Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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iLOL’d: nuttymadam3575.

May 19, 2009

It is imperative in the life of any anti-Twilighter that he or she do two things:

  1. Read the book, and
  2. Watch nuttymadam3575 on YouTube.

I’m working on doing the first (using highlighter markers to point out the terrible parts), and I’ve been doing the second for a while now.  Let me say, this woman’s (girl’s?) videos are hilarious.  From her earliest cries of “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod” to her later “Sick of all the Twilight hate” videos, she succeeds in being a lolcow of epic proportions.  She is to Stephenie Meyer what Chris Crocker is to Britney Spears, and so much more.  Not only has her own behavior become legendary, but she has been mocked or more gently teased in several parody videos (including mine, the Uuuuhmaaaayzing Buuuutt with the guinea pig).  You simply cannot appreciate (or unappreciate) Twilight without seeing her stuff.

Check her out at http://www.youtube.com/user/nuttymadam3575

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iApprove: Stone Age Power.

April 30, 2009

The other day, while browsing Dale McGowan’s blog, I found a link to another blog, which in turn had a page on the Paleo Diet.

I’d heard about the Paleo Diet before, but I hadn’t really given it much thought.  Basically, it’s a low-carb diet that, rather than controlling the food you eat through carbohydrate count, controls your carbohydrate count through the food you eat.  (In other words, you eliminate certain foods from your diet, and you will not be able to consume enough carbohydrates to damage your body.  Genius.)

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I am a low-carber, and it’s done pretty well for me – I’ve managed to halt the dangerous weight gain that I was experiencing as a teenager and even take off a few pounds.  But here’s the thing – I’ve been stalled for the past few years.  I figure it’s mainly my own fault – I hardly ever exercise, and while I follow the basic low-carb tenants, I tend to eat more of things like fruit and bread than my body likes me to ingest.

So I thought to myself that a change might be in order, and I decided to check out the free eBook: Stone Age Power.  (Okay, partially because I thought that a change might be in order.  Mostly because it was free, and what habitual reader is going to pass up a free book?)

When I read a diet book, I tend to evaluate it on a few things:

  1. How much low-fat dogma it espouses.
  2. How much “woo” (attempts to scare me into changing diet) is contained.
  3. How much actual science is used.

The book passed on all counts.  Firstly, the Paleo Diet is not a low-fat diet at all – in fact, there’s even a space where they mention insulin’s role in weight gain (yay!)  Nor is it specifically a high-fat diet – in fact, the goal seems to be to get equal portions of energy from each of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

Woo count was also low.  They explained, as a responsible low-carb diet book must, that the modern American diet is really, really bad for you.  They also included information that linked the dawn of agriculture to the rise of several diseases, which may be completely accurate but still gets them a couple of woo points.  A reference to the modern American diet “killing us” gets a couple more points.  I never did hear them say “OMG!  CANCER!  HEART DISEASE!  DIABEETUS!”  But I’m not sure that diet books do that – I might just be reading PETA’s material too much.

Actual science was a complete win.  The book dives straight in from the very first page, explaining how humans had had millions of years on the sort of diet they described and only a relatively short period – ten thousand years – to adapt to agriculture.  (They did fail to note how some groups – including Indians and the Japanese – had managed to adapt to a grain-based diet through necessity, but this particular oversight has very little impact on my European body.)  They explained how weight gain was caused by two things: an excess of calories (which we knew) and overexposure to insulin (which traditional low-fat diets completely ignore).

Having run it through the “lemon test”, I was now able to evaluate the book on other merits, namely: whether I thought I could follow it without exerting tremendous willpower, and whether it was generally sensible.

I’m sure that for most people, the very nature of the diet would make it seem pretty insensible – cut out all grains, beans, and dairy products?  Come on. But for me, it wasn’t anything more than a more extreme version of what I was already doing.  I already know how to get the missing nutrients from other food, I just don’t generally put it into practice.  So for me it wouldn’t be a huge step.

On the willpower front, the book did something that most books have also failed to do for me: suggest an exercise regime (if you could call it that) that sounded interesting. It’s surprisingly simple: Do something different each day.  The human body is wired for variety, not routines, so shake up your exercise habits.  Do strength training on Monday of one week and Thursday the next.  Walk thirty minutes on Tuesday and forty on Wednesday.  Above all, listen to your body – if you don’t feel like a two-hour walk, don’t do it.  This is also applied to the diet: if you don’t feel like eating one day, then feel like eating everything in sight the next, go with it.  We are flexible little beasties, says Stone Age Power.  Don’t get caught in a rut.

Nearly all of my attempts to exercise regularly have been derailed by a rut.

In the end, I would evaluate the Paleo Diet like any other diet: Don’t try it unless you know what you’re doing.  Chances are, you have been getting your daily requirement of several nutrients from grains and dairy products, and cutting those out will quickly exacerbate the weaknesses in your nutritional system.  Do your research.  Find out where you can get folate, Vitamin D, calcium, and potassium (hint – green vegetables and sunlight).  Consult with your doctor, if you have one.  (If he tells you that you need bread for certain nutrients, get another doctor.)  Find really good recipes for spinach and bone marrow.  Look up anything else that concerns you.

As for me, I think I’ll try it.  My diet could use a good shaking-up, and I could use a bit of exercise.  In fact, right now I’m going to go take a walk chase my dog.

You can download the book at http://www.mattmetzgar.com/matt_metzgar/2006/10/stone_age_power.html

Edit: One thing I neglected to mention is a slight error in the foods that this book allows.  It completely disavows all forms of sugar, including honey, which would have been quite obtainable for the hunter-gatherer – while it permits the domestic banana (an agricultural phenomenon) and the pineapple, which cannot be easily obtained using Stone Age tools.

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iApprove: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

March 24, 2009

A recent YouTube rampage by my sister has dug up one of my favorite childhood curiosities: The Nutcracker. A series of music pieces utilized by numerous ballets based on an old children’s book, any of those ballets, or the book itself, The Nutcracker has made itself an integral part of many people’s childhoods in various forms.

For me, it began with the ballet and the music.  The music I was familiar with through Fantasia, wherein Disney’s artists had transformed an otherwise unremarkable collection of music (to a four-year-old) into a visual masterpiece.  (I thoroughly credit Fantasia for my love of the music.)  The story had been gleaned from someone’s description, or possibly from a viewing of the ballet as a very young child.  As far as I knew, the whole plot was thus: girl meets toy, girl falls in love with toy, girl throws a slipper, toy whisks girl off to Dreamland, endless dancing ensues, girl wakes up and it was all just a dream.   Honestly, I didn’t care for it very much.

I’d say that that all changed as I got older, but that wouldn’t really be true.  However, I was fortunate enough as an older child to get my hands on a copy of the book – the original, warts-and-all, Princess Pirlipat-involving book about a girl named Marie.  I was shocked, to say the least.  I had never heard of these details before, and I had no idea where they had come from.  And besides, Clara was a better name for the heroine.  Aside from the inclusion of the Nutcracker’s backstory, I didn’t really care for it.

Then came the YouTube rampage.

Now, looking back on the story, I realize that there is something elegant about it.  About Godfather Drosselmeier, the leering, slightly insane yet brilliant and well-loved tinkerer.  About the nutcracker, a hideous yet strangely charming figure, a child’s toy and a useful tool in one, ever courageous in the face of his extended misfortunes.   About Marie, too; one of very few children who, already at that tender age, had developed a capacity to love so much more than the surface.  There is a certain amount of ambiguity that I don’t particularly care for, but when I look back on it, the story is revealed with some sincerity; Drosselmeier, for all his hand-waving and dismissals of Marie’s claims, seems to be putting on an act for stiff-lipped, sane adults who wouldn’t understand the situation.  It is a story that is rarely done justice, and I would love to see it unfurl sometime in the manner for which it was written.

(Tim Burton, I’m talking to you.)

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iApprove: Shakespeare: The Complete Works.

December 27, 2008

I was going to write a poem about it.  A really COOL poem, with iambic pentameter and all that.  But I think I’m too tired, so I’ll just keep this short.

Although I haven’t had an opportunity to spend a lot of time reading it just yet, I’m enjoying what I’ve been reading so far (Romeo and Juliet, strictly for research purposes).  I admit that the rather dry (well, archaic more than dry) writing put me off at first, but once I got through that it occured to me that the characters were quite colorful and entertaining.  (“Woe is me, my one true love is my greatest enemy!”  “Juliet, what the heck are you on about?”)  (Also, “You kiss by the books!” – best romantic line EVER.)  Suffice it to say that I’m finding it quite an entertaining read.

Strangely, though, the more I read it the more it’s occuring to me that the fairy-oriented quotient of The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns is a complete, point-by-point reproduction of the story.  Mickey Muldoon is Romeo, Princess Jessica is Juliet, the Grand Banshee is the prince… etc.  The funny thing is, I think the movie was an improvement over the original (no offense to Shakespeare, but his main characters are driving me nuts).  At least now I understand why Mickey had to kill Count Grogan…

But anywho, I think that’s enough for tonight.  I recommend this book for people who like Shakespeare but don’t have his stuff, people who like classic literature but don’t have Shakespeare, people who are interested in classic literature but don’t have anything, and/or people who just want to read classic literature without being reminded of how wonderful it is by some snobby English teacher.

(P.S. It helps if you read the dialogue naturally, rather than by verse.)

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iApprove: Discworld.

November 14, 2008

I am a picky reader of fantasy novels.  They need to be good enough to keep me entertained for hours, short enough that they don’t have to, or both.  Consequentially, this rules out a lot of novels.  Eragon, for example.  When I read that particular book, it took me a week to get through because the prose bored me out of my mind.

On the other hand, it took me less than a day to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

One series of books that is both good enough and short enough is the Discworld series, by Terry Pratchett.  A fractured fantasy series set on the mythical Disc, the series covers a myriad of stories about different people having different adventures, and does so with a brilliantly self-aware British wit.  Pratchett knows exactly how everything works, and he won’t hesitate to tell you — the good, the bad, and the silly.  There is no coating of fairy dust over the functions of his world; things simply function the way you would expect them to function if real people ran a fairytale land.  But it isn’t all gritty realism; the Disc does run under its own set of rules, most of which obey the laws of good theatre.

This whole mishmash of things manages to balance itself quite well, providing a world that is both unbelievable and oh-so-familiar, with characters who are bold enough to break free of traditional fantasy molds and work their world for everything it’s worth.  And also some mighty fantastic luggage.

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iApprove: “Skipping Christmas.”

October 28, 2008

If you were around a few Christmases ago (and if not, welcome back from your extended coma) you probably remember a movie called “Christmas with the Kranks”.  It featured a couple who, facing their first Christmas without their daughter at home, decided that they were going to skip their lavish annual Christmas party and do something entirely non-Christmas related.  Unfortunately, shortly before Christmas, daughter calls and declares that she’s coming home after all.  Whoops!

Cue pandemonium as parents try to scrape together a Christmas party in approximately a day and a half.

Well, before the story was a movie, it was a book: Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham.  Not a very long read, but an entertaining one, Skipping Christmas tells the entire story of the Krank’s attempts to bail out on Christmas and go on cruise, only to be foiled by their daughter’s return, and with 100% less Botox than the movie.