Sunday, February 28, 2010

They Made Me Think

In the winter when "spare" time is easier to come by than in the spring or summer, reading and knitting are always battling each other in my mind for this rare commodity. But in the last few months, I've read a few books that have really caused me to think ... hard.
I gave Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford to my sweetie for Christmas after reading a blurb about it in an airline magazine. It sounded right up his alley. After he devoured it in less than two days, I took it on so we could discuss it. The author is a PhD from the University of Chicago who, after doing a brief stint as a "knowledge worker" in a cubicle, went back to doing the kind of work that really satisfied him: running a motorcycle repair shop and working as a mechanic. The book explores the value of actually knowing how to do things in a day and age where skilled hands are becoming less and less important--and hard to come by.  This book is quite heady, but I found myself nodding in understanding, alternating with looking up words in the dictionary!

My sister, Jennifer, sent me Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert for my birthday with a post-it note attached saying  "I haven't read this yet, so don't think I'm trying to send you some kind of message." Ha! Well, I skeptically began reading it because quite frankly it pertains to the near future, and I finished it in three days. The author and I had way too many similarities to count and I found her research and findings on the institution of marriage to be refreshing--and just what I needed. Marriage, in the old days, was a somewhat casual agreement between couples until the church hijacked it in the Middle Ages and made it an iron-clad contract that there was no getting out of. Through her cultural and historical anecdotes, Gilbert shows how marriage means different things in different cultures and how it has transformed through time. What it boils down to is that while marriage is good for a society (stabilizes people, procreation, families), government has always tried to interfere and prevent people from marrying because the bedroom--and what married couples do and say behind closed doors--is one bastion that cannot be controlled. The mister read it on one snowy Sunday and of course, we laid in bed--behind closed doors!--and analyzed its arguments.
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes has really got my head spinning (in a good way). Detailing the history of the homemaker, going back hundreds of years, she makes the case that the homemaker is making a comeback--to the way it was way back when households were units of production, rather than simply units of consumption. You see, homemakers used to produce things in their kitchens and on their land--growing food and preserving it, mostly. But around the 1950s and 60s when all the labor-saving devices and convenience foods and products began freeing homemakers from the "drudgery of the kitchen", Betty Friedan coincidentally documented the "bored housewife syndrome." Homemakers lost their purpose in life and became chauffeurs and shoppers, consumers rather than producers. Hayes' argument is extremely well thought out and laid and I encourage anyone interested in sustainable, low-impact and simple living, to rush out and get it. Get the book directly from Hayes on her website  
Food for thought and thought for food!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pearl the Squirrel

A couple of months ago, I got the best Christmas present ever ... Pearl, the Cairn Terrier. I haven't had my very own dog since I was in high school, so I can't tell you how much this little girl means to me.
Me and the mister had talked about "one day" getting a dog, but with so much going on--the move, impending winter and utter lack of daylight--I had put the idea on hiatus. But back in December, I took a road trip to Chicago with my sweetie's daughter (that's a whole 'nother post!), and as I was driving home, I got a text message from him with a picture of "Bailey" who looked like a sweet, fluffy rat--she was about that size! He had driven several hours to the breeder's farm and bought the dog as an early present for us. But hmmm ... that name. Bailey? Not so much. So I began racking my brain trying to come up with something more fitting. Whenever I'm trying to name something, I start trying on everything for size: "Des Moines Next 5 Exits." Des? Desi? McDonald's. Mac? Maggie? You get the idea. So, as the Roxy Music song "Mother of Pearl" came on my stereo and I was singing "Mother of Pearl ... I wouldn't trade you for another girl ..." I thought "that's IT!" Pearl. Loves it.
So now, as she grows more and more into the Toto dog she is (look at her picture below in my previous post--my, how she's grown!), she picks up a new nickname every day: Pearl the Squirrel (shortened to just "Squirrel" mostly), Pearly Squirrely, Munchie (short for Munchkin), Pearl Girl, and the list goes on. Nickname potential is a very important thing to consider when picking a name for a dog, I've learned!

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Hate To Say It ...

I know this is dangerous ground to tread on, but I know a lot of you will relate. I am SICK and TIRED of social networking! I know, it's ironic that I use twitter, Facebook, etc. to get the word out about this blog, but honestly, most days the whole deal is hard for me to stomach.
You know what I'm talking about... you're perusing your News Feed on Facebook and somebody's cryptic status update catches your eye. You click on "read all comments" and try to figure out what's going on and all it is is a bunch of nonsense, each post more cryptic than the last. Then, you go to that person's page and start mining for details--info tab (has anything changed? relationship status? job? No) ... photos ... wall ... but alas, no details can be found. And then you ask yourself  ... what am I doing? I don't even LIKE this person. Why do I care? And before you know it, you've wasted an hour when you could have been doing something--anything--more meaningful than this rubbish.
And then there's twitter ... it gets worse. Anyone can "follow" you and anyone can open an account with no information attached to it, so in other words, no recourse. (I realize you can limit who can follow you and ban people.) You can say and insinuate anything you want without ever having to take responsibility for it! What could possibly be more perfect for that drunk, solipsistic cyberstalker with time on her hands?
Now, back to Facebook--I'm not done with it yet. What's the deal with all those people collecting "friends" (like who really has 456 real friends?) and the people with more than 200 photos posted of themselves--all of themselves in various poses--with sunglasses! Without! With cocktails! At a bar with hair messed up! Rolling in the grass with flesh-and-blood friends! In a hot tub! Ugh. Do all us "friends" really need to know that much about your alls lives? I just don't get this living-life-through-Facebook phenomenon that's captivating the world. I long for the not-so-distant past (like the 90s!) where a lot of us didn't even have cell phones, let alone FB, Twitter and everything else. I also long for the days of old when I didn't even feel compelled to post something on these sites when something changed in my life ... "I saw a bird out the window!" "My dog took a crap!" (Yep, I'm guilty too.)
To my readers: I apologize for the curmudgeonly rant. I'm not that judgmental. I just wanted to get it off my chest and see if anyone else could relate. Ooh... the UPS truck just drove up! :)