Saturday, September 30, 2006

For those to come.

Today is the last day of Banned Books Week. If there is any one issue that I actually do care about at all, it is the freedom to read. Thanks to ALA, here is a list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.

For fun, I am going to bold the ones I have read. Because I am a little lazy, there are ones that I own, but I haven't read them yet. They will be italicized. And there is a far-too-large amount of them that I am ashamed to say that I haven't read, but have full intent to do so. As a sort of goal-setting exercise for myself, I'll underline them.

Of the books that I have read on this list, I want to thank every teacher who made me read it, every library from which I borrowed it, every store from whose shelves I purchased it, and my parents for allowing me the freedom to read it. You are all wise folks.

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stood on the corner for a while.

Some time between now and 1 o'clock, DHL is supposed to be delivering the fourth version I've had of this cell phone. I'm really about to give up.

Anyway, to ensure that I do in fact receive the package -- as I didn't yesterday because I forgot to tell Cingular my apartment number and then they gave DHL the wrong phone number to contact me...the freaking phone company forgot my phone number! -- I am spending my between-classes time here instead of on campus. (Yes, I'm aware that sentence was nearly impossible to disentangle. God, I love punctuation.) Normally, I would camp out on the third floor of Waterfield and read copious amounts of Spanish literature. But no. I tried to tell myself I would do my homework here. Of course not. I'm shopping on iTunes and looking at exciting, new production pictures for Order of the Phoenix.

And blogging.

And now, a random thought on life and literature:

Plot. The representation in fiction of a character's efforts to achieve a purpose in the face of obstacles, concluding with his decisive success or failure.

-- Theme and Form, 1964

In creative writing classes, we talk about the differences between character-driven and circumstance-driven plots. The circumstance-driven one is like an action movie where what happens to the characters determine how things end up. The character-driven one is a story that is moved along, complicated, and resolved because choices that the protagnist makes. It's the difference in an external locus of control verus an internal one. So of course, the character-driven plots make for better, more meaningful stories. They are significant.

So yeah, this applies to life, right? You can float through life like a piece of crap and just let things happen to you, or you can make decisions. I just realized the other day that letting life come to you (er, me) is basically living a circumstance-driven plot. It's a crappy story. Anyway, the moral of this story is that I'd much rather live a character-driven plot. Even if it means making some bad decisions here and there, of which I am scared to death. If nothing else, it makes for a better story, eh?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Of cell phones and ice cream cones

I have had considerable technological trouble with my cell phone over the past several days. First the screen wouldn't work. They sent me a new one, but I couldn't get the cover off of my old phone to put onto the "new" one. This new phone, in less than twenty-four hours, has screwed up twice by shrinking the volume in the earpiece two half a notch above audible. Something tells me that this "possibly reconditioned" phone will be going back to the folks at Cingular.

I do. I appreciate technology, but the thing is that when we rely on it and it then fails us, we suffer unnecessary stress.

Anyway, on my way back from the Cingular store -- whose associates really could not care less -- I decided I needed a butterscotch-dipped cone from Dairy Queen. While I was waiting for my butterscotchy goodness, I noticed what I have been looking out for for weeks. The sign. The sign that says that DQ hibernates for winter, starting October 31. The sign that strikes fear in the hearts of many. The sign that incites panic throughout the land -- of Murray, anyhow.

They handed me my cone -- and I have to say that the butterscotch shell is way better here than in Henderson -- and I took it to my car where I rolled down the windows and played "This Time of Year." As I sat there, I really didn't know how to feel. Glad that it's getting cooler and that the leaves are changing colors? Sad because I was alone? Nostalgic about the past -- sad that it's gone or happy that it happened? I didn't know how to feel, but I was feeling something.

I did learn something, though. Apparently, butterscotch-dipped cones are the favorite among many. I sat there for just about ten minutes during a relatively slow part of the day, and I saw about three other people with them.

One of them happened to be middle-aged man in a business suit who seemed to be spending "quality" time with his wife and two kids. He never got off of the phone for the duration of the visit. I say visit because he was standing next to his big truck while his over-made-up wife -- who was abstaining from DQ's cool treats, certainly to maintain her figure -- tended to her SUV with Soccer Mom stickers on the back. For a while, they all four stood together in the parking lot, but no one seemed to notice any of the others. The kids, of course, were enamored of their (chocolate-dipped) ice cream cones. The man held his idly while conducting some supposedly imporant business. The woman/mother/wife pranced around a bit in her high-heeled boots and repeatedly smoothed her blouse to ensure that she looked just so.

They continued this way until I finished my own ice cream, so I naturally, pulled my car into gear and left. By that time, I was glad to leave. I knew for sure, then, what it was that I was feeling. It was a bit of sadness. Not for me, though. Suddenly, I felt less alone that any of them standing there. But I also felt happy that my family doesn't have to schedule slots for superficial quality time. We are aware of one another. And I also felt a responsibility. One that reminds me that, if and when I have my own family, I want to have one that is connected, that isn't just a loosely associated group of people who are more interested in business or in themselves than each other.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Heart aflutter.

The loves of my life -- at the moment:

  • Butterscotch discs, by the bagfull. I've been on a tear to find them. Rite Aid finally got me my fix. Don't know what my deal is. This summer, it was butterscotch-dipped cones from DQ.
  • Construction paper. I've taken to making my own postcards to send to people, a la construction paper, index cards, and Mod Podge. I found fun new colors at the store today. Hoorah.
  • The prospect of Scrubs being syndicated on Comedy Central starting Monday night. I've been wanting to get into this show. I've looked at every video rental joint in Murray, and ain't a one of 'em got the seasons on DVD. I've never even seen the show, but I hear it's good. You should look at the reviews on Amazon. A solid five stars. Season Four is sold out at WalMart. That's gotta say something. Anyway, I have to figure out how to set my VCR to tape while I'm at class. For the love of Zach Braff, I swear.
  • A love that will never die.
  • "Three More Days" by Ray LaMontagne. It's on his new album Till the Sun Turns Black, and you can hear the song here. I don't handle heavy new-music-saturation very well. With Continuum out there now, it's got the priority. I'm going to try to digest one Ray song at a time, I guess. This one has my attention right now.
  • Windows-up / windows-down weather. It depends on your location. Windows up in your house, apartment, or room. Windows down in your car.

We have a good thing going.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What's 'washed up' mean anyway?

I just want to congratulate myself on finally sticking with a blog design for a while -- a "while" being over a year.

In the past when I was a more regular blogger, I redesigned this blog quite frequently. I've blogging a bit more these days, and as it is a fallish Friday afternoon with little to do, I thought, Hmm, why don't I look into changing the blog?

But here's the truth, I like what I've got going. I still like the colors, and hey, it's fall again. It's fall, again?! When I decided to look back at the files I created to develop this design, I was surprised to see things like "Last modified September 15, 2005." At first I just thought that my tinkering around with the computer had caused the system to recognize today as "modification." Oh, but no. 2005. A year ago today.

As normally goes my astonishment by time, I can't believe that a year ago was, well, a year ago. Last night, while I was celebrating Kathryn's birthday at Sissy's, I realized that it'd been a year since I made those Elmo cupcakes. (We had Wal-Mart-made Dora cupcakes this year, by the way.) It's the little things like that mark off time. Seemingly insignifcant moments that are lost in the whirlwind of time, swiftly blown a year, two years into the past before you even know it.


In other news. I want to see the new Zach Braff movie. It is playing in Paducah. Anybody? Anybody?

Also, rumors are swirling that I am getting a digital camera of my choice for my birthday. I can barely contain myself -- from both peeing on myself and spending all day shopping on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The purest little part of me

This afternoon, as I turned onto the sidewalk that runs along the street that crosses my own, I saw a school bus rumbling down the road. In a matter of the seconds it takes to walk a few feet down the sidewalk before crossing the street, I was taken back to those years when, every afternoon, I filed through the gym of the elementary school with all my bus-riding peers, all of us with backpack straps twisted hastily over our little shoulders. (There was also the slung-over-one-shoulder style, but we weren't that cool yet.) We would spill out onto the sidewalk with the canopy where the smell of diesel exhaust reigned, and we would scatter with the excitement of going home and with the anxiety of accidently boarding the wrong bus. But I would eventually find number 9114 among the buses lined up like a row of grungy rubber ducks and settle into my sticky faux-leather seat for the long ride home.

What astonishes me is that I am the same person who rode Karen Frederick's school bus every afternoon, swinging my little feet over the dirty bus floor and watching cornfields zoom past my window. Somewhere deep inside me, there is a self that has not changed one bit from that little girl. It's not quite as hard to comprehend that I am still that kid as it is to understand that that kid would become me. (Yeah, I'm not sure that makes sense, either.) I had in me then what it is that makes me me now.

When I think back to when I was younger -- even to my total ignorance -- I see those memories through my eyes. Not through "my eyes now" or through "my eyes then." Just through my eyes. Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but it's the circumstances that change, not us. Not the real us.

As I turned onto my own street, I was met by three boys who looked to be between the ages of seven and thirteen on bicycles. They rushed past me with their shaggy little-boy hair brushed back by the wind and with sufficiently mischievious looks on their faces. They barely acknowledged me, and even if they did take notice, they probably looked at me like I was some stodgy, old semi-adult with whom they could never relate. But I felt something different. Kindred, almost.

See, inside of them are twenty-two-year-olds that they don't recognize yet. And inside of me there is a seven- and a twelve-year-old that has never and will never go away. And inside all of us is that wizened adult who, although we'll never believe it until we reach that age along the timeline, really does understand what it's like to be us. Because we never age, really. Perhaps we understand more about the world around us, but we are who we are, forever.

It's the only evidence I have, intangible as it is, that our souls are eternal.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Twice as much ain't twice as good

Back when I was a groupie -- we'll pretend I'm not now -- I used to write what I called the "obligatory concert post" (see 1, 2, and 3) after a John Mayer concert. Maybe this is it. Maybe not.

Well. I guess it is.

In a way, this was the least exciting concert yet. coughcoughmoreconcertstocomecoughcough That is not to say anything negative at all about the experience. Part of it is that I hadn't had the chance to psych myself up for it. I was more concerned with safely making the 400-mile trip to Muncie, IN. With that finally behind me, it was less than twenty-four hours until show time, and it still hadn't sunk in.

The other factor contributing to this lessened sense of excitement, I think, is a sheer sense of maturity. Holly and I have individually done a heck of a lot of maturing over the past two years since we dropped off the tour circuit. Of course, John Mayer had dropped off the tour circuit, too, to do himself some maturing, which is so incredibly evident -- through his musical finesse and his lyrical explorations -- in the new album that went on-sale today. Like he says in the improvisational introduction to "Something's Missing" on the John Mayer Trio album, "It's only music now." If you need concrete evidence, he's played fourteen shows thus far on the tour and not once has "Your Body is a Wonderland" appeared on a setlist.

I think he's trying to say something. And I like what he's saying, too.

Anyway, the show was beautiful. And I'm not going to pretend that I didn't scream like a twelve year old -- or a trashy forty-year-old woman with rose tattoos, alternatively -- every time he went into jam-mode or announced a set change. But this was the first time I wasn't holding a camera in front of my face throughout the whole show. (Though I would have if I could have. And Holly did the picture-taking this time, anyway.) I just held onto my twelve-dollar beer with one hand and tapped the beat out on my chest with the other as I sang along.

He didn't play one of my favorite songs, though, one he has played on every show of the tour except ours -- "Gravity." (It just made a very poignant appearance on the wonderful show House, by the way.) When that track started playing this afternoon after I bought the record, even though I've heard it a hundred times, I had cold chills. It's that powerful, and I was quite disappointed when he neglected to play it. However, he did dazzle us -- and redeem himself -- in the encore with surprise performances of the throwback tunes "Victoria" and "Love Soon," albeit a fragmented jumble of forgotten lyrics.

There are two types of love. The one that fades in the event of prolonged absence, and upon rekindling, there is no hope because the flame has gone for good. Then there's the one that endures separation, and when one returns to the ashes, the flames jump up and dance just as wildly and even a little bit more brightly, as if no time had passed at all.

Call me crazy for likening the last one to music. That's okay.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Is it just me or is Facebook getting out of control? All of the little features it adds almost semi-daily are becoming a bit unwieldy. And I officially don't like it when everyone can see that I wrote on Such-and-such's wall three minutes ago, edited my profile two hours ago, and visited the restroom half an hour ago. Getting personal, don't you think? Soon, we'll all have a FacebookCam that we have to tote around with us so that our friends can have full accessibility to the minutia of our daily lives -- because it's interesting! I'm just waiting to install a GPS chip in my wrist.

Then again, we have become a reality television and blog society. After all, here I am. I know there are analysts out there trying to make sense of our newfound curiosity in the details of each other's lives, so I am sure my musings are rudimentary. But it is quite strange, don't you think, that while we are becoming more and more interested in each other, everything is becoming more and more impersonal. We have fashioned a two-way mirror for ourselves. We can watch people's lives from the anonymity of our computer screens and television sets. We have become more comfortable divulging our personal lives to the anonymous masses than to real people who are able to reciprocate tangibly.

I have to say that it scares me. It calls up some spine-tingling philosophy that claims reality is nothing more than self. With all these means of seeing each other through detached lenses, I can imagine a society of isolated individuals who can only imagine that they themselves are real and everyone else is a specimen to be studied for entertainment. I don't know. I know it sounds crazy, but I think all these silly little time-wasters like Facebook and blogs and the majority of television are indicative of a disease our whole generation is suffering from and we're too distracted with ourselves to see it.

It's hard to see the hole when you're at the bottom.