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June 2012 (119 posts)
Book lovers, like parents, are often circumspect about naming their favorites. After all, you wouldn't want to hurt the feelings of all those other books you've loved. And besides, there are different kinds of favorites. There's the BFF (Book Favorite Forever), the well-worn paperback you've read over and over until it looks like it's been run over by a semi. There's the A-Student Favorite, the thinky book you admire, but would never take into the bathtub with you. And then there's the Forgotten Favorite. This favorite is a bittersweet affair. You love this book. You think everyone in the world should read this book. And yet, you've never met anyone else who's loved this book like you have, or for that matter, anyone who's read it. It's un-buzzed-about; it's un-award-laden; you greet a copy of it at a used book store with an utterance of complete shock. This book is yours and yours alone.
For me, the eerie, dark After Life, by Rhian Ellis, was one of those books. It's a novel you devour, admonishing yourself the whole time to slow down so you can enjoy each lovely sentence, but unable to resist the urge to plunge forward into the story. I couldn't believe this gorgeous book was out of print, particularly now that the supernatural is experiencing a bit of a media moment.
Well, apparently neither could Nancy Pearl, who runs the brilliant Amazon.com publishing imprint Book Lust Rediscoveries. Dedicated to reprinting overlooked gems from 1960-2000, this publishing outfit is reprinting After Life, which is great news for readers (even though it means I'll have to crown some other obscure novel my Forgotten Favorite). Check out the trailer:Plus, the very existence of this publishing imprint inspires a kind of hope. After all, books aren't the only things that often go underappreciated.What if we all performed an act of rediscovery in our own lives? Think about something you accomplished or created or loved ten or twelve years ago -- something as big as a job or as small as a collage you made for an art class -- and take a moment to appreciate it, consider what kind of new life it might have now. An, ahem, After Life, if you will.
Speaking of Rediscovery: Oprah's Book Club 2.0
Classics That Have Made a Difference to the Stars
Jezebel shares new research that suggests the anxiety-ridden brain has to work harder to complete basic tasks, particularly in women. As Erin Gloria Ryan writes, "In fact, an unsettled mind trying to complete a simple task is the mental equivalent of setting the treadmill to the highest possible incline and trying to run the same distance as someone running flat next to you; you may still get to where you're going, but it's going to be a longer, much more exhausting process." In other words, when you worry, your brain has to work more, you waste your energy, and it takes you longer (and you have to work harder) to parallel park your car or complete a math quiz or what have you. And the researchers also found that women were more prone to worry than men. Which means we perform worse on tasks than men of similar intelligence. Which gives us more reason to be anxious, which...you get the idea.
Just another reason to learn to stop worrying and love the calm.
The Age of Anxiety
Break the Cycle of Anxiety
To assess the cleanliness of the typical office building, researchers sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Professional swabbed nearly 5,000 surfaces of manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centers with about 3,000 employees. The dirtiest surfaces turned out to be in break rooms: on the handles of sink faucets, microwaves and refrigerators (that reminds me: I went into our office fridge to get milk!). When you think about it, this isn't that surprising...but how often do we take the time to think about viruses when heating up our leftovers for lunch?
The Kimberly-Clark web site has an amusing-slash-alarming feature where you can roll your mouse over different office "hot spots" and learn germ facts. Check out the water cooler: Viruses can live from 20 minutes to 2 hours on surfaces like these. And the elevator buttons: "Just one finger can spread germs throughout an entire building."
But don't panic--and don't think you can hide out in your cubicle: the study showed that we bring a lot of these germs back with us to our computer mice and keyboards. As one of the microbiologists who consulted on the on the study advised, you just need to be as diligent as possible about washing your hands, using hand sanitizer where it's available, and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes.
You could even use this new information to your advantage: those peanut M&Ms in the vending machine probably seem a lot less appealing now that you know you'll have to brave germ-saturated buttons in order to get to them...
What's better: Hand sanitizers vs. hand-washing?
"You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."
The author of everyone's favorite assigned high-school reading, the visionary Ray Bradbury, has died at the age of 91. There are many very thorough remembrances of the man and his work out there. But when I heard this news, all I could think of was the story "The Third Expedition" in The Martian Chronicles (the book, incidentally, that first indicated to me, and so many others, all that the maligned genre of science fiction could be) in which the astronauts arrive on Mars only to find a place that looks a whole lot like the Earth of the past, peopled with their own long-dead friends and relatives. It all seems pretty fishy, but the astronauts can't help but give into their nostalgia, to their desire for it to be so. Mars, it seems, is heaven.
Well, (spoiler alert!) it doesn't turn out to be so: the idyllic world is actually a nasty trick on behalf of the hostile Martians. And when we read the story we feel a little foolish by the end, for wanting, as the astronauts did, the sunny, picture-perfect freeze-frame of Americana to be truly preserved up there on a rock in the sky, for believing for a few seconds that we were seeing heaven. Still, isn't it pleasant to think that somewhere in the universe, the people we miss are carrying on their lives on some sunny planet untouched by death? Isn't it pleasant to think that Ray Bradbury might be landing any minute?
Here, Bradbury shares his advice on how to live to be 90, and his take on the essence of life.
Bradbury on his Love of Libraries
Bradbury on Life and Creativity
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Because no matter how much you love high fashion, it never hurts to lighten up, here is Seth Meyers' cheeky CFDA awards ceremony speech, including at least three laugh-out-loud jokes. (NYMag)
* Ever wondered what it would be like to live your life in silence? Read this fascinating email conversation with four Trappist monks. (The Awl)
* Philip Levine ends his tenure as poet laureate of the United States this week, but we think he's got a future resolving thorny dilemmas. "You need to see a shaman who can change who you are, and your wife needs to see a lawyer," he writes to a man who believes his wife ought to pay the bill for the cell phone he used to conduct an emotional affair. It only gets better from there. (NYTimes)
In the car having just left Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent. Gotta say, he was quite surprising. We talked for 2 hrs. You'll see Part 1 this Sunday. Here are 5 things I learned from Fiddy:
1. He meditates regularly.
2. Received his mantra from Deepak Chopra, whose book he's currently reading.
3. He was not allowed to use curse words in his grandmother's house and still follows that rule.
4. A recent conversation with philanthropist Ray Chambers was life changing for him.
And my favorite....
5. He believes either pray or worry...no need for both.
Great conversation about rap culture, fatherhood, love, and life. He describes himself as two people—Curtis and 50 Cent—I was fascinated to hear his description of them both. Really glad I did it. Really liked him. Watch Next Chapter, Sunday 9/8c.
Cookie Dough Cream Pie. Or cookie dough doughnuts, popsicles, wontons, fudge or pizza. Food blogger Lindsay Landis' recipe for the addictive sweet is egg-free (and thus safe to eat raw), and in her new book, The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, she explains how to use it to make cakes, custards, pies, candies, brownies and more.
Apricots. If you've ever been seduced by an apricot's soft, barely fuzzy skin and rosy peach glow only to take a bite and find the inside flavorless, it's time to (re)introduce the unripened fruit's best friend: a plain paper bag. It may be the oldest trick in the book, but the humble sandwich bag seems to have even more magical powers when it comes to apricots, which are in season now. After two or three days in a loosely folded paper sack, they turn amazingly sweet, a feat we have yet to accomplish by letting them sit in a bowl on the counter.
Pea Shots. These crisp tendrils are just the young leaves of a pea plant, but their delicate, fresh flavor perks up boring salads and stir-fries (or just snack on them alone). Find them at farmers' markets now or grow your own; within two or three weeks of planting pea seeds (which you can even do in a window box), you'll have edible shoots.
Iced Tea. Although it seems every summer brings a new crop of bottled teas, there's nothing like home-brewed. This version gets an herbaceous kick from kaffir lime leaves, mint, lemongrass and lots of citrus; while this one combines tea with bits of fresh berries and sparkling water. Depending on how much of the stuff you're guzzling, you may want to invest in Bodum's Ceylon Iced Tea Jug, which Oprah's a fan of, both for both tea and flavor-enhanced water.
4 easy vegetable gardening rules
Outrageously delicious cherry desserts
How to have a fantastic, food-centric summer
"I will turn this car around": A cupcake that actually will make him hit the brakes and do a 180. Sift Cupcakes and Dessert Bar, which has 3 locations in northern California and ships nationally, includes among its stable of treats The Studmuffin. It's a beer and brown sugar cake topped with salted caramel frosting with fleur de sel and spicy cayenne-dusted bacon bits crumbled on top.
"This lawn isn't going to mow itself": A shrub that needs no care other than some sunlight and water. Hirt's Top Hat Dwarf Blueberry Plant is perfect for containers and small spaces (it's about 8 inches tall), and will yield hundreds of delicious full-size blueberries.
"You sleep when you're dead": A breakfast treat that will get anyone out of bed early on a Saturday morning. Vermont company Tonewood Maple's goodies are all fantastic, from the syrup to the candies. But it's the maple cream we're most taken with; it tastes so good it threatens to unseat butter as king of the toast toppers.
"It builds character": Spices that will elevate anything he cooks, whether burgers or scrambled eggs. Chicago-based Lezzet Spices has an exotic but approachable roster, including Red Stamp Pepper, Mediterranean Oregano, Sweet Purple Basil and Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt.
Famous dads share their favorite recipes
What to grill for Father's Day this year
Cool new ice cream combos to try at your next party