sexual relations onto her characters and readers, even when it's got nothing to do with the story. And, as with any authorial agenda, it ends up taking away from the book.

Most young girls don't view sex through a hygienic lens--they view it through a romantic one. And teens who have sex don't just move on like nothing happened. There are emotional and physical consequences, even when no one gets pregnant. And since, in this world at least, there is no "Magic Birth control," some girls DO end up pregnant, even the responsible hygienic ones.

Since Pierce's view of sex is so out of step with her readers, I think it ends up taking us out of the story for a moment. It's like your gym teacher popped up in the middle of Top Gun to give you a lecture on Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis's precautions. (Yes, at the age I started reading Pierce, I also swooned over Maverick.... honestly, didn't we all?)

I know at this point in her career, she's unlikely to change. And I still love her worlds, her characters, and her plots. So, like the teen I once was, I just roll my eyes at the scenes. But I wish they weren't there, so I could just drown in the stories......

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Menu Blogging

Because I'm proud I pulled it off. =)

We had - Guacamole, Spicy Bean Dip, and an Indian Cucumber Lemon Dip-- All from the Chicago Tribune Cookbook, with veggies and chips for dipping.

Eggplant with Tomato and Mozzerella -From the "Italy the Beautiful" Cookbook

Gorgonzola, walnuts and pear on homemade French Bread -From the Berghoff Cookbook

Sausage, Green Peppers and Onion - The meat was from our local, very good, butcher's shop.

German Potato Salad -- From the Berghoff Cookbook.

Later, after we all recover, we're having Eli's original recipe cheesecake (Chicago Tribune Cookbook again) and strawberries. And then, off to the fairgrounds for the fireworks!

Palin and Me

Mark Steyn has a good take on the Palin resignation. And I'm inclined to think he has the right reasoning.

I liked Palin as McCain's Vice -president... mostly because I wasn't thrilled with McCain, felt like he was TRYING to lose, and I figured the conservative shiny-factor might give him a boost against Obama, the shiniest politician in history.

(I swear most voters are like magpies, just going after whoever seems shiniest without ever looking at records or histories or beliefs. And it's not a question of intelligence or how informed a person is. Althouse and McArdle both went for Obama, and they're bright. They're also SHOCKED by what he's doing in office, even though this is the direction his resume pointed. Anyone can be taken in by shininess, if they spend too much time on appearances and not enough on the actual WORDS. But anyway....)

Palin was not my first choice for 2012 (Go Jindal! Or Even Romney!), because even though she's a social conservative, she has that nasty "punish the evil corporations and rich people--you know, the ones who actually MAKE money and employ people and finance innovation!" streak that puts me off.

But I've always liked the fact that, for a politician, she seems surprisingly normal---it always seemed like she hadn't PLANNED to run for president from the time she became mayor.... She wasn't in permanent campaign mode. So of course the media HAD to savage her and her family, because our nation will only tolerate one kind of politician --the crazy kind. Lunatics make better TV after all, and it's all about good television these days, especially if you're one of those neanderthal conservative types.

On the one hand, then, I'm relieved. I had favorites for 2012, Palin wasn't one of them, and it's good to know my preferred candidates will get a shot, and maybe be able to work to make the government less intrusive and regulatory, rather than more. (I mean seriously--if Waxman passes the Senate, I'll have to pay 30K to retrofit my 65K house before I can sell it! Why should the Feds care about the state of my home? That should be a local rule, not a national one...)

But on the other hand, I'm sad. Palin's scourging by the media, and her resignation, prove that the days of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" are forever behind us. Normal people with good ideas are automatically shut out of the political process, because normal people won't live like we expect politicians to live. So we're left with a bunch of crazy career politicians who care more about their images and bank accounts than what's right or what's best for the country. I'm pretty sure that means the death of the Republic.

No more do we have the farmer-turned president, who serves his time and then joyfully returns to the plow. Instead, we have the celebrity president, who sees the office as a stepping stone to more lucrative speaking engagements, Nobel prizes, and maybe even the Secretary Generalship of the UN. And the more centralized and powerful our government becomes, the more the president will become some sort of god-king and less of a citizen serving his fellow citizens.

Palin's resignation highlights what we, and our children have chosen to lose. We've traded in consuls for emperors. We've traded freedom and ingenuity for lax lives on the government's teat. We've traded our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Happy Fourth of July.