Friday, November 30, 2007

Blogging and the Law

I found this handy dandy little list of US Laws that affect blogs and bloggers and thought I would share it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


It was a dark and gloomy day when we journeyed out to Versailles. By the end of the day, we agreed on two things.

1) We were darn cold and needed a hot toddy

2) Based on how sparkly everything at Versailles was if we had been peasants we would have been pretty pissed at the royals too.

The entrance to Versailles

The hall of mirrors. Apparently mirrors were wildly expensive so this room was built to show off how insanely rich the King was.

Marie Antoinette's bedchamber. Fun fact...when Marie was in labor and giving birth to the heir, her entire court was present. Doesn't that sound fun?

I have no idea what this has to do with Versailles but I liked the picture

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

At Large And At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman

I just finished At Large And At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman. Familiar essays were made popular by British gentlemen as they expounded on widely divergent areas of interest but have largely fallen out of favor in recent years. Since I have tended to favor essays by authors writing on a "theme" I was a bit unsure of how much I would like this book. The first essay did not give me much hope. The author talked about her early childhood obsession with butterfly collecting. In spite of a favorite uncle being an enthusiast, this has never been a topic near and dear to my heart so I finished this essay with a bit of dismay since I was really hoping for something a bit less grisly. Three essays in, my patience was rewarded. Yes, she talked about a subject that is an ongoing obsession in my life....ICE CREAM! What could be better? After that, her essays became much more relevant to my life, subjects such as being a night owl in a world of early birds, etc...

I highly enjoyed most of the essays in this small book and would recommend it for others who like to ponder...well, everything.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anyone want to go to New York?

I got this email today. Anyone want to go?

Dear Poetry Lovers,

If you're in New York City on Thursday, November 29th, 2007, don't miss a special 80th birthday tribute and reading featuring Philip Levine with Kate Daniels, E.L. Doctorow, Edward Hirsch, Galway Kinnell, Yusuf Komunyakaa, Malena Mörling, Sharon Olds, Tom Sleigh, Gerald Stern, Jean Valentine and Charles Wright.

Philip Levine was born in Detroit and is the author of 16 collections of poetry, most recently Breath. His other books include The Simple Truth, which won the Pulitzer Prize; What Work Is, which won the National Book Award; The Names of the Lost; Ashes: Poems New and Old and 7 Years From Somewhere, both of which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the distinguished Poet-in-Residence in the Creative Writing Program at NYU.

Co-sponsored with the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center, The New York University Creative Writing Program, the Academy of American Poets, Cave Canem Foundation, Cooper Union, Alfred A. Knopf, Poets House, Poetry Society of America, and Poets & Writers.

Hope to see you there!

Philip Levine 80th Birthday Tribute
Thursday, November 29th, 7:00pm
Great Hall, Cooper Union, East 7th Street

Free and Open to the Public

Varieties Of Disturbance: Stories by Lydia Davis

Last night I fell in love...with a new author. Lydia Davis is unlike anyone I have read before so I can't say "if you like this author (or that author) you will like Lydia". Her short story collection breaks all the rules, there is not an action packed plot in the bunch and yet, it all works together. I am completely blown away by her work and I plan to read the rest of her work in the very near future.

In the past year I have really come to appreciate the skill it takes to pull together a well done short story collection and some of my "favorite" work has been this type of literature.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan

This is a fictionalized account of the life of Mamah Borthwick Cheney. I was unaware that Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah had an affair and left their respective families to live together during a time when that was just "not done" so this was a very novel interesting from that perspective. I have to admit that I did find Frank a bit overbearing and personally not very appealing but in spite of (or maybe because of this) the book was extremely interesting and engaging.

The name of the novel it is not so much a romance as Mamah's struggle to try to live an authentic life as an independent educated woman. Of course, the facts get in the way of a satisfying conclusion to this quest but that is often the way real life is. Interesting and highly recommended for historical fiction fans.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

An evening in Paris

After the art museums we trekked over to the Eiffel Tower.

One look at the long line convinced us that perhaps it was not worth the trip to the top so we called my friend's husband (who had made it up there) and he said not to bother. We decided instead to make our way to the "best view of the Eiffel Tower" according to the guidebook.

Here I am at the esplanade du Trocadero (AKA: the best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris).

After all that walking we went in search of food again and then just walked around enjoying Paris at night. We eventually ended up at the Arc de Triomphe. We got additional exercise by climb to the top so that we could see the whole city at night.

It is a really long climb to the top but the view was worth it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Red Parts: A Memoir by Maggie Nelson

In 1969, Maggie Nelson's aunt was murdered. Her death was linked to the infamous "Michigan Murders" and her killer was never found...until recently. As Maggie, a poet, was just releasing a book of poetry about her aunt and the murder, new DNA evidence was found link a retired nurse to the killing. Maggie and her mother attend the trial each day in order to bear witness.

In the end, however, there was little sense of release and closure since questions are left unanswered and ambiguity remains. In fact, Maggie's family remains unconvinced that justice has been served. In reality this book is less about the crime than how it has shaped an entire family's world.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Oscar, a first-generation Dominican-American, has bad luck. In fact, he has become the heir to 500 years of fuku (bad luck). This smart, lovable, unattractive and doomed protagonist is seen through the eyes of his sister, his mother and a family friend. This cutting edge (can you tell I like that phrase) novel is a sad, funny, rich portrait of a complex boy and a complex culture.

Warning: there is quite a bit of profanity in this novel so it is not for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it for anyone looking for something a little different.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cool website of the day

A couple of days ago I found this fun website called A Very Short List.

If you subscribe to their email service, you can receive "the very short, very free daily e-mail that uncovers excellent, under-hyped things to see, read, and hear five days a week."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Guardians by Ana Castillo

The Guardians is a story of life on the border. Regina, a legal US citizen, is caring for her nephew, who is not legal. When the story opens her brother has been missing, presumed lost somewhere in "coyote" country. Coyotes referring to the people who prey on illegal immigrants selling them safe (sometimes) passage into the US. As she and another teacher confront the coyotes, they also fight to protect their families. Adding to the ever present threat of violence is Rafe, an intensely religious teen, who has befriended and is trying to help several gang members with mixed results.

No matter what you think about the immigration issue, this is a well written tale that shows how difficult it is to be an illegal in today's world. Heartbreaking and effective.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Science vs. Pseudoscience


*Phillips, Gary W., PhD. “Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators from Comparing States and Nations.” American Institutes for Research. 14 Nov 2007. American Institutes for Research. 18 Nov 2007

From David Warlick's blog 2¢ Worth:

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF,, the average U.S. citizen understands very little science. For example:

- 66% do not understand DNA, “margin of error,” the scientific process, and do not believe in evolution.
- 50% do not know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun, and a quarter does not even know that the earth goes around the sun.
- 50% think humans coexisted with dinosaurs and believe antibiotics kill viruses.

On the other hand, according to the NSF, the general public believes in a lot of pseudoscience.

- 88% believe in alternative medicine.
- 50% believe in extrasensory perception and faith healing.
- 40% believe in haunted houses and demonic possession.
- 33% believes in lucky numbers, ghosts, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, and that UFOs are aliens from space.
- 25% believes in witches and that we can communicate with the dead. *

Monday, November 19, 2007

Paris - Day 2, Part 1

Welcome to Museum Day in Paris. We started our day at the Louvre (I really think it should be spelled Louve but for accuracy sake I will do the "real" spelling.) This museum was "opened to all since 1793" and according to the website has over 6 million visitors per year most of which were there the day we visited. Because we got up bright and early (a major problem when traveling with a morning person) we didn't have to wait in line to enter the museum but we didn't plan as well once we got inside.

We made the mistake of going to the Napoleon III Apartments first. It was interesting and ornate and very sparkly and I because I follow the rules and obeyed the signs I didn't take any pictures. (By the way, there was a tiny painting of a woman reading in his apartments that I fell in love with, so if someone else is going to be there soon, could you stop by and pick that up for me?)

We then decided to headed over to see the Mona Lisa because you cannot go to the Louvre and not see the Mona Lisa. Someone (not mentioning any names) did take a picture although she was just trying to get the crowds, not the painting and heck, every other person in the place had their camera out snapping away. For someone who is short and midwestern, it was very difficult to bulldoze my way to the front so I politely stood in line to see Miss Mona. We really should have made a beeline for her the second we hit the door, before the other 5 million people got there, but who knew?

There she is...that little picture in the middle of the frame. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen)

Believe it or not, this is not actually my favorite way to view art so we did a quick run through of a few more galleries and then headed to my favorite cafe (much more enjoyable now that my friend wasn't feeling puny) and then on to the Musée d'Orsay

which I viewed in a very orderly fashion. I visited each and every room and saw every single thing in the place. May I just say that I loved this museum.

Here is one of my favorite sculptures in the museum. It represents Balzac and was done by Rodin. When it came out the critics rejected it so Rodin repaid the Société his commission and moved the figure to his garden. Stupid critics.

Of course, no visit would be complete without stopping by to see Whistler's Mother. I found some new artists to love. One new favorite was Sisley. I just can't get enough of those Impressionists. Next blog - Part 2: Or Visiting the Eiffel Tower.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

We didn't have very many graphic novels on the list to consider this year. Here is my favorite of the bunch mainly because the artwork fit the text perfectly. It added layers to the story BUT (and this is the important part)...if the artwork or the text went away, the other could function independently. This is the mark of a great graphic novel. The whole is more than the sum of the parts but each part is complete.

This is the story of a Chinese American 20-something who is struggling with his desire to be the same as "other Americans" vs pressure from his community to retain his identity and heritage. Very well done and complete.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

The tale of two brothers, one in the United States, one in Haiti, is ultimately the gift from a daughter to her father. This remarkable story tells of the divergent paths the author’s father and brother journey down, impacted by their chosen country’s choices and changing fortunes. This is the quintessential immigrant story of love and exile and always present is respect for each man and the choices they made.

Today I am Gandhi

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday fun

Once again, all the cool kids are doing this so how could I resist.

I took this "test" last year and came up with the same results. Maybe I really am a saint:)

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Here I am in Paris....See, proof. There is the Eiffel Tower in the background and everything.

Day one...after a bit more traveling time than we had planned for we ran out and grabbed lunch so my friend wouldn't gnaw my arm off and then we headed down to do a little sightseeing. Because we got there a little later than anticipated we decided to try doing the guidebook suggestion of the evening tour of historic sites. We walked down the Right and Left bank and did some picture taking and sightseeing. Since we knew that Notre Dame Cathedral was open we decided to head down there.

Pretty, isn't it?

The architecture is done in the Early French Gothic style and personifies the French Art style (I know this because I just looked it up) and was built between 1163 and 1250. While I was visiting I looked for the Hunchback could not find him, which was a disappointment.

After we left there, my friend started to feel a bit unwell so we stopped at what turned out to be my favorite cafe for that entire trip so that my friend could try to get her second wind. That didn't happen but I had a nice cup of tea and a pastry (oh, who am I kidding, I had chocolate cake) and we headed back to the hotel so she could recover. This is the portion of the trip where I got to read about Iggy Pop's enormous "endowments" way too many times. (In case you are wondering, the new Iggy Pop bio wasn't a favorite of mine.) It was good I got the extra rest because day 2 was our museum marathon day which you will hear all about in the next blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The God of Animals: A Novel by Aryn Kyle

The Winston family is falling apart. The mother handed over baby Alice to her older sister and retreated to her bedroom where she has stayed for twelve years and Alice’s father is a harsh and distant man, choosing to fill his life with his livelihood, training horses and giving riding lesssons.. Alice is set adrift when her sister runs away to marry a rodeo rider and she seeks to fill the void by trying to gain the attention of her father, classmates and a teacher, with unexpected results. This is a lyrical coming-of-age novel with beautifully descriptive landscapes, alienated individuals and lives filled with tragedy.

PS....This was one of those stories that at some point gripped me and by the end I couldn't put it down. I found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the crisis point in the story so pick this up with the warning, "this book may break your heart".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back to Switzerland

The next day was spent recovering from Oktoberfest, doing laundry and packing for the trip to Paris. I also finished up my mystery set in Venice. No, that wasn't the only research I did for the trip but it was the most fun. On one of my nights in Switzerland we did fondue night. We also met with Gretchen's Zurich women bloggers group which was great fun and involved martinis.

Back to fondue....When I was growing up, one of my best friends had a birthday the day after mine. Mine is January 6th and is coming up fast, in case anyone needs the reminder. Anyway, living in a small town, we had a joint birthday party in which all the girls in my class were invited to attend and sleepover. Our parents took turns hosting. My Mom was taking cake decorating class so every other year we would have an elaborately decorated cake or two...I miss birthday cake. On Christy's year her stepmom would make fondue so I am very sentimental about fondue and was really looking forward to the whole Swiss Fondue experience. (Our other yearly tradition included the class "fight" when two people at the party would get in a fight and everyone else would take sides. Typical party behavior for pre-teen girls.)

The fondue recipe that we followed in Switzerland was not one of the recipes that my friend's stepmom used because the one we used in Switzerland included a whole lot of liquor. In fact, there was some agreement among the three of us that perhaps the measurements were a bit off because I am pretty sure we got a little tipsy from the fondue. We didn't follow this recipe exactly but this is pretty close to the one that we used.

Classic Cheese Fondue

1/2 lb Emnenthaler Cheese (shredded)

1/2 lb Gruyeye (shredded)

1 clove Garlic

2 cups Dry White Wine

3 tbs Kirsch

Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic clove - add clove to pot or disregard

Heat up the White Wine & Lemon Juice - should be hot but do not boil

Reduce heat to low and slowly add cheese while stirring

Slowly add remainder of ingredients while stirring

If fondue is too loose add more cheese

If fondue is too stiff add more wine

To Dip:

Italian Bread (or any crusty bread) cut into bite-sized cubes

Vegetables - Broccoli, Cauliflower, Bell Peppers, etc., Apples

Monday, November 12, 2007


The hot history book of the year is The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson. This bad boy weighs in at a hefty 588 pages with an additional 150 or so pages of end notes. For you history buffs, run don't walk to your local library to check out a copy. For the rest of you non-history buffs this may be a little overwhelming.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

One of my favorite movies is Memento in which, every morning the main character awakes to find he has no memory. He resorts to notes and even tattoos to try to solve the question of his existence and to solve a murder. When I started The Raw Shark Texts I thought that this was heading down a similar road with the main character receiving daily letters from "Eric Sanderson #1" to help him navigate his life. It turns into something completely different with the introduction of a conceptual shark who is wiping his mind of memory over and over again. Once he hooks up with Scout also on the run from her own metaphysical predator things get really weird.

This was one of the more inventive books that I have read in recent years and I was highly entertained. If you are into experimental literature you may really enjoy this.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Munich: The Day After Oktoberfest

The next day we visited many lovely sites in Munich.

This is the home of the world's biggest Glockenspiel. You can't really see it but trust me, it's up there.

Lovely outdoor places.

Ornate Catholic churches. No glimpse of Martin though which was sad for a Lutheran. Apparently this part of Germany stayed Catholic.

Some really pretty buildings like Neu Rathaus (New City Hall).

And the famous Munich Maypole. Trust me, people couldn't stop talking about it at Oktoberfest. Apparently it was stolen and then ransomed back to the people of Munich for a box (in perpetuity) at Oktoberfest. This feat, instead of being looked at as larceny, is talked about with awe and admiration. An odd thing since the people of Germany are a big believer in making and enforcing laws, rules, suggestions....

All-in-all, it was a good little side trip. I got to party with my people, I wasn't the one to get her face licked or slobbered on (thank you Donna for taking one for the team) and I saw many pretty things. Next time I go back I will have to schedule in more than one day.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Yep. I talks real good

KC Blogging fun at it's finest. Check out my KC blogger friends reading levels and find the one that fits you:)

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies

I feel like I have already read this story and I don't know why. I don't think I have read any of the author's other work and am wondering if he took one of his short stories and expanded it. I may never know but it did feel like a deja vu moment for me.

Having said that, it was a good book. Set in Wales during WWII, a camp is set up for prisoners-of-war. The main character has surrendered on behalf of his regiment and becomes the symbol for all of the frustration that the other prisoners feel about their captivity. A young girl falls in love with a English soldier who abandons her, proving once again that the Welsh cannot trust this closest of ally. The two form an unlikely friendship and issues such as loyalty to country, to family and to self are explored.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Refresh, Refresh: Stories by Benjamin Percy

This is another one of those stories that I can appreciate for it's technical skill but didn't really enjoy reading. The stories were tied together by blood. Blood from hunting, from murder, from miscarriage. Well, you get the point. I always read with an eye toward recommendation because that is, after all, my job. I just couldn't figure out who I could give this to and say, read this, you will love it.

That being said, this is an excellent short story author and I am sure that we will be seeing more of his work in the future.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Orleans and Beignet

One of my friends just got back from one of my top ten cities. I love New Orleans. I would go every year if I could.

The last time I went was a year or so after the Hurricane so I am anxious to find out how her trip was. Anyway, on her blog Kansas City Daily Photo she did a post about beignet and I started to comment but the comment got longer than her post. At that point I realized that I too have a blog and could actually write about beignet to my heart's content:)

The first time I visited NOLA I fell in love with beignet, after all, who doesn't love fried bread? OK, there are a few health freaks out there who "say" that it doesn't taste good to them but I say pooh on them! So, I did the research and now can make perfect beignet. It actually isn't that hard now that every specialty food store in KC sells the one and only Cafe DuMonde beignet mix. (I can do it from scratch too, but why bother?) The only thing I am lacking is a Fry Baby although an old pan works great. Since I am generous I will share my secret recipe with the world by directing you to the official Cafe DuMonde website

I am so jealous of my friend. Hmmmm....maybe she wants to go back with me for my 40th?

Monday, November 05, 2007


Ahhh, Oktoberfest. What can one say about Oktoberfest? First of all, it is not just a matter of showing up at Oktoberfest and ordering a beer. No, you have to be invited into a tent (in other words, you have to know someone). Luckily, my friends had a friend who knew someone who has been going to Oktoberfest for years. So after traveling and resting up for the event

Donna entered the picture. Ignore Tom, the guy in the picture with her. His story is later.

Now, in case you are wondering, this is what happens to expats who live in Munich for just a little too long...

Anyway, Donna was able to get us into not only a tent, but the "best" tent at Oktoberfest. The Augustiner tent, apparently home of the oldest German brewer (or so I hear)

where we joined the beer drinking masses, quite a few of them Italian since it was Italian weekend at Oktoberfest.

After a few beers, we loosened up...

and started to get into the swing of things...some of us more than others although I am not mentioning any names. I am not sure about my non-drinking friend but I had a great time even though the pesky men kept accusing me of not keeping up and stole my beer every time I wasn't looking. I guess since they bought it in the first place, that was only fair.

Next we will visit the lovely city of Munich. (Thanks to Gretchen for the loan of the lovely picture of Tom and some German guy.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Five Skies by Ron Carlson

Darwin Gallegos hires drifters Arthur Key and Ronnie Panelli to work on a secret project, a motorcycle ramp to be used for a daredevil jump across a gorge. As the three men spend their days working together in the isolated wilderness each will be tested, their wounds exposed and each will be changed in significant ways. This writer excels at spare, precise writing that is perfectly showcased in this small novel.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Song Before It Is Sung by Justin Cartwright

This novel was based on the true life cases of Adam Van Trott and Isaiah Berlin and the events of 1944 when a serious attempt was made on the life of Adolf Hitler by members of the German "upper class". This is a profoundly disturbing look at that time period (fictionalized, of course) and how a friendship was irrevocably changed by these events. As so often happens with books focused on war, I couldn't say that I enjoyed this novel but it was a novel to make you think. Highly recommended for those of you who enjoy historical fiction set during WWII.

Friday, November 02, 2007

When A Crocodile Eats The Sun by Peter Godwin

When A Crocodile Eats The Sun is a memoir that illuminates Peter Godwin's relationship with his parents (particularly his father), his native country (Zimbabwe) and his horror at witnessing his parents struggle during the collapse of its democracy and economy. Exceptional writing and compelling story.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote

Bow Grip was my favorite book in the giant stack I dragged around Europe.

It was a story of that moment when your life turns, you suddenly start seeing things in a completely different way and everything changes. The main character, Joey, drifts along in a funk after his divorce and, at the urging of family, friends...he takes off to deliver the last of his ex-wife's possessions to her and her new lover. Along the way, he also acquires a group of friends, a cello (a favorite instrument of mine), starts taking lessons and finds a whole new passion in his life. This was just a great, feel good story and I loved everything about it.