Happy Sunday: Free Thinkers

Over the past month or so, I have wasted an inordinate amount of time watching two guys watch and react to music videos. It started–as so many of my YouTube rabbit holes do–with Jason Isbell. But it quickly led to Chris Stapleton and Amanda Lambert…and even some Alanis Morrissette.

Here’s the premise: Ryan and George, two black men , listen to music you might not expect them to like (based on stereotypes), and they react. I don’t think I have ever wanted to be friends with two people as much as I want to be friends with Ryan and George. Continue reading

Happy Sunday: Live from The Stone Church

IMG_3025A couple of weeks ago we finally made it to The Stone Church in Brattleboro. If you like live music, it doesn’t get much better than this place. It’s literally an old church with great acoustics, beautiful stained glass, and a giant organ. And boy is it intimate…

Brian and I were there see our friends Ashley Storrow and Putnam Smith. They were opening for a band we hadn’t heard of. They were great, just like we knew they would be.

The big surprise of the night, though, was Town Meeting. It was the best live show I’ve seen in a long time. At one point Brian turned to me and said, “I saw The Dropkick Murphys on the small stage at a Warped Tour back in the ’90s… and I feel like I just had the same kind of experience. We’re never going to be able to see these guys in a setting like this again.”  Continue reading

Anxiously Awaiting Roseanne

I’m almost always the first one up on Saturday mornings–if you don’t count the dog and cat, who are the ones who wake me up–and I spend my alone-time with Roseanne. I make a cup of tea and I cozy up on the couch with the TV Land marathon of one of my all-time favorite shows.

I loved Roseanne from the beginning. It was the first TV show I ever saw where the people were recognizable to me–who behaved, dressed, talked, and just plain lived like the people I knew. I didn’t grow up in a nuclear family where one parent was a therapist and one was a news anchor. (Shout out to the Seavers!) Nor were they architects (the Keatons!) or doctors or lawyers (the Huxtables). My mom waited tables, my grandmother watched me and my cousin, and my grandfather worked shift-work at the paper mill. If there was ever a family that I could imagine living next door to, it was the Conners.  Continue reading

One Woman Book Club: The Stand

“She reminded me of a warning I was fond of repeating: do not, under any circumstances, belittle a work of fiction by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life; what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth.”  – Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

These words appear on the first page of Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I took down off the shelf today after finally finishing The Stand by Stephen King. I found both books in the donated piles at the Welles Turner Memorial Library Book Sale–the kind of lovely town event where kids show up towing red wagons and you see spouses barking at each other about who is supposed to cover which table. But after spending the better part of three months with the lone survivors of the super flu (aka Captain Trips), I was on the hunt for something very, very different. Little did I know that the first page of Nafisi’s book would send me back to the often bleak world of The Stand. Continue reading

Political Podcast Picks

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m addicted to podcasts. And lately my listening tastes have leaned toward the political.

Here’s the thing, skimming your Facebook and Twitter feeds isn’t really informing you. Even if you’re clicking through to actually read some of those articles, they can only do so much. Sometimes you need more insight or analysis (preferably not of the screaming talking-head variety)…or you just need to have a laugh along with your political chat. That’s when I turn to podcasts.  Continue reading

My Halloween Podcast Picks

Happy Halloween, ya’ll! The holiday snuck up on me this year, and I actually keep forgetting what day it is. Like, I still don’t have candy… but I do have some podcasts for you to listen to in order to celebrate the spookiest of holidays!

Since Serial fully sucked me into the podcast rabbit hole, I’ve been exploring a wide variety of genres. I like roundtable discussions, true crime stories, and serialized fiction stories. These three podcasts manage to hit on all of those genres. Good luck, and try not to waste too much of your life listening to these…

62b3a07e4ea6d503edb28f603f6db2c1My Favorite Murder – I’ve been a Murderino for a few months now. You might think a podcast that features two comedians talking about their “favorite murders” would be offensive, but you’d be wrong (and probably have no sense of humor). Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff somehow manage to make talking about horrific murders fun. It helps that their interest in murder is driven, in part, by anxiety about being murdered (something all of us ladies know a little  something about). I also highly suggest joing the MFM Facebook group where Murderinos come to talk about the podcast, but more importantly, telling their own stories. You’d be surprised how many people narrowly miss being murdered. Continue reading

One Woman Book Club: Swamplandia!

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Swamplandia! first caught my attention when I heard about it on NPR (or here). If you’d asked me, I would have said the book came out in 2014, but apparently it was 2011. Time just keeps slipping away…

It took me a while to really get into the book. It made me chuckle and the lovely writing kept me going, but I wasn’t sure where it was headed (which, I guess, is a good thing in a world where so much seems so obvious all the time). But in the end I was glad I stuck it out.

Author Karen Russell told NPR, “The Bigtree family members have created their own fantastical history springing from their alligator-wrestling tradition, but in reality, they’re just the lowly operators of a shabby tourist attraction in a swamp.” Swamplandia! is funny, and weird, and heartbreaking. You’ll find yourself wishing the place was real so you could give the family your tourist dollars… but if you don’t like to see characters you care about punished, it may not be for you.

I ventured on to the web to find questions to help me discuss this latest read. Here it goes! Continue reading

Pokemon Go Teaches Us a Lesson About Racism

A couple of days ago I went to visit a friend, and she told me a story that stuck with me as the single most of-the-moment tale I’ve ever heard. I decided it needed to be told to a wider audience.

You’ve heard about Pokemon Go, right? If not, you have somehow successfully avoided the internet, the local news, and pop-culture as a whole for the past week, and I salute you. Basically, an augmented reality game meant for children has taken over the world, and adults are now wandering around staring at their mobile devices looking for “hidden” cartoons.

slim Continue reading

NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips For Writing a Novel in a Month

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes 4At the end of last month I decided to use this year’s NaNoWriMo as an impetus to finish the romance I’ve been working on — or at least make some decent progress on it. Before National Novel Writing Month even got underway I ran into a snag. I heard back from my editor about another book, and he needed me to go over a few small queries within a few days, and I happened to be going away for the weekend. I managed to get the queries answered in time, but over the past week I’ve developed a few practical tips for actually getting a significant amount of writing done.

  • Leave the House–When I was writing the aforementioned book (you know, the one I had to answer queries about) I would try to work at home, which has a dedicated office. But it just wasn’t working for me. I needed to get away from the house. Away from the cats who want to lay on my keyboard, and the dog who seems to be able to tell time and stares at me with a look that says, “It’s after 5 o’clock, time to call it quits!” So, I would head out to a coffee shop (usually the one in my local book store), order a chai latte, and sit down to work. My most successful NaNoWriMo moments have been in that same coffee shop.
  • Don’t Forget to Charge Your Battery–This is not a metaphor. I am not going to suggest you do some yoga to get your creative juices flowing (though, walking has been shown to enhance creativity). If you aren’t going to be working at home, where you have exclusive claim to all the outlets, you need to remember to charge your laptop battery before you head out. There were at least a few times where I did not, and I have been sorry.
  • Don’t Edit–I don’t always follow my own advice. I edit all day, it’s hard to stop. When I’m stuck in my own writing, I go back and start adding, subtracting, and rewriting. But if you actually expect to finish a novel in an entire month, there’s just no way you can waste time on editing. Besides, editing is not really the point of NaNoWriMo, right? Just get the words on the page. You can spend December editing.

These tips can only help set you up for success. The truth is, writing an entire novel in a month is not easy. At times it will feel practically impossible. The only way to make it happen, is to just do it.

The 5 Podcasts That Fill the Serial-Sized Hole in My Life

Like much of America I quit my job, stopped eating, and refused to leave my house last autumn after I became obsessed with Serial. Ok, so none of that is true, but I did love the podcast. My dog and I take a long walk every afternoon (or morning, depending on the time of year) and I like to listen to podcasts while we walk. I listened to just about every episode more than once, and when it ended I had to search for podcasts to fill the hole.

I’d already run through most of Marc Maron’s archives, and because I listen to NPR in my office, I didn’t really want to listen to any of its offerings. So here are some of the podcasts (Serial-related and otherwise) to fill the hole between seasons. Continue reading

Just Say No to “Go Set a Watchman”

I don’t recommend trying to go to your local bookstore today. Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman came out this morning and there are, no doubt, long lines of To Kill a Mockingbird fans waiting to purchase it. I will not be one of them.

If you’ve been following this story, you’ll know that Harper Lee has prevented this book from being published for decades. She wrote it before she wrote her beloved classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, but has kept it secreted away for years. But now, as the author pushes 90-years-old the book is being published–most likely against her wishes and under very shady circumstances.  Continue reading

Preciousssss: Bob Durst is Gollum

For the past five weeks the Serial-sized hole in my life has been filled by The JinxI was just as blown away and satisfied by the end of Andrew Jarecki’s documentary series as the rest of America. If you haven’t seen it I won’t ruin it for you, but there is plenty of press coverage out there to fill you in. I was still thinking about it this morning and I realized something: Bob Durst is basically Gollum.

Bob Durst

Bob Durst

Gollum

Gollum

Continue reading

Hoarders: The HGTV Edition

HGTV has come to Netflix. I assume the House Hunters and Love It or List It collections were released in time to coincide with cold, rainy fall weather that keeps people like my shut up in the house, drinking tea, eating soup, and staring at the walls thinking about all the things we would change. Here’s the thing, though: If you watch Love It or List It back to back, you start to realize that about 75% of the people are just slobs/hoarders who don’t know when to stop having children. The people on this show are just lucky that HGTV showed up at their doors before TLC and the Hoarders crew.

Yes, sometimes you get people who genuinely have a mess of a house. Their kitchens are falling apart, their windows leak, and the walls are drafty. But most of them could get by with hiring a professional organizer and buying some new furniture. Alternatively, they could stop having kids, because more often than not the big problem seems to be that the kids’ toys are EVERYWHERE! A simple trip to IKEA could solve all their woes.  Continue reading