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Books

It\'s a Jungle Out ThereRead: It’s a Jungle Out There: A Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments
My good friend Amanda Marcotte (who tipped me off to WordPress as a blogging platform and helped me immensely in my nascent blogging days) wrote a book on surviving as a feminist. It’s an incredibly funny guidebook for messing with wingnuts, but more than that it serves as a very solid primer on some of the obstacles still faced by women today.

Amanda has been a leading progressive voice for the past couple of years, and her prominence has served to place her in the cross hairs of people who would love to see the patriarchy continue. You should already be reading Pandagon, and I hope you’ll pick up this fun book as well.

Heads in the SandReading: Heads in the Sand: How Republicans Screw Up Foriegn Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up Democrats
Another well-known liberal blogger, Matthew Yglesias (his site should be required reading for you as well) has penned the most concise examination of the fundamental problems behind our misguided Iraq venture and our foreign policy in general. He then goes on and shows how many leading Democrats could never argue coherently against the invasion because they have continued to ignore the fundamentals. I’ve got one chapter left, and I think I’ll polish that off this morning on the Metro ride.

To Read: Up next are three books with vastly different characteristics. I’ve ordered A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency by Glenn Greenwald. Yes, it’s another book by another blogger, but Glenn knows his stuff and has been the go-to-guy for discussions on constitutional law, FISA and other misdeeds. Also on the agenda is Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I bought it for Meredith and she flew through it. I forgot to borrow it this weekend when I went to Baltimore. If you’re not familiar, Lahiri won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize and knows what she’s doing with a pen. Finally, I broke down and ordered a copy of Flight. This graphic novel by Kazu Kibuishi broke some new ground in the genre a few years ago, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. I’ve never been a comicbook/graphic novel kind of guy, but I’m definitely not adverse to the idea. I’ll let you know.

Music

In RainbowsListening to: In Rainbows by Radiohead
I originally bought this CD via Radiohead’s online distribution, which was much discussed late last year. If you didn’t hear, they basically put the album online and said “pay us what you think it’s worth.” The scheme worked to a certain degree: Radiohead didn’t have to pay a distributor up front or after the fact, and had control of their work from start to finish. The unique release generated a ton of buzz for the band, and it looks like they actually made some money of it. I plunked down £10 (the first and only time I’ve paid pounds for anything online).

With news of their upcoming tour, I decided to put it back in rotation on the iPod.

Volume OneListening to: Volume One by She & Him
This was another little something I picked up for Meri, and we jammed out while driving to Annapolis this weekend. The album is quirky, fun and entirely enjoyable. There’s a little bit of everything: great lyrics, awesome tunes, and a little bit of nostalgia as well. She & Him is an interesting duo: M. Ward, a one-man band, joined up with actress Zooey Deschanel back in 2006 for a duet, and then decided they’d like to create an album.

Volume One has a couple of covers, but most of the lyrics were written by Deschanel while Ward produced the album as well. This one is highly recommended.

Video Games

Final Fantasy VII: Crisis CorePlaying: Final Fantasy VII—Crisis Core
It’s been a long time since I played video games: once a World of Warcraft addict, I took a year-long hiatus beginning in late 2006. My dad gave me a PSP last year, however, and I’ve casually eased back into a once-beloved pastime.

Crisis Core is the perfect route back into the world of video games. The Final Fantasy franchise is beloved by gamers, and the seventh iteration holds a unique place in the hearts of fans. I loved the game when it was released during my freshman year at NMSU, and when I saw Penny Arcade feature the latest from Square-Enix I figured it would be a great buy. There’s plenty of side missions that man you can squeeze in some play without having to worry about getting to the next save point, and the story is compelling for fans of Final Fantasy VII. The visuals looks astonishing on the PSP, and it’s great to see the hardware pushed in this way.

Television

Watching: Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica Season 4This is the big one, of course: the fourth and final installment of Battlestar Galactica.

I’ve talked about BSG before: here, here and here. Hopefully, you’ve taken my advice over the years and watched it. Hopefully you’re not missing out on the best TV not formerly on HBO.

I have it on good authority that my favorite critic, Dan Carlson, will have a post up today or tomorrow on the latest season, so stay tuned over at Slowly Going Bald for more information. There’s not much I can say without revealing spoilers, so I also suggest you watch this season’s first two episodes online at SciFi.com.

Note: I don’t get any money or anything from Amazon.com for recommending this stuff, so enjoy with a clear conscience that you’re not enriching me (well, unless you count your coming to read the site, which still doesn’t pay anything but makes writing worth it).

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Peppers and Pasta
Cooked up a quick dish last night, and the colors were great so I thought I would post a photo. Just some sautéd veggies and pasta, with a bit of shredded cheese on top. I love the quick, easy dishes.

On Friday, my sis and I caught 3:10 to Yuma, a stunningly beautiful film (shot in New Mexico, of course). Go, when you have the chance. You’ll find something you’ll like.

My sister and I went to Burke Lake in Fairfax Station yesterday for some disc golf. It’s become something of a regular pass time for us: we’ve found a couple of courses in the area, and found a map with others yesterday. In addition, we each have two discs now (no more sharing the putter!) so, I guess you could say we’re hooked.

Afterward, we watched The Brave One. I’m fairly certain that I’m not spoiling anything here. The trailer seems to reveal just about anything I could tell you, but, if you’re worried, skip this paragraph. We’re sitting in this crowded theater in Arlington, and, as Jodie Foster’s character murders people (yes, criminals and therefor Very Bad People), I’m shocked, not only at the amount of applause, but of the cheering and laughter!

An ode to Comcast:

You bring me my favorite shows
New dramas, old classics, and movies too
And although your service blows
(The guy you sent left like a thief in the night)
I’ve come to love your features
Superfast speeds and NBC’s pilots On Demand
Why then, can I ask
Do you only work right half of the time?

Comcast, when it’s working, rocks. I’ve watched the pilots for Life, Journeyman, and The Bionic Woman ((hooray Battlestar Galactica stars)), all before their premiere next week. Heading out for a bike ride this morning, and then into the city (Georgetown) to buy some yarn (with my sister) and perhaps watch another movie.

Finally, based on a highly regarded recommendation, here is an actual ode:

THOU still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

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A Thousand Splendid SunsBorrowing a page from John’s playbook, here’s a bit of what’s going on with me right now ((I do not get any money from these if you click them. It’s just something I’m doing for fun)):

Reading: I finished A Thousand Splendid Suns last night. Like Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, Suns is set in Afghanistan, and the author again does an incredible job of inserting the reader into the culture and setting. Indeed, I feel the descriptions of the countryside, villages and cities is rivaled only in his characterization.

Hosseini, time and again, brings his characters to life.

It took me about two days to finish, mostly, I think, because it’s so engaging.

I don’t want to say much more — my mother insisted on giving me the book with no recommendations, saying that she knew I would want to read it because it was the follow up to Kite Runner.

American Doll PosseListening: I’m jamming out to American Doll Posse, an album I picked up when it was released, but haven’t really given much time to. Like Hosseini, Tori Amos is one of those artist/writer/musician types that I’m pretty loyal too — I’ll keep buying her records, because I know there’s always something new and something good waiting for me.

What with all the other good music that’s been coming out lately, I’ve felt bad for Tori, and decided to dust her off in the iTunes library.

Doll Posse is another great Tori album. My favorite Amos album is Scarlet’s Walk, and this one reminds me of that more than The Beekeeper. There’s a great mix of songs here, from the quick “Big Wheel” to the mellow “Girl Disappearing.” Highly recommended.

Speaking of other music, here’s two other CDs I’ve been listening to recently:

Carnavas — Silversun PickupsCarnavas by Silversun Pickups
This is one of my sister’s recommendations, and I’m digging it. Silversun Pickups originated in Los Angleas, and Carnavas is the indie group’s first full-length album.

The rockers get off to a great start with “Melatonin,” and Nikki Monninger’s vocals heat up “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” the second track. The band then puts things on the back burner before really finishing strong.

“Lazy Eye” is the popular track right now, but I’m a fan of “Little Lover’s So Polite” and “Dream at Tempo 119,” some fast moving tracks with great riffs.

Wincing the Night Away — The ShinsWincing the Night Away by The Shins
I liked The Shins without knowing who it was when I heard the Garden State Soundtrack, and their latest has been in my truck’s CD player for the last three weeks. The opening track, “Sleeping Lessons,” had me at hello.

The rest of the album is great as well. “Phantom Limb” is an incredibly fun song, “Black Wave” is haunting, and the way “Girl Sailor” and “A Comet Appears” fade out is incredible.

I might even have to buy some of their earlier stuff too.

Linking: to the National Wildlife Federation’s blog, which has been tracking debate and developments in the Senate Energy Bill:

Two contrasting liquid coal technology amendments will likely be voted on early today. The Bingaman-Testor amendment would subsidize production of liquid coal; liquid coal plants would have to capture and store 75% of the coal’s global warming pollution; and over its “life cycle” (ie. from ground to exhaust pipe), liquid coal would have to pollute 20 percent less than other fuels. The Domenici-Bunning amendment would require at least 6 billion gallons of liquid coal to be produced by 2022, and would have a “life cycle” requirement of 20 percent less carbon pollution than gasoline (a higher initial benchmark). he coal industry supports the Domenici-Bunning amendment. The environmental community is a bit split on the first. NWF supports the Bingaman-Testor amendment as a compromise, but liquid coal is still a carbon intense fuel and will not put us on the path needed to stop global warming.