Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Watchman has been set

Who's ready to talk about Go Set a Watchman? Anyone? Here, I'll start and then you throw your 2 cents in.

First, let's talk about the controversy. Some say Harper Lee did not authorize this publication, that she was hoodwinked by her conniving lawyer who was snooping around and found the manuscript and got great big dollar signs in her eyes. This may be true. It also may be true that Harper Lee is old and tired and thought, oh why not. Let them have it. My guess is that the truth lies, as it usually does, somewhere in the middle. But regardless, we have it now. And I'm going to throw it out there that it's the biggest thing to happen to American literature in our lifetime. So boycott it if you will (I've heard of several people who are) but we'll never know the truth and I couldn't pass it up.

Also, it's a good book. Even without any nostalgia attached to it, it's a good stand-alone book. It needs some editing. Apparently there was very little done to what they found. There are some rambling bits and arcane references that would have been smoothed over had a guiding hand been involved. But all in all, I enjoyed it very much. And how can you not be nostalgic about it? Nearly everyone we love is there.. Scout (now Jean Louise) is 26 and living in New York and comes home for two weeks to check in on Atticus who is old and rheumatic. Calpurnia, Jem, and Dill all show up in some form. There are several flashbacks that were just as charming as anything in Mockingbird. It was the flashbacks, in fact, that made it so clear why Lee's publishers declined this book and asked her to write something about Scout as a child. Her feistiness was much more appealing as a child then as an adult.

But it's her feistiness that propels the story along once she finds out that her dad is a racist. Yep, the hysterical reviews were right. Atticus is a racist. He says some really horrible shocking things. Things that truly turned my stomach. Although it is not any different from what any other white southern man in the 1950s was saying. Which makes this a much more realistic book then TKAM. I mentioned earlier that I was afraid I was going to have to think of Atticus as being from some alternate universe. Bizzaro Atticus. But that was not the case. He was the same sweet, patient, honorable man. The pain of his newly revealed beliefs was both compounded and eased by Scout feeling the exact same way as I did. Every generation changes perspective on social issues. Scout said plenty of things in the book that if said today would end up on the internet and get her fired. We're all flawed. 

So there you go. Let me know when I should schedule the book club. I'm dying to talk to people about this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Old Lady Recommendations

I've really been old-ladying it up this summer. Watching a lot of documentaries while crocheting, that sort of thing.

Here's what I recently finished.


I made it because months ago I donated a doily for my ward's youth camp auction and then I forgot that I had donated it and didn't actually have one made. I was out of town for the auction but when I came back Katie said, "Someone bought your doily." Yeeps. So I whipped one up. And by "whipped" I mean I spent 4 months making it. The very last row with all those fiddly bits took 3 whole hours. But didn't it turn out lovely? And I don't want you to think that it's drudgery. I get a lot of joy from making beautiful things. But the fiddly bits are a beast. It has been handed over and a new one has been started. Because I'm 80 and need a crochet project at all times.

I would like to apologize for my foot in this picture. It was not intentional but I just don't feel like cropping it. It needs to be noted though because I am SO DONE with seeing feet in pictures. You guys, stop putting your feet in all your Instagram pictures. The trend needs to die and I am calling everyone to arms. I realize that trends are important sociological markers. People in the future will look back on these pictures and say, "Oh, this is from 2015. Look at the feet." But there are enough of them and it's time to move on. It would actually be a different story if you were to post a picture of your shoes and a caption that said, "Look at my cute shoes!" That would be something. But it's never that! The feet are never the subject. It's always an artisanal brownie or a mug of chai tea or a sand dollar with a seaweed leaf in the shape of a heart stuck to it AND the feet. I can barely handle thinking about how hard some people have to work to get shots like that. I wish I had saved this one picture I saw on Instagram that officially made me hate the trend. Some guy had artistically arranged his breakfast of a banana, a yogurt, and coffee on his hotel floor and took a picture of it with his bare feet next to it. All I could think of was, "You're about to eat food that has touched the hotel floor and your feet are like a millimeter away from it, Sicko!" This was the end for me.

Sorry. That was an unintentional rant. But this is about how I'm a Very Old Woman. So on to my documentary recommendations!

No, no, wait. I have to first tell you about some article I recently saw about what faux pas people make when visiting London, or something like that and it was basically all of these people saying things like, "Don't talk so loud, and say 'please' and 'thank you' to everyone, and don't block traffic especially on the tube escalators, and don't hold people up because you're not prepared in the grocery line, and just don't be rude because we won't confront you about it but will seethe in silent indignation over it." It made all Londoners sound so wonderfully cranky that I felt an immediate kinship to them. Like I had finally found my people.  Would someone please pay for me to go to London? Thank you.

Okay, now for real, the doc recs. 

1. Honest Liar. About the Amazing Randi and his lifelong quest to defraud charlatans like faith-healers, psychics, metal benders, etc. There is an interesting twist. Plus you get some classic footage of 1980s faith healers. These guys are real cads but so entertaining.

2. Web Junkie. China has deemed internet addiction the biggest health problem in their country and they have reconditioning camps for teens. It's a comfort to know that petulant, disaffected teens aren't just in America. Also, ugh, video games.

3.  Tim's Vermeer. This tech mogul decides that he wants to figure out how 17th century Dutch artist Vermeer painted such detailed, photographic pieces. So he recreates Vermeer's studio and figures it out. Probably. We'll never know. But it seems like the most probable explanation (it basically just involves a mirror and whoa is it tedious.) and his dedication to the project is mesmerizing. And now I really want to try the technique.

4. What Happened. Miss Simone? About Nina Simone. She was just phenomenal. And tortured. There is so much good music in this one.

There, go forth and watch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go Set a Watchman on Your Teenage Girls

1. While I was walking in to Barnes and Noble to pick up Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman two teenage girls who were sitting outside on a bench called me over and asked if I would give them a ride home. You know the next person they ask would surely be a murderer so because I'm not I thought I'd do these girls a favor and save them from certain doom. I told them to wait 10 minutes and went in and got the book then drove them the 3 miles home. Who asks a total stranger for a ride? I am, and look like, a matronly aunt so I'm a safe bet. But those girls didn't know that. Look, I hate taking the bus and I don't know that it's any safer than asking some strange woman for a lift but come on.

2. Now let's talk about Go Set a Watchman.  I read the New York Times review last week and in a nutshell it said, "ATTICUS IS A RACIST!!! WOE, WOE TO US ALL!!!!" I think we can all agree that is tough to get past. So, I'm apprehensive. But this is a Major Literary Thing happening and I want to be a part of it. And I'm just flat out curious so I'm trying to not be sentimental about it. If necessary I'm going to convince myself that it is Bizzaro Atticus from an alternate universe, remembering that it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird so just calm down, Rachel. Anyway, let's convene the Rachel Says So Virtual Book Club in a few weeks and discuss it, okay?

3. Lindsay and I went to the Hollywood Bowl on Friday to swoon over Harry Connick Jr. I'd put it in my top 5 all-time favorite shows. It was just so much fun. Also, during intermission we heard a bit of a cheering ruckus going on in the section next to us. Word made it down that there was a wedding going on. And sure enough, there was a guy in a tux and a woman in a veil and they were, indeed, getting married. Is this not the most genius thing you've ever heard? It's so memorable and fun and you can tell everyone that Harry Connick Jr. sang at your wedding. Plus, it's cheap and beautiful and you don't have to buy flowers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Soap on a Rope

I live a relatively frugal life. I just don't like spending money on frivolous things. But I have one luxury: soap. Specifically from The Soap Kitchen in Pasadena. The scent is natural and light. They make it right there in the shop. It's owned and run by a woman who has named her dog Shea Butter. Plus, it makes my skin feel so soft and luxurious. And it's like $9 a bar. NINE DOLLARS. My Mormon pioneer ancestors are rolling in their graves. But I promise you that if any one of those dear women who crossed the plains could use this soap they would totally get it and give me their blessing.

There are very few aspects of my life that are real honest to goodness Woman of Elegant Leisure status, but my soap is. I don't buy fancy clothes, I get most of my books from the library now instead of buying them. That article in the New York times about the conditions that nail salon girls work under shamed me enough to stop getting cheap pedicures which now means I get zero pedicures. I don't take extravagant vacations and we don't have cable. I live a very simple and inexpensive life. So I'm just going to keep on driving out to Pasadena to get my $9 bar of soap because it makes me feel like the Queen of England.

Related: I have a vague recollection of reading about the Queen's daily schedule and it included a morning bath with the same brand of soap and receiving a fresh bar each day. I want to say it was Yardley of London's rose soap, which I thought was weird because you can buy that at CVS for maybe $3. But this is after she is woken up by her maid who brings her tea and biscuits to eat in bed which is in a castle. Her life is not without luxury even if her soap is cheap. And also, what happens to the used soap each day? Doled out to the peasants waiting at the gates?

Also related: Have you hear of Royal Warrants? I just learned about this. It's where the royal family gives a seal of approval to a company they like and use. Yardley of London has a few. But so does Tabasco Sauce. No joke. Do you think that Her Majesty enjoys a little Tabasco on her eggs in the morning? I am a Tapatio girl myself but these are just the many things we can discuss when I eventually meet her. Soap and hot sauce. (Silent prayer: Please let me someday talk hot sauce with the Queen of England. Amen.)