That's My Boy!

I'm mostly posting this for the last two/three minutes of the video where my boy does a rap for the environment, but it actually is a really great and educational video and well worth your time:

I'm so proud of my boy Abramz, he's saving the world in just Sooo many ways! He rocks! He's currently tops on my list for living heroes.


Women And Peace.

Involving women in the peace building process of any country recovering from war has been an interest of mine for a couple of years now, since I started to more seriously research the psychological effects of war on children. This interest was further explored by me during my trip to Uganda, where it was often a topic of discussion as the Juba Peace Talks were beginning their long journey to which the finish is still not in sight. This is a topic that I would like to further explore eventually through my work and definitely through keeping up on readings, which brought this speech to my attention. Presented by Donald Steinberg, Vice President, International Crisis Group, to UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Townhall Meeting on December 6, 2007, this speech is called "Beyond Victimhood: Involving Women in Peace Operations."

The first sentence that caught my attention was: It took me only a few weeks after my arrival in Luanda to realise that a peace agreement that is “gender-neutral” is, by definition, discriminatory against women. This sentence struck me because it just highlights how patriarchal most countries and cultures still are. Steinberg goes on to discuss how he discovered this fact when councils and meetings that were open to both sexes ended up being attended only by men. The reasons why this was so were not explicitly explored by Steinberg, but it's easy to give the reasons if you've have any knowledge on cultural structures in Africa. Most women are expected to care for the children and run the family. Leaving the home for any reason is often strictly forbidden, as in many countries women are not even allowed to work. To leave the family to attend a meeting is completely out of the question for many women, and so in making the peace agreement what Steinberg considered "gender-neutral" (because there were no genders identified in the document) was actually not gender-neutral because it was written by men and in the context of a man's world. Men attend meetings away from home, at least in the cultures we're speaking of, not often women. In order to be completely inclusive of both sexes, keeping women's lifestyles and responsibilities in mind mind is essential. Instead of having a town-hall-type-meeting, could they instead go into the villages and take the effort to walk from home to home to discuss the issues with the women? Maybe even have small gatherings at a couple of different homes where the women can bring their children. These are the considerations necessary in a world that is still rigidly defined by gender roles.

The next sentence that I was jumping out of my chair saying, "Yes! Yes! Why didn't I think of putting it that way?" was: Given the prominence of sexual abuse during the conflict, including rape as a weapon of war, amnesties meant that men with guns forgave other men with guns for crimes committed against women. I seriously got goosebumps with that sentence because it's something that happens in so many post-conflict situations and is a serious injustice to the Actual victims of the wars. Women and children are used as weapons in many wars, through rape or use of child soldiers, and yet they are ignored in the peace building processes. It's infuriating at the very least and completely unjust.

Steinberg outlines the current challenges facing women in the peace building process as:
  • Courageous and talented women trying to help build peace around the world still face discrimination in legal, cultural and traditional practices.
  • We have been unable to expand the scale of outstanding conflict resolution done by women’s organisations at local levels and extend them writ large throughout their countries.
  • Sexual violence and threats against women in power impose a stigma of victimisation and a real danger that makes even the most impressive and courageous women think twice before stepping forward.
  • Men leading peace conferences still exclude women or shunt them off to ante-rooms while “real” negotiations take place.
Steinberg outlines some good issues that are keeping women sidelined in many peace building processes, and he continues the article by offering some proposals on how to further correct this problem. Some of the proposals are more vague than others, but I particularly liked the one about rebuilding social structures of particular importance to women, because if you know anything about women in many high conflict areas is that they do not care about social change if they can't feed and take care of their children. Helping women meet their basic needs gives them the freedom to join the more social causes and the peace building process.

Overall I felt that Steinberg made some strong points about involving women in the peace building process. I wished the article went more in depth, but any focus or discussion on this topic is strongly encouraged and appreciated by me! Focusing on women's special needs in post-conflict nations is still a fairly young concept that is gaining more traction as of late and something that someday I hope to contribute to.

I'll leave you with a quote that one of my co-workers shared with me today... now she shared it with me verbally so she wasn't even sure she got it right and she couldn't remember who said it, so it might be slightly off, but you'll get the point (by the way, if you know the complete quote or who said it, please leave a comment with the info):

If we raised our children we wouldn't have to heal our adults.


Asian Fun's Favorite Christmas Gift.

ENVIROSAX - reusable shopping bags that are spreading the environmental message with style. Driven by a desire for freedom, the designers at Envirosax® will have you considering, pondering and re-thinking shopping as you know it.

Basically, these are cute reusable shopping bags! Before all you could find were those canvas, rough looking hippy dippy reusable shopping bags. Now you can be environmentally sound and stylish! I'm all about reusable shopping bags and these were just too cute to pass up. You can buy the bags separately or buy a set in the graphic series (pictured here), or you can go even more environmental and buy bamboo, hemp or linen bags (all with adorable designs as well) in the organic series!

I think these bags are the perfect gift not only because you're encouraging a friend, family member or co-worker to be environmentally sound, but also they're pretty cute and kick ass. They have styles for everyone and are seriously cool. I gifted myself with some while I was buying some for my friend and cousin! Hey, there's nothing wrong with that, after all, I'm saving the Earth, right?


The Golden Compass: A Movie Review

The day it opened, I grabbed my trusty hubby and dragged him to The Golden Compass. I was so excited for this movie, I was twittering the whole day to see it. I settled into my movie theater seat with my snuck in candy and anticipated the Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter book turned to movie, thrilling big fantasy experience. And then I waited. And kept waiting.

While the acting was great, the movie fell flat. And it wasn't just me, who had read and adored the books, but my hubby too, who usually loves the fantasy kid book movies. The flow of the movie was rough, almost like the editing for the movie wasn't finished, and the story seemed to be sped through with little development. The characters also weren't developed in a natural way, and in the end I was just left with disappointment at what the movie could have been... an epic movie of huge proportions much like The Lord of the Rings trilogy had been. Instead it ended up being no better than the cartoon recreation of The Lord of the Rings that I had watched as a child. Recreating the story in a very linear and flat fashion without adding anything to it, and in fact even detracting from it.

And don't even get me started on the corny Disney-ish fairytale music. The book was edgy and harsh, shining light on the ugly sides of human nature and the dangers of an Authoritarian entity running people's lives. The Disney-ish fairytale music completely contrasted the plot and the tone of the book, as if attempting to make the story something it's not. There never was this huge sense of foreboding that the book had, and I really disliked the narrator explaining dust at the beginning of the movie. Part of the enjoyment of reading the book was learning about it as Lyra did and trying to figure it out almost like a mystery. Why did the movie just ruin that for the viewers?

Overall, the movie was a huge disappointment and while I'll probably watch the next one to see if it's any better, I'll go in with much lower expectations then I went to The Golden Compass with.

Everything Rests On This...

...Oh wait, no it doesn't! Hype hype hype. I won't deny that this is a big game for the Steelers, it was a big game on our schedule from Week 1 because the Patriots are always a tough team for us to play not matter how either of our seasons are going, just like the Jags are (who we're facing next week). But if we lose, I'm pretty confident we'll still win our division and get to the Playoffs. And isn't that the whole point? When we last won the Super Bowl we had an embarrassing loss to the Colts during regular season and then proceeded to dominate them (despite the close/crazy ending of the game) in the Playoffs. So a loss today does not crown the Patriots as the Super Bowl winners of the 2007 season at all, like the media and the bandwagoners would surely do if the Patriots win. And I definitely would not go so far as to say that if the Patriots win today that they will for sure go undefeated this season. After all, wasn't it the 1-6 Miami Dolphins who beat the at the time unbeaten Chicago Bears in Week 9 last year? You never know who's going to pop up and bite you in the butt in this league and I wouldn't be surprised if the lowly Jets or the other New York team... or even those sneaky Dolphins come up and surprise us all. Sure, it's a long shot, but isn't the sixth seed of the Playoffs winning the Super Bowl a long shot too?

That being said, I want to kick the crap out of the New England Patriots. But if we lose, my life isn't over and neither is the Steelers' season. I'd rather lose to an undefeated Patriots to than to the lowly N.Y. Jets after all...

On the other side of the league it's actually true that everything rests on the game today for the Minnesota Vikings, but that's just because every game for the Vikes is now essential for us to make the Playoffs. There's a possibility that if we lose one game that we could still make it, but we'd need a lot of help from other teams in order to do so. But if we win out, we're in. Our destiny's in our own hands and everybody's calling us to make the Playoffs with the sixth seed. So what do the Vikings usually do when our destiny's in our own hands? Fumble it. Let's hope this is a different Vikings team this year and that we pull it out in the end and make the Playoffs for the first time since 2004. I'm tentatively excited about the Vikings right now...


Quotes of the Day.

We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it.
- Dave Barry

If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.
- George C. Marshall


Turkey Break!

I will be taking a short (week long) break from blogging due to mass amounts of turkey consumption...

...and I'm still recovering from the depression of the Purple Jesus injury and the Steelers losing to the Jets.

The JETS?!?!? Really, guys?? WTF?

But I'm not a completely bad blogger, here for your entertainment while I'm away is the best Big Ben video game Ever... actually, it might be the only Big Ben video game, but yeah, it rocks. Thanks to Mondesi's House for the link and thanks to Doubt About It for making the video game. Hours of entertainment right here baby!


Cross Country Girls Are Tough Cookies!

I mean, just look at me! Yes, I ran cross country in high school, couldn't you tell by my hardiness?

Thanks to The Big Lead for this vid:

This is rather tremendous, and the unidentified girl may have a chance to enjoy 15 minutes of fame once her name becomes public: at about the 1:39 mark of this clip, you’ll notice a blonde Berkshire (Ohio) high school runner approaching the finish line at the State cross country meet recently. She takes a bad step and, according to the person who sent us this clip, broke her tibia and fibula. She crumbles to a heap on the ground, crawls for a bit and then pops back up in an attempt to reach the finish line. Only she collapses again (that fall is particularly cringe-worthy). At this point, she decides to crawl on her hands and knees for about the final eight yards to the finish line. Spectacular work, unidentified female. And kudos to our tipster for video.

Update: Through the power of the internet … we have more information. Fanhouse dug around and found out the girl’s name is Claire Markwardt (she’ll be getting a call from Matt Lauer any minute now), and she was supposed to be the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding that night.


The Vagina Monologues.

So I randomly bought the October issue of SELF magazine right before I went to Denver. I say randomly because I don't buy magazines ever and I've never read SELF. But this SELF issue had a huge piece on Breast Cancer, which I was really interested in, and had an article on Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy so of course I was all about that.

Now I don't read magazines much and so I'm just getting to the end of this issue when I find an article on women having cosmetic surgery on their genitals!! From injecting the mythical (and unproven) G-Spot with liquid similar to the lip injections (collagen) to make it more "plump" and sensitive (for about $1,850) to cosmetic labia reshaping, vaginal tightening, liposuction of the mons pubis and reduction of the skin around the clitoris, apparently this is all the rage now.

Here's a testimony from the article on the G-Spot injection:
"It's like having a mini-heartbeat in my crotch," she explains, a sensation that arouses her even during yoga and Spinning classes, or when she drives along bumpy roads. During sex, Staltare says, she has volcanic, multiple orgasms "like huge waves that keep lifting me higher and higher."
When confronted about the fact that it has not been scientifically proven that the "G-Spot" has any sexual powers, Dr. Matlock (from the E! channel show Dr. 90210 who routinely performs these sorts of procedures) asks "Does God exist?" You can hear the sound, scientific reasoning behind that response...

I can understand why a women would do the G-Spot injection if she was struggling to have an orgasm, I've known girls who have gotten their clitoris pierced for the same reason, but the price tag for the inject (which usually wears off in about four months) is a little steep to me, especially since you know insurance would never cover it.

But it's the vagina reshaping surgery that really baffles me. One young college student who had labia reshaping surgery states:
"I've never wanted my boobs done or any kind of plastic surgery, but my labia made me very uncomfortable."
The self-consciousness started, she says, when she noticed that her labia minora was longer than those of other girls. And then, of course, a boyfriend of hers made her aware of the labia reshaping surgery when she confided her labia insecurities to him. First of all, how the heck did she notice other girls' labia? I played a sport in high school (well, ran cross country), gone to the gym, changed in front of numerous girlfriends, even showered with a girlfriend once in a time pinch (and in a rather large shower, so don't get any ideas!), and I have not Once seen another girl's vagina or noticed her labia. The surgery for this girl deformed her labia more since they just sliced it and she was left with a whole lot of bleeding and with the labia unevenly cut at an angle. She ended up having to pay for more surgery to reconstruct her labia totaling her costs to nearly $14,000 out of pocket.

I'm completely aghast at this obsession for the "perfect vagina." I'm already quite disdained at the country's obsession with perfection and beauty, but this is literally taking it too far. Who decides what a "sexy" vagina looks like? The article states that doctors have treated patients for labia reshaping from the ages of 14 to 60! I personally think it should be consider neglect for parents to let their child get this surgery. A doctor states that he is helping these people because they're so self conscious that they won't wear a bathing suit at the beach. While I'm completely confused as to how a large labia would be obvious enough in a bathing suit to cause embarrassment, I'm extremely annoyed that young girls can just walk in and get this surgery with little difficulty. Even for Gastric Bypass there is an extensive psychological work done beforehand to make sure that it is a medical necessity and not just for looks or because someone doesn't feel like working the weight off. Now I know GB is a lot more intrusive than labia surgery, but labia surgery can definitely go wrong and can actually be so painful that sex is not possible or even desensitize the area so the woman has little to no sexual feeling left afterwards. Overall, there has been very little proof that these surgeries lead to long-term happiness in women or that there aren't any complications down the road, and mostly this proof has not been gathered because the doctors who are providing these procedures are unwilling to share their client list in order to conduct research on their effectiveness. Their reluctance is proof enough to me that this surgery is completely unnecessary and useless and the doctors know it.

I mean what else can women be made to be insecure about? I wouldn't say that I'm always happy with my body and I'm definitely not perfect. Hell, my boobs are completely different cup sizes! But has that ever bothered me or my husband? Other than bra shopping, not at all. And hey, if my husband had to pick my breasts out of a boob line-up, he'd know mine right away. Plus, I think he likes the variety. So why not take your "imperfections" and view them as unique special things about yourself instead of things that need to be fixed? Because frankly, once these women get their vagina surgery done I guarantee you they will find something else they hate about themselves in no time...

Gimme Some Of That PJ Action...

So on 11.05.2007 I blogged about the cool Purple Jesus tee from 289 except that they didn't have them in women's styles. Yesterday I received a comment on my blog for that post from the guys at 289 saying that they heard my request and have added women styles for the PJ tee (they are now at the bottom of the page). How freaking cool is that? I promptly ordered one and you should too. Right now. Come on, all the cool kids are doing it.

Seriously though, that is the best customer service EVER!


So Let's Talk Patriots.

Now that New England beat Indy and My Steelers had such a strong showing against Baltimore, the discussion has moved to the only team left on the schedule that even has a chance of beating the Patriots, according to the media at least. But even though the Steelers are in the discussion as the only team that could beat the Patriots, truthfully nobody's giving them a chance. New England is the "Golden" team (puke puke puke), infallible and unbeatable (well, except for the cheating and all that, but that's been quickly brushed aside by their crushing of every team in their path). Has anybody mentioned their fairly easy schedule with their incredibly easy division? The Patriots have squeezed into the playoffs many times due to their awful division and now they continue to benefit from it. But besides all that, the Steelers are already out of the picture as far as the playoff goes to the all-knowing sports experts since they are already talking about the Indy-New England rematch for the AFC Title. Well, all I can say is that Nobody, except for Steelers fans, thought that Pittsburgh would make it as the sixth seed to Super Bowl XL, and so I'm content with letting Pittsburgh fly under the radar again but boy will I be doing the biggest "I told you so" dance when they do make it to the Super Bowl... or at least when they beat the Patriots in Week 14.

Obviously this is a game Pittsburgh could lose, but it's also a game they could win and I'll tell you why. First of all, let's compare and contrast the Steelers to the Colts since they are the only team that has come close to beating the Patriots. Granted the Colts have a better offense than the Steelers when completely healthy, but their offense was minus Marvin Harrison and that brings their offense down a notch and considering that we've put up 222 points this year, I think it puts us close to the level of the Colts offensively (at least when they played New England). And our offense is more balanced then it has ever been. When Willie can't run, Ben puts up the TDs. Ben is second in the league with TDs (behind Brady) with 20 TDs and has three games in which he's scored 4 TDs. And when Willie can run, you know the boy can run! We're playing smart football with only 6 interceptions this year and have been clicking well offensively. So in the context of the Colts game against the Patriots this past week, let's call it close to even, you can even give the edge to the Colts just because of Peyton, though Ben's actually having a better year than Peyton.

Now here's where we can beat the Patriots, our Defense. Our Defense has been on fire this year and is unequivocally better than the Colts' D. Historically Brady doesn't play as well against 3-4 defenses. Why? Because he's a pocket passer. Yeah yeah, him and Peyton are the best QBs in the league, but only in the pocket. I'm not saying that they Never make plays outside of the pocket, but rarely and even when they do often it's by design and not forced (for example a Sprint Right play call). Brady can move vertically in the pocket, but not horizontally well and this is where Blitzburgh comes in. Playing the Ravens our Blitz got to McNair multiple times and resulted in four sacs and a couple fumbles. This was a healthy O-Line that is supposed to be one of the better Lines in the league. The Patriots' O-Line is top notch, no doubt, but we can get to Brady. And if we get to Brady he will throw interceptions, I can guarantee that. Our Run D's pretty good too - 4th in the league for rushing yards allowed.

Now let's talk about the guy I consider the best QB in the league outside of the pocket. Big Ben's escape abilities are become mythic and historically incredible. But even more incredible is his accuracy outside of the pocket. This is not a new thing with him. Ben had a better passer rating outside of the pocket than in it his rookie year and I think one of his problems last year was that due to his multiple injuries and health issues he was a lot more tentative to roll out of the pocket and scramble around. But now Ben Is Back. I will say that the Brady-Moss connection is far superior than anything we could offer, but our running game is stronger and our D matches up well against Brady and his offense. I will definitely give the edge to the Patriots on special teams, though Sepulveda has been a great punter for us this year, our returns and return coverage are average at best.

A couple of Steelers stats I pulled from Dave's Football Blog who in turn pulled them from MJD:

• 2nd in the league in rushing yards per game (behind only Minnesota, who received a sizable boost this weekend, courtesy of the San Diego Chargers)
• 1st in time of possession per game
• 1st in 3rd down conversion percentage
• 1st in the league in passing yards per game allowed
• 4th in rushing yards per game allowed
• T-2nd in the NFL in sacks
• 4th in the NFL in opposing QB passer rating

I won't say that it's a lock that we'll win this game because the Patriots are tough and have always been a tough competition for us, but I will say that we can definitely win this game and I personally believe we will.

Too bad we have to wait until Week 14 to find out!

Actually I'm more worried about the Jags game we have right after the Patriots because of how we match up against them...


The Otti Files.

So is he dead or isn't he? The controversy continues as Joseph Kony and the LRA adamantly deny that former deputy to Kony, Vincent Otti, is dead. Instead, they say that he has cholera, but I say former deputy because Kony has appointed a new deputy. Hmm, why appoint a new deputy if the current one is still alive? And the new deputy? The honorable Okot Odhiambo who is said to have commanded the LRA massacre in Barlonyo IDP camp in Lira district in February 2004, where over 300 people were burnt, shot and hacked to death. He also reportedly coordinated raids on civilians in Kitgum in March 2005. The New Vision

And why does this sound like a really bad idea to me? 450 people are to visit Kony in his secret hideout to consult with him and share their point of view. Yeah, okay, so this could turn out to be a good thing, no doubt, but I give a lot of props to those people who have been terrorized by the LRA for all these years to go into his secret camp to talk to him in order to build the trust for the peace talks. Me, personally? That'd scare the shit out of me.

And this is never good to hear... actually, I'm glad my mom doesn't read my blog much (if at all) because if she read this she'd never let me go out of the country for humanitarian work again. When I told her I wanted to goto Africa last year she hung up the phone on me. I can't even imagine what she'd have done if she'd read this article first. Lock me in her basement?

"I hate losing to the Steelers."

Okay, I Know I've posted this video on my blog before, but considering Deebo's recent coming out party, I just thought I'd post it again as a reminder of his badass tackle on one retarded/drunk Browns fan.

I think the Browns better get used to losing to us because I don't see that changing Anytime soon.

Thanks to Mondesi's House for bringing this vid back to my attention and for a great post on the Steelers!


Many of you may not have realized that today is Election Day. It is very important that you vote...

...So click here and here to vote for Adrian Peterson, click here to vote for Big Ben and click here to vote for James Harrison.

Thanks for contributing to this very important cause and making a difference!

Harrison (and The Steelers) Pound The Ravens. Literally.

So I had a very good (and drunken) night last night! Hubby and I went to a local bar known to lean towards the Steel Curtain side of life and watched the complete domination over the Ravens. So I definitely had a couple of beers and inhaled a ton of second hand smoke (ugh, gross!) and cheered a whole lot. I also think I went on a drunken text messaging and emailing rampage to just about everyone I know about how bad ass my Steelers are!! Apologies if you were a recipient of either, I really have no idea who I emailed or texted. I think I pretty much was just replying to whoever was in my Inbox.

No new news on Ben's hip injury. He definitely was limping a little at the end of the game when he was walking off the field, but it seems that Ben and Tomlin are being very quiet on the topic since hubs and I stayed up to watch the post-game interviews and neither were even asked about it! I'm guessing they made the topic off limits with the reporters. I'm hoping that it was just a stinger and nothing serious. The fact that he went out and played a series somewhat comforts me but not completely. Ben's strength is his ability to move out of the pocket and if he's limited in that way then that will definitely change how well he plays. Though I just have to say, if he needs to sit out a game then next week's the game to do it. Luckily we actually have an easy stretch coming up in which he can recover with the Browns, Jets and Miami on the docket, so he definitely has time to recover before the Patriots game, which is huge. I just hope he doesn't push himself to get back in too soon like he tends to do because we really need him for that Patriots game, while for the next three I think Batch will do just fine. And just a Miami Alum ranting side note, yeah, all those people who kept saying Ben just "manages" the game and doesn't have the arm or accuracy to be a truly great QB, eat it! In torrent sideways rain Ben made five TDs and a couple of them were purely out of Ben's effort of scrambling out of the pocket, shrugging off tackles and putting the ball perfectly in his receiver's hands. I think he looked like a pretty elite QB last night, and pretty much this whole season for the matter. And I like how people like to point out that he played badly during the Super Bowl but totally forget how well he played in the playoffs and how he pretty much carried the team through the playoffs. Okay, rant over.

Oh, and Joey Who? Yeah, I think the Steelers continue to prove that they know Exactly when to let a player go. James Harrison (nicknamed Deebo and Silverback by his teammates) was seriously amazing last night! Just to put it in perspective, here are his stats for the game: 9 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 3 Force Fumbles, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Interception. And beyond that, he's been having a good year, so he's no one-hit-wonder here. Statistically he's our best Defensive player right now leading in Tackles, Sacks and Fumble Recoveries, and is within the top five for Assists and Interceptions.

Isn't it funny that they have the Steelers vs. Miami game on MNF in a couple of weeks? I guess they thought Joey Porter coming back to Pittsburgh would be big drama, but now that MNF game is looking to be pretty lame to all football fans but Steelers fans.

Update: I guess some reporters did ask about Ben's injury in the post-game interview with Tomlin, but for some strange reason it didn't make the TV clips on NFL Network. Here's what he said (basically exactly what Hubby and I thought almost word for word):

(Reporter) How is Roethlisberger after being in injured at the 6:04 mark of the third quarter?

(Tomlin) I think he’s going to be fine. I know that you guys need some information in that regard, so I will speculate. At this point, it’s a hip pointer. I think that’s all it is, of course we will confirm in the morning.

(Reporter) Why did you put him back in the game?

(Tomlin) So you wouldn’t ask me as many questions. No, he was fine after the initial pain subsided and we identified what we thought it was. He was fine to go back in the game. He felt strongly about it. He is persuasive.

That Big Ben is pretty persuasive and determined to play whenever he can. Seriously, Hubby said that he bet Ben persuaded Tomlin to get back in as soon as we saw him jog out onto the field!

Overall I rate this football weekend an A+++++++. With Purple Jesus, Big Ben, Deebo, some hard hitting Hines Ward blocks (especially the one on Ed Reed) and week high in my Fantasy Football league (for the second week in a row) I'm living good in the football world.


MNF: Steelers vs. Ravens

Be There...
...Or Be Square.

Purple Jesus Has Arisen.

I found some "Purple Jesus" apparel online thanks to Deadspin. Too bad they only have them in mens sizes, these t-shirts are pretty sweet ass, I'd probably have to buy one if they made one for women! Yeah, Vikings Nation is pretty much going nuts right now if you couldn't tell. We haven't had much to be excited about for years, so we're pretty much jumping all over this one.

Also got this "casual pose" Adrian Peterson pic from Deadspin. Is that a spaghetti strap tank underneath that zip up hoodie, PJ? Whatev, you're the Purple Jesus, you can wear whatever the hell you want! All the better to see your bulging muscles in that spaghetti strap tank after all...

Here's a video highlighting some of PJ's bombdiggity record breaking day:


BTVS - The Long Way Home: A Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon is the continuation of the TV series in comic book form. The consequences of what Buffy and Willow did, activating all of the potentials slayers, are now being recognized as they are rounding up the newly realized slayers, and dealing with the backlash from those who are unhappy by this new superhuman race of girls.

Whedon stays true to his characters through and through, and brings in some old characters thought to be gone just for fun (although there is one little loop hole he admits to forgetting about when bringing one of them back). Buffy is overwhelmed by her new position as Leader of the Slayers, is lonely and desperately horny (poor girl!) Xander is still quirky, funny Xander, except now he is a Watcher/Sergeant of the Slayers, and he looks pretty bad ass with that eye patch. Dawn's going through some "growing pains" as all the book descriptions like to cutely put it and Willow is still a pretty wicked Wicca. The arc is great and is left unfinished, making you look forward to its continuation and the TPB also includes a standalone of one of the newly activated Slayers that was pretty cool.

While I think they might be pushing Buffy a little further than they would have in TV format with the whole menage-a-trois dream sequence, I think the stories fall in line pretty well with the flavor of the TV show (they did have the whole Spike throw down sex in the TV show after all...) It's good to see the old characters come alive again, after being a fan of the show since high school it feels like seeing old friends again!

I really loved this Buffy comic and can't wait to read the Faith arc, which is in the next couple of issues and sadly not in TPB yet. I've heard great things about them. Are you sick of vampires yet from all my reviews? I'm not!


30 Days of Night: A Review

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith is a dark, unforgiving and gruesome vampire story. The story takes place in Burrow, Alaska where the small town is preparing for 30 days of night, and secretly the vampires are preparing for it too. Such a simple idea that has never been explored before (at least to my knowledge), vampires taking advantage of the lack of sun in Alaska by having an all out feed-fest.

I absolutely love the art, it's dark and reminds me of the art in the Sandman series. While the story was good with some nice plot twists, it's the art the truly makes this comic great. It is absolutely gruesome at times, and yet subtle at other. The use of color and of blending colors is just perfectly done. My only complaint is that I wish I'd had a chance to get to know the characters better. I felt that the character developing was sacrificed in order to build up the horror element of the story. This is actually one area that I think the movie did better in than the book. However, this does tempt me into buying the second book of the series since I know Stella is in it, so maybe that was intentional.

A very dark and gooey Halloweeny read!


Fray: A Review

Fray is Joss Whedon's future slayer. It's an eight-issue limited series comic book set about 200 plus years into the future. Demons had been cast out of the world by a slayer and her mystical companions in the 21st century, but now vampires are coming back and a new slayer must be called. Meet Melaka Fray, a street hardened thief. With some absolutely beautiful art by Karl Moline and a very well crafted story by Whedon, we have Fray.

Melaka has the hard edge of Faith, but the likable compassion of Buffy. She's gorgeous, tough and lives by her own rules, but she has her vulnerabilities. With a demon to replace her Watcher, Melaka grows into her slayer shoes and fights the vampires, which she always grew up calling "lurks." Bringing you some absolutely unforgettable characters (I love Loo!) and an edgy setting, Whedon brings you a good story that seems to end all too quickly. I was frustrated after finishing the TPB and not finding any evidence for future Fray projects, but just recently Whedon has said that Fray is not done! (See the video two posts below.) I really hope they bring her back because there is obviously more story to be told with Fray.

I hate to ruin any plot, so that's all I'll say, but for any comic book reader it's a great read, but for Buffy fans, it's a must read!


I Heart Adrian Peterson.

Not only am I feeling the Offensive Rookie of the Year award going to my man A. Peterson, but I think he'll easily be in the running for Offensive Player of the year period.

As a rookie, not only is he leading in rushing yards with a total 1036 rushing yards, but he also has already broken the record for total yards rushed in a single game by rushing for 296 yards with 3 TDs against the San Diego Chargers in the Vikings' stunning win over them today! I was loving him before, but now he has a little shrine in the corner of my room... okay, so not really, but I damn well better be getting his jersey for Christmas this year, ladies cut, size small (hint hint, hubs). In addition to his amazing big play ability, Peterson already has the rep among his teammates as a hard worker, a team player, and a genuinely down-to-earth nice guy. What's not to love?

Beyond Adrian Peterson's amazing ability, the Minnesota's D, which is well known for being able to stop the run (I think they were second in the league against the run), they were also well known for being dead last against the pass. However, today they stepped it up, forcing one of Philip Rivers' worst games of the season so far. Our D limited the Chargers to converting only 25 percent of their third downs (4-for-16) and on average maintained about ten minutes time of possession over them.

I'm so ridiculously excited about this win. Yes, I know that the Vikes or 3-5 and not really in a great position in their Division with the Packers at 7-1 and the Lions at 6-2. But a win against the Chargers, a solid team on both sides of the ball, while they were hot (winning their last three games) is huge for the confidence of our team. I am worried about T. Jack though, the hit he took was nasty, and although he's going through some growing pains I obviously prefer him to Bollinger and Holcomb. I really think Jackson has a huge upside, he throws rockets, is mobile and is pretty accurate, especially with the short passes which fits the West Coast Offense that the Vikes like to run. Our WRs often make Jackson look worse than he is, dropping passes they should catch, which has been a problem with the Vikings for a while. Rice and Shiancoe are starting to come up big for us though, so I'm hoping they can keep it up and that T. Jack isn't seriously injured. I did see him on the sidelines after that nasty hit, which is good news.

I'm not completely off my rocker though. No, I don't think the Vikings are going to the Super Bowl or anything like that. I actually think it's a long shot for them to make the Play Offs, and I know better as a long time Vikings fans to get too hopeful about this win because the Vikings have a tendency to lose games their expected to win and to win games nobody, not even Vikings fans (yes, I did pick against them this week), expects them to win.

But the win still feels goooood.

As a side note, I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before, but boy do I hate intellectual snobs. In my job as a social worker, most of my co-workers have college degrees, and many have graduate degrees. In a meeting on Friday a high level director (with a MSW) was talking about how she was listening to NPR that morning when it cut out and this sports show cut in and how she could feel her IQ dropping as they talked. Now I'll listen to NPR but I also listen to sports shows and not being able to not voice my opinion I immediately turned to her and said, "Oh, have I mentioned to you yet that I'm a Huge sports fan?" And she just shrugged and said, "I just don't get it." It's totally fine if someone doesn't like sports, but to be such a intellectual snob about it like "I'm too smart for sports" is just fricking retarded. Sports and competition has been inherent in human beings since the beginning of time and to act like it is below you is acting like you're above being human, which is just retarded. The fact that so many people all around the world are completely pulled to and obsessed with sports means that it has power, and to dismiss it and not recognize the power is more unintelligent than any sports watcher I know.

Sorry, had to vent a little, as a huge sports fan and all, I guess I can't just intellectualize my annoyance away.


It's a Vampire Weekend!

Not only did my Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 trade paperback arrive in the mail today (I've been waiting forever it seems for these comic books to come out in TPB) but I also finally went to see the movie based on the 30 Days of Night graphic novel.

I wasn't sure about the movie from the previews... first of all, as a rule, I'm not the biggest Josh Hartnett fan. He has always seemed like a pretty face with less than average acting skills to me. However, he does well in this movie and I was impressed with the directing and filming of the movie. It keeps that dark artful element that the graphic novels have and adds a little bit of meat to the plot. It is definitely a graphic and gruesome movie, but the plot has its twists and the set up for the story was great. Even though I knew what happened in the end, I was still scared, shocked, and I even had some tears in my eyes for the ending. Yes, I'm a complete sap crying at the end of a "horror" movie, but it really was well done with the character build up and with the pace of the plot. I was really happy about it. I realize I have yet to write a review on the graphic novel! Shame on me. I'll definitely catch up on that this weekend.

You'll probably be getting a ton of Vampire graphic novel reviews this weekend actually as I still have to review Joss Whedon's futuristic slayer comic book Fray and I also have another Buffy spin-off comic partly written and supervised by Whedon, Tales of the Vampires to read and then review.

I'll be reading Buffy Season 8 as well this weekend as I recoup from this nagging sickness. A very Vampirey after-Halloween weekend!

FYI - for any other Buffy fanatics, which naturally leads to Angel fanatics, due to the success of the Buffy Season 8 series, Whedon has been involved with plotting out an Angel Season 6 comic book series, starting out right where Season 5 left off. It's being plotted by Whedon but written by Brian Lynch and is slated to come out with its first issue November 28, 2007. They'd better get these in TPBs too since I'm not one to goto comic book stores and get actual issues, I'm a book girl through and through, and that includes when reading comic books.

PS - A great video interview of genius Buffy creator Joss Whedon...

And I might be tempted to start buying Angel Season 6 and Buffy Season 8 single issues because the first five issues of Buffy Season 8 were so frickin' good! Though I hate to start buying single issues because I know I'll still have to buy the TPBs when those come out so it does seem like a waste of money, but I might not be able to help myself. Already started researching local comic book stores...


Indie Rock.

When I first heard of Indie Rock, way back in college, I had thought it was short for "Indian" Rock because at the time there was this popular Indian rapish-rockish song out. I thought the song was okay, it got annoying after a while and I was baffled to hear that there was this huge underground following for "Indie" Rock. When I finally found out that it was "Indie" Rock for "Independent" Rock first I felt like a complete retard and then I was really interested. Since then I've dived into the genre with the help of my Sirius radio which makes Indie Rock extremely accessible. I know that the popularity of Indie Rock has been steadily growing, even to the point that some Indie Rock bands are getting popular and hitting mainstream markets, so I thought I'd introduce it to those out there who are wondering why Indian music suddenly got so popular!

Indie Rock is so appealing to many because it tends to be more unique and creative, not being stifled or controlled by a huge recording company. It's refreshing to hear some actually new music rather than the same song recycled over and over again as Pop music or even mainstream Alternative music tends to do. Indie Rock has become so popular that there are even rumors that a popular Indie band, The Kooks, were manufactured by a major UK Recording Label in order to capitalize on the recent Indie Rock craze.

So if you are just getting into Indie Rock, let me nudge you in the right direction, which of course are my faves:

  • TV on the Radio - This band has quickly become one of my faves. The lead singer is originally from Nigeria, and you can hear the African background in the music. The song I first fell in love with is "A Method." It just sends chills down my spine. Their music is very experimental and creative, mixing rock, electric, jazz among other music genres in a way that is very pleasing to the ears, at least to me.
  • Blonde Redhead - I'm completely obsessed with their song "Spring and by Summer Fall" which is a completely awkward name that I can never remember correctly, but there is this one guitar rift (I'm probably using that term so completely wrong) that literally tugs at your innards. I can't even explain it in words, but it's really profound. Overall, their music has an eerie kind of rock flavor going on.
  • Sea Wolf - An up-and-coming Indie band. I'm not sure if they really even have a full album out, they might just have an EP. Actually "Sea Wolf" is the stage name for Alex Church with a rotating ensemble of musicians to make up his band. The current single out, "You're a Wolf" has a very unique sound that incorporates I believe a cello in it. I really like this band a lot and am pissed to find out that I just missed them in Carrboro, NC last night!!
Let me know what you think!

And if you didn't already know, Radiohead is at the forefront of innovative merchandising, making their newest release available only from a specific website and the price? Well you can order the "Discbox" which includes extra materials in addition to the album for about $80, or you can download a digital version for... whatever you want. Yup, you heard me, you decide how much you want to pay for the download. To test it out, and sure, I might be a bit stingy with money, but this was for experimental purposes mostly I swear, I said that I chose to pay zero for the album and website said okee dokee and downloaded the album right to my computer! Radiohead has been one of the more unique and interesting bands of the past, but they've really pushed the envelope by not even having a recording label! Talk about Indie Rock. Many record companies are very nervous by this new idea, and they should be. It's fucking brilliant. To read more about it, check out this article. And for those music/techy/computer geeks (I don't even know what category this falls under) read this article about some controversies about the It's Up To You/Free download.


With his permission, I'm posting a speech that Jimmy Otim was asked to give on Northern Uganda. Jimmy was one of the amazing persons I met while in Uganda who was actively working in his community of Gulu (where much of the war has taken place) to help the people affected by the war. I'm posting his speech word for word as he emailed it to me and posting his contact information at the end per Jimmy's request. Please feel free to contact him with any questions or to see how you can help! I know I found his words powerful and moving, I hope you will too.


I am Jimmy Otim, a writer and a researcher who has worked for several humanitarian organisations trying to quell the violence in northern Uganda, my native country.

I was born, grew up and now working in northern Uganda trying to make a contribution to the lives of the innocent civilian population living in the internally displaced people’s camps in this beautiful but trouble land.

As a background, the 21 year old conflict in northern Uganda could be rated as one of the worst areas of human right violations in the world history with over 300,000 people dead in Acholi sub region alone, 1.6 million displaced and living in squalid conditions and over 30,000 abductions recorded so far. The conflict has caused unspeakable suffering to the people of northern Uganda where civilians have become the principle strategic targets and victims of violence, a field upon which the conflict is fought and through which victory is sought. The conflict has interrupted the functions of every institution and left the region in ruins.

Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the war in northern Uganda. This attitude of many was captured by many utterances like “these people are fighting themselves”. Yes the war in northern Uganda is seen as a thing which should not concern us and unfortunately it also evokes sad memories of their own kind in many people’s mind.

My messages depart from other usual academic or political statements by individuals who always wish to theorised or win political support. It should provoke practical debate among the pundits of our time with the hope that many generations to come will not only live in peace and prosperous world. But a world with international concern which we currently lack. My message focuses on not who is wrong or right. It’s about people’s right to a decent life unmolested by the guns of war. In a sense, it is about whether we as people of the world have any human compassion left in us or whether we shall continue living like animals uncaring about the sanctity of life.

I personally believe that what is happening in northern Uganda is not our own fault. We are victims of selfish interests and in that sense everybody is guilty – our own communities as well as the international community. Sadly this tragedy going on in northern Uganda is behind the glare of the world.

I see northern Uganda being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, and I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more.

In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when we will be able to realise them.

Together we can all do something to change the situation; how can we help?

Advocate for the people in northern Uganda (victims)
Stimulate dialogue
Provide technical assistance
Facilitate access to resources
Join the network
Support the Victims
Or at least pray

P O BOX 1177,
TEL : +256782366380
EMAIL : otimjimmy@yahoo.co.uk


Play of the Week.

Of Course goes to the Steelers! I'm not biased, I swear...

It's Ben's can't-tackle-me play in which a Bengals was grabbing his ankle and Ben was on his way to the ground when he completed a pass to Santonio Holmes for a first down!

Yeah baby, talk about elusive. His rookie year playing he actually had a better QB rating while rolling out of the pocket than in the pocket!

Check out this great article on Big Ben, This One's For Hep. It's an especially good article if you went to Miami University. The article gives good insight on Ben and is also a really touching story about his relationship with Coach Hep. It's really a great article!


Crazy Halloween Story...

...And we haven't even gone out yet! We're pulling into my brother's parking garage, getting our Halloween night supplies out of the car (wigs, mojito ingredients, jager, etc.) and we hear this guy say, "Sir? Sir? Can you help me?" We look over and there's this guy stuck between a black iron fence and the next floor of the parking garage. After ensuring that he wasn't impaled (thank god he wasn't!) we try vainly to unstick him, but he was pretty wedged in there. So we call 911.

I so wanted to take a picture because it was just about one of the oddest sights I've ever seen, but obviously that would have been a bit insensitive. The poor guy had been stuck there for at least 30 minutes. Oh, and did I mention that the guy was for some reason in his boxers and his undershirt? It appears that he had wiggled out of his clothes after getting stuck at an attempt to make himself skinnier to try to get unstuck because there was a pile of clothes on the floor of the parking garage at his feet. After a while it was hard to keep a straight face. He had obviously been drinking and for some reason had thought he should climb up the parking garage to the fourth floor, where his brother lived.

So the firetrucks came and they unscrewed the fence from the wall so he could get out. If you can imagine about ten firemen, a couple of EMTs, police people and then me, my brother and hubby all crowded around this guy watching as they free him. Oh yeah, and some random little boy was there too.

And P.S. Hubby and I were talking about this last night and he told me that after the dude got free he had his hands up like he was under arresst and it took multiple people to convince him that he was okay and could put his hands down... this just keeps getting funnier and funnier! Soooo wish I had that picture! Hubs said we should have video taped it and put it on YouTube. Now That would have been funny.

I'm not sure if any alcohol induced craziness will top that tonight.

Uganda Updates.

I know it's been a while since I've updated you all on the Juba Peace Talks and the current situation in Uganda. I'm finally getting back into the swing of things with my life, working out regularly, reading more, and blogging again! So I thought I'd throw up some good Uganda links, some might be a couple of months old, but still extremely informative and sometimes shocking. As many times I hear the stories of mutilation and abuse put onto these children by the LRA it never ceases to shock me to read another. I truly hope it never ceases to shock and disgust me.

The Price of Peace in Uganda
A great article combining the heartbreaking atrocities committed by the LRA as well as informative updates on the progress of the Juba Peace Talks. I'll pull some of the most striking parts of the article to me, but please read all of it as it was extremely well written and informative.

A young woman I met had been abducted by the LRA along with other members of her village. She calmly described their first night's "welcoming meal," in which one of the villagers was killed and the rest forced to eat him, to instill a proper fear.

* * *

The final obstacle to a peace treaty is likely to be the treatment of Kony himself, who fears the justice he deserves. Kony is under indictment by the International Criminal Court, and he particularly dreads judgment in The Hague. Securing his surrender may involve a Ugandan promise of house arrest or exile to a country not party to the ICC -- the traditional tyrant's bribe.

Like Idi Amin in his Saudi exile, Kony may live for many years and die in comfort. This would not be justice. But many of his victims seem to prefer peace to a grand reckoning. And at least Kony's immense darkness would finally be confined to his own heart.

A blog called Return to Uganda focuses on the trials of children coping with war in Uganda. It's very personal, knowledgeable and focused on the issues surrounding the children affected by this war, which happens to be the longest war in Africa right now (21 years).

A great overview of all the issues surrounding justice and reconciliation in Uganda, as well as other issues such as IDP Camps and land rights.

The aftereffects of Kony's mutilations continue to hurt his victims... but the Ugandan government intends to help. An interesting and sad article on what the government intends to do to help all the maimed and mutilated victims of Kony's army.

While this article is about the Congo, being a neighbor to Uganda and having the worst rape epidemic of the world right now, I felt the need to post this. These crimes against women and children need more attention as they are a vast human rights violation. It's disturbing to think of these women and children being attacked, brutalized and violated as I sit comfy in my bed typing this. Ages of rape victims range from 3 years old to 75 years old.

To be lucky in life bears the responsibility to help the unlucky.


The Rockies: Myth or Legend?

Let me preface this post with the fact that I'm not an avid baseball fan and therefore my knowledge of the game may be pretty lame in comparison to those who follow the sport closely.

There are a couple of reasons I'm interested in the World Series this year. One, when there was a chance that the Cleveland Indians would make it, I started paying close attention to the playoffs. Second, when the Red Sox beat the Indians, I already was bitter and hated the Red Sox anyways because they're a Boston team and Boston fans are obnoxious. Sorry to my dear friends who are from Boston and are Boston fans, I love you guys, but in general you know I'm right... in all fairness everybody really hates Boston teams and fans because they're all pretty darn good and have been for a while. Us folks with normal teams get awfully sick of it! Anyways, thirdly I kind of got on the Rockies band wagon when visiting Denver, not only because of the excited and devoted fans there but also because I appreciate the "Moneyball-ish" homegrown strategy that the Rockies have employed. I also like the manager Clint Hurdle. I heard multiple interviews with him while in Denver and I like his style.

So anyways, back to the point. The Rockies were the underdogs of the series coming into it, and are now definitely the underdogs after the blow out last night. The Sox are apparently the "better team" according to every media outlet not in Colorado. Meanwhile I had a Denver bred Rockies fan tell me yesterday before the game that the Sox were basically "playing against God" because of the amazing and unprecedented winning streak that the Rockies were on.

And here is where the Rockies strength of character as a team comes to be tested. Will they be the myth? The team that was destined to win, but then choked and was embarrassed in the World Series therefore making all the heroic predictions untrue? Or will they become the legend, the little team that could? Yes the Red Sox are nationally followed. I was watching the game last night at a bar in Raleigh and the place was filled with Sox fans, and other than at my table, I didn't see a Rockies fan there. But as with David and Goliath, I will continue to root for the underdog. The little guys with some spunk and character. I hope they become the legend that the Pittsburgh Steelers did when they were the only sixth seed ever to win the Super Bowl (sorry, football and Steelers are my sport, I had to bring up One reference!)

I assume my little article here was neither insightful nor new news, but this is my shout out to The Rockies and I hope they can pull out a win tonight. Right now it's tied 1-1 in the fourth inning. Rockies are looking looser and more comfortable than last night, the balls aren't all falling the Red Sox's way, the pitching is more equal and if the Rockies still believe in themselves then they have a real chance to become legends. But they'd better get a win in before Beckett takes the mound again.

Damn, I love sports... and on that note please check out a new football blog by one of my most fave girls in the world, and coincidentally my twin separated from me at birth... Pink Cleats. She's smart, knows her football, is an awesome writer and an amazing person. Any football fan would benefit from reading her blog, but for those other female football fans out there finding a void of female angled football blogs and commentary, it's a must to check out. It's my blog pick of the week... okay, so I don't do a blog pick of the week, but if I did, that'd be it for this week!! Don't forget to leave her some comments and show her some love!!

On a personal note, you know you're living on a tight budget when your spouse tells you to not send in a bill yet because you don't have enough money in the bank account to cover it. Dang, that's living paycheck to paycheck fo' sho'!

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven: A Review

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie is a collection of short stories focused on the lives of Native Americans in modern society. I have to say that I loved loved loved this collection. Alexie, rightly so, is known as one of the current greats in the writing world. His stories are poetic, insightful, funny and have a natural grace to them that makes the stories sing. The manner in which he mixes reality and old Indian myths and traditions is genius.

The overall tone of the collection is mournful and speaks of a lost culture. Alexie shows the beauty and art of the old Indian traditions and then he shows us the disconnect in the current Native American culture with the old ways and the modern world. I have kept myself somewhat educated on the completely disgraceful way the Indians were treated by our government and the complete destruction of their culture as a result, but reading it was absolutely heartbreaking.
Reading these stories, you get a feeling of hopelessness, loss and pain.

I cannot say enough about the creativity in which Alexie approached many of these stories. He takes storytelling to an entirely new level with metaphors and symbolism, and he makes it all sound so pretty while he's at it. Sometimes it was like reading pure poetry... sure poetry about an alcoholic Indian who can't support his family so they eat imaginary food for dinner, but pure poetry. And the greatest gift of the book is the imagination, the humor and the moments of love (and therefore hope) that he gives us. Yes, perhaps they are only glimmers of love and hope, but sometimes that's all people need.

It took me a long time to finish this collection, mostly because I carried it in my purse and used it as my emergency-stuck-waiting-in-line book, so I read it sporadically. However, as I got near the end I noticed myself putting off reading it because I didn't want the magical stories to end. I always knew that if I was stuck somewhere bored I had a whole world just waiting for me in my purse, and that was something that was hard for me to give up. But all good things must come to an end I suppose.

I Strongly recommend that everyone reading this go out and buy The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie immediately. It changes your perception of life and deepens your respect for the delicate balance of culture and the forever effects of forcefully assimilating people into a culture so contrasting to their own. It is a powerful book and frankly, just fun to read!

An interesting tidbit on Alexie... you know you've made it when you've got a copycat I suppose!

5* (as if you couldn't tell by my glowing review)


Atonement: A Review

I had actually read Atonement by Ian McEwan right before I heard it was being made into a movie, and ironically I've been on a kick of reading books turned into movies.

The book is about a young girl, Briony, who through a youthful misunderstanding of a situation condemns an innocent man. The book is about guilt, despicable actions that can't be undone, and what people will do to hide from their actions or ultimately to atone for them. The story is heartbreaking and written with a vivid eye to the minds and hearts of each character.

Although the book started out slow for me, the build up is intentional. You get a sense of the slow paced, sweet gentility of Briony's life before the "incident." It is an innocent world she lives in and after certain events and her decision to condemn Robbie Turner, everything drastically changes and the pace quickens. You're taken directly into the war, where Robbie is fighting in order to escape his prison sentence, Cecilia is a nurse to escape her family and Briony is a nurse to atone. The vividness of McEwan's writing is stunning. The images he gives us of war are chilling and feel real and personal to you. It is a world that brings together misery, desperation, love and forgiveness. Easily my favorite part of the book is when we're taken through the war. I was stunned and moved by the images and feelings of the characters.

The ending is average and not as emotional or as vivid as the rest of the story. It's more functional than anything, giving context and tying up the loose strings for the story. I can see it's purpose, but the romantic and dramatic in me would have hoped for a more dramatic and emotional ending. Not that I feel the events should have played out differently, but the way it was written wasn't in real time, it was written from the future and lacked the immediacy of the rest of the book. However, I can see McEwan's purpose, perhaps some of the reflections he wanted Briony to make couldn't be made until she was much older, and so he felt compelled to bring the end of the book towards the end of her life. It did have a "full circle" effect, with her grandchildren reading her play for her birthday, and it was a satisfactory ending.

I can't wait to see the movie, I'm in love with Keira Knightley. Not necessarily for her acting skills but just because she's freaking hot!



Steelers are IN-COM-PLETE.

This is the picture of Hubby and I before the game. I guess my sign was just a smidgen premature, but considering that most Bronco fans I talked to didn't even think they had a chance against My Steelers, I guess I was a little over-confident. And with Ben's "All I'll have to do is hand off the ball" comment and the way they carelessly threw the ball around, the weak O-Line play, our corners getting burned on just about every play and the lack of the D showing up for the last drive of the play and letting Denver win with a last second field go... I think it'd be fair to say that Pittsburgh went into this game a bit over-confident themselves. And as we all witnessed (painfully for me), when the Steelers are cocky, they suck (no pun intended... okay, fine, pun intended!) The Steelers thrive as the underdogs, and as Hubby said, he started getting nervous when everyone was picking the Steelers to kill the Broncos. I think our offense had moments of the Steelers we've been seeing this year, but our D was just pathetic and looked weak, and I can't even start with the penalties penalties penalties! The O-Line looked sloppy, with our center contributing to if not causing the fumble returned for the TD with an awful low snap, not to mention the fact that Ben was running for his life way too much for comfort.

It could be said that this is the first Real competition Pittsburgh has seen this year, and with the Steelers headed to Cincy for their next game, a place they've won in every year for the past couple of years, and with Cincy looking so horrible and inconsistent, we may not be truly tested again until the Baltimore game the following week. I'm hoping that we are the Steelers that I thought we were the first 5 games rather than the Steelers of last night, which really scarily resembled the Steelers of last year.

On a personal note, I was at the game and had a blast, even though I just about froze my balls off (figure of speech). The Denver fans were way easier on me than the Cincy fans usually are, and I suppose I could attribute that to the Division rivalry thing but I could also just say that Bengals fans suck ass. But one thing that did get on my last nerve, and I was actually even warned about this by a friend who used to live in Denver. After every freaking incomplete the fans say "And the pass is IN-COM-PLETE!" Now, it doesn't bother me for the ribbing part, it bothers me because it was just freaking annoying. Okay, get a new THING Broncos. I started yelling that out by myself every time the Broncos had an incompletion... funny, the Broncos fans did not seem amused.

Oh, and did I mention that the Steelers are going to the Super Bowl this year?? :)

P.S. I forgot to mention the way witty sign one of the Denver fans had, of course the Broncos' stadium showed it about three times, I don't think it made National TV though: Roethlisberger eats boogars.

Yes, very witty indeed.

We flew home on Monday, I just have to say that it was basically Steelers Nation in the Denver airport! Everybody still proudly wearing their Black and Gold! I love Steelers Nation.


On The Road...

I'm headed to Denver, Colorado this weekend to visit friends and of course goto the Steelers @ Denver game on SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!! So make sure to look for my terrible towel waving in the crowd on NBC Sunday Night! There may be an embarrassing sign using the letters of "NBC" to say something witty or not so witty about the Steelers... and possibly face paint too...

See ya there!



The Collected Short Stories of Amy Hempel: A Review

The Collected Short Stories of Amy Hempel, written by Amy Hempel of course, was raved by NY Times as one of the top ten books of the year last year. In a writing style that is unique, sharp and tight as can be, Amy Hempel writes of everyday events in such colors that the life meaning of the story bleeds out to you.

I'm one who typically likes long descriptive passages. I like writing that is clear and and written a bit elaborately. Amy Hempel is not this type of writer. And it is because of this that it took a while for me to get into her stories. There were some stories that were no more than two pages long and after reading the story a couple of times all I could come up with is: WTF? She has a randomness and a shortness with her stories that leaves a lot up for the readers' deliberation, and this usually drives me nuts! However, as I read on, I was able to get into her rhythm (and she definitely creates a rhythm in her stories!) I grew to appreciate her subtle writing style, the things she does not say but you understand completely. There is definitely a beauty to the subtle writing, the short and quick style. Her stories are often simple and seem to have a simple or even no plot, but they always have some statement or thought on life. Hempel often leaves us with a question on life with no answers.

I can see why her book of short stories was popular, not only is it unique, but it is also like a clear stream of water. Refreshing and crisp.



I'm Not Dead!

Yes, I know, I've been incredibly, inexplicably quiet as of late. I can attribute this to a new job, rocking social life and the jet streaming life style and I hold, going to Vegas and all for a week. I've been busy and exhausted. Elated and Depressed. Just living life.

I'm going to try to be back and more consistent with my posts now that I'm settling down in my new employment. I have some books to review and some topics to vent on. Hopefully it'll be all good again and you'll all come back to me!

With Love,

mai wen


Bits and Pieces

A wonderful article about women writers in Uganda, including a great quote from one of the premiere women writers in Uganda, Monica Arac de Nyeko:

As I start to understand myself better, as I change, as my disappointments, hopes and visions shape my thought, I find that writing has become like a quest for me, mostly to understand myself, to explain myself to myself and then to understand that around me, why things are the way they are.

My writing is shaped by these battles which are my own, yet my anger and my quests are all so tied to my identify, history, my memory of many things, but especially of home the way it was and is with the war, the poverty.

As a writer, my own internal battles shape my motives and interaction with my audience to whom I try to offer an alternative for consideration, I question, I challenge, sometimes I rant, and shout and demand to be heard because in this space where so many things seem to be going wrong, I feel I have as much right to poke at people's thoughts with an offer of my own view of the way things should and can be/ It is my Uganda, my land, Africa, my world, my universe, too after all and it will be for my children.

Thank you to The Literary Saloon for the link. I've done some searching online, and unfortunately have not found a place in which I could purchase these books online or in the States. If anybody knows of a place, please let me know, it'd be really amazing for me to be able to read these new bright female voices from Uganda.

Hotel Steelers

Just a fun report on what the Steelers rules and requests are when they're staying in hotels on the road. My favorite is the "Heinz ketchup must be on tables at meal time" rule, ah, endorsements and all that BS just amuse me to no end.

Thank you to the Post-Gazette for that link.

A Quotable Threesome

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.
- Ralph W. Sockman
Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.
- Gore Vidal
You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.
- Olin Miller


The Sandman - Preludes & Nocturnes: A Review

The first volume of Neil Gaiman's famed Sandman series introduces us to the infamous Sandman. He is captured and imprisoned by a mere mortal by mistake, his capturer attempting to capture Death. In a quest to free himself and then regain his stolen possessions, The Sandman takes us to dark and interesting places. He seeks revenge and he gives relief. He visits hell and travels through people's dreams. He is The Sandman.

With art that is vivid and immaculate, the first Sandman book is dark and at times disturbing. The story is imaginative and makes you feel like you're watching a horror movie. Especially at the beginning of the book, you can almost hear the scary horror music in the background. It carries that creepy factor well throughout the book and pushes the line of creepy sometimes to just disturbing and icky. But it is well done and a really fun and interesting read. Of course if you're prone to nightmares, I wouldn't read this right before you go to bed as I did. The images definitely stick in your head and could haunt your dreams... if only you could call The Sandman to you...



The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Review

I had read and loved Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It was beautifully written, the plot was imaginative and huge and the characters were memorable and interesting. Other than one weird part of the book that takes place in Antarctica or something that was kind of boring and didn't totally fit, the book was a masterpiece. So when I heard that they were making a movie out of Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, I thought I should check it out before the movie came out.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh started out a bit slow. The writing was great and the characters interesting, but it seemed plotless and aimless, much like the main character's, Art Bechstein, plans for life. But then it picks up speed and doesn't slow down. As Art becomes entangled in a love triangle with a man and a woman, self exploration and sexual identity become the moving force of the novel. Then the mysteries of his father's work and the tragic death of his mother begin to shape events as Art's friend, Cleveland, gets involved in the underground work that Art's father is involved in. In a novel about love, trust and secrets, Chabon creates extremely realistic and yet unique characters who are the heart of the novel. A novel about the decisions we make in life that propel us in one direction or another and the consequences of these decisions.

I cannot praise Chabon's writing enough. He's simply a master. The fact that this was his first published novel amazes me. His prose is flawless, unique and beautiful. As a writer, I'm desperately jealous. I'm a little unsure of whether or not I liked the ending of the book. It works, but I guess I was a little disappointed and wished that certain characters had turned out differently. The strained relationship between Art and his father was one that I wish had been fleshed out more and one that I wanted to end up somewhere different. That is my only regret in a book that was daring and full of life and honesty. I'm a little nervous to watch the movie because they combined two of the main characters and made another set married that wasn't in the book. I'm not sure if I like those moves, but I'll have to see the movie when it comes out to see how they do with it.

Overall, this is the ultimate coming of age story, full of very Pittsburgh-y settings and all the confused feelings of growing up. It's also a tribute to those people in your past who make a huge impact on who you are and that you carry with you even after they're out of your life. For a book that has been compared to such classics as Adventures of Huck Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, it is definitely worth reading and already a classic in its own right.


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