29 April 2001

I thought yesterday was going to be all about food. Hence the journal title. No way. It was all about books. Tim took me to his favorite bookstore down there, and I spent money, possibly too much, but the sales were crazy-good. In Santa Cruz, I got:

Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. La Michelle can read it when she's out here visiting me (for at least five days!!!). If I don't like it, she can take it home with her.

Pat Murphy's The City Not Long After. (Thanks, Tim!) I have been instructed not to read the blurb on the back of this book until I'm done reading the book. Evidently it's one of the worst ones as far as giving away the plot.

Tom Stoppard's Jumpers. I like Tom Stoppard. A lot.

Christopher Fry's A Phoenix Too Frequent. I also like Christopher Fry. A lot. But lots of people know about Tom Stoppard because of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (or, if they're characters in a Steve Brust novel, Redwreath and Goldstar Have Gone Over Deathgate Falls). Not so many people know about Fry, and they should. He's amazing with language. I can't believe this bookstore had plays that weren't by Euripides, Ibsen, or Shakespeare!

Diane Ackerman's The Planets. Woohoo! I love Diane Ackerman's poems. I already mentioned her nonfiction awhile ago. But listen: she pays attention to the world. She doesn't try to put it in little boxes neatly labeled "science," "beauty," "relationships," etc. She just watches, and thinks, and writes. Mmmmm.

Ann Wroe's A Fool and His Money This is about a fourteenth century French village, and I've been looking for it for a long time. Came highly recommended.

Thomas DuBois and Leea Virtanen's Finnish Folklore. My virtuous purchase! I think this will come in useful for my Not The Moose Book. I need a take on Finnish myth and folklore that isn't related to the Kalevala directly. I also need to research Russian-Finnish relations in the 1950s. This book is going to be so cool. You read it here first, but I suppose that doesn't count.

And some potato bread with rosemary. ("What do we buy apart from books?" "More books!" ..."Um, bread?")

Also had a good time and talked about various and sundry things, including Norse gods at some length. Then I came home, and Mark decided he wanted to go out for supper. And I decided that I wanted the decent Chinese place we found. (I should have ordered their orange beef. It's much, much better than their shredded pork in garlic sauce. Live and learn.) And, of course, there's a bookstore down the strip mall from them. And that bookstore had a sign reading, "Social sciences sale! $3 or less." So I thought I'd go buy a couple of social sciences for my mom for Mother's Day. But all they had was books, so I got some of those instead. Some were mostly Mark's, but the list is:

James Bamford The Puzzle Palace. This is the original definitive book on the NSA. People have probably written definitive books on the NSA since, but this was the first one, and I think it'll be interesting.

Stanislaw Lem Return from the Stars. Freaky SF weirdness.

Tom Standage The Victorian Internet. Everybody in our household has been eyeing this book hungrily since it came out. Mark was the one who found this used copy, though.

Egil's Saga. Everybody should have the sagas. They also had Njal's Saga and the Orkneyinga Saga, but I thought I should salvage the shreds of my restraint. And go back for the other sagas later, since they're likely to still be there.

Alan Gibbons and Wojciech Rytter's Efficient Parallel Algorithms. This is what it says, I suppose. It's Mark's, and I haven't looked at it too closely. Wouldn't it be nice if fiction worked that way? If we could just label books what they were? First Book with Charlotte, Miri, and Nate in the Freaky Other World, instead of having to come up with something pseudo-clever like Fortress of Thorns. Actually, I read this as a writing exercise for people who were having trouble writing stories with plot: give your stories/chapters Berenstain Bears titles. You know, like "The Berenstain Bears Make A Friend." What you've got there is plot and character, all wrapped up in one. Who's involved? The Bears. What do they do? Make a friend. Got it. I never had a problem with plot, though, so I didn't do this.

Timprov got some books, too. So I get to read them, too. Yay, books!

Driving home from church, Mark and I saw a guy who was wearing a T-shirt that read, "God's Got My Back." After the initial "Make him give it back to you!" reaction, I turned to Mark and said, "I don't think I'd want God to have my back in a fight."


"No. I mean, God just doesn't seem like the type to kick people's butts for me. I mean, I wouldn't walk into a bar full of Marines and shout 'Jarheads suck!' and assume I'd be okay because God had my back." (I wouldn't do it anyway. My grandpa's a Marine. So this example is like making Ole jokes. I digress.)

Mark thought about it. "I think, in that instance, what you'd want is for someone to have your front."

"So the shirt is either claiming that God useless or that God is going to beat up on people for this guy if he gets in fights?"

"Well, yeah."

"It still seems stupid. I mean, it's not saying anything bad about God. But if I have a can of soup that needs opening, I don't figure I'm okay because I'm not an atheist. I get myself a can opener."

Mark sighed. "Back in the days of idolatry, you could have both. Those were the days. Now, God just does God stuff and can openers do can opener stuff."

"If I'm lucky," I said. Can openers hate me.

Just then, one of the odious public service commercials came on: "Which of these kids is a drug user?" Do you have these in your area? They're on the radio a lot around here lately. They'll play sound bites from three kids and then tell you that some of them are druggies. And that the only way you can know if your kid's friends are druggies is to get to know your kid's friends. And that if you do this, eventually you will seem "hardly like an adult at all!" to them, and they will tell you about their drug use. Let's count the ways in which this is stupid. Oh wait. I don't have that much time. But the stereotypes in these commercials are amazing. They tell you to make sure your kids are involved in wholesome activities, like cheerleading. And to ask a lot of questions. Because if you don't have a decent relationship with your kids already, badgering them is the absolute best way to improve it.

The people who write public service announcements were never children or teenagers. They sprang full grown from the head of Rez, god of authoritarian cluelessness.

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