Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What I'm Into (March 2013)

It was a busy March this year! St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and all kinds of other things going on. The month flew by. Here's some of what I was up to:

Read and Reading

I've made the goal for the year to read at least one non-fiction and one fiction book each month, because it's too easy to just get sucked in to blog-hopping on my smartphone and never actually read anything of substance (not that blogs can't be substantive, but the brain reacts differently to words on a page versus a screen). In February, I didn't finish a single non-fiction book; in March, I don't think I read a fiction one.

I did return Princess Academy by Shannon Hale on March 2, so I guess we'll count that. It was...fine. Not the best YA novel I've ever read, but not the worst. It did not inspire me to seek Hale's other works.

For non-fiction, I finished Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which I began last month. Maybe I'm naive, but I was not prepared for how devastating this book would be. It's an excellent, excellent book, and Mukherjee does a great job of tracing the history of cancer as seen through the lens of three or four particular kinds of cancer, though he focuses much more on the developments of the last century or so than of any older history of the disease.

But. While I was reading this, one of my good friends at church died of lung cancer. No matter what breakthroughs and success stories Mukherjee found in the treatment of cancer in the last century or so, I know how this story ends: without a cure and, for many, many people, without hope. It was hard to get excited or root for the small successes because I know the ultimate success is still so far out of reach.

Mukherjee is himself an oncologist, which greatly enhanced the book. He conveyed the mixed emotional bag doctors work from--the tension between caring about their patients as people and becoming inevitably, perhaps necessarily, inured to the suffering they see everyday, sometimes not even wanting anymore to fight the temptation to dehumanize their patients. It felt honest because it didn't always reflect well on him, and I appreciated that.

I also sped through In Pursuit of Garlic: An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb by Liz Primeau. While I'm tempted to pick up a copy to have on hand as a reference book (I grow garlic, as does the author), the book was not at all what I expected. I expected some sort of history of garlic, something more...narrative, maybe? But it's actually a garlic reference book (how to grow and cook with garlic) interwoven with a few of the author's personal stories involving garlic, including trips to two different garlic festivals. I don't recommend it as a book to read, but it would be useful if you want a basic introduction into using and growing garlic.

I've said garlic way too many times now in this blog post.


Once Upon a Time, of course, continues to enthrall. Seriously.

Season Two of Game of Thrones came out on DVD, and the DDH, the MIL, and I watched it, having watched Season One together back at Christmas. It may surprise you, knowing what a big fantasy buff I am, but I've never read the books. The DDH has, and has been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to watch the show (we don't have HBO and it's not shown on Hulu or Netflix, so I bought him both seasons for Christmas). Now we have to wait until Season Three is released.

Not for children. Not entirely sure it's for most adults. But it's very, very well done.


We were so, so disappointed by Oz the Great and Powerful. Yes, I'm one of those people who has read the books, but Oz is really a prequel to the iconic movie and not based on the books, and that's fine. EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT IT WAS TERRIBLE.

Part of what bothered me about the movie is that Oz is weirdly anti-woman, even though it made no sense for the story and in complete opposition to the source material. L. Frank Baum was married to Maud Gage Baum, the daughter of the prominent suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, and the Oz books are strongly feminist. Almost all of the major characters are female. They are queens and witches (good and bad) and brave little girls from Kansas and sassy, outspoken hens and the adventures are about them and what they do. They rescue others; the rescue themselves--they are never (or rarely) rescued by men. They form close and powerful female friendships and platonic friendships with men (or male creatures, really; think Toto and the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion), but there are no romantic storylines in the books (at least partly because they are books for young children).

I'm not really one to drone on about wanting my entertainment to conform to some feminist ideal; I don't usually think there's some vast Hollywood conspiracy to present movies that aren't feminist enough. But when the industry takes source material that is so rich with powerful women and turns it into a plot-hole-filled farce about catty females waiting around for a man to step in and rescue them--it makes me wonder. Perhaps if the storyline had been compelling enough, I wouldn't be as bothered by the rest. Unfortunately, the story is so bad and nonsensical that I had way too much time to sit and reflect on all the other problems with the movie.

So. Yeah. There's that.


Speaking of garlic, my trademark Easter recipe (or my mom's trademark Easter recipe) is asparagus with lemon and garlic. It was a smash hit at the in-law's Easter dinner.

Also, the DDH bought me a ceramic cast iron Dutch oven for Valentine's Day and I cook almost everything in it now. I love that thing.


With Easter over so early, April should be a quiet month. I plan to get the garden going and do some other yardwork once the weather remembers that it's spring. 

What were you up to in March? What are you looking forward to in April?

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