Articles by " Adam"
20 Jul
2015

Who Said That? A Guide to Ventriloquism Week

The late, great Edgar Bergen and his pal Charlie McCarthy

The late, great Edgar Bergen and his pal Char­lie McCarthy

Pret­ty much every­one knows what ven­tril­o­quism is, but in case you don’t, ven­tril­o­quism is the art of throw­ing one’s voice.  The abil­i­ty to speak while appear­ing not to speak.  Great ven­tril­o­quists can have full con­ver­sa­tions with thin air!  Can give life to oth­er­wise inert objects!  (Usu­al­ly a pup­pet of some kind, but it’s fun when it’s some­thing else too!)  Ven­tril­o­quists, in short, make bor­ing (and, depend­ing on the pup­pet, some­times creepy) things fun!

Nation­al Ven­tril­o­quism Week is coor­di­nat­ed through the Vent Haven Muse­um in Cincin­nati.  William Berg­er, a Cincin­nati indus­tri­al­ist, found­ed the muse­um using his large col­lec­tion of ventriloquist’s dum­mies that he had accu­mu­lat­ed over many years and busi­ness trips.  The week is cel­e­brat­ed on the third week of July every year (that’s the 19th through the 25th this year).

Even if you can’t make it out to Cincin­nati for the cel­e­bra­tion, appre­ci­ate the fine art of ven­tril­o­quism by see­ing a show or watch­ing one on Net­flix if there isn’t a live one con­ve­nient.  Or prac­tice some ven­tril­o­quism of your own!  You nev­er know when it might come in handy!

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7 Jul
2015

Adam’s Picks!

The fol­low­ing books have rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle in com­mon with one anoth­er with regard to plot, set­ting, writ­ing style, or real­ly any lit­er­ary cri­te­ri­on.  Some are short, some long, some sweet, some grave, most are fic­tion, one isn’t.  One thing com­mon to all of them is that I am absolute­ly in love with them.  I could pick up any of the­se books at the drop of a hat and not stir until I had fin­ished it.  They are some of my very favorite things to read and I hope you’ll enjoy them if you try any.

geek love

Geek Love by Kather­ine Dunn:  I read this book in a post-mod­ern lit­er­a­ture class in col­lege.  I went into the class not real­ly like post-mod­ern lit.  I found it over­wrought and vac­u­ous and large­ly com­plete­ly unin­ter­est­ing.  There were sev­er­al books over the course of the class that changed my mind and this was one of the first and best.  If you like sto­ries of freak shows and weird cults, this book is def­i­nite­ly for you.

secret history

The Secret His­to­ry by Don­na Tartt:  I had nev­er heard of Don­na Tartt before a good friend Jody hand­ed me this book, told me that it was one of her favorite things she’d ever read, and told me to read it.  This book inter­est­ed me from the out­set because the main char­ac­ter goes to col­lege and majors in Clas­sics and if a book about a Clas­sics major in col­lege sounds bor­ing to you, just trust me that the tip of this ice­berg does not begin to do jus­tice to the remain­der.  This piece by the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning author of The Goldfinch is absolute­ly a must read.

jungbooks

The Jun­gle Books by Rud­yard Kipling:  The Jun­gle Book and The Sec­ond Jun­gle Book were orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished sep­a­rate­ly, but are fre­quent­ly print­ed and sold as one vol­ume now.  This is one of those books that no film adap­ta­tion has ever even come close to touch­ing, so if you’ve seen any or many of the myr­i­ad film ver­sions of Kipling’s clas­sic work(s), just com­plete­ly for­get about them and pick up the book.  It’s fun, a great sto­ry to share with kids, and one of the most sur­pris­ing­ly emo­tion­al sto­ries I’ve ever read.  As an added bonus, the book is actu­al­ly a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, which makes it per­fect as a bed­time sto­ry option or com­mute book!

hobbit

The Hob­bit by J.R.R. Tolkien:  It is (hope­ful­ly) glar­ing­ly obvi­ous to any­one who’s read this blog even a bit (or talked to me in per­son) that I absolute­ly love Tolkien.  He is basi­cal­ly a deity to me.  The Hob­bit is a great Sum­mer Read­ing option because it’s light and fun and about a trip, which makes it the per­fect vaca­tion book!  Plus when the vaca­tion­ing is done and you’re ready for some­thing with a lit­tle more grav­i­tas you can grad­u­ate to The Lord of the Rings, The Sil­mar­il­lion, or even Unfin­ished Tales of Numenor and Mid­dle Earth!

fantastic fox

Fan­tas­tic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl:  First of all, every­one should have at least one Dahl book under their belt.  He’s a clas­sic children’s/young adult author for a rea­son, folks.  Fan­tas­tic Mr. Fox is my favorite Roald Dahl book because sto­ries about crafty ani­mals out­smart­ing humans are pret­ty much my life blood.  Plus, one of the char­ac­ters sub­sists on noth­ing but hard cider, which is how I aspire to live my life.

window

The Wid­ow Clic­quot by Tilar Mazzeo:  I’m not a huge oenophile (though I like wine a lot) nor am I an espe­cial­ly eager read­er of non-fic­tion, but this book hooked me.  The sto­ry of how Bar­be-Nicole Clic­quot Pon­sardin not only han­dled her husband’s com­pa­ny like a boss after he died but also com­plete­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ized the cham­pag­ne busi­ness, ran block­ades to sell her lux­u­ry wine, and basi­cal­ly was an all-around hero for, like 60 years until Death final­ly showed up and was like, “Come on, lady, you’re mak­ing me look bad here,” is one that I can read over and over again.  She was OG, man.

littlebig

Lit­tle, Big by John Crow­ley:  The nov­el picked for the inau­gu­ral meet­ing of the KU Book Club (and also the sec­ond meet­ing when we showed up and dis­cov­ered that none of us had fin­ished it) has stuck with me in a huge way since then.  This book got me into read­ing tarot cards.  It also uses the ubiq­ui­tous idea of Faerie in a supreme­ly fas­ci­nat­ing way and basi­cal­ly is every­thing you could pos­si­bly want in a book.  I’ve nev­er real­ly been able to ver­bal­ize this until right now, but you know what Lit­tle, Big is?  It’s a Neil Gaiman nov­el from before Neil Gaiman was writ­ing nov­els.  I don’t know if Gaiman was direct­ly influ­enced by Crowley’s book, but I have to say, I’d kin­da bet on it.

Iloveyoubethcooper

I Love You, Beth Coop­er by Lar­ry Doyle:  I’ll be hon­est with you, I read this book because I saw the movie and real­ly liked it.  I saw the movie because Hay­den Panet­tiere was in it and I real­ly like her.  My moti­va­tions notwith­stand­ing, though, this book is excel­lent.  Any­one who has ever gone to high school will find some­thing to relate to here.  It’s fun­ny, heart­felt, and makes you glad you grad­u­at­ed years and years ago.

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13 Jun
2015

Tread softly because you tread on his dreams. An Appreciation of William Butler Yeats

June 13th marks the birth­day of one of the greats of Mod­ernist poet­ry, William But­ler Yeats.  To real­ly under­stand an appre­ci­a­tion of Yeats, all you need is an exam­ple of his work.  The Sec­ond Com­ing is a fan­tas­tic exam­ple of the Mod­ernists’ attempts to couch the post WWI malaise in their var­i­ous art forms and is, in my not real­ly very hum­ble opin­ion, one of the best poems of all time.

yeats

Turn­ing and turn­ing in the widen­ing gyre
The fal­con can­not hear the fal­con­er;
Things fall apart; the cen­tre can­not hold;
Mere anar­chy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and every­where
The cer­e­mony of inno­cence is drowned;
The best lack all con­vic­tion, while the worst
Are full of pas­sion­ate inten­si­ty.

Sure­ly some rev­e­la­tion is at hand;
Sure­ly the Sec­ond Com­ing is at hand.
The Sec­ond Com­ing! Hard­ly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spir­i­tus Mundi
Trou­bles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and piti­less as the sun,
Is mov­ing its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shad­ows of the indig­nant desert birds.

The dark­ness drops again but now I know
That twen­ty cen­turies of stony sleep
Were vexed to night­mare by a rock­ing cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouch­es towards Beth­le­hem to be born?

If that doesn’t hit you right where it hurts, I don’t real­ly know what to do with you.

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8 Jun
2015

Low Ceilings, No Problems! An Appreciation of Frank Lloyd Wright

fallingwater

So.  I don’t know if you guys have been to Falling­wa­ter, but hope­ful­ly you have.  If you have not, let me tell you all about it.  Falling­wa­ter is a house that Frank Lloyd Wright (born June 8th, 1867, hence this post) designed for the Kauf­mann fam­i­ly near the town of Ohiopy­le, PA.

Quite frankly, it is one of the most inter­est­ing build­ings ever.  With­out going into a ton of details, tech­ni­cal and oth­er­wise, that I don’t know and/or can’t remem­ber, the house is built over a water­fall using a can­tilever tech­nique which makes it seem to almost be hov­er­ing over noth­ing.  Which is rad, obvi­ous­ly, but it has a ton of oth­er real­ly cool fea­tures also.  There’s this awe­some stair­case down to the water from the liv­ing room and it leads to what is prob­a­bly the world’s first infin­i­ty pool at the bot­tom.  That’s right, the river flows into a small, enclosed swim­ming area and then out again.  Which freak­ing rocks.

Fallingwater2_l

Falling­wa­ter also has a tra­di­tion­al pool and a pool house.  There’s an exter­nal stair­case that con­nects an office on the sec­ond floor with a bed­room on the third.  My point is that the house is real­ly real­ly cool.  If it weren’t a Nation­al Land­mark it would be a seri­ous goal of mine to one day live there.  As it is, I’ll have to set­tle for my goal being to one day try and have an homage built, haha.

Fallingwater

One last inter­est­ing thing about Falling­wa­ter (and report­ed­ly all of the res­i­dences Wright designed, though Falling­wa­ter is the only one I’ve seen for myself), the ceil­ings through­out the prop­er­ty are all quite low.  Appar­ent­ly Wright had very strong feel­ings about wast­ed space, which is why he designed his hous­es to accom­mo­date peo­ple walk­ing around but not much more.  Like, the ceil­ings at Falling­wa­ter are low enough that a tall per­son would have to stoop to get through the doors and would reach the ceil­ing long before they reached their arms to their full length above.  It actu­al­ly makes you feel a lit­tle claus­tro­pho­bic.  I think if you lived there you’d even­tu­al­ly get used to it, but just vis­it­ing it is pret­ty unnerv­ing.  At least for me.

fllw_archives_18

Any­way, Frank Lloyd Wright not only designed real­ly cool build­ings but also led a pret­ty fas­ci­nat­ing and controversial/scandalous life.  His fam­i­ly on his mother’s side had Welsh her­itage and he named a house he designed for him­self Tal­iesin, after a fig­ure in Welsh mythol­o­gy.  He was mar­ried three times and had sev­en chil­dren (sev­er­al of whom also were/are archi­tects, which is inter­est­ing in itself.)  Basi­cal­ly he was an incred­i­bly inter­est­ing per­son and you should prob­a­bly look into it.

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1 Jun
2015

Prepare to be refreshed! It’s Iced Tea Month!

teaiced

So.  June is Nation­al Iced Tea Mon­th!  I don’t know if you know this, but good iced tea is lit­er­al­ly one of the most refresh­ing things in the entire world.  It’s pret­ty much only sur­passed by a good lemon-lime soda and plain old water.

Now I’m not talk­ing about Turner’s Iced Tea here.  I’m not talk­ing about Ari­zona.  Those things have their place, of course.  Far be it from me to dis­par­age a nice sug­ary drink.  But real iced tea, brewed at home and chilled with a bil­lion ice cubes, is on a com­plete­ly oth­er lev­el.  It’s like the dif­fer­ence between RC Cola and Coke.  Or the dif­fer­ence between lit­er­al­ly any oth­er ketchup and Heinz.  There’s real­ly no com­par­ison.  Because home­made iced tea is the tits.

So in hon­or of Iced Tea Mon­th, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite iced tea con­coc­tions, Cold-brewed Iced Tea with Mint!  (There’s not real­ly a way to fix the name of it so it sounds catchy.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  Let me know if you come up with some­thing!)

Lemon-Mint-Iced-Tea-6

First of all, why brew the tea cold?  Using boil­ing water is faster (way way way faster, actu­al­ly) and you still get tea, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, tea is tea, but cold brew­ing extracts the fla­vor from the leaves dif­fer­ent­ly.  Cold brewed tea has less of the tan­nic, astrin­gent tastes of the leaves steeped in boil­ing water.  I don’t real­ly under­stand the chem­istry of it (though I guess I should look it up), but appar­ent­ly brew­ing tea or cof­fee with boil­ing water brings out more of the bit­ter fla­vors of the leaves/beans and cold brew­ing tea or cof­fee doesn’t do that.  (P.s., cold brewed cof­fee is also freak­in’ great.)

So any­way, cold-brew­ing tea.  What you do is you take a good, reli­able, plain black tea.  Let’s say Luzian­ne for argument’s sake.  One tea bag per cup of water is a great ratio for a full-fla­vored mix­ture.  So four tea bags for a quart of water.  Add to that approx­i­mate­ly a cup of slight­ly crushed/bruised mint leaves and let that steep in the fridge for at least 6 hours.  Overnight is usu­al­ly a good way to do it.  Now, there are peo­ple out there who are pret­ty hard­core sun tea enthu­si­asts.  This is just like that, only your tea doesn’t have to sit warm out­side for hours grow­ing bac­te­ria.  Takes a lit­tle longer, but the fla­vor is just as good, I promise.

So any­way, you take out the tea bags and the mint leaves, you add a slice of lemon and some sim­ple syrup over ice and there you have the summer’s most refresh­ing drink.  Tada!

 

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28 May
2015

Take some time and go to the park, it’s Sierra Club Day!

sierra club x2

So the Sier­ra Club, if you don’t already know, was found­ed on May 28th, 1892 by this total­ly rad guy named John Muir.  Even then, America’s wild places were start­ing to be gob­bled up in the wake of rapid­ly expand­ing pop­u­la­tions and indus­tri­al­iza­tion.  John, as you might imag­ine, was not in favor of that.  So, with the help of oth­er nat­u­ral­ists, artists, and a bunch of oth­er peo­ple, Muir found­ed the Sier­ra Club with a mis­sion,

To explore, enjoy, and pro­tect the wild places of the earth; To prac­tice and pro­mote the respon­si­ble use of the earth’s ecosys­tems and resources; To edu­cate and enlist human­i­ty to pro­tect and restore the qual­i­ty of the nat­u­ral and human envi­ron­ment; and to use all law­ful means to car­ry out the­se objec­tives.”

And the Sier­ra Club has been pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment ever since.  Now, I’m not here to tell you to become a mem­ber or even to try and con­vince you to help save the Earth.  Hope­ful­ly, you already do as much as you can of that on your own.  All I’m try­ing to do here is acknowl­edge the great con­tri­bu­tion John Muir made to the envi­ron­men­tal cause and cel­e­brate the Sier­ra Club’s awe­some­ness in pro­tect­ing and nur­tur­ing our world.  You go, guys!  Thanks!

So stately.  He's thinking deep, conservationy thoughts, I bet.

So state­ly. He’s think­ing deep, con­ser­va­tiony thoughts, I bet.

 

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23 May
2015

Grab your Lightsaber, your Phaser, your Ring of Power, and/or your Towel, because it’s Geek Pride Day on the 25th!

Aw yiss.  So proud.

Aw yiss. So proud.

So as a Geek, I under­stand the need for Geek Pride Day (May 25th every year.  To com­mem­o­rate the release of Star Wars, obvi­ous­ly.)  There’s a weird stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with being a geek.  And while there’s room for a ton of dis­cus­sion about where that comes from and while said dis­cus­sion and inves­ti­ga­tion would be total­ly fas­ci­nat­ing (geek alert), I’m going to go ahead and wild­ly over­sim­pli­fy and say that what it real­ly comes down to is a 1950s-style rejec­tion of book­ish­ness.  So it’s impor­tant, even in this geek-for­ward era, to cel­e­brate all the obscure cul­tur­al touch­stones and unusu­al obses­sions that make us who we are.

Man, speaking of Geeks...

Man, speak­ing of Geeks…

For what­ev­er rea­son (for a bunch of rea­sons, actu­al­ly), there’s some­thing about the pale, bespec­ta­cled geek image that some peo­ple real­ly abhor.  This is sad for them, because some of the best peo­ple I have ever met have been pale and bespec­ta­cled.  And while their inter­ests may not have been the same, the tan, Lacoste-wear­ing, coun­try-club­bing set who (prover­bial­ly) abhor them are just as geeky.  They’re just geeky about dif­fer­ent things, like ten­nis and sail­ing and foot­ball.

That’s kind of the thing about being a geek: almost every­one is one about some­thing.  All of us have things that we’re inter­est­ed in and pas­sion­ate about.  That’s all being a geek is, real­ly.  So whether you’re a clas­si­cal, comics-tot­ing, com­put­er-screen-in-the-dark-read­ing geek or an unusu­al, out­doorsy, sports-ori­ent­ed geek, or some unholy com­bi­na­tion of the two or any of the myr­i­ad oth­ers, be proud today and every day!  Geek Pride!  Woo!

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20 May
2015

KU Book Club Prep: A P.G. Wodehouse Primer!

wodehouseblog

I can hear it from here!  All of you out there say­ing, “My good­ness, Adam, there are so many P.G. Wode­house books at KU, how did you pick just one to read for book club?!  And, more impor­tant­ly, how should I choose some of them to read this sum­mer, since they are great for sum­mer read­ing and are the fun­ni­est books ever?!”  First­ly, let me say that you are very ver­bose.

Sec­ond­ly, yes, it can be dif­fi­cult to know where to begin with Wode­house (that’s wood-house, p.s., not woad-house) but the truth is that you can start any­where you like.  Wodehouse’s books are usu­al­ly short sto­ry col­lec­tions and while there are over-arch­ing plot lines, he’s very good at fill­ing his read­ers in on what they need to know for the present moment.  Most of the Wode­house books we car­ry (he wrote over 100!) come from two main sto­ry­li­nes, Jeeves and Woost­er and Bland­ings Castle.

Jeeves and Woost­er is about wealthy and scat­ter­brained Bertie Woost­er, the unfor­tu­nate sit­u­a­tions he and his friends get into, and how his inge­nious valet, Jeeves, extri­cates him from them.  If you’re a stick­ler for chronol­o­gy, the first three books pub­lished were My Man Jeeves in 1919, The Inim­itable Jeeves in 1923, and Car­ry On, Jeeves in 1925.  Car­ry On, Jeeves con­tains the sto­ry Jeeves Takes Charge which is about how Jeeves came to work for Bertie in the first place, so from a nar­ra­tive per­spec­tive, it’s a good place to start and that’s why we chose it from the oth­ers for a book club selec­tion.  Oth­er great J&W books include Right Ho, Jeeves and Mat­ing Sea­son.

Bland­ings Castle is con­cerned with Lord Emsworth and the res­i­dents of Bland­ings Castle, who also get them­selves into unfor­tu­nate and hilar­i­ous sit­u­a­tions.  The first BC book is Some­thing Fresh (1915), but we rec­om­mend start­ing with Heavy Weath­er or Lord Emsworth and Oth­ers.  One of Wodehouse’s most beloved char­ac­ters is Psmith (the P is silent, as in pshrimp) and he is part of the BC series.  His first book is Psmith in the City, but we love Leave it to Psmith the best.

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