Saturday, November 27, 2010

30 Books Before 30

Maybe I'm crazy. Or maybe I just want to wander a little less aimlessly. As many of you know one of my dreams is to become a well known writer - to someday have a non-technical book published, that people want to read (and not just my friends and family), that somehow inspires at least one person, and that makes everyone examine the everyday items in their life, and slightly chuckle. Well, as I stated in a previous post, the best way to really do something is to study your predecessors. In my case, that means read more. I think we all could use to read more. With school and work, reading for pleasure gets pushed to the back burner. But I must say, I really love it. I love being engrossed in a novel or literary work so much that you don't want to put it down. I love reading books that I later remember so vividly that I thought I had watched the movie.

My most recent favorite has to be The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Great novel on the conflict of 1st generation-ers - the fine line between assimilation and adaptation. The movie (I hated) does not do it justice. At all.

So, I looked at some lists online and compiled a list of 30 books I want to have read by the age of 30. Some of the books I have read already (in bold), but it's been so long that I don't really remember them all. Many of the books I have not read, and a handful I have started (in italics), but never actually finished. So, I'm taking suggestions for the list - maybe you think I should have something on there that's not, or maybe you would take something off. Then, I'll write about the books that I'm reading, or give summaries for the books that I have read - each in it's individual blog post - it will kinda be like the movie Julie & Julia. Hmm, ok maybe not so exciting, since I can't really blog too much about how my hand turned the page, waiting in anticipation, as to what would happen next.

And if there's a book on there that you also want to read - let me know, and maybe we can read it together. A lot of the classic novels are beyond their copyright and are available free online or through an e-reader. I don't read very fast - so if that was a concern, go ahead and nix it.

One more thing - i have a ton of books that I am currently reading, so I may hold off on starting until the new year, to give me time to finish the books on my list. We'll see. And Any suggestions for where to start? I'm thinking of starting light with The Scarlet Letter.

Here's the list: Comments about the list below
  1. Animal Farm
  2. The Catcher in the Rye
  3. Beloved
  4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  5. The Great Gatsby
  6. The Grapes of Wrath
  7. Catch 22
  8. Crime and Punishment
  9. War and Peace or One Hundred Years of Solitude
  10. The Scarlet Letter
  11. The Color Purple
  12. Robinson Crusoe
  13. The Prince
  14. Lord of the Flies
  15. 1984
  16. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  17. Madame Bovary
  18. Ulysses
  19. Siddhartha
  20. Uncle Tom's Cabin
  21. Don Quixote
  22. Dracula
  23. The Bible
  24. The Critique of Pure Reason
  25. The Sayings of Confucious
  26. Poems of Emily Dickinson
  27. Beowulf
  28. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  29. Treasure Island
  30. Gulliver's Travels
So what didn't make the list? There are a ton of wonderful books that didn't make my 30 pick: Metamorphosis (Kafka)- seriously, I could not read past a certain part in the book, when he was describing all of his body parts (man turns cockroach) and how his family wouldn't hug him or welcome him home, I was in disgust, I just had to put it down if I wanted to be able to eat dinner that night. So yeah, that did not make the list. Moby Dick (Melville)- hmm not really sure I want to read that much about a whale - yes I realize that it's about more than a whale. I'm open for persuasion, but so far, no dice. The Souls of Black Folk (DuBois) may be put on, I'd just have to figure out what to take off - I bought it two years ago with every intention of reading it. I love Jane Austen based movies, so I wanted to add either Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but because I had seen the movie [Pride and Prejudice], I probably have a good idea of the author's work. And after all this Twilight hype, I had to add Dracula - c'mon Twilight's got nothing on Bram Stoker, lol. The Complete works of William Shakespeare - well in one word WOW - I think it would take a lot to read off of Shakespeare's stuff, plus I've read a handfull of plays in school - Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, etc. War and Peace looks very long - not sure if that will stay on the list. What do you think? Worth a read? And some others that did not make the list: A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) , Jane Eyre (Bronte), The Jungle (Sinclair), Oliver Twist (Dickens) , A Farewell to Arms (Hermingway), etc. And I'm excited about some of the selections on my list - I've heard so much about Madam Bovary, it will be nice to read the book. The Bible has been a goal on my read list forever. I even bought one of those Read the Bible in 365 days books. So, hopefully with adding it to my list it will actually get done (finally). I may have a separate blog for The Bible, since that will take a year in itself - even if you are not Christian, the basis for a lot of Western philosophy (whether people agree or not) does take root in The Bible. And a Spanish novel - with Don Quixote, will be an interesting add to the mix.

So, hear goes nothing - taking suggestions/comments/interesting fluff on my list until Dec 31st !

(Image from

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What is Wrong with the World? "I AM ! "

On October 25, 2010 I, along with hundreds of others, had the grand experience of watching a film screening of "I AM," a documentary helping to explain what is wrong with the world today and what we can do about it. The director of the film is Tom Shadyac, who has also directed such films as Patch Adams, Ace Ventura, and Bruce Almighty. After the film Tom and co-producer Jackie Zampella answered questions from the audience.

(Pictured: left - Jackie Zampella, co-producer
right - Tom Shadyac, director & writer)

The film repeatedly asks the question "What is Wrong with the World?" and the prevalent and astounding answer is that "I AM" is the answer to that question. That each of us has a responsibility to help make the world a better place than we found it.

The creation of the movie is an interesting story. In short, Tom was in an accident that nearly killed him. He was on the verge of death, and mentally drained and depressed. At some point he reached his very bottom, perhaps his tipping point, and realized that he was not going to go out like that. There was at least one more thing that he wanted to say. And it was nothing but his faith in God that got him out of that bed and gave him the energy to begin the journey of a lifetime. He was setting out to find out what was wrong with the world. And, being a director, he was going to answer the question in the form of a film.

He interviewed hundreds of people - scientists, philosophers, people of various faiths, over 700 hours of film, and compiled it together in the <2 hour film that we watched. The impact can not be described in the words I can write in my blog, but I can share some of the interesting stories that I remember (and took notes on) from the journey.

Some of the interesting studies that were done occurred at the Institute of HeartMath. They were showing the link between the human heart and other living beings. That we are cosmically connected in some way. For instance, they connected yogurt up to electrodes, and with a person sitting nearby, there was noticeably more energy in the yogurt when a sharp emotion (shout or laughter) happened in the nearby person. As if the person was giving off some type of signal to the yogurt. And another study where a person's saliva was analyzed with the person being clear across town. The actions and body responses of the person matched those of the person's saliva, superficially separated. He tested married couples in separate rooms. When one spouse had a bright light shining in their eye, the other spouse's eye had a similar reaction even though they were in a separate room and could not see or hear what was going on.

The purpose of these exercises was simply to illustrate that we are not just individual beings going about our merry way; that our actions and interactions do affect other people, whether we realize it or not. The more that we act as though we are independent and don't need or affect others, the more harm we may be doing.

The film addressed Toms depression and why it is that people get so down on their lives. One of the problems is that when we are in a low time or dark situation that is how we see the rest of our future. The key is to remember that that is just where you are right now, in the present time. If you don't believe it will get better, it is much harder for it to.

I love what he said - "We really need a new definition of normal." There are ideas, at least in the USA that the great American Dream is to have more land, more space, and more material possessions. We are possessive of land - the more you own symbolizes that you have "made it." Sports players, Celebrities, and the most famous of people live in million square footage mansions with BMWs or expensive cars for every day of the week. They buy expensive clothing, outrageously priced jewelry, and import steak for dinner, just because they can. We build up fences around our masses of land to keep our lives private and protected. We don't say hi to our neighbors, we talk on cell phones while riding the bus or train; anything to prevent us from having to have an actual conversation with another human being that we may not know.

The more "stuff" we have, the more we seem to move away from being an equal partner in the community. And that is exactly what we need to get back to. In the film, someone mentioned that a plant that takes more water than it needs will drown. Human nature is probably very capitalistic - we want what we want and we don't care who doesn't have anything. Wouldn't it be better if someone did not have to be poor or hungry because I wanted to eat? If there is more than enough food why should I get 2 loaves of bread and the other person none? What is so wrong with me only taking 1 because that's all that I need? We have become a society where we take it JUST BECAUSE WE CAN; with no regard for the fact that more than you need is a waste.

There is a "delusion of consciousness." We are actually being held hostage by our possessions. Think about it - the bigger your house, the more you have to dust, the more time it takes or you have to hire help. The more cars you have, the more you have to maintain, the more you have to protect, the bigger fence you have to build. When you have a ton more than what you could possibly need you are always worrying about what to do with it, where to put it, and where to put the remains when they go bad. Living simpler is an improvement we all can make.

Lastly, the point was made that an alcoholic will not recover until he or she admits their own responsibility. "I Am" is about us all taking responsibility for the world not being the place we need it to be. We all need to stop pointing fingers at others and step up and do the things that we need to do. We can't compete with the Tsunamis of money, instant gratification of material objects, and the desire of greed and having it all; but hopefully we can lead by example.

I AM the problem, and I AM going to help towards the solution.

To find out more about the film check out Tom's website: "I AM" the documentary. It will release in February 2011. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Adventures in Towland

Because sometimes all you can do is laugh . . .

Here's my true story, written in novel format :) You might want to read this at lunch with popcorn and your door closed. You just might laugh that hard.

*Some names have been changed to protect the innocent, aka, so people don't get mad at me if this gets on the internet, lol. Any rhyming or similarities are strictly coincidental

Dancing, dancing, dancing!! Watch her get down, watch her get down, watch her get down. There we were, twirling around on the dance floor for hours, in celebration of my birthday. We were all set to leave when they played another cool song. So we mamboed to the exit, getting one last hip wiggle as we left the club. It was crowded outside as every other club in the vicinity was closing at this time too. My feet were a bit sore, but I was SOOOOOOO glad that I had carried my flats with me. I don't know how these other women do it, after about 30 minutes my feet were already hurting, but I thought to myself - must look cute, must look cute, keep heels on. About an hour after that, or maybe 2, I finally gave in and put the flats on. It was well worth it.

So the group is all walking towards the same place, and one by one we'd drop people off at their cars. Charletta's car was up first - she was my ride. And we walked a bit further then we thought we had parked; gone too far and stopped. Where's the car? My first thought was that perhaps we parked a bit further up. My friend was like, No, I parked it right here. So then I'm assuming maybe it got stolen. Her assumption was that it got towed. Wow, they really do that? I thought. I had never been towed before, and I remember seeing other cars here (which I guess also got towed). Funny thing is that I remember getting the spot - it was a perfect arrangement. We were driving down Chestnut street and saw no parking, when we turned onto 2nd to make the rounds. There was a spot in front of a motorcycle that was a little tight. But we went for it, and conveniently the lady in front of the spot was getting out, so we had it all to ourselves. We had just finished dinner and were excited to get the dancing part of our evening on. We parked, got out the car, and went into the club, not even noticing the No Parking sign that must have been up. Well this sucks. If you have never been towed, there are no instructions on what to do or where to go, it's like you should just KNOW what to do. Fortunately (and unfortunately at the same time) I had friends that have been in this situation before with us. Reba says to me "Oh, just ask the cop for the number and he'll give it to you." So I walk over to the cop. Mind you Charletta (she drove) is livid and I can see the anger on her face. Well Mr. Copman is pretty nice but he's just spewing information at me. He tells me the phone number like I'm going to memorize it, so then I take out my phone to write it down. Then he gives me four page instructions like I'm going to remember that after I call the place. They should really carry cards or something.

Anyway, I call the tow place and they ask for the make, model, and license plate number for your car (Good information to know by heart, by the way). We give it to them and they confirm (rather happily) that they have the car. So Reba offers to take us down there to get the car. Mind you they close at 3am, and it's like 2:15am, so I'm a little antsy. We get to the car place and they have the stupidest system. There are three lines. In the right most lane is where you verify they have the car and make the payments for the towing fee. When you are done with that you go to the middle lane where they see the receipt and need to verify your registration and insurance (which are probably in your car, so then you have to go to your car (escorted) to retrieve them). Line 3, which we almost didn't see, is when you have everything cleared and you are picking up the car to go home.

In right most lane is an attractive guy. He is giving my friend all the forms and such. At some point my friend is in Line 2 and I'm leaning on the counter of Line 1. He randomly says "Cutie Pie." I look up and say "Are you talking to me?" He replies, "Yes." All I can do is laugh, and say thanks. Then he says "What is your phone number?" And being the coy girl that I am, I ask, "Is this part of the process?" He laughs, as does the coworker next to him and says "It's not part of [the car pick up] process, but it's part of ANOTHER process" Beyond words. I'm just cracking up that I get hit on in a tow station at 3 am in the morning! I have to move so he can help the girl behind me and I go outside (Charletta is still handing paperwork) and tell Reba - should I go for it? She's like sure. And I'm like - it's my birthday, I can do whatever I want!! (lol) So I go back into the office, write my number and name on a tiny piece of paper and try to get his attention, but there's someone he is helping. Hmm, how am I going to do this? Well the pen that I was using belonged to the tow place, so I slipped him the pen and my number and say "Here's your pen back" {wink} He got the hint and took the paper, and I walked away smirking. (I'm so slick, right? ) 

Charletta is on the phone with her insurance company. Apparently she didn't have the newest insurance card in the car at the time and they won't let you go until you show them that. (Note to self - as soon as it comes in the envelope make sure to put it in the care!!). Well it's 4am on a Sunday morning and of course the website is down for maintenance, so access to records is not looking good. Reba and Marques had just left because we didn't want them waiting around and we thought we were good. In the meantime I see this fine looking guy sitting against the window (new guy, not Line 2 guy). Everyone in the tow place is kinda funny because we are all stuck here and no one wants to be here (seriously, you could actually compare it to being in jail). Well there was this Asian chick sobbing her heart out. Loudly. We all felt bad for her, but everyone was mumbling under their breath "Could she cry on the side of the line and move it along?" and "Dag, she sounds like someone died." It was quite amusing. Then this other girl is fighting with the workers at the window because she owes like a dollar on her car. She says "I'm a poor college student. I don't have a dollar. I eat Ramen [noodles]." So me and this fine window guy are laughing to ourselves, and making eye contact and smiling. The seat next to him opens up so of course I sashay over there and sit right next to him.  

"What are you in for?" is my big opening line  - I'm sure I said it a little classier; maybe batted some eyelashes. He tells me that his friend had also been towed. His ethnicity looked very ambiguous to me so I ask him what he is. He tells me he's Costa Rican. I ask him if he speaks Spanish and he does. Little by little I'm getting to know Mr. Window guy. I overhear the guy next to me saying that was his brother. "That's your brother?" I ask him "Yes" Then I overhear something about a wife and kid. I ask Mr. Window guy  if he has kids and he tells me he has a little son. "And a wife?"(add slightly disappointed tone) "Yes" "Well where's your ring?" (slightly hoping he was joking. Yeah, yeah, I could overlook the one kid thing). BAM!! - there it was!! A little piece of metal that I had neglected to see from the other side of the room. "Wow, I did NOT see that" I say to him. He smiles and looks very flattered, but sigh, there's goes another one. I did apologize for hitting on him given that he was married, but he says it's ok (of course he does, so suave) and we continue talking.  As the conversation continues I learn that he's from Cherry Hill and works on BMWs. Of course him and his wife have a Beemer. I poke him with my elbow and ask for a hook up! (worth a try, right) He asks me what I do and I get into my side gig of writing. He sounds interested so I give him my blog address. Who knows if he will check it out. But let me tell you, if this guy were single . . . cuz he's just GORGEOUS!!!

Back to reality - we are stuck at the towing place because we can't get the car, so I call Marques to see if he could pick us up and he's such a sweetie and says he will. 20 minutes or so I say bye to Mr. [married] window guy :(  and we are on our way. I FINALLY get home around 4am and sleep until past the break of dawn. We finally did get the car Sunday afternoon. The guy who asked me for my number (Line 2 guy) texted me. I asked him name? kids? age? and the 3 kids kinda ruled him out. And then we got the car and we went to IKEA.  

Not a bad way to spend at the tow truck place though, right?

Laughing all the way home [at life's irony],


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