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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Review 1-31-09


Bulletin Board
>> I'm "guest-professoring" the Weekend Assignment at Outpost Mâvarin again. Care to join in? Here's the topic:

Weekend Assignment #253: You've got no electricity, no Internet, no phone, and no car for two whole days. What do you do with yourself?

Extra Credit: What do you usually do in real life when an evening power shortage leaves you in the dark?

Post your answer on your own blog, and leave a link to it in the comments here.

>> Here's another writing assignment for this weekend, and this one comes with a prize! Your 10-word short story about a dysfunctional family could win you a copy of Karen Harrington's novel Janeology. Enter the contest at her blog - it's open until Monday (2/2/09) at 5 PM CST, and multiple entries are permitted.

>> The next Bookworms Carnival will be hosted by Jessica at The Bluestocking Society. The theme is a fun one: "Books into Movies." Details and submission instructions are here, and the deadline is Friday, February 13. (Don't let that scare you!)


Newcomers in Google Reader
The Caffeinatrix
Aberration Nation, author Penelope Przekop's blog

Also...members of the Silicon Valley Moms Group sites are supporting each other by subscribing to each other's personal blogs (and following each other on Twitter). This adds too many new blogs to my Reader to list them all individually, but it will provide so many more places to find linkage for the Review!


Across the Blogiverse
One of the themes discussed in this week's SVMG Book Club for Who By Fire was family members attempting to rescue one another - here's a "rescue" attempt that didn't take, and that just might turn out OK. But sometimes, rescues just aren't possible: trying to understand a suicide

Confronting cultural differences while traveling as a single woman in Morocco

Still catching up on posts from last week: a reflection on the first president from my generation. Or, as I (born in 1964) said to my husband (born in 1962), "We're the ones in charge now. YIKES!"

Lefties are all right with me - after all, I am the mother of one. And I've had experience being the only female in the house, too...

A biological explanation for the vicious cycle of weight maintenance; an effective weight-loss method with some miserable side effects

Most of these perks of being a working mom have applied to me, too, at one time or another

Ten more reasons to appreciate living in Southern California in January, via Minnesota

25 maybe-almost-universally-true things about citizens of the blogiverse

A theory that "most bloggers are introverts" - do you agree? Take the poll, and join the discussion! Also, not connecting=unsociable social media usage; and can you successfully assume a new blogging identity? Via a Twitter contact (of course), a really good explanation of Twitter for the non-Twitterer (or the merely confused); tweeting through journalism class (as part of the assignment!)
 
"Which blonde is witch?," via Not Always Right:
Retail | Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
(A woman who had gone through my line earlier that day came up to me.)
Customer: “Give me back my g****** keys!”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Customer: “My car keys! Give them back!”
Me: “I wasn’t aware that I had them. Ma’am, are your keys lost? I can get someone to help you find them if you want.”
Customer: “No! I know it was you who took them! I put them up on this little tray– *points to the tray next to the debit machine* “–and when I got home I couldn’t find them anywhere!”
Me: “When…when you got home? Ma’am, did you drive home?”
Customer: “Well, duh! What kind of idiot are you? Do you think I’m poor?” *gives a disgusted look*
Me: “No…how did you get back here, ma’am?”
Customer: “I drove here, of course!”
Me: “With your car keys?”
Customer: “Yes! Now give them back!”
Me: “Ma’am…if I had taken your car keys, would you have been able to drive home and back here?”
Customer: “No! But I know you took them!”
(I then notice the keys shining in her hand.)
Me:: “Open your hand please, ma’am?”
Customer: *upon seeing her keys in her hand* “Oh, you little witch! What did you do, ‘magic’ them back into my hand?! What kind of store lets witches work for them?!”
Me: “Ma’am, I’m not a witch…but you are a complete stereotypical blonde.”
Customer: “Oh, how dare you! I demand to speak to your manager.”
(My manager, who is a Wiccan and has been listening to this exchange for the past few minutes, comes up behind me, playing with her five-pointed star necklace.)
Manager: *in a mystical voice* “Well, hello there, earth-walker. What can I do for you?”
Customer: *sputters curse words and quickly storms out*
Goofy Blogthings Quiz of the Week:
You Are "Love Shack"

If you were transported back to the 80s, you would enjoy anything and everything underground.
You love the alternative aspects of 80s culture, and you're a bit disappointed that they've been forgotten over time.

You'd be goth, punk, new wave, or a rapper. Just not a yuppie, a preppy, or a jock!
You would relish living in a time where identifying with a subculture actually meant something.

I should note that if I went back to the '80's knowing what I know now, this is probably about right. It's not exactly on target about the actual me-in-the-'80's, though. Also, would it be possible for me to swap this for "Roam" or "Deadbeat Club"? "Love Shack" doesn't have a great melody line.

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
I'm not sure I plan to read The Samaritan's Dilemma, but this response to it, and the related discussion about charity, were definitely worth reading. From the same blog, following up on this week's Booking Through Thursday question: a defense of e-books and a theory about how they could help bookstores

Putting limits on the library

One blogger's award list of books that should have received awards for 2008

A very useful FAQ listing for new (and not-so-new) book bloggers

Judging "books for women"  by their covers; also, women don't have the book-blogging arena all to themselves (and that's good!)

Books that caught my eye this week:
Maps and Legends, by Michael Chabon

** Hope y'all enjoy this week's link roundup, and enjoy your weekend!

Friday, January 30, 2009

TBIF - Thank blog it's Friday! A week's worth of meme-ery, 1-30-09

Tuesday Thingers: Questions for LibraryThing users, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

Library Thing is attempting to gain help from librarians and readers alike to redo the old Dewey Decimal system of book classification, creating a newer system called Open Shelves Classification or OSC (click on the link to read a little about the vision on the LT Blog).

The librarians have already helped to create the main categories, and they are now looking for readers to help classify books.

How we can help: As you add a book or review to your library, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you can see the grid of classifications, select the classification for that book and confirm that you have read it. They have also created a group for the OSC project.

Today's question: Prior to today, were you aware of Open Shelves Classification? Have you helped to classify any books yet? Is this something you are interested in? Did you know that if you classify any books, it will also show you who else has classified the book?

I wasn't familiar with this LibraryThing project until this question came up, and it looks like it's only an option when you first add a book to your library; I don't see the fields/grid come up when I edit a book that's already there, so if anyone knows where to find them, please let me know! Now that I'm aware of this, I'll try to look for the classification fields when I enter new books on LT. It doesn't sound like it will be all that much more effort to do this, and it will make the information available through LibraryThing even better, so why not help out if I can?


Teaser Tuesday: hosted at Should be Reading

 TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
I don't have anything to report for Mailbox Monday this week, so I'll share a Teaser from one of the books I received last week, which was offered to me not long after it made my wish list.

"Here the student/builders had broached the dangerous nexus of water + electricity; I shuddered to think of what was behind the flimsy false wall space. The walls and ceiling were painted." (page 75)
- The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, A Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them, by Amy Dickinson


It's Tuesday, where are you?: hosted at An adventure in reading

I was, and still am, in New Hampshire, making trips back and forth to the state prison with an ACLU attorney and a priest, and at home with the mother of a child in need of an organ transplant, about halfway through Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult.

It's Friday - where are you?

Booking Through Thursday: Electronic vs Paper 

Something a little different today–
First. Go read this great article from Time Magazine: Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. (Well worth reading.)
Second. Stop and think about it for moment. Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.
Third. DISCUSS!
Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?

We were asked to answer this in the comments section of the post on BTT in order to encourage general discussion, so I'll be putting this over there too instead of just linking back.

The article in question - which definitely is worth a look - was at least as much about changes in the publishing industry and its business model as it was about electronic media and reading. Among other things, it discussed the rise in self-publishing during the last couple of years, and noted the fact that several recent self-published novels have met with popular acclaim and decent sales. In some cases, these books were picked up and reprinted by a major publisher after word-of-mouth success. I can't prove it, but I suspect that the evolving relationship between authors and book bloggers is a factor there (which is NOT suggested in the article, by the way). Self-published authors in particular need to do their own PR, and reaching out to the book-blogging community, which is full of readers eager to find a great new read and talk about it, seems to be a pretty good approach. And even though in most cases we get those review books for free, we haven't stopped buying books...and I don't imagine that we will any time soon. The free item - like a sample music download or movie trailer - is still meant to encourage a purchase of some sort, not to replace it.

Since I do so much reading online now - blogs, news, and magazine articles especially - I don't cringe any more at the very idea of reading a book on some sort of machine, but I haven't thought much about getting an e-book reader. I can imagine reading books on my laptop some day, but I'm in no hurry to do it. I like the physical qualities of books - the paper stock and typography, the cover designs, the way they feel in my hands - as well as their contents, and I really don't want to give that up. "Curling up with my Kindle" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Maybe someday I'll be as fond of an e-book reader as I am of my iPod, and I'll marvel at how I managed before, with those bulky old trade paperbacks...and someday I may well have to adapt to "books" that only exist as digital media. It's probably going to happen, but I hope it's later rather than sooner - and in some parts of the world, it may be much later, as Gautami suggests in her BTT post at Reading Room.

Have you read any good e-books lately - or ever? Do you want to?

Friday Fill-ins #109

1. I'd really like to get back the two hours I lost in traffic on Thursday right now.

2. "OW! Crap!" is the word you'd most often hear me say if I stubbed my toe.

3. Possession is a word that describes a thing you're holding on to - a thing, and not a person.

4. I would never want to date Captain Jack Sparrow (he drinks too much and wears more eyeliner than I do - oh, and then there's the whole "pirate" thing...)

5. Marshmallows and fire go together like umbrellas and rain.

6. Babble on and on (or Babylon And On, for my fellow Squeeze fans)

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to nothing in particular except hanging out at home, tomorrow my plans include an American Idol audition-shows marathon (to clear them off the DVR!) and Sunday, I want to get some chores done, and hopefully some reading too!

What's in store for you this weekend?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-03: Classic examples

In the third Weekly Geeks of 2009, Ali has proposed some "fun with the classics," and has offered a choice of four questions to answer (you have to do at least two, but can do all four if you wish). The applicable definition of classic for this assignment is "anything written over 100 years ago and still in print." (If your memory needs jogging, see Classic Literature Library for examples.)

For your assignment this week, choose two or more of the following questions:

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don't get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it! *


Like many of us, I was introduced to the classics through school-related reading, which I really can't say I minded - I loved reading, and I mostly loved school. As a young adult - during college, and on through my twenties - I sought out the classics on my own; I felt the need to compensate for being a business major by making an extra effort to take in high culture and the liberal arts. I recovered eventually, though, mostly because as an adult woman with a family and a career, I just didn't have the time or concentration necessary for books written in the style of the 18th and 19th centuries, when people had far more leisure to read. I also found that, in terms of content as well as style, my tastes really are more contemporary, and I gravitate to the "new" classics of the 20th century. Today's "classics" were once contemporary literature themselves; I'd like to think that at least a few of the books I'm reading now could be "classics" in 50 to 75 years or so.

I'm not sure I've truly loved any of the classics since my childhood obsession with Louisa May Alcott, to be honest. I've appreciated most of the classics I've read - yes, even Wuthering Heights, even though I intensely dislike it - but for the most part, that's as far as it goes. Maybe it's because, for me, reading them has been more a matter of education - even if it was a self-directed curriculum - than genuine enjoyment. Therefore, I'm not sure I could convincingly "sell" anyone on reading a classic that he or she wasn't already interested in.



2) A challenge, should you choose to accept it: Read at least one chapter of a classic novel, preferably by an author you're not familiar with. Did you know you can find lots of classics in the public domain on the web? Check out The Popular Classic Book Corner, for example. Write a mini-review based on this chapter: what are your first impressions? Would you read further? (For a larger selection of authors, try The Complete Classic Literature Library). *


One nice thing about having entered the 21st century is that books written "over 100 years ago" now include those from the early 1900's, but some of the books on the Popular Classic Book Corner list are a little too young just yet to qualify for this assignment. I'm not doing this task for WG, but I've bookmarked these sites on my cell phone; if I were ever stuck somewhere without a book and desperate for something to read, they could come in useful (and make me very glad I got that data plan with my new phone!).



3) Let's say you're vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don't find her a book, she'll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her? *


If Myrtle has a sense of humor, this one's easy - I would hand her a copy of The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It's not necessary to be extensively familiar with canonical English literature to enjoy the Thursday Next series, but it helps you catch some references and get even more fun out of it.

However, since she made this announcement "primly," I suspect Myrtle might be a bit humor-deficient. If that's the case, I might search out some books that were influenced by classics, such as the Pulitzer Prize-winners March by Geraldine Brooks (inspired by Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) or A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear).

If she's open to something a little more "genre," a literary thriller like Elizabeth Kostova's Dracula-themed The Historian (although I still haven't managed to finish it myself) or Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred with Their Bones, about a "lost" Shakespeare play, might meet her standards because of their subject matter.

And since they're all less than 100 years old, I suspect Myrtle may not have read any of these modern classics: East of Eden by John Steinbeck (granted, that one was an Oprah pick, and in Myrtle's case I'm not sure whether that's a plus or a minus); The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; or Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Hopefully, at least one of these books would meet Myrtle's literary-merit requirements, and we could both head off to find comfortable spots to read in peace!



4) As you explore the other Weekly Geeks posts: Did any inspire you to want to read a book you've never read before—or reread one to give it another chance? Tell us all about it, including a link to the post or posts that sparked your interest. If you end up reading the book, be sure to include a link to your post about it in a future Weekly Geeks post!

How do you feel about reading the classics - is it fun, or does it feel like school? (Then again, maybe school felt like fun for you; to be honest, most of time it did for me!) Are there any particular classics - or books influenced by classics, or destined to become classics - that you'd like to recommend?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weekend Assignment #252: Book connections

This week, Karen has appointed another "guest professor," Laura of YBTN, to give the Weekend Assignment. Both the main question and the extra credit are hers, as we return to a favorite subject for some of us: books!

Weekend Assignment #252: Where do you get books from?

Extra Credit: What was the last book you read, and why?

I almost feel like I should abstain from this week's topic, since I talk about books so much of the time here. Then again, that may be exactly why I should participate - books are one of this blog's reasons for being, after all!

In Karen's own response, she wondered if everyone's answer to this question would be Amazon.com. I don't do all that much book shopping for myself on Amazon, to be honest. I go there for gifts for other people, and when there's a specific book I'm looking for - something for a book club reading, perhaps, or a special topic (I ordered several books about wedding planning and blending families from them two years ago), or the occasional new-in-paperback title I've been waiting for and just can't find locally. Oh, and I did pre-order the last three Harry Potter books from them, too.

My favorite place to acquire books - and I'm a book buyer more than a borrower - is my local Borders. It's on the small side as those stores go, but it's nicely laid out for browsing. The "literature" section is a bit of a catch-all, as was recently discussed on someone else's blog (I'd link if I could remember where it happened - sorry!) - memoirs and essays are often shelved there, mixed in among classic and contemporary non-genre fiction. I especially enjoy checking out the tables of new releases and sale books, as well as the special-collection shelves. In my experience, as the big chains go, Borders tends to be more consistent than Barnes and Noble, but I'm not that picky - if B&N is the only game in town, I'm not likely to pass them up. (In fact, I bought four books there just this weekend.) I am not fortunate enough to have a good, general-interest independent bookstore nearby, but if I did I wouldn't neglect them either.

As I mentioned, I rarely borrow books - when I do, it's informally, usually from a family member or friend. Sometimes I get books as gifts, but most people who know me prefer to give me bookstore gift cards and let me pick them out myself.

During the last year, I have found - or been found by - a new source for books: authors and publicists. One of the perks of blogging book reviews is being offered free books to read and feature in reviews. I'm selective about the offers I accept, but they've helped widen my reading horizons and trim my book budget! (Oh, I still buy books, but knowing that I have a stack of "review books" waiting does slow down my rate of acquisition just a bit.)

I post reviews of just about every book I read. The last book I finished and posted about was Buffalo Gal, a memoir by Laura Pedersen, which is one that was offered to me for review. Currently, I'm immersed in Jodi Picoult's last novel, Change of Heart. The last two books I've read and reviewed were both nonfiction, as are most of the books in the "review" stack right now, and I wanted some fiction as a change of pace. Picoult's novels have been reliably absorbing and fast reads for me, and this one hasn't been an exception, so far. Also, since it's not a "review" book (although I will review it - yes, it does get confusing sometimes!), I'll count it for the "Read Your Own Books" Challenge - my goal is to read 20 of those this year, and this will be #2.

If you have a book blog, you've probably answered some variation on one or both of these questions several times - would you consider doing it one more time, to participate in this Weekend Assignment? And if you don't normally blog about books, but you do like to read, why don't you join in too? All you need to do is answer the question(s) in a post on your own blog, and leave a link to it in the comments on the Assignment post at Outpost Mâvarin! (Tell Karen I sent you!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: Clothes call

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is one of my favorite subjects - clothes! One of my early career ambitions was to be a fashion illustrator and/or work with a designer, and while that didn't last long, it did fuel a lifelong interest in clothes and fashion. I (usually) enjoy clothes shopping, and not just for myself, either. This week prompt asks for "10 Favorite Articles of Clothing You Own," and I'm afraid I'm fudging that number just a bit, as you'll see. In no particular order, I present:



Short-sleeved fine-gauge cotton sweater. All three of the sweaters pictured are from Talbots, because this item is a classic. A little more dressed-up than a T-shirt, suitable to wear under another sweater or jacket, and appropriate year-round, these are staples in my closet.
 




Red cardigan
. Red is probably my favorite accent color, and I love layering sweaters to pull an outfit together. This picture does not include all of my red sweaters.




Black jeans. Jeans in varying shades of blue are also closet staples, of course, but black ones have an advantage because they just look a bit more dressed up.

Easy Spirit black walking shoes. I'm not posting a picture because they don't look like anything special. They are a little more dressed-up than white sneakers, though, and they are amazingly comfortable! I haven't had this pair very long, but I love them; they've become my favorite weekend shoes.
  

Short boots. Knee-high boots are supposed to be more versatile, but...well, I have short legs, and the lower-calf height just works better for me. My favorite thing about the arrival of cooler weather is being able to start wearing boots again, and I'm always a little sad when it gets warm enough to have to put them aside.



Pajamas.
I don't believe they should ever be worn outside the house or in front of guests (unless they're of the overnight variety), but I love to hang around in PJs, especially my cozy fleece ones when it's cold outside.



Speaking of cold...living in Southern California means I don't get many opportunities to wear my warm faux-shearling coat, but I never worry about getting chilled when I have it on. Then again, not wearing it too often means that I'll probably get to keep it for a good long time!


The tricky thing about my clothing addiction is that I don't necessarily like spending a lot of money on it. Even though it's totally understandable why some things end up on the clearance racks - who would actually wear that?! - sometimes I'll find something good, like these two skirts that cost $8 each.


Every woman's wardrobe needs a "little black dress" - evidently, I think I need more than one.
   

One of my other favorite dresses is a white one. I only wore it once, so I thought I'd show you what it looked like on October 21, 2006.







Do you have a special attachment to any of your clothing - something especially comfortable, something associated with good times, or something that just makes you feel good when you wear it?

Monday, January 26, 2009

SVMG Book Club: Intervention, control, and "Who By Fire"


I don't really think of myself as an interventionist. I might not always agree with what you do, and I might question you about it. I might express that disagreement to you, and chances are that I may talk about it with mutual friends as well. But unless it's something truly dangerous to your well-being, I'm probably not going to get in your way of doing it. Despite my misgivings, I will generally give you credit for knowing yourself better than I do, and for being able to make your own decisions.

I might think your decision is irresponsible, or maybe just plain stupid, but that doesn't give me the right to prevent you from acting on it. I don't think it's my job to take charge of your life - or maybe I just don't think so highly of myself that I believe I should take charge of it. Maybe I'm too passive, or maybe I think I have enough responsibility in being responsible for myself, and not you too.

Of course, all of those disclaimers assume that you're an adult. If you're a child, particularly if you're my child, there will be times when I do know better than you do, and it's part of my job to intervene. But here's where it gets sticky - my child will always be "my child," but eventually my child will be an adult. (Actually, my child is an adult - he'll be 25 in July.) How do we learn to step back and see our children as adults -  let them choose their own path, even if it's not one we'd want them to choose?

In Diana Spechler's novel Who By Fire (reviewed here), this is something that mother Ellie Kellerman has a lot of trouble with. It's complicated for her by the fact that one of her children never got the chance to become an adult - her youngest, Alena, was kidnapped when she was six years old, and no trace of has ever been found - and Ellie has been wrapped up in that loss for almost twenty years. Meanwhile, her two older children, daughter Bits and son Ash, have grown up at loose ends, and Ellie disagrees with what both of them are doing with their lives. Ash chooses to seek answers and comfort in religion, and when he comes to believe the best place for him to find them is an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, he leaves - and gradually cuts off contact with his mother and sister. Ellie and Bits both have major objections to Ash's choice, which is one reason he retreats from them; Ellie feels that he has joined a cult. Joining a cult is one of those choices that could indeed be construed as dangerous to one's well-being; as Ash's mother, Ellie uses that sense of danger to justify the belief that he needs to be pulled out if he won't leave on his own, and she sees her daughters as the instruments to make it happen.

I understand the need to feel in control of a situation, but I don't believe that when that situation is someone else's life, it's my place to be in control of it. My disagreement with your choice doesn't mean that your choice is automatically wrong - if it is, you'll figure it out on your own eventually, and maybe you'll learn something along the way. That's the "adult" part.

I wouldn't intervene in the lives of my adult children the way Ellie Kellerman does - would you? I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of such intervention either. Again, would you? Is it ever OK to try to change another person? Personally, I say no...we can only change ourselves. Then again, I'm non-interventionist.

We're discussing Who By Fire and the questions it raises about family, connection, boundaries, and mutual responsibility across the blogs of Silicon Valley Moms Group members today. If you've read the book, please share your thoughts in comments - here, in the discussion being hosted on the LA Moms Blog, or in both places!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Book Talk: "Buffalo Gal," by Laura Pedersen

>>Thanks to Anna Jarzab of Authors on the Web for offering me the opportunity to read and review this book - sorry it's taken so long! (My copy is an ARC; the book was published in October 2008).


Buffalo Gal by Laura Pedersen
Buffalo Gal
Laura Pedersen
Fulcrum Publishing, 2008 (paperback original) (ISBN 1555916929 / 9781555916923)
Memoir, 256 pages

First sentence: "Buffalo, New York, probably turns out more priests and nuns than any other city, except perhaps Rome." (That's the first sentence from Chapter One, "God's Frozen People" - but since there's a preface, that's technically not the first sentence in the book. That is: "I was fourteen years old when I first stepped onto the trading floor of the American Stock Exchange in downtown Manhattan.")

Book description: Growing up in the snowblower society of Buffalo, New York, Laura Pedersen's first words were most likely "turn the wheel into a skid." Like many families subsisting in the frigid North during the energy crisis, the Pedersens feared rising prices at the gas pump, argued about the thermostat, fought over the dog to stay warm at night, and often slept in their clothes. While her parents were preoccupied with surviving separation and stagflation, daughter Laura became the neighborhood wild child, skipping school, playing poker, betting on the horses, and trading stocks. Learning how to beat the odds, by high school graduation Pedersen was well prepared to seek her fortune on Wall Street, becoming the youngest person to have a seat on the American Stock Exchange and a millionaire by age 21. Combining laugh-out-loud humor with a slice of social history-her hometown was a flash point for race riots, antiwar protests, and abortion rallies, not to mention bingo, bowling, and Friday night fish fries-Pedersen paints a vivid portrait of an era.

Comments: I'd never heard of Laura Pedersen before I was offered this book for review, but she's written several novels, and this is actually her second memoir. Her first, Play Money, talked about her career on the American Stock Exchange, where she was the youngest trader in its history and became a millionaire by the time she was 21. This memoir is about how she became the person who did that.

In some respects, this is what I was looking for in the last book I read. Pedersen is roughly my age (three weeks and one day older than my younger sister, actually), and we both grew up in the Northeast, although she somewhat convincingly argues that Buffalo, NY has more in common with Midwestern cities. She clearly remains fond of her hometown, and is aware of how its history has influenced her own. This memoir isn't just her personal story - it's also one of the town and times in which she grew up.

The mid-sixties through the early eighties were an odd time to be a kid, in some ways. The world was changing quickly, and we were surrounded by technology and issues that our parents wouldn't have even imagined when they were our age, but we were too young to experience it all first-hand - we were being kids, and we may have been the last generation to be kids before the computer revolution. I recognized many of the pop-cultural touchstones Pedersen mentions, and yet that also caused me some quibbles with the book - in at least one case, her chronology was wrong. Granted, I was reading an ARC and this might have been corrected in the final copy, but the band Alice in Chains didn't form until 1987, long after both of us were out of high school, and she referenced them twice. I have to wonder if she meant Alice Cooper, who did use chains in his stage props... If I weren't such a pop-culture junkie, that wouldn't have bothered me, but I should note that it didn't bother me enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.

Aside from my little quibbles, though, it's clear that Pedersen is a fine observer, and her account of growing up as the only child of two loving, yet detached, parents in the suburbs of Buffalo is enjoyable from start to finish. She is inventive and resourceful, resilient and self-aware, and uses her well-developed sense of humor very effectively in telling her own story. That story is influenced by her parents, of course - and their long, drawn-out divorce during her teens (as an aside, state laws that make it difficult to get divorced may help "protect marriage," but they just make the process even more painful for those who decide they must go through it anyway) - but also by her friends, including the girl next door and the gay theater teacher at her high school, and by her city itself.

I liked this book a lot - it's funny, it's interesting, it's well-written, and it's not just about a life, it's truly about the "life and times" of Laura Pedersen, 1965-1983. I'm going to keep my eye out for her other books - now that I know her, I'd like to know them, too.

Rating: 3.75/5

Other bloggers' reviews:
The Printed Page
Not enough books

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link in the comments or e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail dot com, and I'll edit this post to include it!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Review 1-24-09

Bulletin Board
**** The new Weekend Assignment is from a "guest professor" once again (not me this time), and I'm mentioning it because I know it's one that some of y'all could easily get into:

Weekend Assignment #252: Where do you get books from?

Extra Credit: What was the last book you read, and why?

Answer the question(s) in a post on your own blog, and leave a link to it in the comments on the Assignment post at Outpost Mâvarin!

**** The links are a little sparse this week due to Google Reader Backlog. I hope to remedy that situation next week.


New to my Google Reader
The Printed Page, host of "Mailbox Monday"
Spy Scribbler, via West of Mars
Change really HAS come to America - The Briefing Room, the official White House blog


Across the Blogiverse
Just a few of many posts this week reflecting on the making of history (even history that may have to wait a few years), including one from pop-culture history; one about continuing to make history; a recipe for history; a couple of letters; and one about being so preoccupied with documenting history that you miss the chance to experience it

Now this would change history, too - a salary for the First Lady (someday it could be the "First Spouse," you know...), especially considering that this one has been a career woman

Signs that you're a blogging geriatric - have you exhibited any?

If you actually need to follow more people on Twitter, try some of The Park Bench's "nerd all-stars." Also, how much do you care about your blog stats? (My answer - probably TOO much. My subscriber number has dropped by about half this week; I know there are some behind-the-scenes things happening to integrate FeedBurner and Google, and I hope that it's a glitch related to that!)


Bookmarks: Reading-related Reading
Books that caught my eye this week:
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What is Says About Us), by Tom Vanderbilt (via DearReader.com)
The Sinner's Guide to Confession, by Phyllis Scheiber

Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 23, 2009

TBIF 1-23-09: A week of meme-ery

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page

I've never participated in Mailbox Monday before, and I doubt I'll be able to do it often, since I really don't get all that many books in the mail. Last week was unusual, though, and four new books came my way thanks to the Post Office - all of them are for review, and I hope to get to them sooner rather than later.

Last Wednesday, I received Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl, by Susan Campbell thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program.

On Thursday, the copy of The Triumph of Deborah that author Eva Etzioni-Halevy ordered for me from Amazon arrived.

Two packages arrived from The Book Report Network/Authors on the Web on Friday: The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, A Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them, by Amy Dickinson (a book on my wishlist offered by Nicole Bruce), and True Colors, by Kristin Hannah (an ARC of a novel to be published in February by the author of the first "review book" I ever got, thanks to Anna Jarzab).


Tuesday Thingers: Questions for LibraryThing users, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

Today's question: Have you ever used the Swap This Book function which can be found on the main page of any book? If so, what do you think about it? If not, are there any other swap sites you utilize to exchange books once you are done? What do you do with your books if you no longer want them anymore?

My Answer: I've seen the feature before, but haven't used it - yet. I think it's good that LibraryThing helps its members out by linking them to some outlets where they can find new homes for their old books, though. Ever since I discovered BookCrossing six years ago, I've gotten out of the habit of keeping books after I read them, unless there's a special reason I want to hold on to them; I make exceptions for favorite authors and books that strike a particular chord with me. (Most of what's on my shelves is books in TBR Purgatory.) I don't actually BookCross in fact any more, but I feel like I do in spirit. I give books to friends when I'm done, or else I donate them to the Friends of the Library bookstore.

While I'm happy to give away books I've finished reading (or have accepted that I probably never will read), I just want to give them away; I'm not necessarily interested in trading them for other books or getting anything back. Having said that, though, I'm a bit intrigued by BookMooch, and I think I'm going to explore it a little more. I like that it lets you donate your points if you don't want to use them to get other books.


It's Tuesday, where are were you?, hosted at An Adventure in Reading

I am was still re-living my youth chronologically and geographically. Laura Pedersen is about a year-and-a-half younger than me (which in over-40 terms makes us essentially the same age), and many of the historical and pop-cultural elements she weaves through Buffalo Gal, her memoir of growing up in Upstate New York during the 1960's and '70's, are part of my own memories too.

(I finished the book on Thursday - the review will be posted on Sunday!)


Teaser Tuesday, hosted at Should Be Reading
TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
The book this comes from is a little bit unusual; it's a collection of short fiction originally published online, and companion to an upcoming novel. I bought my copy direct from the author, whose name is pretty well-known around the book-blogging community. (Go to her site to find out how to contact her and get a copy of your own!)

"He found a girl," Eric said.
"A girl found him, you mean," Trevor said. (page 48, "Late-Night Load Out")
- ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes, Year One, by Susan Helene Gottfried


Booking Through Thursday: Inspired 


Since “Inspiration” is (or should be) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

This is one of those simple questions that's hard to answer.

The fact that I read at all - that I choose reading over other activities - is probably hard-wired in my system by now, since I've been doing it for forty years. I was inspired early on by having parents that read to me, and by seeing them read themselves - I wanted to be able to do that too, as soon as possible!

I am inspired to read - to pick up a book or magazine, or more recently, to read online - by the need to distract myself from something else and recharge my batteries, or to occupy my time while waiting. I am inspired to read by curiosity and a desire to learn, and by my enjoyment of language and story. I am inspired to read by friends, family, and other book bloggers, who share their recommendations and opinions about books with me and pique my interest. I am inspired to read when I browse through a bookstore and come across intriguing titles.

I am inspired to read because there's a lot in this world I'll never be able to experience or do myself, but I can get a sense of what it might be like by reading about it.

My specific choice of what to read at a given time is sometimes inspired by my reviewing responsibilities, which is a relatively new thing for me, and it's one I don't want to get caught up in too often, so I'm trying to keep those in check. I'd rather be inspired by the fact I'm surrounded by well over 100 books in TBR Purgatory, not counting the review books, and let more random things like my moods inspire my choice of which book I'll liberate next.

What inspires your reading - in general, and specifically?

Friday Fill-ins #108


ffi

1. Oh, I am so tired of this sinus headache - I wish the stupid rain would just get here already!

2. Weather changes, big and little.

3. During the winter, I like having soup for dinner.

4. The Dark Knight WASN'T nominated for Best Picture; are you kidding me???

5. Right now I'd like to be caught up on something.

6. My new cell phone is my favorite gadget.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to not having much to do, tomorrow my plans include catching up on recorded TV while it's raining out, and Sunday, I want to relax at the spa in the morning, and maybe do a little shopping afterwards (unless it's still raining - then I'll come home and relax some more)!

So...tell me about your weekend plans, and your favorite gadget!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

WG 2009-02: The meaning of "Weekly Geek"(iness)

For our second Weekly Geeks of the new year and our second post without our founder Dewey, Joanne of The Book Zombie has these questions:

For those who have been with the group, either from the start or joined within recent months, what does being a member mean to you? What do you enjoy about the group? What are some of your more memorable Weekly Geeks that we might could do again? What could be improved as we continue the legacy that Dewey gave us?

For those just joining us, why did you sign up for Weekly Geeks? What would you like to see here?

This post was written by unfinishedperson from an unfinished person (in an unfinished universe).

While I have been a daily geek for most of my life, I was a "charter" Weekly Geek - one of the original 150 or so who signed on when Dewey originally floated the idea of a weekly blogging challenge, although I didn't participate in every assignment. There were some assignments that I just didn't have the time to tackle, some that really didn't apply to me (such as anything pertaining to reading challenges or catching up on reviews), and others that really weren't up my alley (most assignments involving photo-blogging). On the other hand, one assignment led to a new standing policy on this blog - linking to other bloggers' reviews when I post a book review of my own.

But whether I did the assignment or not, I've always felt like part of the "geek community," and that's one reason I'm glad to be part of the team that's keeping WG up and running. I also like the fact that it's not tied to a specific day of the week, so I can post my response on the day it fits best (although I do play fast and loose with the "daily" memes around here anyway). I've always liked the range and variety of assignments, but what really makes it special is the way that visiting other participants' WG posts has been part of it from the very beginning; in fact, the very first assignment was a blog-hopping task, and several others have specifically included a blog-hopping, link-sharing requirement. That's something I'd like to see continue as Weekly Geeks goes forward - and since I've signed up for the Weekly Geeks feed now, it will be a lot easier!

I think WG #3, remembering our favorite children's books, may be my favorite WG assignment so far, since it was a nice thematic lead-in for the Bookworms Carnival I hosted last summer. I really liked the Weekly Geeks assignment to talk about "other forms of storytelling," too, since it was timed perfectly for one of my movie reviews - I think a variation on that one could be used again, especially since there are so many new Geeks now. I also wouldn't mind seeing a repeat of WG #16, in which two Geeks interviewed each other about their most recent read, or WG #24, looking up and posting "fun facts" about an author. WG #21, which involved identifying the first lines from 100 novels with the help of our fellow Geeks, was a lot of fun; maybe we could do a variation with last lines some time.

Once WG gets back into its groove again, it might be nice to bring back some version of the wrap-up posts that Dewey used to do, although the logistics of that could be trickier now. But as I've said, I'm really glad to be part of the Geek Community, and as long as we can keep people interested and participating, I hope we can look forward to much more geekery to come!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The hour I first believed: thoughts on a Tuesday morning

Technically, that's not true, but it's what crossed my mind as I entered the room to watch the Inauguration of President Obama, and I thought it would make a good title. I've believed for quite a few months now, probably since last spring or early summer. I believe something amazing happened last November, and I believe it's going to take an amazing amount of work, patience - and yes, grace - for genuine change to take root. I believe it can, though.

I watched the Inauguration on Tuesday morning (well, it was morning in California) in the "multipurpose room" in the administrative building of the social-services agency where I work, surrounded by co-workers and clients. One of our major programs is a non-public high school for adolescent girls, and it seemed very important to give them the opportunity to witness this historic event. Seeing the reaction among our African-American students in particular made it look like setting up the TV feed was a very good decision.

The room was about three-fourths full when I came in, but I was still able to get a decent seat. Just a few minutes later, my state's own senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, called the ceremonies to order.

There was a lot of controversy over the selection of Pastor (and best-selling author) Rick Warren to deliver the invocation because of some of his deeply conservative positions, but I thought he started out fine. However, it bears repeating that this is not officially a "Christian" nation - it is not officially of any religious persuasion - and the emphasis in Pastor Warren's closing was clearly on those believers. The agency I work for has had strong ties to the Jewish community for almost a hundred years. The silence in the room at the end of the invocation was pretty loud.

But I didn't notice any adverse reaction when the Queen of Soul took the stage. Aretha Franklin and her church-lady hat brought her gospel roots to the patriotic song we share with Great Britain (our words, their melody), and I loved it. Truthfully, for me, the two musical interludes - hers and the instrumental rendition of "Simple Gifts" (one of my favorite hymns anyway) by Itzhak Perlman on violin, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Gabriela Montero on piano, and Anthony McGill on clarinet - were the most moving parts of the ceremony.

The swearings-in should have been uneventful, but there was a word fumble at the beginning of the Presidential oath (the fault of the Chief Justice, according to what I read later). When the oath ended, though, the room I was in broke into applause and cheers, just as the crowd in Washington did.

Discussing the Inaugural speech with my son later, he said he thought it was "effective," and I think that summed it up well. It wasn't heavy on fancy rhetoric, but our new President said what needed to be said.  He both tempered expectations and established them; he cautioned and he inspired. He recognized strength in diversity and responsibility, and the need for hard work and hard choices. He emphasized the basic, classic values that this country needs to return to in order to move forward - not "values" in the sense we've grown used to hearing them talked about by social conservatives, but as attributes of character:

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true."
His tone was appropriately serious, even somber, in light of the times in which he assumes office. However, as he has done so well for so many months, President Obama continued to stress that we're all facing these challenges together, and that we can face them and overcome them - and he continues to make me believe it.

Our little audience cheered, and I think some of us would have gotten to our feet if we hadn't been afraid we'd look silly giving a standing ovation to a projection TV screen. But Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction did indeed get some "Amens" out of our crowd, especially from the students.

We've met the new boss, and as far as we can tell, he's nothing like the old boss. Change has come to America, and has now moved into the White House. But genuine, fundamental change won't - and can't, and shouldn't - happen in a day, or a month, or maybe even a year or two. We will need time, and patience, and work. Time will tell how much we, and our country, truly believe in change, and truly can be changed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Weekend Assignment #251: Fantasy Sabbatical

This is my very first time as "guest professor" for the "Weekend Assignment" at Outpost Mâvarin, but it may not be my last...that's up to Karen, though, and depends on how many of my other topic suggestions she decides to use.

Weekend Assignment #251: You have a six-month paid sabbatical, and you can spend it anywhere you like EXCEPT on a beach drinking margaritas. Where do you go, and what do you do while you're there?

Extra Credit:
In real life, have you ever gone anywhere enjoyable at an employer's expense?

Extra credit first, since I'm backwards like that and it's a short-answer question - no. I've never been in a job that's required me to travel, even for training. I've usually been the one who holds down the fort while someone else travels for work.

In Karen's own response, she defined the "sabbatical" literally - a learning holiday authorized and paid for by one's employer. I'm taking a looser interpretation; basically, all of my expenses are paid for six months, perhaps by a windfall or mystery benefactor, and I just have to spend the time constructively. You would think that since I came up with this question, I might have had a response in mind...but again, no.

To begin with, I think I would opt for a major change of scenery, and spend my six months' leave in the opposite corner of the country - New England. I lived in Connecticut until I was twelve, but have barely been back there since my family moved south. However, my home base for the period would be my favorite East Coast city, Boston (don't tell that to my birthplace, New York, though). The project I have in mind could actually be done at home, but since one point of a sabbatical is getting away from everyday distractions, a temporary relocation really helps. (Since my family doesn't count as a "everyday distraction" and we've still got two school-aged children, clearly this scenario would be at least ten years away, and the windfall has to cover both my husband and me.)

Before I left town, I would ship several boxes of books to my temporary home, because one of the purposes for my sabbatical would be to liberate as many books as possible from TBR Purgatory, and I know that without the inconvenience of having to spend the better part of my daylight hours at work, I can read at a pretty good pace. As I finished each book, I would take it somewhere - perhaps in the city, perhaps further away, since one of the beauties of New England is the relatively short travel time between towns and even states - and leave it for someone else to find and read it; it would be like a six-month BookCrossing tour. My laptop would come too, because I'd review each book I read (as I normally do anyway), and the review would include an account of my visit to the place where the book was left, complete with pictures. I would also set myself a rule - which I would try to adhere to - regarding visiting bookstores and acquiring new books; none for the first three weeks, and none could come back home with me. The goal would be to read and reduce my overflowing library.

This would be a terrific opportunity to indulge and develop two of my favorite things, reading and writing, as well as another favorite, travel and exploration. There would have to be structure and discipline - I would be reading and writing daily - and yet I think it would be a lot of fun. I would get lots of practice time with my camera, so I hope my photography skills would also benefit from the experience. I would end up with a great reading/travel journal - and while I've never seriously considered writing a full-length book, this might be something that could turn into one...who knows? I'd also love the chance to share my East Coast roots with that California native I married.

I wish I had a bigger dream to talk about, but really, this about covers it. I hope you have more ambitious plans for a gift like this than I do - and if you do, I'd love it if you'd participate in the Assignment this week! Just describe your fantasy sabbatical in a post on your blog, and then leave a link to it in the comments for the main post at the Outpost!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday on Monday: Behind the music (and lyrics)

Booking Through Thursday: Sing! Sing a Song…


But, enough about books … Other things have words, too, right? Like … songs!

If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?
  • What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?
  • Why?
  • And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?
You don’t have to restrict yourself to modern songsters, either … anyone who wants to pick Gilbert & Sullivan, for example, is just fine with me. Lerner & Loewe? Steven Sondheim? Barenaked Ladies? Fountains of Wayne? The Beatles? Anyone at all…


Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

OK, this question had me at "Fountains of Wayne." But it's a tough one for a couple of reasons, mostly having to do with my difficulty in making choices when I'm on the spot about things like this - and picking specific songs is just too hard, unless I use them as examples.

I love to sing along with my favorite songs, so I do pay attention to lyrics, and I tend to favor singers and groups who write their own material (although some of their material certainly sounds better sung by someone else - hello, Bob Dylan! Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is a fantastic song, but I'd much rather hear Jeff Buckley sing it). I am fond of the art of songcraft - a tuneful melody with clever lyrics will catch my ear every time, and I've talked about my love of power pop here before.

Sincerity and the ability to tell a good story also go far with me, and it's a bonus when the music rocks - Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" has stayed in my personal Top 10 for thirty years for those very reasons. If that "personal Top 10" is expanded to my Top 40 or Top 100, Mr. Springsteen's work is very well-represented.

Getting back to Deb's suggestions in the original question, The Beatles are still, after more than thirty years, my all-time favorite band, although I'd be lying if I said I love everything they ever did. For my money, their best work is on the albums Rubber Soul and Revolver, but it's hard to pick just a few favorites, and it's all part of our cultural wallpaper anyway. Still, the whole package is there, and much of the music I've loved clearly bears their influence.

Smart (and sometimes smart-ass) lyrics are a weakness of mine, which is at the root of my long-term affection for the late, great Warren Zevon and the very-much-alive Elvis Costello. If you only know Mr. Zevon for "Werewolves of London," I suggest you expand your horizons, and I'll offer a couple of samples:

I went home with a waitress the way I always do
How was I to know she was with the Russians, too?


I was gambling in Havana - I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns, and money
Dad, get me out of this


An innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck between a rock and a hard place
And I'm down on my luck...

Werewolves weren't the only animals he wrote about, either:


Big gorilla at the L.A. Zoo
Snatched the glasses right off my face
Took the keys to my BMW
Left me here to take his place


I wish the ape a lot of success
I'm sorry my apartment's a mess
Most of all I'm sorry if I made you blue
I'm betting the gorilla will, too


They say Jesus will find you wherever you go
But when He'll come looking for you, they don't know
In the meantime, keep your profile low
Gorilla, you're a desperado...

I should note that my favorite Elvis Costello song was not written by him - thank you, Nick Lowe, for "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." There are plenty of winners among the songs Mr.  has written, though, and this one seems just perfect for BTT:

Don't tell me you don't know what love is
When you're old enough to know better
When you find strange hands in your sweater
When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote
I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions


[Chorus:]
And I'm giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book


Chapter One we didn't really get along
Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you
You said you'd stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six


[chorus]


The way you walk
The way you talk, and try to kiss me, and laugh
In four or five paragraphs
All your compliments and your cutting remarks
Are captured here in my quotation marks


[chorus]


Don't tell me you don't know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel


[chorus]

One of my favorite "smart" singer/songwriters of more recent vintage is Rhett Miller (also one of writers/musicians in the Old 97's). In "Our Love," he sings about composers and writers:


Richard Wagner's letters to his lover Mathilde were a mess

He should have quit before he had written the address

They made love on the mezzanine - her husband was his friend

Vienna in a fugue-state working on a thing

That when he finished it took almost seven hours to sing

He still found time to write to her - his heart-exploding words

Our love surpassed our love so fast

Our love's all wrong our love goes on and on

Our love became our love by name when I wrote it to you in a song

Our love goes on and on...

Getting back to Fountains of Wayne, though...so many reasons why they're the band I can't forget (and they're in town next week! LAist talked to band member and chief songwriter Adam Schlesinger before the shows.)


Well, she picked me up in a German car
And she took me out to an Irish bar
Where I drank some beer in a plastic cup
Till I had some trouble standing up
And then she drove downtown to a strobe-lit place
Where all wore the guys wore chains and the thumping bass
Was so intense I could barely feel my face
And I think I asked her back to my place
But that's all I recall
And when I woke up in the hall
I was alone and softly groaning
And I'd lost my keys and lost my phone
And I wondered what I did or said
That I might soon regret
It was the night I can't remember

(You really need to hear that one in its musical setting, though - an excellent 60's-style pop arrangement.)

Coming in on the second verse of this song, which kind of sounds like Coney Island:

...I hear the man say you want to see the others
A mermaid and a heart that says mother
But I don't know from maritime
And I never did hard time
I brought a .38 Special CD collection
Some Bactine to prevent infection
And in case I get queasy
A photo of Easy Rider


Red dragon tattoo
Is just about on me
I got it for you
So now do you want me?
With nothing to prove
Will you be my honey?
oh yeah
In you I confide
Red dragon tattoo
I'm fit to be dyed
Am I fit to have you?

On their most recent album, Traffic and Weather, they shifted into a storytelling vein:


Two men sit in the corner of a diner

Both of them look quite a bit like Carl Reiner

One of them is smoking even though the sign says not to

The waitress says to stop, he says sorry but I've got to

They tell each other jokes that they both know that they both know

They talk about real estate, prostates, Costco

And when they finish up they leave a twenty on the table

The waitress picks it up with their half-eaten bagels

And when her shift is over she goes back to Mineola

Sits on the couch, opens up a diet cola and says



I'm so, I'm so sick of this place - I'm so ready for a change of pace

I'm just looking for a new routine

So she spins her globe and the next thing you know

She's living in Liechtenstein...

However, the song lyric I quote the most - it probably comes up once every week or two - isn't from any of the songs or artists I've mentioned already. From "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads:


"And you may ask yourself...well, how did I get here?"
Story of my life, y'all.

Sorry for not embedding music and video, but this post is supposed to be about the words, right? And once it's done, and I make the rounds reading other posts, I'm sure I'll think of at least half a dozen others I should have included.

What about you - care to share some of your favorite song lyrics and who's written them?