Tuesday, October 13, 2009

unnatural causes

Today's recommendation is the California Newsreel documentary Unnatural Causes, an important documentary that examines how social and economic inequality contributes to the declining life expectancy in the United States, to the decaying social fabric of our society, and many other things. It examines the interrelation of many factors: stress, biology, income, and rather than screeching banshees pointing fingers, the DVD takes a rationalist, biological point of view.

It is a disturbing, upsetting documentary, full of truths you probably don't want to face (or have wanted to avoid thinking about). However, it's one you need to see. It's one you are morally obligated to watch. It's one that examines the few choices we still have, although it may be too late.

The sad truth is, inequality IS making us sick. America is not tenable in its current, apocalyptic, amoral cancerous state of capitalism at all costs. If you don't believe me, watch this masterful 4 hour documentary, and then we'll talk.

The DVD is available only from their site, but here are some
unnatural causes products on amazon

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I am very happy that a woman (Herta Müller) won the Nobel Prize for Literature; however, I must admit that my favorite for some years has been Margaret Atwood. I would really like to see her win this award in her lifetime. Far too many people dismiss her books as soft-sci-fi or dark "chick lit." Those people have obviously never read her work.

When I was fourteen, I read The Handmaid's Tale and I spent almost a decade avoiding her books because I imagined they would not, could not possibly live up and I did not want to deal with that disappointment. When I was in Germany, I wanted to surround myself in English in my free time. To bathe in it. I tried to read German books but I longed for English. Is that weird? So I overcame my reluctance and read almost everything Atwood ever wrote. I hate overwrought food / eating consumption metaphors, but I really did "devour" them. Oryx and Crake, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Cat's Eye... I mean, I read them as fast as Deutsche Post could get them to me. I eventually had to sell them all back at the English bookshop in Berlin to keep my belongings light enough for the airline. The rounded characters, vaguely magical situations and deft, yet unpretentious language really struck a chord with me.

I hadn't been thinking about Atwood much lately, because all of my brain is supposed to be devoted to GRAD SCHOOL. But I was really pulling for her to win a Nobel and recently, I found myself in Borders. Being desperately poor and constantly swamped with stuff to get done, I rarely go into stores - they just make me feel bad - but I saw that she had written a new novel. One about a society in which evil corporations dominate society and own the government, poison citizens, and engineer violence.

No, wait! Actually it's fiction! A novel! About the not-too-distant future!

Although it's probably academic and professional suicide, I bought it and have been reading it. Shh. Don't tell.

Atwood's new book, The Year of the Flood is what I am recommending to you today. Speculative fiction is nearly always about the present, and while there's potential for The Year of the Flood to be heavy-handed and didactic, it's neither of those things. It's about a group of religious vegans (!) who anticipate a corporate-engineered plague.

It reads as engrossingly as any other engaging book about an unsettlingly similar setting, but what's drawing me in (I'm about halfway through) is its detailed ritual and the perfectly-imagined, yet flawed religion created in the Gardeners (who first appeared in Oryx & Crake). I am fascinated by religious culture (not so much by religion itself) and the heteroglossic narration adds dimension, criticism, and comfort to the Gardeners as the backstories are constructed: backstories upon backstories, nuanced and detailed, until the looming apocalypse seems like an after thought.

Like I said. I haven't finished reading it yet, but I recommend The Year of the Flood to you whole heartedly.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

magical thinking

Today's recommendation is not alienating your copyeditor enough such that they ruin your product launch, assuming you have one (a copyeditor) to begin with.

This week, the Red Cross is holding a book/media sale in my town. Because i have SO MUCH time to read things that are not assigned, I made a point to go out there. Support the Red Cross, right? I was mostly looking for ephemeral media.

I was not disappointed. While Thom was seriously looking at serious books, I frolicked over to the PLEASE TAKE THESE DVDs OFF OUR HANDS THEY ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT section and found myself face to face with this.

Look very carefully, dear readers. It says what you think it says.

Yep. that's right! "Kid's Walk" is egregious enough, but that tag line up there? With that charming, homemade attempt at copy editing? Someone actually thought this was a good idea. It is, in and of itself. Teach kids (or: "kid's")...how to walk! And inspire them! With a message telling them...

naturally, I had to purchase it. I have barely been able to keep my hands off it. I can't wait to watch it today and see what it tells me. CAN I DO IT?

Update soon!

Other home fitness products by this woman. Everyone has to make a living. especially me!