Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: The Adderall Diaries

The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and MurderThe Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder by Stephen Elliott

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

After reading Joseph O'Neill's Netherland and David Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, I am so sick of aimless, dissatisfied, self-effacing male protagonists that I gave this book no more than twenty pages before I put it away. I don't think I could recommend it to anyone on any reading level. A shame, because the copy description was compelling. Maybe whoever wrote that blurb could take a stab at writing their own novel using this idea. I'd be willing to give the plot a second chance!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt KidThe Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the number of times I laughed out loud, I desperately want to give this book 5 stars. However, if it's going to be a laugh-out-loud memoir, it needs to be a laugh-out-loud memoir through and through. One hundred percent. And unfortunately, because he wanted to badly to "capture the 1950s," Bryson writes a few less-than-enthralling chapters in a book that is otherwise incredibly captivating. These chapters were so boring that I essentially skipped them.

"Welcome to Kid World"? An amazing chapter. "The Pursuit of Pleasure"? Spot-on (and therefore hysterical, as "Out and About"). "Boom!" on the other hand (or at least what I read of it), reads as a moderately entertaining history book chapter, as does a good portion of "What, Me Worry?"

Still, as a whole, this memoir is extremely amusing. Add to that one of the strongest narrative voices in modern comedic literature (a la David Sedaris), and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is worth the time, money, and praise it's earned itself and its author.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekend Rant: Clothes Shopping

Everyone has their clothes shopping rant. Here's mine:

I hate clothes shopping. I especially hate shopping for pants or shoes, but really, if the activity involves artistic scrutiny of my own body and removing-and-donning-and-removing attire, I basically detest it.

The reason I particularly abhor shopping for pants or shoes is because of my size. I am a 5'9" proportionally long-legged girl (woman? lady? they don't have a "young woman's" section in department stores) who has narrow size 11 feet. I would happily provide my my specific pants size, but that fluctuates from 6-10 depending what store I shop at, what style pants I select, and what year year I am shopping. Seriously.

Now, in truth, 5'9" is not that tall. Yet, I am able to find long-size pants at approximately one out of every 100 stores I visit, and then usually only in a style I don't like or a size I don't need.

"We sell them online," sales associates often tell me. Well, if I wanted to buy the pants online, I wouldn't be standing in their store asking for the pants, would I? I came to the store to try the pants on and see if I like how they fit. This is not possible online, and it certainly is not possible when I am given a pair of pants that comes to the tops of my ankles. It's not as though the "long" version of the pants merely adds 2" of material to the bottom of the regular size; "long" pants usually have a completely different fit.

As if that weren't bad enough, stores also seem to assume that not only do women not have long legs, but that their feet do not grow any larger than a size 10. If, by some miracle, I do find a shoe I like in a size 11 it is then either wide enough to fit both of my feet inside or features a 6" heel. Nine out of ten women wearing a shoe size larger than 10 do not need their center of gravity to be higher off the ground than it already is. I, for one do not appreciate being made to look like a wobbly Amazon giantess.

All of this aside, 5'9" is only 5" taller than the national average. What about women who are 6" or 7" taller? What about women above 6'? Based on my small sampling of extra-tall female friends, these women tend to wear either skirts or leggings, and they either learn to balance on stilt-like shoes, or they settle for flip-flops. Or, in my case, I wear pants to the point of disintegration and, so long as I am not going to work or to a wedding, men's sneakers.

I guess tall women's options are a) look like a model or b) look like a bum. Frankly, being a model sounds like too much work, so I'm going to put on my sweatpants now and go eat some chocolate to comfort myself after this frustrating day of shopping.

Next weekend rant? Shopping in one of the most crowded cities on earth.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What Canada Does Right

As an American, I will admit that, on a number of occasions, I too have said something to the effect of, “It’s just Canada—geez, it’s practically the US.” This is likely the result of my having little-to-no knowledge of what Canada has to offer (apart from maple syrup and hockey, of course). Geographically, it is identical to the majority of New England, and it borrows even its languages from other countries (namely the US and France). I’ve been to Niagra Falls and I’ve camped in Toronto, and I can honestly say that these places are no different from any number of spots in the United States.

However, I am currently visiting Montreal on a work-related trip, and I must say—while this city may resemble other cities I have seen, it does a tremendous job of melding together some of the best of them. To put it into one little phrase, Montreal is pretty much a French Portland.

“French Portland?” you say. “How could crunchy, laid-back Portland ever be French?” Well, first let me tell you the ways in which Montreal resembles Portland: first, it is probably amongst the most bike-friendly cities I have ever seen. One night I went on a 7-mile run, and I was able to stay on bike paths—true bike paths, which were in no way obstructed by cars—throughout the entire run. Also, as I explored the city, I ran across such an assortment of dyed, sheared, shaved, and teased hair, I had to wonder if there wasn’t a punk rock convention happening nearby (which, I might add, would have been a hilarious compliment to the Human Genetics convention I was attending).

Now, how could such a city be French? Let’s begin with the fact that everyone here speaks French. The street signs are written in French, the grocery store products are labeled in French . . . yes there is a considerable amount of English, too, but it is all written as “subtitles,” below the French. Every shop owner, hotel concierge, taxi driver, and restaurant server has addressed me first in French. Montreal’s dominant language is clearly French.

Add to this, the design of the city: the buildings are all old, ornate stone structures; the roads are primarily cobblestone; the shops are tiny and boutique-like; the restaurants and cafes are small and intimate. It’s a wonder visitors can remember they’re not actually in France!

All of this being said, it’s a shame Montreal isn’t in the US—I’d consider moving here! (At least for a bit.) I love the bicycle-friendly atmosphere, and the city is right on a river, which is wonderful. The language would be somewhat of a barrier, but it would also be good incentive to expand my linguistic repertoire. Instead I’ll just have to check out San Diego . . . they speak Spanish there, right?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Word of the Day


Pronounced: ker-fuf-ful

Definition: Disturbance, fuss

Example Sentence: I might have caused a kerfuffle over nothing!

Challenge of the day: use this word without anyone in earshot laughing.

*Acknowledgement: thanks to my swimming friend A___ for inspiring this post.