July 2007

I’m on deadline today so of course I’m procrastinating, which means I had time to write a new nervous breakdown. Yay for you guys! For some of you it might be a repeat, but it’s a good one so you should read it. I should warn you though, it’s a bit long. Sorry!

Also, I finished another book this weekend.

I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s a fictional memoir about a hermaphrodite who was raised as a girl. She learned at puberty that she should have actually been raised as a boy and she decides to change genders. It’s an interesting book about a group not often talked about in the mainstream. It’s also REALLY long. It goes through three generations, beginning in 1922 and ending in 2001, aka 529 pages. I’d recommend it though if you want to learn more about hermaphroditism and what causes it.


So, I realize I’m a little late to the game on The Kite Runner. I had avoided for a long time because I judged it by its cover and decided it would be too scary/disturbing for me. But then my book club picked it this month for our reading selection and I finally picked it up. Parts of the book were disturbing, but I’m glad I finally read it, and in only two days no less (it’s one of those books you can’t put down until you know what finally happens).

The Kite Runner is an amazing tale in a setting largely unknown to westerners before September 11. Hosseini does a wonderful job of describing Afghanistan both before and after the Taliban. Some of the plot twists were predictable, but it didn’t make the read any less enjoyable. Some of the imagery was difficult for me to swallow, especially the scenes of abuse and of the Taliban, but I got through it and was glad I did. I highly recommend this book for a more insightful look at a country torn apart by war for more than two decades.

I feel like it’s been forever since I wrote something on here. I’ve been busily trying to rid myself of all possessions I won’t be able to take with me to France. Meanwhile, I’ve also been trying to see all the beauties of California before I leave. This past weekend I got to go to the ever-amazing Yosemite National Park with a group of friends. We camped and rock climbed for two days and it pretty much made my year, although I’m still hoping to hike Half Dome before I fly out of here.

Other than that I don’t have much news to share. I’ve given away pretty much all of the books anybody would be willing to take, yet I somehow still have packed four boxes of books to store at my brother’s house. Plus, I’m shipping a box of French books and textbooks to myself in France. How’s that even possible?

As for my recent reading I’ve finished three more books and am halfway through another, so it’s time for some more reviews for you:

Book 24: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink is a book about thinking without thinking. In other words it’s about all of the little things our brain picks up and reacts to without us even realizing it’s happening. Gladwell discusses how we pick up on a person’s mood by their subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) facial expressions.  There’s a section on how we profile people based on how they look and talk without even realizing we’re doing it. He even provides a link to a Harvard study that shows whether our subconscious is racist without us knowing it. You can take the test, among others, here.

Another section discusses how autistic people lack the ability to make these split second decisions our brain makes for us. We instinctively know what someone is thinking or where we should look if there’s a loud noise to our left, but autistics have to be told these things specifically. Gladwell cites a number of studies that show just how important our subconcious is in our everyday lives.

Overall I thought the book was really interesting, although I wish there would have been more about the science or physiology of how our brain makes these instantaneous decisions for us.

Book 25: God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau

God Grew Tired of Us is an amazing book about survival under the most impossible of circumstances. Dau was one of thousands of “Lost Boys” from Sudan. His tribe was attacked by Djeballahs in the 80s and he was forced to flee his homeland in southern Sudan after losing his family. He walked for some four months to the closest neighboring nation. Along the way he nearly starved to death. He was beaten by other Djeballahs. He was nearly killed by crocodiles. After about two years of living as a refugee he was forced to move again, walking with thousands of other boys to Kenya, which was hundreds of miles away. They were forced to walk through enemy territory where some of the boys were picked off and killed.

Once in Kenya, the Lost Boys lived as refugees but they were finally able to get some schooling and build housing. Dau lived there for many years before finding out he could move to America as a refugee.

Seeing the juxtaposition of his life in Africa and his life in America made me really appreciate all of the luxuries we have here (fresh water, electricity, etc.). His reaction to this new land is worth the entire read. He and the other refugees are fascinated by small things like running water and street lights.

Dau is starring in a documentary of the Lost Boys, which won acclaim at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. He has also begun a charity to raise money to build a health clinic in his original village in Sudan. If you’re interested in Africa and the troubles in Sudan I’d recommend this book.

Book 26: A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A Piece of Cake is a memoir that recounts the author’s early struggles, including finding her mom dead one morning when she was only 11 years old, being given to a foster home where she was then raped and beaten regularly, becoming a runaway and a prostitute, and later becoming a drug addict and alcoholic. Reading this book was difficult because I couldn’t even begin to imagine going through all the hell this girl went through, and almost all before she was even 14 years old. I don’t know how she even managed to live through it.

The book is good, although toward the end I started to feel like it was a book written for drug addicts and alcoholics in rehab. I thought maybe that’s what Brown does now and she gives this book to all the new patients so they can see that life really isn’t that bad and if she can make it through anybody can. For the most part though it was a great book and a true story of survival and recovery.

This morning I was walking to the store and I suddenly remembered the saddest thing about moving to France: No Mexican food.

Growing up in California, I’ve pretty much had Mexican food at my fingertips my whole life. Not only that, but I’ve taken on a slight addiction to it. In fact, I pretty much eat some form of Mexican cuisine every single day. Part of the reason I eat so much of it is that it’s fairly inexpensive for the amount you can get.

But in France, where the land of rice, beans and tortillas isn’t just beyond the border, Mexican food is EXPENSIVE. An example: A Corona in Sacramento bars costs on average $2. In France you’d be lucky to get a Corona for $6. The Mexican food section at a French grocery store takes up about six inches of space. The variety is this: salsa and tortilla chips. There are no refried beans. There are no chilis or sauces or tamale wraps. And like I said it’s not cheap.

And don’t even think of ordering a Mexican dish at a restaraunt. Trust me, it’s a mistake. I ordered nachos once and it was tortilla chips, lettuce, salsa and sour cream. But not even real salsa, it was like tomato sauce with some tomato chunks thrown in to give it a salsa look.

Oh, I’m so sad right now. And starting today I’m going to be gorging myself on Mexican food so by the time I leave I’ll be so sick of Mexican food I’ll be glad for the reprieve.

Hahaha, if I was in broadcast news, I would probably have a breakdown on live TV because of stories that I don’t think belong on the news. And that breakdown would probably look a little like this.

I went to the dentist today because I’ve been having really terrible tooth pain lately. It’s been less than six months since my last check up and round of fillings, so my dentist was pretty surprised when she found that I have a couple of teeth in desperate need of fixing. I have three new cavities and at least three cracked fillings. My dentist asked if I’ve been under a lot of stress. I said no because I pretty much just laze by the pool all day. But I have been having really bad nightmares for the past couple of weeks and I often wake up with my teeth clenched together.

I didn’t really notice the teeth-clenching thing until my teeth started hurting every day. Once I noticed I tried keeping my mouth open a little when I sleep or unclenching my teeth if I caught myself clenching them. Unfortunately the damage is already done though. I have to have at least $1,200 of work done and if I’m feeling really flamboyant I can get some optional work done for an extra $1,700. Shyeah right.

Whatevs. I’m just going to count on my now-trusty orajel for relief on the days after a bad nightmare. Perhaps in the meantime I should try focusing on happy thoughts before bed so as not to upset the dream fairy.

Seriously, junk mail today is so much more fun to read. Only, I wish people would learn to spell or use the correct homonym in a sentence. Just saying.

Here you go:

“It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is often difficult to paint a picture of someone with words, yet I believe that sometimes you can often perceive things about someone when you really pay attention. Can you remember a person from your past who caused you to feel absolutely wonderful, who could make you melt, just with a certain look. Perhaps they could just say something in such a way that caused you to notice incredible sensations through your whole being. Mabey you can even remember fun times and exciting experiences. Now, I don’t know weather or not I will totally remind you of those things, yet you may notice many of those characteristics in me. Now, I find that when you open up completely to that special place, deep inside, where all those incredible feelings and experiences just begin to happen, it’s just like when you realize that sometimes you can feel totally connected to a person naturally, as if destiny has created this opportunity for you now. Now, as you ponder on these things through out today, I don’t want you to write to me any faster than you can realize that when a person opens up to new, exciting and wonderful experiences, that is how meaningful experiences naturally occur. If you would like to know more about me, please write.”

Gotta love myspazz.