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Read: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

5 May

The other day I was at the library, searching the biography section, when a title jumped out at me. I’d read an article in the New York Times about Rhoda Janzen, author of the memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, so the title was familiar to me. However, I couldn’t remember why I’d read the article or why the title stuck with me.

Cut to me reading the book, which is about how Janzen returns home to her Mennonite family in California after her life pretty much falls to shit. As I’m reading, I think, the Valley has a large Mennonite community, I wonder if this takes place somewhere near here.

About 150 pages in, Janzen mentions Gottschalks. Stunned to see my former workplace mentioned, I start thinking seriously that the book really could take place in the Valley. A few pages later, the Fresno Fair is referenced. Neat, I think. Janzen has traveled to Fresno before.

It’s not until it’s mentioned, some pages later, that Janzen’s mom volunteers at the Meux Home Museum that I realize the book actually takes place in Fresno, and then I remember that I read the NYT article to begin with because of the Fresno connection. Seriously, Nancy Drew I am not.

Anyway, this isn’t a book review, so I won’t bore you with my opinion about it. I will say, if you’ve ever been interested in the Fresno Mennonite community, or if you just like reading things about Fresno in general, you should check out the book. Janzen paints her family (her dad was president of Fresno Pacific University for ten years) and the community in a humorous light — too humorous for some local Mennonites, as it turns out. Still, the book is more a love letter than a criticism, and worth a quick read.

Read: Yosemite nutjobs

26 Apr

The May issue of National Geographic has a story about people who climb the faces of Yosemite’s El Capitan and Half Dome using little, or no, gear.

The pictures are insane, but not as insane as the idea of climbing a mountain using just your feet and fingertips.

I love seeing something just outside my backyard in the pages of my favorite magazine. If visions of high-up Yosemite don’t entice you to go out and buy the mag, perhaps this random photo of a flexible bear will:

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Read: National Geographic

7 Mar

The other day someone surprised me by buying me a subscription to one of my favorite magazines, National Geographic. My little nerd heart was overjoyed. I’d been threatening to get a subscription for months, as $15 for a subscription to the monthly magazine seemed like a pretty good deal to me. He’d found the magazine for just $10 on a site called Slick Deals — an even better deal, and one that couldn’t be passed up.

I can’t wait for my first issue to arrive in the mail. I love everything about National Geographic, from the iconic yellow border to the glossy pages, amazing photos and information contained within.

In February’s issue, for instance, I found out that the world’s supply of helium will most likely run out in the next 40 years (maybe sooner if Disneyland keeps selling those inflatable Mickey ears). I also learned that dinosaurs developed feathers to aid in sexual attraction and mating, and didn’t discover they could use them for flight for a pretty long time. Fascinating, no?

And check out this amazing photo of a rose bud, dipped in liquid nitrogen, being shot through with an air-rifle pellet. I have no idea why anyone would think to do this, but it makes for an incredible photo:

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Read: Little-Known Facts About Well-Known Places: Disneyland

12 Feb

While glancing at the bargain books in Barnes and Noble last night, I came across this book about my favorite place on earth, Disneyland. What could this book possibly tell me, I wondered, that I don’t already know? Turns out — quite a lot.

I didn’t know, for example, that “When Pirates of the Caribbean opened in 1967, the fake skeletons available to the Disney designers were unconvincing and looked like tacky Halloween decorations, so real specimens, which had previously been used for research, were purchased from UCLA’s Medical Center.”

Nor did I know I know there are eight graveyards at Disneyland — “four at the Haunted Mansion, one in Frontierland, one on Tom Sawyer’s Island, one along Storybook Land Canal, and one in Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.”

Or that “Though no longer marked by signs, the two roads that intersect the east side of Main Street also have names: Center Street and Plaza Street.”

Or this helpful hint: “Studies show that during prime meal hours, when the self-serve food operations are at their busiest, the lines on the left side tend to be shorter.”

If you’re into Disneyland history and minutiae like I am, or if you just want something to read the next time you’re standing in line for Space Mountain, I recommend picking this small book up. At $6.98, it’s definitely worth the price.

[More trivia after the jump] Continue reading

Read: Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff

9 Feb

I just finished reading a book by Christopher Moore titled Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff. The book was recommended to me by a couple of family members who said it was very funny. They weren’t wrong.

The book is a clever and amusing take on the life of Jesus (“Joshua” in the book) — specifically, the years that are missing from the actual gospels — as told by Joshua’s constant companion and best friend Biff. From the back of  the book:

“Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes.”

This book is definitely for those with a healthy sense of humor. There’s plenty of swearing and humorous sex —  stuff most people don’t want to associate with their savior. Although it’s written in a modern vernacular, Joshua’s character and message stay true to commonly held beliefs, even if he does say the ‘F’ word on occasion.

If you can hang with all that, you’ll be rewarded with clever and constant jokes, puns and sarcasm (which Biff invents, then immediately regrets once the Son of God picks it up and starts using it on him).

We all know how Joshua’s story ends, and yet I was still surprisingly moved by Moore’s treatment of the event. This book is as much about Biff as it is his holy friend, and I found him to be a thoughtful, humorous and engaging narrator.

Pick this one up from the local library — you won’t be sorry.