Monday, August 29, 2011

Memento Nora

YA; fiction; dystopia.
These are the times that would be great for inspiring good
dystopias. There is so much to raise disquietude in every facet of
life: politics, education, the environment... At the same time
there's so much pressure from the government and their BFFs in big
business to not rock the boat. So I knew if I went hunting for this
genre I wouldn't be disappointed.
The strength of a dystopia lies in its author's ability to tie
together troubling trends and take them just a bit further. There has
to be enough continuity to create plausibility. At the sane time the
future world must hang together with its own internal coherence. This
is not an easy task. Angie Smibert pulls it off brilliantly with her
YA novel, Memento Nora.
Nora, the heroine, a student at Homeland High #17, lives in a
time when traumatic memories can be erased quickly and painlessly.
All you must do is go to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. After
describing the event you wish to forget to a doctor you take a pill
and go on with your life, unaware that it had ever happened.
A bomb goes off in a store. A dead man falls at Nora's feet.
Not surprisingly, she has a nightmare and is taken to her mother's
favorite clinic. She ends up just pretending to take the pill. She's
seen a boy spit his out secretively. And she's heard her mother
describe an aspect of her home life she had never imagined.
The boy, Micah, is not in Nora's crowd. But she's strangely
drawn to him. They meet and decide that the stories being chemically
erased need to be recorded. When they create and distribute a comic
book the establishment goes all out to shut them down. As the
conflict escalates it becomes impossible to put the book down.
In addition to being a place where memories are erased and
dissent is crushed, Nora's world is heartbreakingly consumerist and
superficial. Ads stream through every aspect of life. Citizens are
taught that consumption is one of their freedoms. Everyone and
everything experienced positively is described as glossy. 'Nough said.
Dystopia fans and affecianados of a good suspense story will
find Memento Nora to be a must read. Teachers will applaud this book
and the thought provoking questions that arise from reading it.
On a more personal note: Hate to see the summer ending and the kids
going back to school. :P
Coming attractions: we're sticking with YA fiction.
A big shout out goes to Kathryn Olmstead. She was my journalistic
ethics professor when I was great with child 21 years ago. I still
remember the issues we discussed and the excitement of exploring them
under her expert guidance. When I lost her as a teacher I gained her
as a friend. A good and trusted friend. And hugs to her darling
canine companion, Lucy!

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's Go Clean Green

My Joey cat is practically purrfect in every way. When I get up
in the morning he greets me with the ardor of a pre teen at a Justin
Bieber concert. At night he sits on my lap while I knit. And any
moment in between he's there for me.
Sometimes,though, Joey takes it into his head to destroy a piece
of furniture by clawing. Once when a sofa was under siege the hubby
brought home an aerosol can of something designed to keep pets off
stuff. I tried it once. Joey responded with the full bodied growl/
hiss usually reserved for hypodermic wielding vets. From then on just
the sight of the can elicited this response.
I was puzzled. The can shows a healthy looking cat and dog.
But when I read the cautions more can't even throw the
can away if it contains some product...and I was using it in my home!
I kept the cat, banned the can.
If you've had a similar dilemma or are just concerned about your
home environment you'll find The Complete Guide to Eco-Friendly House
Cleaning by Anne B. Kocsis to be a truly valuable reference book.
Kocsis had me from hello, starting her book with my favorite Erma
Bombeck quote: "Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.".
Sadly, there's more than a grain of truth in that. A lot of products
that unclog our drains, remove Fido's fleas, and get rid of that pesky
static cling contain carcinogens and other nasty stuff and can do harm
to us and our animal companions.
Ironically, even those of us who are aware of environmental
dangers of corporate practices in the big world can vary in our
enlightenment when it comes to products we use in our homes. Drain
cleaner and toilet bowl drop ins scared me out of my wits. But I
still put fabric softener sheets on the shopping list. And companies
can make creating a safe home environment really confusing. Sensing
our desire for green products, some have engaged in deceptive
practices--making products that are anything but appear to be
environmentally friendly.
Fortunately some firms are coming out with truly green
products. And there are basic substances and objects in your home
that can save money as well as being safer. But there are so many
things we use daily to clean our homes, clothes, and pets--locating
and replacing the bad stuff can seem overwhelming.
Now this is where the book comes in. Kocsis began her research
because her family got sick too often. The information she gleaned
made marked improvements in their health. And she dispenses it in
highly readable, well-organized sections.
Chapters one and two give the low down on some pretty nasty chemicals
that may be lurking in your home.
Chapters three to five give you safer options.
Chapters six and seven give manageable starting points for changing
your home cleaning system.
Chapters eight through twelve, my favorites, give you room by room
And the rest of the book covers special situations like pet care and
laundry stain removal.
If you want your home to be a less hazardous place buy the
book. Even if you don't decide to follow the program, it's an
invaluable resource for those inevitable household predicaments...
like keeping a cat from shredding a piece of furniture.
On a personal note: Joey is a radiantly healthy eight-year-old
cat who will celebrate his adoption day next month.
Coming attractions: Fiction. I promise.
A big shout out goes to Joey and all the other wonderful animal
companions who do so much to enrich our lives. I think it is totally
cool that a portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to
the Humane Society. :-)
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two for the kitchen

Watching the struggles of several friends who have diabetes
served as a scary reminder of my own genetic predisposition. True I'm
a vegetarian and not a couch potato. Still I thought there must be
something else I should be doing.
My good friend, Jann, who is a nurse, suggested that I cut down
on carbs. That rang a bell. I gave in too much to my sweet tooth.
To my fellow RSU 26 board members my lollipops were iconic.
I decided to give up sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and all
the other stuff that isn't good for people. I felt that I had to
choose between food for health and food that tastes good. Fortunately
Eat Naked by Margaret Floyd put this false dichotomy to rest. If you
want to feel better or lose weight or you simply are concerned about
what you're eating, this reader friendly book is a great place to start.
Eating naked has nothing to do with your clothes (or lack
thereof). It has everything to do with the purity of the food you
eat. As a society, we increasingly consume processed substances with
some pretty scary ingredients. And the (factory farmed) chickens have
come home to roost. Record numbers of us are overweight or obese and
on track for diabetes and heart disease.
Floyd's solution: start giving your body what it needs, not
what Madison Avenue says you want. There are five basic principles:
--Eat food that is whole and unrefined.
--Eat food that has been grown or raised naturally.
--Eat food when it's fresh and in season.
--Eat food that has been raised or grown as locally as possible.
--Eat food that has been processed as minimally as possible.
Eating naked fleshes out these basics. Floyd teaches us how to
navigate the complexities of shopping, dining out, and cooking. She
does not demand going cold turkey. In fact, she encourages gradual
transition. You don't have to totally cut out comfort foods. And
there are some pretty awesome recipes.
Eating locally year round can seem like a daunting challenge to
those of us who live close to the Canadian border. Lisa Turner's The
Eat Local Cookbook is a truly wonderful asset. It's written by a
Maine farmer and organized by season and dish type (appetizers,
salads, side dishes, entrees, and desserts). The recipes are quite
varied and tasty. All you foodies and locavores out there will be in
cooking paradise. So don't waste a minute. Get out to your library
or book store and find something good for dinner. There are even
ideas for our ubiquitous zucchini. :-)
On a more personal note: those two books have been my
salvation. It's been over two weeks since I embarked on my quest to
eat more sanely and prevent diabetes. All I can say is smooth
sailing. And I feel great!
Coming attractions: next we are going to do some eco friendly
house cleaning. Following that we'll kick back and relax with a bunch
of fiction.
A big shout out goes to my good friend, Jann. It's truly a
blessing to have someone who can console me when things go badly,
celebrate with me when they perk up, and know when to practice tough
love. The words, thank you, could never be adequate...but I guess
they'll have to do.
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