Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

The skeletons are out tonight,

They march about the street

With bony bodies, bony heads

And bony hands and feet.

Bony, bony, bony bones

With nothing in between,

Up and down and all around

They march on Halloween.

- Jack Prelutsky

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tasty Tome Tuesday

Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes
Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown

5 out of 5 Bacon Strips

Walk through any toy aisle, any girls' clothing section, or any children's book nook, and you'll see it: pink. Sometimes sparkled, sometimes hot, sometimes sweetly pastel, but you'll definitely notice the overwhelming overabundance of pink, America's symbol for all things feminine. But how much of pink culture is truly driven by girls' desires, and how much is pushed on them by marketing departments? And how harmful are these pre-packaged identities?

Almost all of it, and very, say authors Lamb and Brown. Packaging Girlhood is a fascinating examination of how marketers target children, and how they've shaped girl culture over the past couple of decades in the US. Backed up by scientific studies, opinion polls, and conversations with girls and their mothers, Lamb and Brown outline the titular "marketers' schemes" and then give parents the tools to combat them. Straightforward, conversational prose and a compelling premise made this a 5-strip book for me, the mother of a daughter, and is in my opinion a must-read for anyone raising or helping to raise a girl.

Lamb and Brown cover all of girl culture, from clothing to play, and include sample conversations to have with your daughter about what products say to them and to others. They include a list of online resources with more information and help, as well as alternative activities/communities for a girl who'd rather not be "Pretty in Pink".

I truly enjoyed this book as well as taking a great deal of advice from it. If you have any contact with young girls and women, I urge you to pick up Packaging Girlhood.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dork Love 3: The Dorkening

Baconsdad: They found evidence of a star system close enough to Earth to be visible to the naked eye.
Me: Really?
BD: Yeah. Only eight stars are closer.
Me: That's cool.
BD: But the first sentence calls it "an alien solar system."
BD: Yeah. I had to tell you that just so I could hear that sound.

And then he laughed. Jerk.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tasty Tome Tuesday!

Yeah, I know it's Wednesday on the east coast already, but hey. I had to actually work today. Onto the tome!

Stephanie Meyer

4 out of 5 Bacon Strips

Oh, Twilight. So young. So angsty. So full of fangs. Is it any wonder I love you?

Twilight is very definitely a Young Adult book. It is not for adults, though it has a devoted fan-woman following (as well as a rabid fangirl one). The basic story: New-girl-in-town Bella meets gorgeous Edward and his gorgeous siblings. She begins to date Edward, only to discover his secret (and if you don't know it by now, well, get out from under your rock, because I'm not hiding spoilers): He's a vampire.

A less-than-a-century-old vampire. Who goes to high school. And all his "siblings" are vampires, as are his "parents".

Still with me? I admit, it's not for everyone. The level of suspension of disbelief asked of the reader is pretty high. And if you're not a vampire fan or a YA fan or a romance fan, you should probably skip it. (I'm actually all three, so this was rather a trifecta.)

Meyer's prose is competent and straightforward. Her use of the first-person narrative gives her the opportunity to indulge in the sort of adolescent purple prose we've all committed to paper somewhere, and it struck me as charmingly honest. High school is still horribly vivid for me, and Bella's doubts, fears, triumphs, and failures came across as real and true to her.

Much has been made of Edward's "abusive" behaviour, of his controlling nature and Bella's seeming abdication of her will to his desires. Other reviewers may have a point, but I didn't see it. My own taste in men may have something to do with that, but honestly, I don't think the whole book is a loving paean to teenage domestic violence, as some have painted it. I think it's a fairly good portrayal of the violent passion of a teenaged love-affair. Old as Edward might be, he's never had a relationship before, never been in love, and has no more experience with such a tempest of emotion than has Bella. There are people who never master the art of serene romance: they are not all abusers or abused, and I don't think Bella and Edward are any more dysfunctional than any other teenaged couple in the world.

I could have done without Bella's constant bellyaching about her looks, but such self-deprecation is pretty standard for teen girls, and it does read as genuine. Edward's noble vampire routine got old fast, as well, but I've never liked the noble ones. Meyer has some interesting ideas about the species, but her ideas are never as well-fleshed as I'd like them to be.

On the whole? B+. It was a fast, enjoyable read, and I'm sure I'll visit it again in the future. It definitely deserves a spot in the vampire canon for its innovative twists on the characteristics of the species and for its being one of a very few decent vampire romances in the world. If you're looking for something to read between trick-or-treaters or while you roast that Thanksgiving turkey and ignore your mother-in-law, Twilight will charmingly, effortlessly, and enjoyably fit the bill.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What A Tasty Tome!

I read. I read a lot. Probably more than is healthy - after all, I could be outside enjoying the fresh air or folding my laundry or vacuuming - but I'm hoping to put my bad habit to work for you.

That's right: Book reviews. I'll be starting with a few of the things I've read most recently, and I'm happy to take suggestions for what I should read next or to have guest blogger reviews in the future. I do fiction and non, very serious to very silly; my only requirement is that it keep me interested enough to get to the end.

So let's begin!

Harmful To Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
Judith Levine, foreword by Joycelyn M. Elders

5 out of 5 Bacon Strips

In short: Being Puritanical is bad. Levine argues that hiding all things sexual from children and teens, and punishing (or "rehabilitiating") them when they're "caught" expressing age-appropriate sexuality is more harmful than almost any sex could ever be. She argues passionately and persuasively against abstinence-only sex-ed, age-of-consent laws, and ridiculous "predator" statutes that can send seven-year-olds into the juvenile justice system for playing doctor with their siblings.

Though excoriated by conservative politicians and the religious right for an imagined pro-pedophilia stance when the book was first published, Levine's argument is cogent and common-sensical - and not in the least sympathetic to true abusers. In an age of hysteria about teen sex and an obvious backlash against the free expression of women's sexuality, Harmful to Minors is a welcome relief to read, especially for people who think sex is not the worst thing to ever happen to an eighteen-year-old.

Levine's prose is easy to understand without being simplistic; she walks the delicate line between scholarly tome and "non-fiction for dummies" nicely, weaving scientific studies and personal stories together deftly to form an eminently readable book. I recommend this for anyone who wonders why America is as puritanical as it is, and why the idea that minors - even those who have reached partial majority - should be protected from sex is such a powerful one in this society.