Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sleepy sleepy

Is it possible that the Bunny is already teething? She's been a total slobber monster lately, constantly cramming her entire fist into her mouth and gnawing. Combine that with her newly-discovered rolling skills (full-on back-to-tummy) and she is really not sleeping well. Plus, she's loud. So in an effort to keep her roommate (the Bug) in the land of nod, Joker and I are there to cater to her every whim. All this is leaving me very sleepy, indeed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Como Zoo - Beardsley Zoo

Mima and Boppie visited Aunt Jessie a week or so ago, and were joined by our aunts, an uncle and some cousins on their visit to the Twin Cities. Among other things, they visited St. Paul's Como Zoo, from which they sent postcards to the Bug and the Bunny.

The following weekend, we took the girls to our local Beardsley Zoo. We love it there - it's small and easy to navigate and we visit often.

Of note this trip: (1) They're trying to mate our two tigers (no mood lighting and Barry White while we were there, but they were in the same pen). And (2) our condor died... at the age of 80! I had no idea those birds lived so long. I'd thought he was looking a bit ragged around the edges, but turns out he was just old.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


On Sunday afternoon, we spent quite a bit of time on an art project: making St. Patrick's Day cards to send to Mima and Boppie, aunts, uncles and the cousins.

The first one the Bug made, though, was for her baby sister Bunny:

She got a little confused on our mission, presumably because the last time we'd had out the sequins and glue and construction paper and scissors for a project, we made Valentines for everyone. When she finished she asked, "Mommy, can we make more St. Project's Day Valentines tomorrow?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore is another excellent book by Haruki Murakami, author of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Despite being cerebral and dream-like, it is a compelling page turner. Murakami is at the top of his craft, and I'm looking forward to reading more. (Coincidentally, his latest book, which is currently being published in Japan and scheduled for publication in English next year, is 1Q84. Which I learned about just after I finished reading 1984 and decided to read Kafka next.)

The book tells the stories of two very different characters in alternating chapters. Kafka Tamura is a 15-year-old runaway attempting to escape an Oedipal curse. His father is a famous sculptor; he has no memory of his mother and sister, who left when he was a toddler. He takes a bus 10 hours to Takamatsu, which is separated from mainland Japan by the Inland Sea. After spending a couple of days there, he finds his way to the Komura Memorial Library, where he finds a comfortable place to while away the time and eventually a place to stay. There he befriends the androgynous hemophiliac Oshima and the lovely head librarian Miss Saeki.

Satoru Nakata is a 60-something-year-old man who lost the abilities to read and to remember things in a mysterious accident during a childhood mushroom gathering trip. He simultaneously gained the ability to converse with cats, however, which he has put to use as a part-time searcher for lost house cats. One such search puts him on a path that takes him far from home, with 21-year-old trucker Hoshino as his companion/disciple.

The paths of the two characters converge in the physical world as their stories unfold. Meanwhile, strange things are afoot in the spirit world: sex, revelations and even murder. While many authors have tried to depict dreamscapes, Murakami's talent is so great you actually believe they are your own visions. The book is a puzzle - one character might be Kafka's mother, another might be his sister, one spirit appears to be frozen in time decades prior while another exists in the present. Murakami himself says the riddle can only unfold with multiple readings. Though I can't promise to make that commitment, the book is a mind-bender and a pleasure to read, even if I never quite figure everything out.

Next up: Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ken's always been a player

Remember when you were a kid and you had like a million Barbies but only one Ken? So you would have Ken get married to each of the Barbies in turn, or take them each on a date in the convertible. Somehow this never caused catfights in the mansion, and you never dwelled on it because you were, well, a kid.

Apparently Mattel has gotten wise to that whole trend. Enter the Mad Men line of Barbies. What better inspiration for the pre-teen set than Don Draper, philanderer extraordinaire. Don't get me wrong: love the styles (even without cigs and martinis), love Joanie and love-love-LOVE Don and Roger. Extra bonus: they're enough man to date your entire Barbie collection, and won't forget to pick up flowers for the wife on the way home.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First haircut

While it may seem surprising that the Bug still hadn't had a real haircut at 2 years, 8 months, I can assure you that anyone who knew me as a toddler is equally surprised she's already needed one.

Regardless of your perspective, it was a big day for the little Bug. We went to Cindy & Eddie's, a nearby barbershop, at the suggestion of our friends at Fairfield County Child. It's certainly a no-frills kind of place, but they have a bunch of toys that set the Bug at ease immediately. And Cindy not only knows how to give a kid a cut without freaking her out, she gives the kid a good cut, too.

Plus, they gave the Bug a lollipop and this nifty certificate:

Friday, March 5, 2010

AOK Top 25 Books

For kicks, because people sometimes ask and because I have a kind of compulsive nature, I have been working on a list of my top 100 books of all time. It's tough. One hundred is a lot of books, and I've been reading so many great ones lately that my list is constantly shifting. Perhaps at the end of the calendar year I'll post the full 100; in the mean time, the top 25.

1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky's masterpiece, and my favorite book of all time. It's why I love the Russians, and Dostoevsky first among them. Murder, love, dysfunctional families, the devil... Dostoevsky knows how to tell a compelling tale.

2. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The Devil comes to Moscow and all hell breaks loose. Full review here.

3. Beloved by Toni Morrison. Powerful, horrifying and beautiful story of slavery and its aftermath. Full review.

4. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. A poetic portrait of English aristocracy, a highly personal examination of the Catholic church, and an insightful dive into personal relationships. Full review.

5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Epic story of the Bolkonsky and Rostov families during the Napoleonic Wars. Full review.

6. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. The most difficult book on my list, hands down. Faulkner is a difficult read under the best of circumstances; throw in one narrator with severe mental retardation and others who are unreliable and you're up for a challenge. In this case, though, it is worth the effort. This story of a tragic Southern family showcases the extraordinary talent one of the country's greatest writers.

7. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Ambitious and captivating, Murakami blends dreams and reality in this story about a Tokyo house-husband's search for his missing cat. Full review.

8. Emma by Jane Austen. Flawed and self-delusional but charming and witty, Emma takes Harriet Smith, a sweet girl from a lesser societal rank, under her wing and commences matchmaking. Full review.

9. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Another doorstop of a book at over 1100 pages, Infinite Jest is certainly a commitment. Alternating between a halfway house and an exclusive tennis school, Wallace weaves together numerous sub-plots, zany characters and political satire in the near-future Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment (calendar years now having corporate sponsors). Also notable for its prodigious use of acronyms and end notes.

10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The book follows the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov after he commits a gruesome crime. Can murder ever be justified? Is true punishment that which is handed out by the authorities, or the self-flagellation of regret?

11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The best one hit wonder of American literature, this high school required reading gave birth to some of literature's greatest characters: Atticus Finch, Scout and Boo Radley. The book is funny and warm, even while examining the serious issues of rape and racial inequality.

12. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I don't buy into this being one of the best love stories ever written, but this story of Humbert Humbert's obsession with a prepubescent girl is shocking and disturbing and wonderfully written.

13. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. In the deranged world of Mark Renton and his so-called friends, heroin addiction is the prevailing force. It is a tale of greed, crime, Scottish identity, sexual morality and betrayal. The movie is excellent and bit disturbing; the book is really excellent and really disturbing.

14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in a sweet, witty and classic nineteenth century love story.

15. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March grow up amid love and laughter. It was the first book I truly adored. I still cry more when Jo finds out that Amy married Laurie than I do when Beth dies. Full review.

16. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. Textbook Faulkner: the epic decline and fall of a Southern family. Brilliantly written, memorable characters and the longest sentence ever published in a novel.

17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. Randle P. McMurphy enters an insane asylum to finish out a prison term as the "bull goose loony." He torments old Nurse Ratched and urges his fellow patients to assert themselves.

18. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Frodo Baggins saves Middle Earth; saga provides inspiration for generations of fantasy/sci-fi geeks.

19. Sula by Toni Morrison. Short but complex, Sula explores relationships, sex, love, guilt and the difference between good and evil. Morrison captures the difficulty of post-emancipation life in the midwest, and breaks your heart several times while she does it. Full review.

20. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Surprisingly modern, gossipy and easy to read.

21. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The glamor of the Roaring '20s thinly disguises a society riddled with materialism and a lack of morality.

22. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Fat, lazy Ignatius J. Reilly on a quest to find a job in New Orleans' French Quarter. Hilarius.

23. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. One of the most prominent 19th century Russian works, the novel follows a man's puzzling efforts to purchase "dead souls" (serfs who have died, but on whom the landowner still pays taxes) from local townspeople.

24. Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem. Space-western fantasy novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors. Full review.

25. The Child in Time by Ian McEwan. Powerful prose and raw emotion fill this novel; central themes include the fluidity of time. The book is about memory, childhood, depression, and about the real possibility of moving on. Full review.