Monday, September 8, 2014

Beach Week: A Novel

Goodreads: Ah, "beach week": a time-honored tradition in which the D.C. suburbs' latest herd of high school grads flocks to Chelsea Beach for seven whole days of debauched celebration. In this dark comedy, ten teenage girls plan an unhinged blowout the likes of which their young lives have never seen. They smuggle vodka in water bottles and horde prescription drugs by the dozen. Meanwhile, their misguided, affluent parents are too busy worrying about legal liabilities to fret over some missing pills or random hookups.

For Jordan Adler and her family, though, this rite of passage threatens to become more than just frivolous fun. The teen's parents, Leah and Charles, might not let their only daughter go at all. Their marriage is in shambles, their old house is languishing on the market, and the bills are stacking up. With all that stress, it soon seems they're behaving as irresponsibly at their daughter and her friends.

Stasy: I found this book at the dollar store. Books found there are usually either a hidden gem or merely okay. This was definitely the latter. Coll is a decent writer and gives a lot of depth to her characters; however, her characters are very unlikable. The most mature person in this book is Jordan, the teenager who is recovering from a brain injury and even she is not that pleasant. The parents are worse than the girls and the girls in this book are the ones I avoided hanging out with in high school.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Saturday, September 6, 2014

And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture

Goodreads: Breaking news, fresh gossip, tiny scandals, trumped-up crises--every day we are distracted by a culture that rings our doorbell and runs away. Stories spread wildly and die out in mere days to be replaced by still more stories with ever shorter life spans. Through the Internet, the news cycle has been spinning even faster now that all of us can join the fray: anyone on a computer can spread a story almost as easily as The New York Times, CNN, or People. As media amateurs grow their audience, they learn to think like the pros, using the abundant data that the Internet offers--hit counters, most emailed lists, YouTube views, download tallies--to hone their own experiments in viral blowup.

And Then There's This is Bill Wasik's journey along the unexplored frontier of the twenty-first century's rambunctious new-media culture. He covers this world in part as a journalist, following "buzz bands" as they rise and fall in the online music scene, visiting with viral marketers and political trendsetters and online provocateurs. But he also wades in as a participant, conducting his own hilarious experiments: an email fad (which turned into the world wide "flash mob" sensation), a viral website in a month-long competition, a fake blog that attempts to create "antibuzz," and more. He doesn't always get the results he expected, but he tries to make sense of his data by surveying what real social science experiments have taught us about the effects of distraction, stimulation, and crowd behavior on the human mind.

Part report, part memoir, part manifesto, part deconstruction of a decade, And Then There's This captures better than any other book the way technology is changing our culture.

Stasy: Wasik writes for Wired which means more than most, when it comes to nano-stories, he can be considered an expert. Though this book is older (published in 2009), I feel like it still rings very true today, especially as we move forward with social media platforms such as Snapchat. Well written and a quick read. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quote of the Day

"One must live as if it would be forever, and as if one might die each moment. Always both at once."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Rest in peace, Butchie.

Three weeks ago this past Sunday, one of my dad's brothers called me. Uncle S told me that Granddaddy, whom my grandmother called Butch and I called Butchie*** when I was little, was in the hospital with a hard, fast cancer he didn't have a month before. 

(***I was the only person he allowed to call him Butchie. Granddaddy did not have any sisters or daughters and I the first granddaughter born. He tried hard not to show it, but I was clearly his favorite of his ten grandchildren.)

The next day was my parents' 35th anniversary and I had to call them on their vacation to let Dad know his dad was sick. Because they were out of town, I ended up being the one to call everyone else in the family. It was my sister's first wedding anniversary and I ruined it with bad news.

Three weeks ago today, I talked to Granddaddy on the phone. He sounded optimistic and he and my step-grandmother were bickering, which is always a good sign. (Seriously, it is, even though I know it sounds like it should not be.) He said he was going to fight the good fight and the first round of chemo would be in a couple of days. I asked if he wanted me to come home for a visit and he told me he was not dying and he would see me at Thanksgiving.

Two weeks ago this past Sunday, Mom called me and told me to get home as quickly as I could. The chemo damaged Granddaddy's heart and while the doctors were not sure how long he had, Mom was convinced he only had a few days. An hour and a half after hanging up, my husband, G.T., and I were on the road.

I spent all day Monday holding Granddaddy's hand and spending time with the family that was there. I left the hospital around 9:30 that night, thinking we had at least one more day.

Two weeks ago today, my Butchie died. 

Mom called me around 4 am Tuesday morning, telling me to get down to the hospital. When I got there, she was standing in the hallway. He had died five minutes before I got there. My step-grandmother was there, holding onto him when he died. Dad, Mom, Uncle W (another of Dad's four living brothers), and Uncle W's wife were there. I am glad he was not alone, but I wish I would have made it in time. Uncles E and S walked in a few minutes after I did. Uncle D's plane did not land until later that day. More than I wish I had been there when he died, I wish Uncle D had had the same chance I did to spend some time with Granddaddy that final day.

My step-grandmother, whom we call GrandDot (her name is Dottie), is an amazing woman and my heart aches for her so much. Her first husband also died of cancer after 50+ years of marriage. Now Granddaddy is gone after 10 years. She seems to be okay, though obviously she is hurting. I worry about her, though. She is alone in the house now that everyone has gone home. I worry about Dad, too. Granddaddy was his next door neighbor. 

She insisted on including our lost boy in the part of the obituary listing those who preceded Granddaddy in death. I had been holding it together fairly well until I saw that. Reading the obituary and seeing that, though, opened the floodgates. I think I scared Muppet when I fell apart.

My husband and I are, I think, just shell shocked. Last year, at this time, we had three grandfathers between us. When Grandpa died in October, we still had Pap and Granddaddy. Then, we lost Pap in March after a long illness, yet we still had Granddaddy and even though he was 88, he was a very healthy man.

G.T. is fourteen months old and has been to three funerals. (It would have been four, but we were actually in the position of having to choose between my uncle's and Pap's.) Too many for anyone in one year, let alone one so young.

We are still incredibly lucky to have both my maternal grandmother and my step-grandmother, but the world feels very empty with no grandfathers left.

Rest in peace, Butchie. You are going to be very, very missed.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quote of the Day

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, dispairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

6:44 pm

A year ago, at this moment, my life changed. My battered heart began healing when I first saw (and heard) G.T.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Muppet! 

You are no longer my itty-bitty ten-pounder. You are close to thirty pounds. (I will not know exactly until your appointment in a couple of weeks.) You wear 18 month clothes (more for the length than anything else) and a size five shoe. Shoes that are necessary now that you are walking everywhere. 

You love to climb and knock stuff over. The joy you find in just opening the cabinets we have unlocked for you makes me smile. 

You have brought so much joy to Dad and me over the last year and we cannot wait to see what the next year (and the years after that) bring you.

Now stop leaving teeth marks in all of my furniture. ;)