Friday, October 22, 2010

Reading List + Garage Band

I had a request to post my reading list from the past year, so here it is. This is approximately since the beginning of last September, when I left on my Greyhound bus trip. Books are in no particular order, and I noted "pending" beside any titles that I haven't finished but intend to. I didn't include The Road by Cormac McCarthy in this list, because I started it, hated it, muscled to halfway through, then heard that it didn't get any better and decided it wasn't worth it. (It takes a very special kind of writer to be writing about killing people in a way that is excruciatingly boring. Also, McCarthy could stand to befriend an apostrophe or two.) I've made no intentional omissions, and have included library books, books borrowed from work, books picked up off friends' shelves, books given to me as gifts, etc., etc. I would also like to note that I in no way endorse all of the opinions expressed by authors on the following list (which would actually be quite difficult, considering that some of them are in staunch opposition to one another). Rather, I like to read what other people think and react -- to what the author got right and wrong from my point of view.

The Watermelon Shirt List of Books Read, September 2010-present

1. Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, by bell hooks
2. The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti
3. The Art of Travel by Alain de Boton
4. On Love by Alain de Boton
5. Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher
6. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
7. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
8. The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
9. Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards by P.J. O'Rourke
10. I Love a Man in Uniform by Lily Burana
11. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
12. Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World by Bruce Schneier
13. Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs by Carey Ellen Walsh
14. Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson
15. The Penultimate Peril (Series of Unfortunate Events Series, Book #12) by Lemony Snicket
16. How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley
17. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
18. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
19. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines
20. What The Living Do by Marie Howe
21. Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr (pending)
23. Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver
24. Financial Serial Killers: Inside the World of Wall Street Money Hustlers, Swindlers, and Con Men by Tom Ajamie and Bruce Kelly (pending)
25. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
26. Boy by Roald Dahl
27. Going Solo by Roald Dahl
28. I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
29. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
30. Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond
31. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Saffron Moyer (pending)
32.The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson (pending)
33. Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
34. Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder
35. How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
36. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
37. Model by Cheryl Diamond
38. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
39. Hungry by Crystal Renn
40. This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
41.Shopgirl by Steve Martin
42. What a Girl Should Know About Sex by Bernhardt S. Gottlieb (out of print from 1962)
43. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
44.Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good by Wendy Shalit
45. Strip City by Lily Burana (pending)

I just finished Girls Gone Mild a few hours ago. My main problem with it is that Shalit callously divides women into two groups -- good and bad. While I don't subscribe to every idea that Jessica Valenti presents in The Purity Myth, one concept that really struck home for me from her book is that dividing women into this false dichotomy perpetuates rape culture. Valenti points out how difficult it is to be a "perfect" rape victim -- how details like what the woman was wearing, if she participated in consensual sexual activity in the past, and whether she had consumed alcohol could influence judges to condemn her as inviting the attack. Shalit has a particularly egregious example of this when writing about Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood. Shalit summarizes Zailckas's memoir of alcohol abuse, casual sex, and rape. Then, Shalit gives the reader this curveball: "[Zailckas] polishes the rum off a few days later, and not surprisingly is then date-raped once more."

Non-weasel-worded translation: "She had it coming." Victim-blaming at its finest.

I mean, surely it couldn't be the fault of whoever raped her, right?

I've read a lot of analysis on why people insist on warning young women about the dangers that are lurking down every street they dare to walk down alone. The theory that seems the most emotionally accurate to me is that people want to feel like they have some kind of control over their lives because it makes them feel safe. They want to watch the news and think, "Oh, that girl was attacked because she was x (when x=by herself/with another woman/wearing a short skirt/wearing jeans/talking on the phone/not talking on the phone). Therefore, because I do or do not do x, I am safe and such a thing could never happen to me." When we recognize that, despite taking every precaution, sometimes attackers will attack and there's nothing we can do about it -- it's scary to think about.

Shalit also complains about women who "steal each other's husbands" and describes Alice, one of her interview subjects, as "not the 'other woman' type" (whatever that means). I find the entire concept of "husband-stealing" to be completely offensive to both women and men. Essentially, women are painted as nothing more than sultry temptresses, while men are depicted as animals who lack the rational thought necessary to make moral decisions. I have my doubts that a husband who didn't want to be "stolen" could be -- and let's not forget that, in the "husband-stealing" scenario, the husband has vowed fidelity in marriage while the so-called "other woman" has made no such promise. The same would be true, as far as I'm concerned, if the genders in this situation were reversed -- though Shalit is too busy blaming women for the alleged "husband-stealing" epidemic to panic about the "wife-stealing" that surely also takes place by her logic. (Although, according to society -- if a man cheats, it's the woman's fault for not pleasing him [see: response to Hillary Clinton after Monica Lewinksy scandal et. al.].If a woman cheats, it's because she's a slut.)

But I'm getting carried away with myself here. My point is, as a society we need to stop pretending that there are only two types of women -- good & bad, madonna & whore -- and that of those, one or the other (perhaps which one depends on your politics) is worthless. Everyone loses.

(I know, I know. "This is why [I] can't sleep.")

In other news -- I was inspired by my dear friend Nomester's music upload (already knew she could sing from summer renditions of "Wagon Wheel", but seriously, she sounds amazing), and decided to tinker some more with Garage Band to see if I could figure it out, for actual musical purposes at a later date. My friend Christy and I played with it a little, to record some songs she'd written with me on backup vocals, keyboard, and flute, but I also recorded my warm-up improvisation and us talking.

This one's just the Garage Band sample clips, plus me singing a little and playing with effects.

This one's the tinkered-with improv. Everything is me except for Christy talking toward the end. The effects are crazy because they mess with the tuning in a way I think is interesting -- you can especially hear the discrepancy when the keyboard comes in.

Looking forward to recording actual stuff at a later date -- but for now the laptop tinkering will have to suffice, considering the hour and the sleeping roommates.


  1. Abster, these are SUPER cool! the effects are in fact crazy and i like it. also little miss dictionary would be a great name for a band. Alas, i cannot take credit for the female vocals on the song- i just did the lyrics and some of the arrangement/melody ideas. but i miss our wagon wheel harmonizing greatly.

  2. Thanks dude! I guess it makes sense about the vocals -- I was wondering how you managed cross-Atlantic harmonizing. Sounds complicated. Regardless, your song is super rad! I listened to it a bunch of times.