Friday, May 30, 2008

More Steve Kluger goodness!

Shortly after I finished Almost Like Being in Love, I re-read Steve Kluger's first novel, which I read at the beginning of last summer. Last Days of Summer is, like its successor, written in the epistolary format, told through letters, matchbook covers, Western Union telegrams, and newspaper articles.

The novel begins in 1940. The New York Giants are playing at the Polo Grounds. Hitler's power is rising in Germany. And Joey Margolis, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy, moves to an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn after his parents' divorce. He lives in an apartment with his mother and Aunt Carrie. He and his best friend, a twelve-year-old Japanese boy named Craig Nakamura, are subject to many beatings from the neighborhood kids. Joey's father won't spend time with his son, but has plenty of time to take his new wife to Monte Carlo. The lack of attention from his father is what leads Joey to "a life of crime," at one point resulting in a stay in Juvenile Hall after urinating in the Central Park reservoir.

Joey starts to search for a father figure, and finds one in the temperamental, hard-living, fast-talking third baseman for the Giants, Charlie Banks. He starts writing letters to Charlie, claiming a variety of diseases such as malaria, in order to get his attention. Charlie doesn't fall for this, yet he still responds to Joey's letters. In spite of the rocky start, the two eventually develop a warm relationship. One summer, Joey becomes the bat boy for the Giants. Charlie stands up for Joey at his bar mitzvah when his biological father won't. Joey even helps Charlie romance one of the most popular female singers of the time, Hazel MacKay.

Under Charlie's guidance, Joey matures. He gradually stops getting into trouble, and learns to stand up for himself. Joey is still troubled, however, by some other issues of the day, namely the beginnings of World War II. And two thirds of the way into the novel, the war plays a crucial role.

If anyone has ever had a surrogate parent in their lives, or any other adult that they otherwise looked up to during their youth, Last Days of Summer is the perfect novel. If anything, I loved this novel for the clever storytelling. I really admire Steve Kluger's creativity in the epistolary novel--and that alone is reason enough to read it.

R.I.P. Harvey Korman

Last night we lost one of the funniest comedians ever. I grew up watching Carol Burnett and Friends at my grandmother's house, and loved every single second of that wonderful show. Every time I caught it in reruns I would always remember the time I had with my grandmother.
It was especially worth it to watch, if only to see Harvey crack up every time he had a sketch with Tim Conway.

Also, who can forget Harvey as "HEDLEY Lamarr!" in that Mel Brooks classic, Blazing Saddles.

In tribute, here is what is arguably in the top 5 of the best Carol Burnett Show skits ever.

Rest in peace, Harvey. You will be missed.


video

Procrastination

I have a lot of chores to do in preparation for my parents' visit tomorrow, so I am procrastinating. I was reading an issue of my old high school's newspaper, and it has one of those random questionnaires that you get on E-mail every now and then. So here are the questions, and my own personal answers:

1. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I don't believe in keeping secrets from people. I'm an open book with most people. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

2. If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be, and why?
Michelle Duggar. I'd like to know what it's like to have 17 kids in one household (and there's one on the way!)

3. If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want to be stranded with, and why?
Tyler Florence. We'd eat well, and he's easy on the eyes.

4. What words of wisdom do you live by?
Carol Burnett once said, "A lot of comedy is tragedy plus time." I believe in finding the humor in any situation. I don't know how I could live without a sense of humor.

5. What are three things that you cannot live without?
Laughter, music, and my books!

6. Who or what always makes you laugh?
My friends, because we know how to push each other's buttons and harass each other.

7. What annoys you the most?
People who don't take responsibility for their own actions.

8. What would be the first thing you would do if you won 10 million dollars?
Pay all my debts--credit card, mortgage, and student loans.

9. What would be your personal theme song?
"The Glory of Love," Bette Midler

10. What would your first action as President of the United States be?
I would have to do two things first--bring our troops home and lower gas prices!

11. What movie could you watch over and over again, and why?
Any Christopher Guest movie. I love satire.

12. If the whole world were listening, what would you say?
Stop the insanity! Love, don't hate!

13. If you could ask God any one question, what would it be?
What do you have in store for me five years from now?

14. If you could have only one food for the rest of your life (assuming that this strange situation would not affect your health), which food would you choose?
Pasta. Glorious pasta.

15. If you could hear what someone was thinking for a day, who would you choose, and why?
Paris Hilton. I'd like to know what it's like to be that rich and own such expensive dresses that are only worn once.

16. What is your greatest ambition in life?
To be happy and have no regrets.

17. Who is your hero, and why?
My second grade teacher. She was the first adult, other than my parents, to really see the potential in me, both academically and personally.

18. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Sydney, Australia. I've heard so many stories about the land Down Under that I am really curious about what it's like.

19. If you could manage any professional sports team, what would you choose?
The Carolina Hurricanes, so I can bring 'em back to Hartford, and we'd have the Whalers back again.

20. What would be the title of your autobiography?
The Gospel According to Kitten.

21. What magazine do you always look forward to getting in the mail?
Allure. I am a sucker for makeup and skin care products.

22. What random fact are you most proud to know?
I know so many random facts, it's hard to choose one. Let's just say people hate playing Trivial Pursuit with me. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Away for a while...

I will be away for the next few days. I'm going to be busy with work and family commitments. I will post when the mood strikes, and if I'm not too tired. I know I promised Memorial Day pics; those are forthcoming.

Until then, dear readers, amuse yourselves with the archive. Yeah, I know it's not much, but I've blogged at least 4 or 5 times more in 2008 than I did in 2007 (I really don't feel like doing math right now, the brain is tired). Feel free to leave a comment or two.

See y'all soon...

Kitten

Monday, May 26, 2008

Three books in three days!!!

This makes me a very happy bookkitten, indeed! Let me tell you about my 3rd read: Almost Like Being in Love, by Steve Kluger, who is very quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Yes, I know, I have stated in my profile that I am not a fan of romance--but this is a Steve Kluger novel!!!! I just love the guy's way of storytelling. He doesn't write a story in a beginning to end essay format, no!! He writes using multiple formats. For example, in the same chapter, you can find the story unfolding through checklists, E-mails, newspaper clippings, customer comment cards, and even court documents. Occassionally the characters pop up and write narratives to fill in some gaps, but the frequent changes in format is what keeps the story moving along and exciting.

The story starts unfolding at a fictional Tarrytown, New York prep school in 1978. Travis is a senior in love with Broadway, Barbra Streisand, and Brigadoon. (Brigadoon will play a major underlying role in the story; if you are familiar with the musical, you'll recognize the title of the story is also the title of one of its signature songs). Craig, also a senior, is the campus jock, a champion quarterback and dyed-in-the-wool Red Sox fan. Both meet while working as crew members for the school musical, Brigadoon, and very rapidly fall in love. Three months later, by graduation, the duo has sublet an apartment in a Manhattan brownstone, started working for a record shop, and begun planning for the rest of their life together.

Then college intervenes. Travis attends USC, and Craig winds up at Harvard. They lose touch shortly after they start freshman year.

Fast forward twenty years. Craig is a successful attorney living with his partner in Saratoga Springs. Travis is an American history professor at USC. Travis hasn't quite gotten over Craig, and one day, while on a date with the school's hunky associate librarian, hears the tune "Almost Like Being in Love" for the first time in twenty years.

At that moment, he decides to put his life on hold and search for Craig.

With not many leads, Travis suddenly remembers that Craig's mother is a doctor in St. Louis, finds her name, and calls her. Not much comes out of that one phone call, so Travis decides to hitchhike to St. Louis, fake appendicitis, and make an appointment to see Craig's mother.

This is when he learns that Craig's mother is an OB-GYN.

Undeterred, Travis sneaks into Craig's mother's office while the cleaning crew is there (and past the security guard) and raids her Rolodex to get Craig's contact information. Long story short, after he is jailed for trespassing and then bailed out, he and his new waitress friend decide to make a cross-country trip to Saratoga Springs to find Craig.

Meanwhile, in Saratoga Springs, Craig has a successful law partnership with his best friend, Charleen, from his Harvard days. His partner, Clayton, owns a successful hardware store. Clay is a little possessive about Craig and won't let him do anything that is attributed to his passion: civil rights and politics. Naturally, when Craig decides to run for office, Clay blows a gasket.

As all of this is going on, Craig and Charleen are working on a child custody case with a minor league baseball player in Utica named Jody. Jody likes Charleen, but Charleen resists his advances...at first.

Finally, Travis DOES make it to Saratoga Springs and meets up with Clay. Travis is determined to hate him at first...but ends up liking him!!

OK, with all of these situations in the pot, is anyone getting confused yet?

I won't spoil the end for anyone. Kluger certainly has a way of keeping his readers in suspense, which is why I had trouble putting this book down. Who will end up with who at the end? I can't tell you! You're just going to have to read the book!

NYAH! (Sorry, just had to throw that in). :)

Summer in the City

"Do you remember the best summer of your life?"

This was printed on the page before the title page of Marjorie Hart's charming memoir, Summer at Tiffany. In Ms. Hart's case, the best summer of her life was the summer of 1945, when she and her best friend, Marty, traveled from their Kappa sorority home at Iowa State to Manhattan in search of a job at a department store. After being turned down by such stores at Lord and Taylor and Bergdorf Goodman, the girls set their sights on Tiffany and Co. Thanks to the aid of an "important business reference" from Marty's father (that's to say, a VERY rich man who is a VIP customer at Tiffany's), the girls land jobs as pages and become the first women to ever work the sales floor at Tiffany's. (Back in those days, men worked the sales floor, but most of the men were off to war).

Hart writes with such an innocence and thrill--omygosh, I'm working at Tiffany's!--that you feel like you're right there with her. I must admit I was envious as she described the Bonwit Teller shirt dresses, shaded in Tiffany's trademark aqua, that she and Marty had to wear each day. She writes about the thrill of seeing Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli stop by on their honeymoon and recalls how happy Ms. Garland was to be there with her new husband. She writes about modeling earrings for the heir to the Woolworth fortune. She writes about her lessons in sniffing brandy, a lesson that a salesman in the china department taught her--on a luxe table setting in the china department--just as Charles Tiffany himself stops by for a visit. She writes about lunching at the Automat each day, carefully monitoring her budget so that they could pay the rent.

In between the innocent thrills of a twenty something Iowan discovering the big city for the first time, there are some serious moments. World War II is never far from Hart's mind, as she writes about her romance with a midshipman. She also writes about the excitement of being in Times Square on VJ day--the crowds, the confetti, and the joy that overflowed from everyone. She recalls the memory of a cousin who perished over the Pacific and its effect on her family.

Summer at Tiffany is a light read, but fortunately not too fluffy. Hart does a good job of balancing the thrills of discovering New York City with the seriousness and tragedy of World War II. I managed to finish the book in two hours and didn't put it down once. One of the reasons why I liked it so much was that it was a warm tribute to a New York City that once was--glamorous, a lot more innocent--and a New York City that, sadly, will never be again.

Somehow, this seemed to be a very fitting read for Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Bookkitten's iPod Playlist: Week of May 25th

Last week I made a playlist exclusive to Memorial Day. Today, however, was a day to put the iPod on shuffle, and decided to let iTunes create the playlist for me. There are some real goodies on this one:

1. "Love Song," Sara Bareilles
2. "Friends," Bette Midler
3. "Won't Go Home Without You," Maroon 5
4. "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," Vicki Lawrence
5. "You Get What You Give," New Radicals
6. "Back to Black," Amy Winehouse
7. "She Will Be Loved," Maroon 5
8. "Home," Michael Buble
9. "Manic Monday," the Bangles
10. "Pleasant Valley Sunday," the Monkees
11. "Sway," Michael Buble
12. "Should've Been the One," Debbie Gibson
13. (I Just) Died in Your Arms," Cutting Crew
14. "So Far Away," Carole King
15. "But You Know I Love You," Bill Anderson
16. "Song Sung Blue," Neil Diamond
17. "Sunday Morning," Maroon 5
18. "That Was Then, This Is Now," the Monkees
19. "Bamboleo," the Gypsy Kings
20. "Good Times," Chic
21. "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)," Aretha Franklin
22. "Amazing Grace," Bill Anderson

Dude, where's my posse?

Today was a beautiful, beautiful day--absolutely perfect as far as Memorial Day weekends go. I got my parade in, and it was lovely and moving and quintessential Americana. I even finished my light, fluffy read and it was quite enjoyable indeed. I put the iPod on shuffle earlier today and came up with the best playlist in a long time--which, of course, I will post very soon.

I am feeling relaxed, chill, content--the first time in a loooooong time I've allowed myself to feel this way. And I'm not about to give up that feeling, either. Maybe it's because the book I just read was so good. I started reading it last night, picked it up after the parade this afternoon, and finished it twenty minutes ago.

When a book absorbs me for that long, I literally get transported to the setting of the book. And what better place to be transported to than Paris?

A Town Like Paris starts off in a somewhat cliched manner. Bryce Corbett, our hero, is an Aussie ex-pat working for Sky News in London. He is having trouble recovering from the end of a nine-year relationship with his high school sweetie. He hates London, and hates his job.

So what is a man in his late twenties to do when he is disgruntled with life? He fakes portions of his resume, sends it to a company based in Paris, and gets called for an interview. What was intended to be an all-expenses-paid jaunt to the City of Light just for the sake of skipping work for a day unexpectedly leads to an offer, followed by a move to Paris.

Our hero then moves to an apartment in the Marais, complete with tacky 1970's furniture and 1870's orange fabric lining the walls. When he first moves in, Corbett experiences culture shock and has trouble figuring out his way through such French customs as the "ticket restaurants", that is, the eight-Euro allowance that some employers provide for their staff to have lunch at a restaurant. Corbett marvels at how his company won't let him eat lunch at a desk, but actually makes him take an hour--a WHOLE hour--to eat a good meal at a restaurant.

At first, Corbett is very lonely in his new surroundings, and starts to question the wisdom of his move. Then the "Paris Posse", a group of ex-pats of various nationalities, enters the picture, and the book really takes off. As I read the anecdotes of the group's adventures, from their gatherings at their favorite bar, Le Connetable, to members of the group forming a band, I felt like I was reliving my college days. See, I was in a posse of my own, and we always celebrated birthdays, holidays, and just plain celebrated, together. We were a tight circle, my posse and I.

However, our little circle is not the same anymore. There have been breakups and new couplings. Some members have moved far away. Others are busy with their children. And a couple of them have just drifted apart. I guess that's a part of maturity, not having to rely on your posse as much as you get older.

And this is what happens as the book continues--Corbett gets older, and realizes he doesn't want to be 40 and dancing in clubs, trying to recapture his youth. He meets, and falls in love with, a showgirl from the Lido, one of Paris's most legendary nightclubs. I was hoping for some more backstage stories from the Lido--one chapter is devoted to them--but they aren't all that exciting. In fact, the book slows down a little once his relationship with "the Showgirl" develops. That's not to say that it's terrible; it's not. I just really felt like I was recapturing my youth as I read the stories about going to Cannes and weekend trips to Ibiza.

Earlier in the novel, Corbett said that his goal was "to suck the marrow out of life." If this book is any indication, it looks like he did just that. I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to see what other adventures he got into, but then I didn't put it down because I want to see how he managed to woo the Showgirl. Hey, if a guy can date a showgirl from the Lido, I don't know what sucking the marrow out of life is.

I must admit that I was partial to this novel because I myself lived in Paris for a short while. OK, it was a semester abroad, but it was long enough that I formed my own "Paris Posse" and I remain very good friends with two of those posse members. I felt as if I was walking those Paris streets again, Corbett's descriptions were so vivid and spot-on.

And now, as this second day of my three-day weekend draws to a close, I am left to choose another book to read. After all, this is the unofficial start of summer, and the official start of my major book reading season. I'm looking for another light read. I think I'll go to my bookcase this time and select something I haven't read yet. Or maybe I'll reread an old favorite. I have a few possibilities in mind; I'll let you know what they are!

The Bookkitten's iPod Playlist: The New British Invasion

Over the past two years, I've noticed more British singers on American radio than at the beginning of the decade. Last year I created a playlist with some of these new singers, and I recently updated it with a new singer I found. I realize I have the same singers over and over again, but I really enjoy the retro sound that their work has to offer. Enjoy!

1. "Grace Kelly," Mika
2. "Everything's Just Wonderful," Lily Allen
3. "Girl They Won't Believe It," Joss Stone
4. "Love Today," Mika
5. "Rehab," Amy Winehouse
6. "Warwick Avenue," Duffy
7. "Me & Mr. Jones," Amy Winehouse
8. "Fell in Love with a Boy," Joss Stone
9. "Back to Black," Amy Winehouse
10. "Alfie," Lily Allen
11. "Wake Up Alone," Amy Winehouse
12. "Mercy," Duffy
13. "Nan You're a Window Shopper," Lily Allen
14. "Tell Me Bout It," Joss Stone
15. "Tears Dry on Their Own," Amy Winehouse
16. "Smile," Lily Allen
17. "Rockferry," Duffy
18. "You Know I'm No Good," Amy Winehouse
19. "Lollipop," Mika
20. "LDN," Lily Allen

Saturday, May 24, 2008

On the Radio

Last week I wrote about my love for radio. Here are a few more great radio stations I have loved throughout my life (and I can now listen to whenever I want, thanks to internet webstreams!)

WCBS 880 AM: The way news radio was, is now, and ever shall be. I listen to this on the drive to work whenever I can get a descent signal (which, in my area of Connecticut, is not always easy). This is the station I listen to at work; news radio keeps me productive and informed.

WCBS 101.1 FM: I am soooooo glad this is back. I used to listen to this station whenever I drove down to Long Island to visit an old friend from college. This is the only station we listened to whenever we drove around the Island. Every time I listen to this station, I can't help but remember my dear, long lost friend.

WALK 97.5: This was one of the stations I constantly listened to in college, and still listen to today when I'm driving.

WEBE 108: One of my other favorite radio stations from college.

STAR 99.9: Yet another great station from my college days...

Country 92.5: The only country music station in Connecticut. I can only imagine the revolt that may occur if this station changes formats someday...

Kittens, what are your favorite radio stations?

Cooking with Kitten: How to Make Pesto

In my last post I said that I made my own pesto. Here's how:

Ingredients:

  • one or two bunches of fresh basil
  • a handful of pine nuts or walnuts (either one will do; walnuts are cheaper and easier to find)
  • a handful of good quality grated parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil (for blog purposes I'll write EVOO, not to evoke Rachael Ray)

Directions:

  • Loosely pack the basil in a food processor. Add the walnuts and parmesan and pulse until you get a finely chopped mix, verging on a paste.
  • While the food processor is still running, SLOWLY add the EVOO in a THIN STREAM. Keep the food processor going until you've got a medium paste.
  • You don't want your pesto to be too thick or too runny. You may want to stop the food processor a couple of times if you're not sure about consistency.

Making pesto takes practice. Trust me, I've had to throw batches away of it myself. If you're consistent, you'll make a fine pesto in no time.

Bon appetit!

Cooking with Kitten: Caprese Pasta Salad

Hello Kittens--

For the barbecue I'm attending today, I'm making one of my signature dishes--caprese pasta salad. It's a recipe I got from Rachael Ray and it is oh so tasty. I've gotten many compliments for this dish since I started making it. It is a super-easy recipe.

Here are the ingredients:
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • one or two tubs of store-bought pesto (or you can make your own; I make my own)
  • one or two pints of grape tomatoes
  • one pound of medium sized pasta shells
  • two tubs of bocconcini balls (little balls of fresh mozzarella found in the specialty cheese case of most grocery stores)
  • one bunch of fresh basil

Directions:

  • Zest your lemon into the bottom of a large glass bowl. After you've zested it, cut it in half and juice it. Squeeze the juice into the bottom of the bowl. Household hint: save the lemon halves and put them down your garbage disposal when you're done; they really do a great job of deodorizing it.
  • Put the pesto at the bottom of the bowl and mix it with the lemon juice and zest.
  • Meanwhile, put the pasta water on to boil. Once it comes to a rolling boil, salt your water. The salt will help flavor the pasta.
  • Dump the shells into the water and cook until the pasta's al dente. You don't want your shells to be too mushy.
  • When the pasta's ready, drain it into a colander and IMMEDIATELY pour COLD water over it. This will stop the cooking process. You want the pasta to be cold before you dump it into the bowl so that it'll prevent either cooking or melting of the other ingredients.
  • Drain the pasta VERY well, so that you don't add any water to the bowl. I let the pasta drain and cool in the colander for another five minutes after I've poured the cold water on it.
  • Once the pasta is cooled, dump it in the bowl and mix it with the pesto and lemon juice.
  • After you've mixed the pasta with the pesto and lemon juice, add the tomatoes and mix well.
  • Drain the bocconcini and add them to the salad. Slice each one in half if you wish to distribute the mozzarella more evenly throughout the salad. Mix thoroughly.
  • Slice the fresh basil into thin strips, or use kitchen shears to cut it. (I use kitchen shears). Mix the basil into the salad.
  • Serve immediately, or put plastic wrap over it and let it chill in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Light, fluffy read FOUND!!!!!

I know I said that I'd post in a couple of days, but this was too exciting for me to keep from you. See, I finally found the light, fluffy read that I was looking for!!! It's called A Town Like Paris and it seems promising. Here's the back cover summary:

"At the age of twenty-eight, Bryce Corbett was stuck in a dead-end job in London, nursing a broken heart and hungry for some kind--any kind--of change. On a whim he applied for a job in Paris, and before he knew it, found himself with a job offer in hand on his way to the City of Light."

OK, I know, this sounds like a cliched chick lit novel right now, but this is a MEMOIR WRITTEN BY A GUY!! This is what impressed me most. I kept reading:

"So begins Corbett's love affair with Paris--home of l'amour and la vie boheme--and he determines to make the city his own, no matter how many bottles of Bordeaux it takes. He rents an apartment in the trendy neighborhood of Le Marais, happily settles into the French work/life balance (six weeks of paid vacation), braves the local gym (neon spandex mandatory), and fumbles his way through more than a few awkward lessons in French love. From the smoky cafes to the glittering nightlife, Corbett samples everything his newfound culture has to offer, appearing on a French television game show, hobnobbing with celebrities at Cannes, and attempting to parse the amusing nuances behind French politics and why French women really don't get fat. Still, he remains an ex-pat at heart--until he finds himself falling in love with a Paris showgirl, a beauty whose sequin-clad high-kicks are the toast of the Champs Elysees, proving that in a town like Paris, you never know what will happen next..."

I was so excited to start reading this book, I began reading it in the checkout line. Within the first four pages Corbett bragged about how he faked his CV and got an interview in Paris. This looked promising so far--not like your ordinary, cliche-ridden chick lit book where the gal gets a broken heart, moves to another city, and reinvents herself. I HATE CHICK LIT!! I will write a post on my hatred of chick lit one day--I'll post it under "Kitten Rants" or some other creative title.

Anyhoo, back to reading! More reports on this book coming soon!

Kitten Confessions, Part Three

My name is Kitten, and I am a country music fan.

I know that doesn't seem like much of a confession, and I am really not embarrassed to admit it, but my friends would laugh their butts off if they found out that I loved country music. I will say that I am only very recently a fan; I started listening to one artist and one broadcast of the Opry, and now I can't stop listening.

You see, three of my closest friends sing in a classical music choir. Their repertoire has run the gamut from Porgy and Bess to various Magnificats to Carmina Burana. I myself used to sing with them in another choral ensemble, and I will always be grateful to have sung such incredible pieces of music. If anything, it helped me develop my love for classical music.

I am also a theater geek. I grew up exposed to so many theatrical opportunities. My parents used every opportunity they could to take us to a Broadway-style play or musical; I will never forget our first experience at the Goodspeed Opera House. I was very impressed with the building, although the musical didn't impress me much. (The life of Superman was not a great idea for a musical). Every summer, when my family vacationed on Long Beach Island, my parents would take me and my sister to a musical at the Surflight Theatre. The one year we didn't go was the year that our vacation coincided with the Surflight's production of "Gypsy", and my father was very uncomfortable with his two daughters watching a musical about a stripper. My sister eventually majored in drama at Ithaca College. I attended Fairfield University, and saw Les Miserables, The Lion King, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway. I miss the days when we'd go into the city in the wee hours, park ourselves at the TKTS booth, send someone out to get breakfast, and camp out until the booth opened.

To this day, my friends and I will frequently sing show tunes whenever we get together.

So where did this country music thing come from? Well, it all started when we first got cable when I was ten years old. Spike TV, in its first incarnation, was known as TNN, or The Nashville Network. I watched TNN all the time as a kid, and my favorite shows were Nashville Now and Fandango. Nashville Now was a prime time interview show with Ralph Emery, and occasionally he had this puppet on named Shotgun Red. (As a kid my favorite parts of the show were when Shotgun Red came on, since I am a huge Muppet fan.) And I loved Fandango because it was a game show, and I was obsessed with game shows. (See Kitten Confessions, Part One for more information on this).

I don't remember much about Fandango, except for Edgar the Talking Jukebox, and Bill Anderson, the country music singer-songwriter who hosted the show. Bill Anderson reminded me of a grandpa, which was important to me as a kid because both of my grandfathers died by the time I was eleven years old. One of the reasons I liked the show was that I felt like I could watch my grandpa every night. I realize that one cannot substitute a TV personality for a real life person, but fortunately I had parents who made sure I got away from the boob tube every once in a while.

So now, here we are, many years later, and one night I suddenly, without warning, remembered TNN; I honestly can't tell you why, but for a couple of weeks, I was really reminiscing about my childhood. Long story short, I googled TNN and found a couple of links to Bill Anderson, one of them being his official website. I did not realize that this man was such a prolific songwriter. I figured I would see if iTunes had a couple of his songs--and there were about ten albums worth (even though five were greatest hits compiliations). I downloaded a couple of songs, "A Lot of Things Different" and "Still".

Let me tell you, this man can write a song. It actually tells a clear story, from beginning to end. And contrary to what you may believe, not all country music songs are about heartbreak or alcohol. Country music songs tell stories with sophisticated lyrics, harmonies, and a respect for tradition.

One night I learned that the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts via webstream, and Bill Anderson was performing one night, so I listened to that broadcast and discovered another great singer-songwriter: Phil Vassar. He's not yet on the A-list of country music stars, but one day, I hope that he will be. This man can really write a song, too; he really knows how to tell a story. Just take a listen to "Just Another Day in Paradise" or "Six Pack Summer" for some good samples of his work.

I also love, love, LOVE the Dixie Chicks. Yes, I know they have their critics, but they are honest, open, and know how to write a good song. I have three of their albums, and that was even before I really got into country. So what that they said that they were ashamed that President Bush was from Texas--a lot of people share that sentiment right now!!

And finally, I am really enjoying Brad Paisley's music. Here is a man who not only appreciates traditional country music, but also has a GREAT sense of humor. Take a listen to "Online", "I'm Gonna Miss Her", and "Celebrity". If you want to hear some tracks that evoke traditional radio plays, listen to any of the tracks featuring the Kung Pao Buckaroos--George Jones, Bill Anderson, and Little Jimmy Dickens. And make absolutely sure, before this December, that you download "Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday". It is seriously the funniest holiday song you'll ever hear.

And speaking of holidays, I would like to wish you and yours a happy, safe Memorial Day 2008. I'll be back in a couple of days.

The Bookkitten's Memorial Day 2008 iPod Playlist

I know I posted a playlist earlier in the week, but any holiday weekend deserves a special one:

1. "Online," Brad Paisley
2. "Give it Away," Bill Anderson
3. "Valdosta, Georgia," Bill Anderson
4. "Ticks," Brad Paisley
5. "Sway," Michael Buble
6. "Wonder Woman", Super Heroes Invasion (the theme to the old 70s TV show)
7. "Six Pack Summer," Phil Vassar
8. "Pleasant Valley Sunday," the Monkees
9. "Old Town," the Corrs
10. "Smile," Lily Allen
11. "LDN," Lily Allen
12. "Summertime," DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
13. "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," Michael Buble
14. "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)", Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
15. "Amazing Grace," Bill Anderson

Still a lot of country in the mix, with some old TV faves thrown in for the hell of it. And lots of songs that just say "summer" to me (and not just because the word "summer" is in the title.)

More good playlists to come as the weeks go by...I've got a great playlist dedicated to British singers that I'll post next week. I hope you like it as much as I do. And hopefully I'll have some parade pictures to share with you Sunday night.

In the meantime, I'm about to divulge some more kitten confessions...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

There is no weekend I look forward to more than Memorial Day weekend--and I know that millions of Americans feel the same way I do.

In addition to the 30th birthday barbecue I'm attending, I plan to attend one of our local, smaller Memorial Day parades. For many years, I did not attend many Memorial Day parades because I marched in so many of them as a kid. (In my hometown, every Girl Scout, Cub Scout, and civic group marched in our parade). I figured that if you saw one Memorial Day parade, you'd seen them all.

Well, four years ago, I attended a down-home, small town Memorial Day parade in the Westfield section of Middletown. It was a Sunday afternoon, a beautiful day, and I hated to waste it, so I went for a drive and learned that there was a parade that day. I thought, "What the hell, I haven't been to a parade in years," and parked my car by the firehouse, where the parade originated. I sat down under a maple tree, got out my book, and read for a couple of hours while the crowds gathered.

Well, there weren't many crowds to speak of, since it was a small parade, but those who gathered represented a slice of small-town America. There were parents pulling their kids in Radio Flyer wagons festooned with American flags and ribbons. Young couples brought their dogs. Several generations of families came and sat along the parade route.

It was a small parade, as I recall; there were the requisite appearances by the Cub Scout and Girl Scout troops, the ministers from the local church leading the parade, and several veterans' organizations. At the end of the parade, we all walked a block to the nearest cemetery, where the mayor and the priest of the local Catholic church led the blessing. They also read the names of all of the soldiers who were buried in the cemetery; that little cemetery also had the remains of a soldier from the Revolutionary War.

When the services were over, we all walked back to the firehouse for refreshments: punch, cookies, water, hot dogs, and ice cream. People stayed around and talked for a long time, catching up with each other's lives or just shooting the breeze.

If this wasn't a celebration of small town America, I don't know what is. It wasn't like any other Memorial Day parade I'd ever attended. For one, I actually found room to sit on the curb where I could see the whole parade. Secondly, I neither had to march nor play an instrument in the hot sun. Finally, I didn't get bored during the services honoring the soldiers; the priest and the mayor kept things rolling along, and quite interesting. Plus, the lovely walk to the cemetery, which passed by some lovely, old houses decorated for the holiday weekend, didn't hurt things a bit. And I enjoyed watching those residents of the old houses wave to us from their windows.

And I'm gonna make sure I attend that parade come Sunday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The search for light, fluffy reads

In my quest for an easy book to read (refer back to "The Bookkitten Needs YOUR Recommendations" for further info), I decided to do a search on Amazon.com and see what they came up with. I typed in "light fluffy reads" and here's what I got:

How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons
Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
The Accidental Werewolf by Dakota Cassidy
My Wicked Pirate by Rona Sharon
The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton
Rabid: A Novel by T.K. Kenyon
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
Party Divas: 12 Fabulous Parties for Women's Ministry by Amber Van Schoonefeld

There were several other selections, but I did not include those. Tell me, what is so light and fluffy about werewolves and dinosaurs having feathers? What's so light and fluffy about rabies? And why should I know, or care, about reading french fries? All I care about is that they're tasty, salty, and oh so yummy.

Fortunately for Amazon, customers can create their own lists of picks. To the left of the screen was a list titled "Books for a scattered mind." I don't know what that has to do with lightness and fluffyness, but I thought I'd give it a shot.

Here are some selections that I found:

Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend (a HUGE favorite of mine as a teenager, something I may revisit this summer)
Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So much for lightness and fluffiness there. Then there was a list called "Some cool books." And here's some of what I found THERE:

The Catcher in the Rye
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
On the Road by Jack Kerouac

And so the search for light fluffy reads continues...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thirtysomethings

So many of my friends have already turned 30 or will very soon. I myself passed that milestone two years ago.

This Saturday I plan to attend a 30th birthday barbecue, which I am really looking forward to, since it coincides with Memorial Day weekend. Those two celebrations combined should make for a really awesome party. My sister's boyfriend is turning 30, and if any of the stories about his relatives are to be believed, it should be one helluva party.

Out of all of my thirtysomething friends, only one has a child, and she sends me pictures on Flickr every once in a while. Her daughter is pretty damn cute.

I am neither ready to get married nor ready to have a child. Not by a long shot. My best friend has been nagging me for quite some time to go on an Internet dating site, since two of HIS best friends have had success on them. Sorry, but people seem to always look better online than in person--if that's what they look like.

(Funny, as I wrote that paragraph, I'm listening to a Brad Paisley song called "Online", which has the line that says "I'm so much cooler online." And he ends that song with a marching band!! *SIGH* I love Brad Paisley...)

When I was in high school, we all had timetables for what we were going to do when. For example, one friend wanted to be married at 22 and have her first kid by 25. I, too, wanted to be married by 22. However, now, as I look back, my 22-year-old self was NOT ready for ANY sort of commitment, let alone college graduation.

Speaking of which, this past Saturday was the 10th anniversary of my college graduation. I graduated in an outdoor ceremony in the pouring rain. My black graduation gown bled through my yellow sundress, which, at the end of the ceremony, was a lovely shade of purple--in the butt. Graduation was the easy part. The hard part was moving back into my parents' house, with no job prospects and totally broke.

Now, here I am, 10 years later, in a successful career, my own home, two cats, and a blog.

Exactly what would I say to my 22-year-old self now? Well, first I'd start by saying that life has a weird way of working things out. Put your trust in the universe, but also make sure that you're doing your part so that the universe won't screw you over. You still have to make your own decisions!

And finally, don't read any books that are supposed to tell you what thirtysomethings are supposed to do. Don't listen to people who tell you you're supposed to be married by a certain age. Make your own timeline! When one of my friends turned 30 three years ago, I gave her a book called 30 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do Before Turning 30. According to the author, by the time one turns 30, one must know how to:
  • wrap a present
  • parallel park in "three breathtakingly beautiful movements"
  • keep a plant alive for more than a year

Well, I've failed at least three of the items on the list. I don't even put "To/From" tags on my presents, since my friends and family can tell from the shoddy wrapping that a gift's from me. I can barely back my car into a parking space, let alone parallel park. And I've managed to keep the sunrise cactus that my mother gave me for Easter alive for two months--and that's a record for me! (Even though it's a cactus!)

Now I would hate to end this post on a low note, so I am now going to highlight those tasks from the list that I am able to do very well, thank you:

  • change a flat/jumpstart a car: Isn't that what AAA is for?
  • take good pictures: Thanks to digital, I can delete the bad ones
  • remove common stains: Tide to Go is marvelous
  • hold a baby/change a diaper: I haven't done this in years, but I figure it's like riding a bicycle
  • make dogs and cats love you: There are few animals that truly hate me
  • cook one "signature meal": I've got LOTS of those, baby!!!

And finally, shout-outs to the folks at CTWeblogs.com for listing this blog on their site! Hopefully I'll get more readers that way!

Until next time, kittens...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

And baby makes...20?!?!?!

Just when you thought that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had finally finished procreating...

I find this out while reading People magazine at the Shaw's checkout line this afternoon:

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20198911,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines

I wasn't going to post anymore today, but I had to after I found this out.

With #18 on the way (due January 2009), I have three questions:

1. How many J names are left for them to choose?
2. When's the next Discovery Channel special?
3. When's the book coming out?

Gee, this is quite a post for me to write before bedtime!

The Bookkitten Needs YOUR Recommendations!

Hey kids,

I'm looking for some reading recommendations. Yeah, I know, the main purpose of this blog is to offer MY recommendations to the world, but right now, all that's in my bookcase are some pretty heavy reads that require a lot of thinking.

What I need right now is something light, not too fluffy, and easy on the brain, since I've been very stressed lately.

Got any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments post!

The Bookkitten's iPod Playlist, week of May 18th

We've got a lot of country music in the shuffle this week, with a little Divine Miss M thrown in for good measure:

1. "Harper Valley P.T.A," Jeannie C. Riley

2. "Prayer of a Common Man," Phil Vassar

3. "Too Country," Brad Paisley

4. "A Place in this World," Taylor Swift

5. "What I Cannot Change," LeAnn Rimes

6. "Slippin Away," Bill Anderson & Vince Gill

7. "A Lot of Things Different," Bill Anderson

8. "Now That's Love," Bill Anderson

9. "There's a Small Hotel," Bobby Van

10. "Roses Today," Johnny Scott

11. "The Glory of Love," Bette Midler

The Loss of Childhood

Yesterday, while on my sickbed, I finished the last chapters of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I stated in previous posts that the book had been slowgoing, but the last chapters were immensely satisfying--especially the last chapter.

In the final chapter, Bill Bryson mourned the loss of the Des Moines of his childhood. He stated the Des Moines that he grew up in was no longer once he became an adult. He described the razing of several movie palaces, the construction of a mall on the outskirts of town, and the approach of chain restaurants and of chain motels. He writes about how excited his father was that a Travelodge had come to Des Moines--it wasn't just a hotel, it was a MOTOR LODGE!!! The residents of Des Moines were thrilled at the opportunity that they could dine in the same restaurants as residents of California!! This was an exciting time for many Iowans!

However, in the 21st century, the construction of chain anything--hotels, restaurants, and especially stores--is met with frustration and anger. Exactly how many big box stores does one need here in the United States? In my town there are FOUR Dunkin' Donuts. FOUR!!! Three of 'em are within a mile of each other. There are almost 20,000 residents of my town. We really need one Dunkin' Donuts for every 5,000 residents?

I experienced something similar once I moved out of my parents' house. I grew up in a small, rural Connecticut town that had NO chain stores when I was growing up. Three years before I moved out, the residents of my town had successfully rallied against bringing a Wal Mart to town. There was a huge controversy when McDonald's had moved into a shopping plaza--a very small one, but it was still a McDonald's.

The year I moved, however, the local car dealership was razed to make way for Stop and Shop.

Six months later, during a phone conversation with my father, I was told that Starbucks had come to town.

On one of my recent return visits, I drove around town for old time's sake and found AT&T Wireless, CVS, and Dunkin' Donuts had taken up residence.

The small town I grew up in, the one which prided itself on its rural character, had sold out.

When I was growing up, I complained about the lack of chain and convenience shops in our town. Now that I am grown up, I am saddened by their presence in a community that had been a huge part of my life.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kitten Confessions, Part Two

When I moved into my first apartment seven years ago, I did not have a TV for a while. Actually, I had a TV, but did not have cable service installed for a while. So I listened to a LOT of radio before I bit the bullet and got cable service. Even after I got cable, I listened to the radio a lot--if not, more often than I watch TV.

For me, the local radio stations are a great way to get to know a new area. You get to hear talk of local politics, local hangouts, even get to know the flavor of the personalities of the area. Are the people educated or isolated? Are they white collar or working class? What kind of music is popular in the area--top 40, hip hop, or country? You can really learn a lot about the demographics of an area just by listening to the radio.

I learned, for example, that at the time, not many people drove down to my area of the state, the southeastern portion of Connecticut, even though it boasted tourist attractions such as Mystic and the casinos. I was listening to the radio on the way to work one morning and did not hear a single traffic report all morning. In the Hartford area, one radio station at the time boasted "traffic reports every after every song between 7 and 9 AM". In southeastern Connecticut, there was no traffic report on any of the radio stations, in spite of I-95's presence weaving through our neck of the woods. Then again, I-95 was only two lanes from Old Saybrook to New London, where it widened to five lanes at the Gold Star Bridge, then narrowed to three lanes again once you crossed the Groton line.

I moved from southeastern Connecticut five years ago, and there was still no traffic report on any of the area radio stations when I departed.

A good friend of mine earned his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana. During his tenure there, my friend, a native Nutmegger, experienced quite a bit of midwestern culture shock. During his visits home he'd be ecstatic to listen to the local NPR station and not hear a single report on the price of grain. He now lives happily in New York City, where he introduced me to the joys of the NPR station there, WNYC, which I listen to via its webstream.

Speaking of NPR, I started listening to it when I moved out of my parents' house, and it became my station of choice to listen to when I drove into work. Until that point, I regarded NPR as a stodgy, old person's radio station. However, when I listened to NPR during that drive to work, it was one of the first times that I felt really grown up. My sister felt the same way when she was younger, but now we often talk about what we heard on NPR. Lots of people my age listen to NPR, and it's almost become hip among my generation. Almost.

NPR was where I discovered the joys of that Saturday night radio staple, A Prairie Home Companion. Now, I am a New Yorker by birth and a Nutmegger by relocation, but I just love listening to this Minnesota legend. There's something just so comforting about listening to the tales from Lake Woebegon, the adventures of Guy Noir, the musical Powdermilk Biscuit Breaks, the admonitions of the Catsup Advisory Board, and the praises of duct tape by the council which bears its name. I love listening to the stories of the Norwegian bachelor farmers and the travails of the Lutherans. And let's not forget Garrison's Keilor's turn of a phrase. I find his voice very soothing. I love listening to this old fashioned radio show more than I enjoy some of the shows on TV nowadays.

I think I was born in the wrong decade, because I love old fashioned radio shows. I discovered, just two weeks ago, another old fashioned radio show--the world's oldest. And later tonight, I will point my mouse in the direction of the website of 650 AM, WSM, Nashville's Legend, to listen to the 4,298th consecutive performance of the Grand Ole Opry. Then I'll hear the cry of, "Hoot Hester, let's hear that fiddle!", and with the sounds of the fiddle and the rhythm of the Opry Square Dancers' steps, I'll spend another Saturday night listening to some wonderful live performances of a wonderful genre of music--country music, of which I am only recently a fan. I'm already saving my pennies for a trip to Nashville to see the Opry in person.

Now why, do you ask, are these Kitten Confessions? Neither my friends nor my family know of my devotion to these shows, and I think they would laugh at me. You see, they know me as this intellectual, reading obsessed female with a deep appreciation for museums, travel, and classical music. My friends and family would be VERY surprised to know this about me. (Actually, my dad and my sister wouldn't be surprised about A Prairie Home Companion, since Dad introduced it to us in the first place).

I actually seem to be in a Midwest frame of mind right now, as I just finished The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and it got me really waxing nostalgic. However, that's another post. I've got to return to listening to A Prairie Home Companion. They're doing the shout-outs and hellos right now.

Links to topics discussed in this post:

Prairie Home Companion: http://www.prairiehome.org/

Grand Ole Opry: http://www.opry.com/

WSM, Nashville's Legend: http://www.wsmonline.com/

NPR: http://www.npr.org/

WNYC: http://www.wnyc.org/

Sick AGAIN

I can't remember the last time when my immune system was so dysfunctional. I fell asleep on the couch last night while watching What Not to Wear. For me, one of the most delicious feelings in the world is falling asleep in front of the TV on a Friday night after a long, hard week at work.

And I woke up with a runny nose and fatigue. I woke up officially at 10 AM, but didn't get off the couch till noon. My two cats cuddled up to me and wondered what was wrong with mommy.

I'm feeling a little better now, nose is still runny and I'm still a little tired. My sole accomplishment so far today has been running the dishwasher.

My experiment has failed (see previous post for details). Sure, there were plenty of BRODY Jenner articles online, but very few Bruce Jenner headlines--even though he's on that Kim Kardashian reality show every week. Barbara Mandrell's been retired for years. As for Betty Ford--I thought she'd be my most likely contender for a news item, what with all the election news, I thought she'd endorse a candidate. I guess I have to write about them in a post, instead of naming them randomly. We'll see what happens if I write about someone else again.

One good thing about being ill--I get to read! There's no better excuse to read than being on a sick bed!!! Time for me to finish The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Au revoir!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Too freaky

The other night I happened to mention James Garner in a post, and wouldn't you know it--the next day there's a news feature about him on Yahoo.

Yesterday, I mentioned Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons in my post, and here's what happened now:

http://www.amny.com/entertainment/tv/ny-etsue155686293may15,0,5771896.story?track=rss

It's only happened twice, but I've mentioned two people in my blog and there have been national news stories about them.

OK, let's try an experiment here: I'm gonna mention three random people, and see if at least one of them gets a news story tomorrow:

Barbara Mandrell
Betty Ford
Bruce Jenner

Let's see what happens in the next 24 hours...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Taking a Break

I'm taking a break from preparing a PowerPoint for work. PowerPoints, for me, can be extremely time-consuming; it takes just the right amount of effort and patience in order to find the perfect graphic, animation, sound effect, etc. This one was particularly challenging, so I decided to take a break before adding animation--that is, if I decide to add it.

I am wandering around on the iTunes store. You know the little window right below your playlist that shows you what other listeners bought in addition to the songs that you did? Well, apparently the Ashlee Simpson fans are also Hilary Duff fans. I decided to listen to a sample of Ms. Duff's recordings, and must say I'm not at all impressed. She's got a weak, whiny voice.

And yet, Hilary Duff has an iTunes Essentials compilation. What the hey?!?! She hasn't released that many albums--three, tops, I believe.

There's one song on my current playlist that is just so haunting to me. It all started when I was surfing on YouTube one day and came across this clip from WCBS TV:

video

Take a listen to the music from the first and last promos in this montage. When I first heard it, it really, really spellbounded me, and it's rare that a TV clip ever does that to me. I even Googled the video, and eventually learned that it was a track written by Johnny Scott, "Roses Today".

Long story short, I tracked down the CD, ordered it from Amazon, and now have that blissed out, 60s vibe, gem of a soundtrack on my iPod.

It's been a long time--since I was in 8th grade, maybe--that I've bought a CD for just one song. But I couldn't download this from iTunes. I have listened to it over and over again.

Why do I love this piece of music so much? Maybe it's because it reminds me of a simpler time--childhood. I spent the first four years of my life in Westchester County, New York, and WCBS was a constant fixture at my house. Whenever my family returned to the tri-state area, WCBS would be a presence at my relatives' houses (unless Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons were doing the news, then it would be WNBC). This song reminds me of those simpler times.

Why am I longing for simpler times? I've got a lot of stress in my life right now. I don't wish to go into details, but my friends and family know what's going on, and that's all that matters.

There's also a lot of stress in this country, too: high gas prices. An incompetent president. The forthcoming election. Our state as a superpower diminished. High food prices. Foreclosures.

Got a headache yet?

Ironically, in the latest chapter of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson writes about the lost feeling of safety as a child, what with mushroom clouds, nuclear weapons, and communism--the anxiety-producing events that caused many a child of the 50s to lose his or her innocence. Those are the events when you realize that the world, as cozy and sweet as you knew it in childhood, is not as safe as you realize.

When did I lose my innocence? For many of my generation, it was the Challenger disaster of 1986. I didn't see it happen live; I was at recess, and my classmates returned to a room full of crying teachers. I don't remember if I was dismissed early from school that day, but I do remember avoiding the news at all costs--yet there was a part of me that wanted to see it replayed, to know that I wasn't dreaming that it happened.

I felt this way again on September 11th. It had been two months since I moved in to my first apartment, and I remember coming home from work and watching CNN nonstop. I really wanted to avoid the news, but couldn't; it was everywhere, on every station. I just remember sobbing for almost two weeks straight; I had started a new job, was two hours away from family and friends, and had no friends in the area yet. I felt very, very alone.

Gee, so much for taking a break! And yet, I managed to sneak in a book post!! Yeah, we're back to bibliomatters! There will be more book posts at the end of the week. I know I'm not staying on track with the main theme of this blog, but it's been so theraputic to post about other matters!

So thanks--all 1.5 of you readers out there--for reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Bookkitten's iPod Playlist, Week of May 11

My iPod selection changes depending on my mood. Here's a sample of my latest playlist, which I've been rocking out to at the gym:

1. "Rockstar", Hannah Montana
2. "Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)", Ashlee Simpson
3. "Adelaide's Lament," Carol Burnett
4. "The Banana Splits Theme (The Tra La La Song)" Ralph's World
5. "Bittersweet World," Ashlee Simpson
6. "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?" Chicago
7. "Don't Sleep in the Subway," Petula Clark
8. "Gimme Little Sign", Brenton Wood
9. "A Good Love and a Bottle of Wine," Bill Anderson
10. "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe", Carol Burnett

And that's just half of my playlist. As you can see, I have eclectic--some may say, strange--tastes in music. Our choir director brought her iPod to rehearsal tonight so we could rehearse to some mp3s, since our accompanist was absent. I suggested she put it on shuffle; she laughed, and said that some would question her selection of tunes.

Maybe this should have been another post in the "Kitten Confessions" series...

Scary...

In yesterday's post, I had mentioned that I used to confuse Bob Barker with James Garner.

I come home tonight, check my E-mail, and find this:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080514/ap_en_ot/james_garner

My thoughts and prayers go to James Garner and his family tonight.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kitten Confessions, Part One

As promised in my last post, here is some more personal information about the Bookkitten, designed to keep the blog interesting. (And designed to keep my one fan--if my one fan is still out there--reading this tome). This is the first part of a series I shall call "Kitten Confessions". I am not going to reveal any juicy info here, because there isn't any juicy info to reveal. I'm a freakin' goody two-shoes, to be perfectly honest with you.

Sooo...something about me no one knows anything about. I'll start with describing my favorite daytime show...the one show that you're SUPPOSED to watch whenever you're home sick from work or school. You probably already know what I'm talking about when I say this, but if you don't, I'm talking about that great American classic, The Price is Right.

I was a MAJOR TPIR junkie as a kid. There was something oddly fascinating to me about Bob Barker. I used to get him confused with James Garner during his Rockford Files days. Both men were handsome, something I'm embarrassed to say, since I was seven years old at the time I discovered both shows. (My mother was in lurve with James Garner and never missed a single rerun. She particularly liked watching The Rockford Files whenever she ironed. My mother irons obsessively. But that's another post for another blog).

Anyhoo, back to TPIR. I don't remember what the best part about it was--the wheel, the showcases, the models crashing the cars into the set--but I found it very comforting. It was a staple of my summer routine growing up--sleep till 10 AM, have a bowl of cereal (never the sugary stuff--my mother didn't believe in Trix or Lucky Charms), and watch TPIR. My mother would come home from her part time job around 12:30, then take me and my sister to the local pond, where we met up with some of our friends. I particularly enjoyed talking to this kid named Steven, since he was a fellow TPIR junkie. We'd compare notes on crazy contestants and whether or not someonebid correctly on a showcase.

Once I got into high school and started working, TPIR disappeared from my routine. I rarely watched it in college; I was not one of those people who scheduled classes around TPIR airings. If anything, whenever I was free at 11 AM, I was more likely at the time to watch The View (yeah, I know...)

I didn't get back into TPIR until last year, when Bob Barker announced his retirement. It really did feel as if I was losing an icon from my childhood--almost as sad as losing Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers--but not quite as sad as losing those two great men. Still, I felt as if I should watch as many Barker episodes as I could, so his memory would be permanently placed in my brain.

I still watch TPIR whenever I can, and, no offense to the purists out there--but I think I like Drew Carey a whole lot better than I liked Bob Barker. Barker seemed to carry that aura of "Hey, I'm Bob Barker, and I'm awesome" throughout every episode. Let's face it, the man had a huge ego, and you don't need to read all of the backstage stories to prove it; just watch his interactions with the models, crew, and even the contestants during his final episodes. He just really seemed stiff and awkward.

Drew Carey, on the other hand, acts like he's in awe to be on that stage every day, like, "Whoa! I can't believe I'm the host of The Price is Right!" He's funny, charming, interacts with the crew, and isn't afraid to joke about the prices. The whole show seems to have a more relaxed vibe now that Barker's gone. Not that I'm discounting his work; the man made TPIR into the American icon it is today. I just think that the people who work on TPIR should show that they're having fun, and Drew Carey certainly enjoys himself. It's a good escape from reality, even for only 60 minutes a day.

And in this day and age, we need all the escapism opportunities we can get.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Return from Mother's Day

I have returned from a very mellow, relaxing Mother's Day chez mes parents. My parents returned from Italy last week, and they both looked relaxed and content--and were full of stories. Dad particularly enjoyed entertaining us with impressions of one of their tour guides, Claudio, who spoke in broken English with many big words. And their stories of Italian food were not to be missed, from driving through the lemon and olive groves to having freshly bottled wine for dinner every night. FRESHLY BOTTLED WINE FOR DINNER EVERY NIGHT!!! Jealous!

Anyhoo, I'm not talking about books right now, as you can see. Hey, it's my blog, and I reserve the right to blog about anything I please. Besides, if I keep blogging about books, it'll get boring. You, my fellow readers, all deserve a little more entertainment variety.

I'm feeling much better now. The first half of the day dragged. I was supposed to have a solo at church today, but called my choir director last night after my four-hour nap. Good thing too--I've been raspy all day. I don't think I could have made it through a solo without coughing.

I drove home tonight thinking about this blog--I must be really into this whole blogging thing if I'm thinking about it in the car. Anyhoo, if I have time to post this week, I think I'll post some more personal stuff. I think "Bookkitten Confessions" makes a great title for a post, eh?

Of illnesses and thunderbolts, part 2

Well, last night, as I said I would in my last post, I read more of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid before I fell asleep. I was bummed that I got tired enough that I had to put the book down and get some shuteye, because, for the first time in a few chapters, there were a couple of laughs.

The first chapter I read had to do with the elementary school years. Ah, the good ol' days of innocence and recess. I enjoyed the passage about school field trips. Apparently, in his youth, Bryson was a Charlie Brown-type of student. He never had anything for show and tell. He forgot to bring valentines and Christmas cookies for the holiday celebrations. He forgot to bring back official forms on time. Bryson describes in one humorous passage how the principal's secretary tried to contact his mother to obtain permission to go on a field trip, and how his mother wasn't around because her department was always out to coffee. So little Billy Bryson was always the one kid stuck in the library when eveyone else went to the Wonder Bread factory. However, he didn't mind, since it "was Des Moines...and not a great deal had ever happened in Iowa; nothing at all if you excluded ice ages." (p. 144)

The second chapter I read was titled "Man at Work", which chronicled Bryson's days as a paper boy. I was very briefly, in the 5th grade, a paper girl myself. Well, not really; I actually helped my best friend deliver our town's version of the PennySaver. She got paid; I just went along for the company and the adventure. Anyway, if there's anything I've gleaned from Bill Bryson's writing, it's that he tends to exaggerate; some of his passages need to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the paper boy chapter is right on the money, if only based on his descriptions of collecting subscription money from his customers and running away from vicious dogs (the latter actually happened to me more than once).

I only have four chapters left of this book; I just skimmed to see how many there are. I am particularly excited because a character from one of Bryson's previous books is making an appearance: Katz. If you have read A Walk in the Woods, Bryson's tome chronicling his experiences on the Appalachian Trail, you will know who Katz is--and you won't soon forget him. I can't wait to find out how and why Katz became the person he became.

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day. The Bookkitten is going to see the Big Mama Cat today. I can't wait to see how many mystery books she's acquired in the time I was last at her house.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Of illnesses and thunderbolts

I am writing this post while sick with "an upper resperatory infection." I've had a very sore throat, post nasal drip, and fatigue all week, and yesterday, I finally went to the clinic a block from my house to get examined. It was the quickest clinic visit ever--fifteen minutes, and they even gave me a mask in the waiting room while I coughed. Every time I go to this clinic, regardless of whatever illness I have, I get the same prescriptions: azithromycin (aka the antibiotic Zithromax), and cough medicine with codeine. Oh yeah, and I get the same diagnosis.

I mention this because today's entry may not make any sense. The Bookkitten took a four-hour nap today, and is still feeling tired and congested. She took her Zithromax this morning, but has not yet taken the codeine. (OK, it's not making sense already; I've mentioned myself in the first and third person in one paragraph).

Sooo...onto my book review of the day. I promised in my last post that I would review The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson's memoir of a 1950s wholesome, midwest, Iowa childhood. Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors; after reading A Walk in the Woods and The Lost Continent last year in my pre-blog days, I was expecting another laugh-out-loud oeuvre full of that trademark acerbic Bryson wit.

This memoir has not even come close to making me laugh. I'm only halfway through the book and am just about ready to give it up.

Maybe it's because I came of age in the 1980s and 1990s in New England. Maybe it's because I can't relate to having only three channels that could only be received by the antenna (in my hometown's pre-cable days, we could get TEN channels that could only be received by the antenna). Maybe it's because my mother never believed in serving us packaged, processed food; I was one of only a handful of kids I knew growing up who had a preservative-free meal at dinner every night (though Mom, to this day, still insists on serving frozen, overboiled mixed vegetables whenever my sister and I come home).

Anyway, I am having trouble relating to a lot of what is going on in this book. I'm especially having trouble relating to how "The Thunderbolt Kid" relates to the story. Bryson mentions his "x-ray vision" here and there, but it doesn't fit well with the rest of the plot.

If you can't tell, I'm really disappointed in this story. I will try to finish this book, I really will, and shall give you readers a full report once I have returned to health.

If anything, this book will help me fall asleep tonight, along with the cough syrup and codeine.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

And we're back!!!!

Yeah, it's been a while since I last posted an entry. What can I say--life happened. I didn't think anyone actually read this blog, but then I saw one comment in my last post and got encouraged. Of course, that post was almost a year ago, but still, any little bit of encouragement means a whole lot to me.

Anyhoo, lots of things have occurred in the life of the Bookkitten. One of the most recent things is that I have recently joined a book club. The book club is quite enjoyable; we meet once a month, play catch up for two hours, and then talk about the book for ten minutes. It makes for a fun evening.

Tomorrow is our next meeting. This month, we read Girls of Tender Age, a memoir by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith. Ms. Tirone Smith is the author of such mysteries as The Book of Phoebe, She's Not There, and Love Her Madly. I have not read any of her other books, and do not plan to; if you look at my profile, you will see that the Bookkitten does not like mysteries. (Yet she is the daughter of a mystery novel-loving couple. My parents' house is filled with James Patterson and Lisa Scottoline trade paperbacks. But I digress; that is another story for another blog).

One of the reasons we chose this book is that Ms. Tirone Smith is from our home state of Connecticut. She grew up in the old Charter Oak Terrace, and her descriptions of her childhood home are so detailed, so vivid, that I considered driving to Hartford one day to check out her old haunts. Alas, time was not on my side, and this is a trip I will not take unless gas dips back down, if it ever does.

Ms. Tirone Smith is a skilled writer. What initially starts out as a loving memoir of a 1950s childhood turns painful as she describes the horror of the murder of a classmate at the hands of a sexual predator. She skillfully weaves her own story and that of this sex offender so well that one remains intrigued throughout the whole story. She thoughtfully describes the horror that she felt for years afterward, and chronicles her struggle through her adolescence and adulthood to bring closure to this tragic memory.

This is not the only plot element worth attention, though. Ms. Tirone Smith also chronicles the story of her brother Tyler, who was "autistic before anyone knew what that meant." She writes, in great detail, of Tyler's immense collection of military history books, his inability to tolerate noise of any kind, his need to have three of everything on his dinner plate (three eggs, three slices of ham, and three servings of vegetables, for instance), and his obsession with polka music. Tyler's family struggles with his behaviors; his mother lives in denial about his condition, whereas his father sacrifices so much to care for his son.

As with most books I enjoy, I finished Girls of Tender Age in less than 24 hours. I could relate to it not just from the hometown locations that were described, but because of the story itself: one of an intense love of family, and the intense grief for an old friend.

I am currently reading another memoir of 1950s childhood: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson. I hope to have a full report sometime within the next year, if not sooner. :)