Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Books! Time to call dibs Mother for yas

I'm hopefully going to go through this in the next day or so and organize the list, but scroll through, and if you see anything you want, let me know and I'll try to get it to you.  And if you couldn't tell, the title is first, then the author.  

Silas Marner--George Eliot
Selected Writings--Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Good Soldier--Ford Maddox Ford
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--Lewis Carroll
Dubliners--James Joyce
Herzog--Saul Bellow
The Grapes of Wrath--John Steinbeck
The Broom of the System--David Foster Wallace
Revolution: International Dimensions--Mark N. Katz
On The Wealth of Nations--P.J. O'Rourke
Dracula--Bram Stoker
The Tender Bar--J.R. Moehringer
Kissing the Virgin's Mouth--Donna M. Gershten
Never Let Me Go--Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day--Kazuo Ishiguro
You Shall Know Our Velocity--Dave Eggers
The Sound and the Fury--William Faulkner
American Psycho--Bret Easton Ellis
Blindness--Jose Saragamo
Middlesex--Jeffrey Eugenides
Frankenstein--Mary Shelley
Christ the Lord--Anne Rice
The Hobbit--J.R.R. Tolkien
Nervous Conditions--Tsitsi Dangerembga
Cracking India--Bapsi Sidhwa
Rats--Robert Sullivan
Selected Short Stories--D.H. Lawrence
Crime and Punishment--Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Fury--Salman Rushdie
Nature Girl--Carl Hiaasen
Skin Tight--Carl Hiaasen
The Romanov Prophecy--Steve Berry
All Quiet on the Western Front--Erich Maria Remarque
Hard Times--Charles Dickens
The Awakening--Kate Chopin
The Great Gatsby--F. Scott Fitzgerald (2 copies)
Pride and Pejudice--Jane Austen
The Known World--Edward P. Jones
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay--Michael Chabon
Mary Barton--Elizabeth Gaskell
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them--Al Franken
Between a Rock and a Hard Place--Aron Ralson
The Great Influenza--John M. Barry
I Am America (And So Can You!)--Stephen Colbert
Dune--Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah--Frank Herbert
A Time to Kill--John Grisham
A Room With a View and Howards End--E.M. Forster
The Quiet American--Graham Greene
The Heart of the Matter--Graham Greene
The Power and the Glory--Graham Greene
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency--Alexander McCall Smith
Tears of the Giraffe--Alexander McCall Smith
Morality for Beautiful Girls--Alexander McCall Smith
American Dream--Jason DeParle
Holidays on Ice--David Sedaris (1 copy left)
Agnes Grey--Anne Bronte
Civil Disobedience and Other Essays--Henry David Thoreau
The Screwtape Letters--C.S. Lewis
Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars--Albert Marrin
The Metamorphosis and The Trial--Franz Kafka
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Strange Tales--Robert Louis Stevenson
Beowulf--Seamus Heaney (translator)
Facing Your Giants--Max Lucado
The Hunchback of Notre Dame--Victor Hugo
Interpreter of Maladies--Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake--Jhumpa Lahiri
Imperial Ambitions--Noam Chomsky
The Clumsiest People in Europe--Mrs. Mortimer and Todd Pruzan
Genghis Khan--Jack Weatherford
Chronicle of a Death Foretold--Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Long Way Gone--Ishmael Beah
Frankenstein; Dracula; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--Shelley; Stoker; Stevenson
A Confederacy of Dunces--John Kennedy Toole
Invisible Man--Ralph ellison
Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture--Gene Edward Veith, Jr.
Ragman and Other Cries of Faith--Walter Wangerin, Jr.
The Unofficial Colts Trivia Book
Banana Republicans--Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber
Confessions--St. Augustine (Henry Chadwick, trans.)
Handbook of Youth Ministry--Donald Ratcliff and James A. Davies. eds.
The Lutherans in North America--Nelson
Building Faith...One Child at a Time--Peters
On the Divine Images--St. John of Damascus
The Merchant of Venice--Shakespeare
As You Like It; The Tempest; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Twelfth Night--Shakespeare
Democracy Matters--Cornel West
A Visit from the Goon Squad--Jennifer Egan
Slaughterhouse-Five--Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bike Riding

Ok, so I didn't start my bike riding plan like I should have yesterday.  I suck.  But I got on it today.
The problem is that my little brother has the bike that used to be mine.  So, I took the bike that used to be my older brother's.  Or maybe it was my older brother's brother's.  But now it's my mom's.  In a way it sounds cool.  It's a Gary Fisher, so it's pretty nice.  Definitely better than a Magna.  And could even be seen as an upgrade from my Schwinn that my little brother now rides.  BUT, it's a mountain bike.  It's got those super fat nobby tires and shocks.  Also, it's got pedals with clips.  So, when I'm out riding about my town, I look like I'm trying way too hard.  Even if it were a really nice road bike at least it would be a road bike.  I might look a little pretentious, but I'd look properly--if overly--equipped.  Instead I just look like I have no idea what I'm doing.  Oh, another important detail about this bike and the image that goes with it.  Being as it's my mother's bike it's got one of those big, wide bike seats.  You know the kind that, well--sorry mom--old people use.  Also, until I get a little piece fixed, I can't raise the seat, so it's set all the way down. 

Remember when it was cool to ride your little bmx low-rider bike around the hood with your knees nearly hitting you in the chin?  I don't either, but I'm pretty sure I saw that in some rap videos and also perhaps in Friday or maybe Boyz in the Hood. 
You know, like this:

So, imagine me like that, except without the wicked beat and fun lyrics.  Oh, and instead of pegs I've got an old lady seat and instead of mag wheels or hundred spokes I've got useless shocks and off-road tires.  But, I persevered.  I rode down to the park and did a few laps and pedaled around my neighborhood.

Riding gave me a bit of time to think.  After my initial trepidation, I thought, "I'm glad most of the people in the park are Indian."  Why?  Well, I realized I'm less worried about looking silly if I'm looking silly in front of people from another country.  If a local guy seems me riding my stupid looking bike he thinks, "That guy has a stupid bike."  And then he decides to shout sarcastically from his pick up "Hey, nice bike."  However, if an Indian guy seems me, he thinks, "Americans ride stupid bikes."  It's no longer my personal stupidity, it is the stupidity and strangeness of all my fellow countrymen.  I can't help it that my bike looks dumb to someone born in India, it's a cultural thing.  That's how I think about it at least.

I had other thoughts, too.  Like "Hey, look at that bunny," and "Is that my cat there in some other person's lawn?" and, "look, another bunny.  They're just so cute."  Then, riding down another street I thought, "Hey goth girl, why are you walking in the middle of the street?  And why is the strap on your purse-type-thing broken?"  Then, as I got closer and passed her by, "Why are you walking down this dirty street with your Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars in your hand instead of on your feet?"  At which point I got thinking about the awesomeness of Chuck Taylor, and cycle of popularity of his shoes--the first ever "signature" shoes--but I won't bother you with all the details.

When I got back home, I did something I do almost every time I ride for some reason.  When I was within a few yards, I swung my right leg off the bike and behind my left foot as i stood on the left pedal.  Then coasted in, standing on one pedal.  I don't know why I do this, and actually feel kind of dumb when I do.  Like I'm trying way to hard to be smooth.  It seems like something that Larry from Perfect Strangers would do.  Or maybe someone in a gum commercial.  Perhaps as he's approaching the Doublemint twins who are standing next to their tandem bike.  Roll up on one pedal, hope off the bike just before it stops, put down the kickstand.  Then, with a big, chewing gum-whitened smile flashing, pull off his bike helmet and run his fingers through his blonde hair.

 Hello girls.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


This video is not at all what my blog is about, but as soon as I sat down to write it, this moment came into my head.  So, watch and laugh.  In case you're wondering, I think my favorite part is right around 2:44.

Anyway, I hope now you've had a good laugh and a good reminiscence of the greatness of The Cosby Show.  Now, please read my blog which won't be nearly as funny, but hopefully will be interesting.

I don't know if it's because I'll be turning 30 in a few short months, or because my little brother and his girlfriend just had a little baby, or because I just got a rejection e-mail from the Abu Dahbi Education Council, but I feel as if I'm having a little life crisis.  I nearly said mid-life crisis, but I hope I'm not old enough for that yet, and I think that has different connotations than what I'm going through here.  I have no plans to buy a sports car and try to pick up girls half my age.  College ladies are still fair game, though.  "So, babe, should we go back to your dorm or my parents' house?"  It could work.

Or, maybe it's none of those things.  It may have stemmed mostly from this book I'm reading.  It's called Consumer Republic and it's by Bruce Philp.  I picked it up in a little bookstore in Oak Park when I was up in Chicago.  Now, this post isn't really about the book, but the book is important to what's going on here, so let me give you a quick synopsis from the 3/4ths I've read so far.  The basic premise is that there needs to be a consumer revolution in the U.S.  Like many other people, Philp dislikes "american-style consumerism."  However, like me, he doesn't think consumerism is totally a bad thing.  He doesn't want to destroy brands and huge corporations.  In fact, the center of his argument is that brands are central to we consumers taking control of the market, holding those big companies accountable and getting what we want.  Another big point in the book is buying/owning fewer higher quality things instead of more cheaper things.  There's a lot more detail and nuance in the book that I won't get into here, but I would highly recommend the book.  I would also recommend Cheap by Ellen Ruppel Shell, which Philp references when talking about the downsides of too much bargain hunting.

Like any person advocating a revolution of any kind--which he really is doing--Philp calls on the general public to make changes to their lives, to think more about what they do, and in this case, buy.  It fits very well with the Thoreauvian edict to "live deliberately," which is one I've been a fan of--and done a horrible job of following--since I read Walden the first time back in high school.  (Bye the way, I'm not sure if Thoreauvian is as proper as Dickensian or Kafkaesque, but I think it sounds damn good).  In one section of the book, Philp gives 3 little guiding principles to keep in mind when shopping.  Each is embodied by a philosopher/great thinker.  They are Buddha, Ruskin and Morris.  I really liked the quote attributed to William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  Tied with Morris in this section is the less famous Dave of guynameddave.com.  In pursuit of a better, less cluttered life, Dave started his 100 Things Challenge.  You can read about it on his blog.  Or, at least try.  I found the blog to be totally useless for actually finding any details about his rules for the 100 things or his challenges with it.  Maybe it's because he did it a few years back and is now more focused on other things.  But, I'm getting off track.  This is not about whether I like Dave's blog or not.  The concept of the 100 things challenge is not hard to grasp.  Can you live with 100 things?  The end.  Dave did it for a year I believe.  Or that was what he challenged himself to from what I understand.

So, I want to do it, too.  Already, I've come up with a few stumbling blocks.  For example, I have more than 100 books, probably more than 200.  I also have more than 100 CDs.  And clothes?  I don't have a huge wardrobe, but when you talk shirts, pants, undershirts, ties, belts, socks, boxers...well, that adds up quickly.  I may have to exempt those things, or make some special rules for them somehow.  We'll see how it goes.  I already have ideas for some things to get rid of, but I'll save those details for later.

About this time you might be wondering why I want to do this, why I think it's important to me.  Well, I could tell you, but I think it would be more efficient wait until I explain the other challenge I'm taking part in.

Challenge 2:  Riding my bike for 30 days.

So, in the newspaper the other day I saw a little article about a 30 day bike ride challenge.  Again, very simple premise--and one that doesn't involve me name dropping any books or authors.  Oh, except for the author of the article, the lovely and talented Andrea Zeek.  Ok, that's out of the way.  As I was saying, simple premise: ride your bike every day for 30 days to help promote better health, a better environment and even, and to save a little gas money perhaps.

I've said many times in my adult life that I should start riding my bike more.  It usually lasts for about a week.  Or I'll go through a summer of riding my bike once a week or so.  LAME.

So, now I get to tell you why I'm doing these things.  I want to get into riding my bike more because I'm getting way out of shape.  I'm getting a beer belly and I figure pumping the pedals for a few miles might help with that.  Also, I've never really committed myself to anything for 30 days in a row.  I mean, I've had jobs of course, and I've played sports and I've done theater things, but none of those things happened every day for 30 whole days.  It's a good way to start some new habits and hopefully get rid of some bad ones.  You know, habits like sitting in my house on my computer being lazy and getting fatter.

Both of these challenges are ways for me to refocus my life, to move toward "living deliberately" instead of just letting the days go by.  It might help me figure out what I really want to do with my life, what I think is important and to really go after those things.  I know some things I like to do, but often get so mired down in clutter--mental clutter, emotional clutter, and the real physical clutter--that I don't pursue them.

So, the challenge really becomes this.  Can I hold down two part-time jobs and be good at them both--which really is a challenge in itself--and make some real life changes?  In some ways it seems like piling on too many changes and challenges at once.  But, on the other hand I think it's kind of an all or nothing.  In fact, in my mind the things I want to do and have talked about here get so connected that I'm having trouble explaining it without repeating myself a lot, and I don't have the time to do the editing work required to make my writing concise.  Look for more later, though.  I plan to update my progress on here, and hope for thoughts/encouragement/connection from anyone who takes the time to read this.