Monday, April 27, 2009

Book catch-up

I am sort of behind in my book postings. You're thinking: bitch, pleeease.
No, really.

Gary Panter
by Robert Storr et al

These art books were a Christmas present from my brother. More precisely, he gave me an amazon gift certificate, and I used it to expand my future amazing collection of illustration, art, and children's books. Gary Panter seems to be kind of a big deal in graphic art and design circles, and he's won awards for his set design of Pee-Wee's Playhouse. I thought that this two-volume collection of his works would be a formidable addition to my collection.

The books are filled with pages such as this:

Aquarium from

My plan of attack at this point is to allow the tomes to hang out on the bookshelf for a bit, maybe break them out when we have guests over and those said guests want to feel like they're on LSD. Really though, these books should be kept away from women and children.

3 out of 5

Annie Leibovitz at Work
by Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz muses about her career in this book, which is also peppered with some of her famous portraits. I almost wished that there was less musing and more photography, although one of my favorite parts of the book was her discussion of her session with the Queen of England, as I vaguely remember some controversy and gossip surrounding it.

4 out of 5

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

by Michael Pollan

Maybe you remember my obsession with Omnivore's Dilemma. Yes, I still harbor deeply intense feelings and thoughts about grass-fed cows and the role that corn plays in our society. This is Michael Pollan's follow-up. The message this time is: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Really the take-away is that you should not be eating anything that your great-grandmother would not have eaten. You know, Twinkies. And Cheez-It crackers. Items that are masqueraded as "food" at the grocery store because technically you can digest them, but that have little nutritional value, give you cancer and diabetes, and have ingredients that you cannot pronounce.

The first two-thirds of the book are very scientific -- nutrients this and nutrients that. And as I am not even positive that I ever passed my high school chemistry class, most of that information went over my head. The last third of the book talks about common sense healthy eating habits, which unfortunately get pushed aside in favor of Lean Cuisines and 100-calorie packs of Pringles during tax busy seasons. Ideally you should be taking more time to prepare fresh foods and more time eating them. Fortunately for me, I have time to go the farmer's market every day to whip up a delicious and wholesome lunch and dinner. Oh wait, no I don't. To make matters worse, I don't think my great-grandmother had much of anything to eat in Soviet Russia. So basically this book does not even apply to me.

3 out of 5

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Russian Easter / A Day at the Zoo

The panda was eating honey out of a crate.

This bird looked like a rockstar.

The flamingos had their own freaky agenda.

And Papa T had stocked up on a CASE-full of the Menage wine. They gave me a bottle so that I wouldn't feel so bad.

A few more photos posted on flickr.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Outfit POD

I may have gotten some stromboli on it.

Happy (Non-Russian) Easter POD

Today I went to an Easter party. Roommate Mike made eggplant strombolis and spinach calzones. I was totally responsible for the stuffing in the spinach ones. I took this picture when the beauties were half-way done and we transported them to the party location to finish baking. I was careful not to ruin everyone's holiday by telling them that the real Easter, Russian Easter, is NEXT weekend. And also by not over-salting the spinach.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Acquired Tastes

Acquired Tastes
by Peter Mayle

The ultimate finer things guide for the wealthy gentleman. This book is a collection of short essays on experiencing some truly extravagant luxuries. In a nutshell (not adjusted for inflation since the late 80s/early 90s):

1. $1,300 hand-cut, hand-stitched, hand-built shoes -- your feet are reported to become elegant, lose weight, and turn from frogs into princes. I can't even imagine, since I wear pointy-toed masochist shoes every day.

2. Mistresses -- my take-away from this essay was that I need to become one. Graciously receive finer things presents without any obligation to wash the man's socks.

3. Servants -- my servants would love me. They'd have huge pictures of me up on the walls and in their homes, like Lenin.

3. Caviar (and we're not talking about any random fish eggs in a can or jar, but specifically the eggs of the sturgeon) -- according to Mayle, it should be eaten straight up, with a spoon. I grew up on caviar. I didn't have blue jeans, but I had caviar. We always ate it on buttered bread.

4. The malt -- Mayer recommends Glenfiddich (excellent for beginners, best-selling single malt in the world), Glenmorangie (aged for ten years in old bourbon barrels), and Laphroaig (the most richly flavored of all Scottish whiskies). Malt tasting party anyone?

4. $1,000 folding Panama hat -- it's made of straw.

3 out of 5

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book stress POD

Taken at the Stone Ridge annual used book sale. Not unlike what my room currently looks like.

The Believers

The Believers
by Zoe Heller

A slice of life type of novel. I read it all day today. I read it at work -- waiting for my computer to boot up-- which I promptly left to continue reading. I read it at Starbucks, paired with a steaming cappuccino. I read it on the balcony for hours, took a nap on said balcony, and continued reading. I read it so much that I don't want to talk about it. So I will just type out the book jacket, if you don't mind.

When radical New York lawyer Joel Litvinoff is felled by a stroke, his wife, Audrey, uncovers a secret that forces her to reexamine everything she thought she knew about their forty-year marriage. Joel's children will soon have to come to terms with this discovery themselves, but for the meantime, they are struggling with their own dilemmas and doubts.

Rosa, a disillusioned revolutionary, has found herself drawn into the world of Orthodox Judaism and is now being pressed to make a commitment to that religion. Karla, a devoted social worker hoping to adopt a child with her husband, is falling in love with the owner of a newspaper stand outside her office. Ne'er-do-well Lenny is living at home, approaching another relapse into heroin addiction.


5 out of 5

The God Delusion

The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins

I will preface by saying that I felt really controversial reading this book -- even for being, what some may call, a "godless liberal", it felt controversial.

Richard Dawkins effectively attacks the unquestioned belief in God -- not what he calls the Einsteinian God, the force of Nature or the universe, but the supernatural creator that can hear simultaneously the prayers or millions of people, that punishes homosexuals and the societies that harbor them with tsunamis, that furiously and jealously cares whether or not we believe in him.

At first I was slightly put off by Dawkins's tone/unrelenting attack. Although I was agreeing with his points, I could see how his ideas could offend some readers. But then I got over it. The points spoke loud and clear. (And why shouldn't an atheist woman be offended when a Catholic tells her that a priest can only be a person who has testicles, for example? It should go both ways.)

I find the topic of religion in America fascinating. Although America was not established as a Christian nation, it is now one of the more (most?) religious industrialized countries. England, with its Church of England, is one of the least religious. In addition, it is inappropriate to question religion and to question religious people about their faith. But where does their faith come from? And why must we treat the topic of religion with kid gloves?

Dawkins structures the book by laying out the arguments commonly given for God's existence and then systematically breaks them down. He touches upon the roots of religion, the superiority of the Darwinist argument over the Creationist one, human psychology, the roots of morality, the moral lessons presented in the Old and New Testaments, the indoctrination of children, and countless other captivating tidbits. There were too many ideas that jumped out and slapped me in the face. In a good way. I should have taken notes.

Soon I promise to consider the other side and finally read C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.

5 out of 5

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cherry blossom mania

Today will be known as Cherry Blossom Mania Day. Cherry Blossom Mania Day included a daytime stop at Kenwood, MD and a nighttime stop at the Tidal Basin, with a quick, multi-hour stop at a local private school's used book sale, where I purchased twelve more pieces of surplus reading material and officially became a book addict. It's my cross to bear.

Click here for the bits of Cherry Blossom Mania Day that got caught on photograph.

And here is me, really enthused about the cherry blossoms and my ice cream bar.

Friday, April 3, 2009

On the way back to work from a Total Wine shopping excursion POD

We drove past this street and saw a blur of blossoms, turned around, and drove back to see them.

It was glorious.