party of NO nope’s a boycott

This has been a hell of a start to it all. We’re not even two weeks in. Damn.

Today, February 1, 2016, Senate Republicans–who have, if you’ll recollect, spent the last eight fucking years intentionally and proudly being party of NO and NOPE, even at cost to their constituents–today suspended the US rule of law so they could disregard the Democrat Senators boycott/ objection and move forward with Trump’s nominations.

Fuck!

You mean this whole time the laws were optional? We never had to actually fucking pay attention to the goddamn obstructionism the GOP enacted during Obama’s administration? You’re telling me US democracy was a sham all along, and the democrats are the only ones falling for it?

Jesus fucking fuck!

Apropos of nothing, have you ever heard of the Enabling Act? I was curious how Hitler went had gone from democratically elected official to mad dictator, so I looked it up. Kind of interesting, actually. Turns out, the Nazi’s had formed a coalition with Nationalists for expedience (huh) and acquired about 40 percent popular support (huh!), which, according to a quirk of the Weimer constitution meant the head of their party was appointed Chancellor (basically VP, it sounds like) and got to command the state police (huh!).

Then in February, about a month after Chancellor Hitler got all chancellored up, this fire burned down the parliament building, and Hitler and all his tools blamed it on the goddamn communists (surprise! You were expecting something else? I guess sometimes bigots mix it up, just to keep you on your toes).

Chancellor Hitler seized on the fire as an excuse to get the president (who, apparently, was not 100% there, mentally speaking), to approve this dickweed emergency degree basically imposing martial law for the “protection and safety of the people,” which suspended individual rights and the due process of law.

It seems the Fire Decrees were supposed to be temporary, but like so many horrific, invasive things that increase the might of the already-powerful (*cough* NSA spy program *cough*) it was not. Two months later, when the parliamentary elections were held, Hitler pushed through the Enabling Act to seize power as leader of the third reich, now recognized by history as the mass-murdering dictator of Germany.

The thing about the Enabling Act, which granted Hitler permanent leadership and dispensed with the German electoral process and constitution, was that it was allegedly voted in democratically.

Much like today’s vote with the Senate Republicans, there was a democratic process of law that was, nominally, followed to push through the Senate Nominations despite Democrat opposition. Likewise, Hitler did follow the legislative process in place to legally cement his dictatorship–he needed a 2/3 majority vote to pass the Enabling Act, and he got it. In effect, the parliament voted away their electoral rights by 441 to 84.

True, Hitler had been intimidating his political opponents with his Fire Decree powers by deploying state police to arrest and intimidate them prior to the vote–and only 44 percent actually voted, which is rather less than a 2/3 majority, but hey! Of the ones who weren’t too scared to show up, they overwhelmingly voted Hitler, and we all know what Trumputin says about voters–only the ones who show up matter!

 

 

house battle of the nerds

We got some nerd battles going on up in this house as my son grows up. I’ve successfully passed on my love of reading, sci-fi, and video games (a bit too much on the last one), so my son is Harry Potter-loving, Star Wars geekin’, computer-game-playin’ nerd. 

He even got me playing Pokemon Go, and then freakin’ abandoned the game which sucks even more because I wanted to be on blue team (Go Ravenclaw! … yeah, yeah, I know they’re some other not-Harry Potter name. Don’t care.), but he convinced me to be team yellow, and now I’m a freakin’ Hufflepuff (I KNOW, again, don’t actually care about the real team names: They are Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff to me, and somehow I–a Pottermore-official Ravenclaw–am wearing Hufflepuff colors while I’m hunting down Evees. Wtf).

Also, Pokemon Go won’t let you change teams after you pick your team. BEWARE. This especially sucks because, apparently, yellow is a super unpopular color, so the gym aspect of the game is pretty much shut-down to me. All the gyms around are high-level blues and reds that take far more time than its worth to battle down for 10 freakin’ coins, at which point, oh, another red or blue team takes it right back over. Look at that. What’s the freakin’ point?

Personally, I think Niantic should have anticipated this, and randomly assigned teams. I mean, there are plenty of studies showing how color preferences impact food choices, film theory, and marketing–why wouldn’t they realize their goddamn teams would distribute unevenly? grumble grumble grumble

You can probably guess at the HP divides in our house by the Pokemon Go disagreement. Over the years, I’ve taken a bunch of personality tests (including the Meyers-Briggs based ones, and yes, I know that’s a totally biased/ defunct/ worthless test) to see which house I get sorted into. Over and over, I was scored between 70-85% Ravenclaw, 10-20% Slytherin, and a minimal percentage of Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. Then Pottermore was released and I took the Pottermore test (twice, because I lost my login info once), and both times was confirmed Ravenclaw.

It’s okay. You can say it. Neeeerrrrrdddddd. 

My son, on the other hand, took those tests for years and kept scoring as Gryffindor/ Hufflepuff, so he was devastated when Pottermore sorted him Slytherin. I was like, “My BOY!” but he’s just like, “NOOOOOOOOO.”

Weirdly, despite his love for the good guys in HP, he loves quoting Kylo Ren and Darth Vadar when it comes to Star Wars. Oh! And that’s our final nerd battle.

See, I’m kinda a Star Wars fan (OG, natch), in that the original episodes were a big part of my childhood– specifically, every year on my birthday, my family would relate the tale of how my birth interrupted my older brother’s much-anticipated opportunity to see The Empire Strikes Back (the family was living in Germany, and the English-speaking release had apparently just arrived). It seems my arrival interrupted big plans. Big plans. I did not hear the end of that guilt trip for like 20 years, haha.

Anyway, I like the franchise–actually, I like the whole space opera thing in general, honestly. I mean, holy shit, Jupiter Rising? Watch it as a big, glorious, not-to-be-taken-seriously space opera, and it’s so awesome. My husband could not understand why I was loving that film so much the first time we saw it, but I was like c’mon! Don’t watch it seriously–enjoy it for the camp that it is! Hilarious acting, cheesy costumes, big epic scenes, a genetically engineered werewolf soldier from space on a hoverboard? What’s not to love?

So, yeah, I adore space opera. It is so over-the-top, you have to be a humorless goon not to love it, and Star Wars falls squarely in space opera territory. It is so melodramatic and campy, and just a big ‘ole political soapy soap opera with fantasy elements, set in space!

So when my son comes in with deep, serious, deconstructive questions about the science or politics or economy or history of Star Wars, I’m like, “Uh huh, yeah. That is a contradiction. Don’t worry about it.” waves hand 

Because space opera, like normal opera, does not abide by the rules of common sense. Space opera, like normal opera, operates in a fantastical, upside-down world where all the rules as we understand them are suspended for The Story. So in a space opera, plot holes abide and technology stutters and stagnates in a contradictory timeline, and ducks show up every-friggin’-where and the most feared weapon is–inexplicably–a close-range laser sword.

At least Dune had an explanation for why they fought with swords. Star Wars deploys literal armies of robots shooting actual freakin’ laser guns, but somehow a couple hundred Jedi with glowy swords are supposed to be a political threat? So my stance is don’t question it! Just accept it. Just smile, and be like, “Okay! For the story!” and proceed.

But nope, not my Star Wars fan of a son. He says, “Where did Kylo Ren get the mask? Wasn’t Darth Vadar burned on pyre?”

“Yeah, probably a bounty hunter sold him a fake.”

“But he has the Force. Wouldn’t he be able to torture the truth out of him?”

“Not if the bounty hunter thought it was the real deal.”

” … I guess that makes sense.”

“Like, the bounty hunter was sold it by another bounty hunter, and who acquired it from some other asshole, and so on down the line–each guy swearing it was the mask of Darth Vadar, personally acquired by the guy who sold it to him, or at least the guy who sold it to the guy who sold it to him. So eventually someone brings it to Kylo Ren, swearing it’s the real deal, and he force chokes them for the truth, and they’re like I already told you the truth it’s really Darth Vadar’s mask, straight from Endor! Fifty fucking Ewoks died so you could have that mask! and he’s like, oh. Okay, then. And then cries to some melty piece of plastic about his granddad.”

Should be enough, right? But nope. My kid wants to know why technology doesn’t really progress in the Star Wars universe. See, my thought is, because the writers weren’t paying attention? But if I say that, my son just gives me this look, and I sigh with impatience.

The problem is, I’m definitely more of a Trekkie. It was adult-onset; I binged the entire tv series, from TOS through TNG, DS9, Voyager, and even 00’s Enterprise. I haven’t really gotten into the films, because I have a hard time sitting through films, period, but yeah. I’m a Trekkie, with Opinions about Trek. I could easily and happily delve into long discussions and debates about the progression of technology in the Trek ‘verse, or the relative merits of the captains–and I have.

My entire family is all-to-aware of my hypothesis that fucking Captain Archer is the reason Captain Janeway, centuries later, was forbidden by Federation rules from bringing her dog on-board the Voyager, because we all know how Captain Archer’s preferential (and, I would argue, endangering) treatment of Porthos threw a wrench in several first-contact situations), but Star Wars? C’mon! It’s a space opera, just meant to be enjoyed!

Unfortunately, my son has only seen The Next Generation, and while he’s (rightly) a fan of Data and Picard, he lacks the whole-series perspective gained by viewing TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. (Seriously, Enterprise had so much suck. Can we just kick Captain Archer out an airlock and erase the whole time-war plot? Please?)

So I try, like a good mom, to engage with his attempts to find meaning in the meaninglessness of Star Wars. And that is … an interesting endeavor.

So I’ll be like, “Um, I dunno. Because it’s an essentially capitalist system? All the planets seem to have distinct cultures, languages, and monetary systems, and we’ve seen the influence trade treaties play–Star Wars is clearly structured around a far more quintessentially capitalist economy than 90’s Star Trek, which is structured around the Federation with the equilizing technology of the replicator. Granted, the Federation still had capitalist and expansionist leanings–as illustrated by the conflict with the Maquis–but it’s no-where near the inequality apparent in the Star Wars universe.”

… and my son is tuning out because there I am, on a Star Trek rant. Somehow.

 

 

 

 

official american idiot 

​Shocking. 

Trump somehow manages to make cutting funding, shutting down agencies, and firing thousands of employees even worse by icing this shit cake of widespread closures and related unemployment with the blood and tears of resourceless abuse victims

He hasn’t even been in office a full week, and the dude has already: 

  1. Raised middle class housing costs: Day one, Trump signed an executive order reversing an Obama-era FHA insurance rate reduction program. Now, low income homeowners, those who paid down payments of less than 20%, and those with middling credit scores will see their hosting costs rise, starting Jan. 27, 2017. The FHA estimates this order means homeowners with $200k mortgages will pay roughly $500 more in 2017 than they did in 2016.
  2. Moved to remove health coverage from 25 million Americans: Signed an executive order to gut the ACA, with no replacement proposed.
  3. Suppression of free speech: The official public service/ informational gvm’t Twitter feeds seen as mocking Trump were briefly suspended for investigation on January 20th.
  4. Engaged in propaganda/ rewriting history on official government sites: LGBT issues, Civil Rights, Healthcare, and Climate Change, Immigration and more were scrubbed from the official White House site after the Trump Administration took control.

Women’s safety, housing costs, health coverage, free speech … gee, I wonder why an infantile, narcissistic, billionaire sex predator wouldn’t prioritize these issues. 

Probably the same reason he’s planning grant cuts to other Dept. of Justice programs, like eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or shutting down grant administration for low income Americans who can’t afford legal assistance. 

I mean, it’s not like community oriented policing is important, or the low income people who voted for Trump ever need legal aid, right? Why should he care about those programs?

Oh, wait. He should because it is important and they do need it–he doesn’t care because it doesn’t matter to him.

And, of course, with the defunding of these departments will be hundreds upon thousands of lost jobs. 
Unemployment. 

Shocking. The guy who promised to bring jobs to America fired a bunch of people right off the bat.

I’m sure things will only improve from here.

Women’s clothing: Losing a size and pockets

My local Costco has these Buffalo David Bitton skinny jeans in stock for about $26, and I thought they looked pretty sweet. Also, I’ve shed a few (like 50-ish) lbs over the last year, and I kinda needed some new jeans. So I was like sah-weet, and snagged me a black pair in a size 12 back in October.

I considered the size 12 a “win,” because I’d been hovering between size 14/16 for a bit. So I was like aaawwww *happy dance*. Buuuut it quickly became apparent that these (extremely comfortable) jeans were a titch too big for me, and I’d underestimated my weight loss. It was getting to the point where my “skinny” jeans were literally falling off me, and I could shimmy out of them without undoing the zip.

Granted, I’d lost a few more pounds after buying them, and they have some give/ stretch to them because they’re, like, 10% polyester … but it didn’t help that I started out by just plain underestimating how my weight loss impacted my clothing size.

Sizing is hard, and it’s really hard to eyeball.

Now, I assumed the jeans were out of stock after a few months, but that was an assumption based on the following facts:

  1. I hate clothing shopping
  2. I actually kind of tend to avoid the clothing section at my local Costco because there’s often a strong perfumey-fragrance hanging about the area? I’m not sure if it’s due to an employee or the result of the type of shoppers attracted to the area, but it’s like a heavy cloud of floral/ patchouli/ gaggery sort of thing, and it makes my eyes water and my skin break out, so I tend to just sort of rush past holding my breath and not browse the area.
  3. Also, I hate clothing shopping.

But! Last week, the air surrounding the area was all fragrance-free and clean, so I figured I’d take a peek and see if the pants were still in stock. And lo and behold, they were! Yay! So I located a size 10 and did the whole no-dressing-room measure trick, which is good to see if something’ll fit (not as useful for seeing how something will fit). For pants/ skirts/ shorts, hold them up to your waist, but from small-of-back to belly-button, not hipbone-to-hipbone. If they don’t reach, it won’t fit.

Anyway, fit seemed to work, so I bought them. Took ’em home, tried ’em on–perfect! Lounged about all happy for a day in my beautiful dark blue comfy-as-hell, brand-new skinny jeans. Next day, went out to get a flu shot and visit my husband at work, and I discovered something horrifying. 

My new jeans do not have front pockets.

My old ones do. Same brand, same materials, same everything but size/color–they have front pockets. True, they’re tiny little jokes of front pockets, useful only for a handful of change or a lighter, but still. Pockets! In my pants! Pockets in which I can tuck my thumbs! Pockets for folded receipts, change, lighters, and the various other detritus I collect throughout my day!

POCKETS!

My new pants have a neatly stitched line of lies, pretending to be a pocket. LIES.

It’s not even a stitched-over fake pocket, like you’ll sometimes find in suits! There is no pocket! If I were to take a stitch ripper to the seam, I would merely open a hole in my jeans! It’s just for show! A cruel seam of trickery!

I HAVE NO FRONT POCKET IN MY JEANS!

What is this vicious cruelty? Why, by going down a size, did I surrender my pockets? I don’t want pocketless jeans! That’s insanity! Who wants pocketless jeans? My gods! I might as well be wearing yoga pants, or leggings! If I wanted to wear fucking yoga pants, I would get yoga pants! I wanted jeans! With pockets!

I’m utterly appalled, just utterly. Appalled. I googled Buffalo David Bitton skinny jeans and damn. Apparently these things were also a steal, because the website is listing their skinny jeans as between $79 and $108 dollars, which is fucking insane for jeans that are apparently hit and miss for front pockets under size 10! I mean, at least four of the models on their skinny jeans page are posing with a hand tucked into the front pocket–but is that because they’re wearing over a size 10? Or is it because its a brand which actually comes with pockets in all sizes? I do not know. I am so baffled.

Why no pockets?! Why? Why? Who would design pants–jeans–without pockets? What kind of outrageous insanity is this?

Well, I mean … actually, I do have some related reading for anyone actually interested in diving down the rabbit hole of that question. But it’s kind of a fucked up/ annoying explanation:

Which, all super fascinating, sure … but doesn’t resolve the lack of pockets in my pants. *grumble grumble grumble*

The worst part is, I’m keeping the damn things.

 

 

guilt prone employees

Recently, this Scientific American article popped up in my FB feed about mistakes employers are making in hiring. Something about how the current model of relying on a combination of interview performance, length of resume, and whether or not a candidate has ever been fired is, according to research, going about things all wrong.

Then the blurb ended and I needed to pay to read more.

Anyway, I curiously went off to research the issue, because damn, do I perform poorly in interviews! And, as it turns out, the best employees rate high in conscientiousness and are guilt-prone, which is different from having a guilt complex. Basically,

“Guilt-prone people … are simply those with a tendency to be over-sensitive to the opinions of others combined with an over-active sense of responsibility toward others. Conscientious, guilt-prone people believe any poor outcome in work or life reflects on themselves alone, even when others are involved; perfectionists, they believe they can do better… always. They are the kind who undersell themselves on a job interview rather than oversell and disappoint.” — How to Be SuccessfulMedicalDaily

So the exact same personality traits that make me such a good employee are the ones that make me such a shitty interviewee.

I have a deeply internalized need to be 10-15 minutes early (or I’m actually late, goddamnit), which means I’ve developed excellent time management skills and am always on time; but that also translates into intense anxiety and a tendency to blame myself when the schedule goes off track or I failed to anticipate wrenches thrown by other people.

I have an intense internal drive to complete projects to my satisfaction, even if it means I stay a few minutes after my class/ study session/ shift has ended; but this almost compulsive perfectionism has also seen me skipping meals, neglecting my mental/ physical/ emotional health, and ignoring my family in pursuit of my goal. This is, by the way, why I chose not to go to law school: Becoming a lawyer (especially a public defender) sounds fascinating and amazing and challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Also, it would be upwards of 60-70 hours of work a week, and something would have to give. Statistically, that would be my family. Maybe once my son is grown.

When I am working as a member of a team or group, whether its in a classroom or office, I feel a strong sense of responsibility toward my peers and assisting the “team,” which is actually problematic because I have a tendency to say, “yes,” or, “sure,” without hesitation when my assistance is requested, regardless of my workload, and I’ve actually had to start learning to set boundaries and accept that, “No,” is an acceptable response.

But all those traits–that need to be early, and the perfectionist drive to complete a project, and the impulse to help others (a rising tide lifts all boats!)–arise from the same places in my personality that my self-deprecating mockery, cynicism, and inclination to tear myself down comes from. I’m always telling my friends not to expect too much from me, because I’m the laziest person they’ll ever meet. Inevitably, I get an arched, disbelieving eyebrow and amused denials in response, but they’re not getting it.

I really am, I promise–the only reason anyone might think otherwise is because I said I was lazy from the outset, which set the bar so low, that anything I do above that expectation ends up looking amazing.

But you can’t set the bar low at an interview. It doesn’t work like that. At an interview, you’re expected to set the bar really high, then launch over it, and that’s a problem for me. Interviews are sales pitches, with the product being yourself, and I am just not a salesperson. I can’t help but point out the flaws.

I have barely learned to accept a compliment; shifting uncomfortably in my seat and offering a quiet, “Thanks,” with a tight smile. How am I supposed to, “sell myself,” an endeavour that necessitates not just talking about my skills and assets, but pumping them up–explaining why I am somehow smarter, better, preferable than all the other candidates of similar education and background. Seriously?

I’m an anxious perfectionist terrified of failing others’ expectations, and I’m supposed to go into a room of strangers and brag about myself for an hour? Ha. There is no way this situation could possibly end well, and guess what? It doesn’t. One of two things inevitably occurs:

  • One: I undersell myself, and that in tandem with my scant work history causes the interviewer (rationally) to conclude I’m completely unqualified to handle even the most basic secretarial/ office/ filing position, so I’m dismissed from the running.
  • Two: I try to “fake it til I make it,” and put on a facade of confidence, but it feels unnatural and I’m pretty sure I just come off looking like a braggy and insecure overconfident bitch, because that’s sure how I feel. I also feel miserable and slimy when I try to do this, which makes me feel sick to my stomach and sweaty. I find myself gauging the interviewers’ expressions and body positioning; talking faster and faster as frantic terror seeps through me and I’m suffused with the sickening certainty that everyone knows what a fraud I am; that I have been exposed as the weak failure of a candidate I am instead of the confident professional I’m trying to imitate. I panic, and before you know it, I blurt and babble–oversharing and apologizing. It is a mess.

So, first, I do not understand how anyone aces interviews, ever; and second, I would totally crack under interrogation. No need for torture, just, like, a steady stare and a few minutes of silence, and I’d be a babbling mess unlocked by my own neuroses.

But the feedback from professors/ classmates/ friends/ etc is that I’m intelligent, and my performance evaluations would always say something about how my ability to exceed the expectations I set for myself. I was praised by my peers and professors for my teamwork, willingness to assist others, and the quality of my research and work. When I read my student evaluations, or ask my husband and HR-employee friends to assess them as though they’re employee performances, the consistent response is, “I’d hire this person. They’re hard-working, a team-player, and they accept feedback.”

Now, I admit its possible they’re just humoring me; trying to comfort the girl who can’t get a job. But damn–honestly I feel like I’m just shooting myself in the foot with interviews, and all this research is just bringing the issue into sharper focus. Now it feels like, okay, so it sounds like according to research, I am actually a pretty ideal employee … but it doesn’t matter because there’s just no way to get a job without going through an interview.

I wish that all jobs had a, like, apprenticeship interview option. A working interview, I guess–something where I could go in and just work for a day or two, or a week, and they could see how I perform and adjust. Like, they could provide a low-level project and be like, “Complete this objective by X time,” and release the candidate to see how they perform.

Who do they approach with questions? What do they do, immersed in an unfamiliar environment and given a task to complete? How do they handle/ adjust to the unfamiliar computer system in the office?

See, that I could actually do.

But to go into a room full of strangers and convince them I’m awesome? Nah.

Drifting for a focus

I dunno what to do in this space. 

I’m kinda exhausted with political rants, and I don’t really feel, I dunno, super qualified/ enthusiastic about regular pop culture type reviews. 

For a while, it was like a journal that happened to be online, and among other things I used it as a space to think out loud and work through interpersonal issues where every other avenue of conversation/ resolution had been shut down.

But recently I’ve come to realize those individuals/ disagreements are really just situations I’d rather leave behind and forget. Purge and prune from the blog; erase the words and memories. 

My favorite thing to write/ talk about is often psychology/ neuroscience and the ways it can intersect with environment. The whys of human behavior … but I usually end up there when trying to figure out why so-n-so did thus n such inexplicable thing, and that leads me back to the things I’d rather forget. I suppose its a form of editing the past. 

I used to think that was dishonest. Now I realize its nature’s default, and that’s good. I think a side effect of forgetting is relationship preservation, because its harder to nurse a tiny stupid grudge without being able to revisit the record of it. It’s harder to mull it over and get pulled down into a dark spiral contemplating the wrongs been done to you. Not impossible, but harder. In this way, the frailty of memory is a gift that allows us to mend fences, move on, and forgive. 

But records and bookkeeping were developed to augment our faulty memories–to facilitate storage and trade, banking and sales. The first written records were of grain storage, but soon poetry, scripture, and literature followed–and, of course, graffiti. Memories to outlast a fickle hearts, and even survive the passing of transient flesh. 

In Pompeii, a lovelorn (or spiteful) youth wrote, “Marcellus Praenestinam amat et non curator,” on the wall of a house, which translates to, “Marcellus loves Praenestinam, but she doesn’t care for him.”

Did Marcellus write it? Praenestinam? A jealous rival hoping to sow discord with the happy couple? Who knows. All we know, centuries down the line, is that someone, at some point, linked the names of Marcellus and Praenestinam in a single sentence that paints a familiar story of love, longing, and rejection, regardless of the actual truth of the situation.

I was explaining to my husband the other day that I take photographs as memories, because my memory stutters so unreliably. I cannot recollect the sound of my mother’s laughter, or the sound of her voice, because I have no recordings of them. 

For me, the tangible evidence of love–photographs, art, letters, texts, recordings, etc– is the most precious, because that is the love an individual has prepared and curated through a lifetime to comfort those who grieve through their loss. 

It is a distinct sort of heartbreak and tragedy to me when the record a person spends a lifetime curating of themselves is filled with impatience, cruelty, demands, insults, reproach, vitriol, mockery, and unkindness. 

I have a few such texts and emails stored in the cloud; reminders of long-forgotten disagreements resulting in longer silences and schisms. Sometimes I re-read them, my heart clenching, and wonder if these will be the words that always define the relationship–if the golden warmth of sunny afternoons, shared laughter, and smiles will inevitably fade into to ashes and dust under the cold, black and white reality of insults on a glowing screen.

I have some creative writing pieces, artwork, letters, and stuff– memories I’ve created, collected, and hoarded over the years, but never organized. I’m kinda thinking that instead of spending time writing entries, I might just start scanning and uploading shit, or copy/pasting old creative writing projects from Dropbox. I dunno. 

If I did, I’d probably schedule those posts for Thursdays. 

Happy New Year & 2016 Reading Challenge Review

In January 2016, I challenged myself to complete the following list.  I finished 1-4 and #6 by June … so how’d I do on the rest?

  1. A book published this year– Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  2. A book you can finish in a day (done — Married with Zombies)
  3. A book you’ve been meaning to read (done — Outlander)
  4. A book recommended by your local librarian/ book seller — The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (recommended at a Scholastic Book Fair a few years ago and on my list ever since. Finally read it.)
  5. A book you should have read in school.
  6. A book chosen for you by a spouse/ sibling/ child/ parent — kind of cheating, but we jokingly call DJ my sister-wife, so yeah. She recommended it, I finally read it. The Gunslinger, first Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series.
  7. A book published before you were born. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  8. A book that was banned at some point. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  9. A book you previously abandoned. 
  10. A book you own but have never read.
  11. A book that intimidates you.
  12. A book you’ve already read at least once. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain and Power & Constraint by Jack Goldsmith

Yeah, I totally cheated with Huckleberry Finn. Basically, I re-read it in early fall partly because I read something about some previously unknown and utterly complete (edited and everything) published works of Mark Twain that were rediscovered, which got me looking to read some other Mark Twain stuff (actually started looking for his satire about the Garden of Eden), but then I read an article about Huck Finn being banned in a school for use of the n-word and I was like ummmm. Its been a while since I read that, but I’m pretty sure its a) era appropriate, being written in that era and all, and b) Twain is vehemently anti-slavery. Context matters.

Five, nine, ten, and eleven I didn’t complete.

Five, because its hard to think of a book I “should” have read in school and did not– I read every book I was assigned, which kinda just leaves me in the grayer area of reading lists where I was allowed to select amongst a variety of texts, or perceived failures in literary education.

Nine, because its only been in the past five years or so (after I read Twilight and Women are from Venus, Men are From Mars) that I started actually putting books down when I thought they were garbage and walking the fuck away, which is super freeing. For years I had this weird compulsion that I like had to finish every book I started no matter what, and now I’m like, why? If the book is balls, why?

Ten, I have no excuse for. I have a to-read pile of books I own but haven’t read that were either gifted to me, picked up from a free bin, or I purchased on a whim at a used book shop … and yet, somehow, I went and purchased best-selling series by Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu instead of reading any of those books. No excuse.

Eleven I didn’t complete because–like five–I was having difficulty coming up with a candidate I was interested in reading. I suppose that’s the point of an intimidating read? That they’re intimidating, not interesting? But I just feel like reading is for enjoyment, enrichment, and education, not punishment.

I don’t mind reading things that are complex or difficult, but I do want to at least be interested by the writing and material, no matter how intimidating the topic. Its a fairly low bar.

So with that criteria in mind, I find myself at a loss for intimidating reads. I enjoy reading academic nonfiction, which some people have reacted to as unusual, maybe not their choice? Like, after I re-read Power and Constraint and discussed it in unbook club, the reaction was, “A book on law and policy in the White House? Um, sounds … interesting …. ,” in a tone of voice that indicates it sounds the opposite of interesting and more like an awful chore. Which is interesting to me, because that’s how I view, say, Infinite Jest or anything by Tolstoy.

I enjoy fiction, and believe fiction is a useful and necessary medium in which to distill larger cultural stories about ourselves–but I hate slogging through emotionally draining, dense, psychologically complex, unentertaining fiction. I’d much rather read about law and government policy, haha.

Don’t get me wrong: I can enjoy emotionally draining and psychologically complex fictional pieces. I just prefer them short instead of long and dense, and most of all interesting. More Of Mice & Men than Moby Dick. So I did have trouble coming up with an option for number eleven, I dunno.