Late to the Party: World War Z (The Book)

[This is the first in a continuing series, Late to the Party, talking about culture that’s not so ‘pop’ anymore, because sometimes you have things to do for years on end instead of reading the latest book or watching the latest movie.  Max Brooks’s World War Z came out in 2006 and I’m only now getting around to read it.]

On the gorgeous Friday of Memorial Day weekend, my partner and I set off to Portland.  I had heard good things about the audiobook of World War Z and, knowing little about it except that people liked it and there were zombies, we downloaded it for the 3.5 hour drive.

[Note: An unabridged audiobook came out May 14 of this year but was not available for purchase on iTunes on Memorial Day weekend.  Or I didn’t see it.  Whatever.  Either way, this article is primarily about the abridged version of the audiobook, which has been in the market since 2007.]

I do want to be clear about this up front: I like a LOT of this work, both the audiobook and the book.  (After I finished listening to the audio, I ended up borrowing a copy to compare the two.)  Brooks’ prose isn’t necessarily anything to write home about, but the level of research and commitment that he brought to this hypothetical situation is outstanding.  I think that it achieves one of the most important objectives of science fiction, which is an earnest re-examination of our lives as they are through the lens of what they might become.

But (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming!), this achievement makes Brooks’s failures stand out in greater contrast.

Spoilers: There will be some about this work and the seminal zombie masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead.

Continue reading

Pick-Me-Up: Thug Kitchen and more

Thug Kitchen on tomatoes

My roommate turned me onto Thug Kitchen a few months ago, and I love this site.  The recipes are excellent and healthy and the posts usually make me laugh.  More importantly, I think TK’s mission is increasingly essential.  From the FAQ page:

PART OF WHAT WE ENJOY ABOUT TK IS HOW, HOPEFULLY, IT WILL GET READERS THINKING ABOUT WHAT KIND OF ADDITIONAL BEHAVIORS THEY ATTRIBUTE TO PEOPLE WHO TRY TO EAT HEALTHY. EVERYONE DESERVES TO FEEL A PART OF OUR COUNTRY’S PUSH TOWARD A HEALTHIER DIET, NOT JUST PEOPLE WITH DISPOSABLE INCOMES WHO SPEAK A CERTAIN WAY. WE AIM TO EDUCATE AS WELL AS ENTERTAIN, MOTHER FUCKER.

Masculinity (and heart disease) inna a box…

The cultural trope of not only cooking, but of eating healthfully, being somehow “prissy” or otherwise feminine, is still pretty strong.  Vegetarianism and veganism are particularly ridiculed and associated with all sorts of negative traits: hypersensitivity, hyperbolic condemnation of meat-eaters, yuppie-ism, smugness, adherence to fads, delicacy, squeamishness, illogic, ditziness… the list goes on.

… while women laugh alone with salad. (Courtesy of The Hairpin.)

So check out Thug Kitchen and enjoy!

BONUS: Ron Finley’s “guerrilla gardening” project in South Los Angeles also tackles preconceptions about what it means to be a gardener.  The project is really lovely on a lot of levels – increasing accessibility to healthy foods, nutritional awareness, and an emphasis on creation as an act of defiance and empowerment.  Money quote:

So what I want to do here, we gotta make this sexy. So I want us all to become ecolutionary renegades, gangstas, gangsta gardeners. We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is. If you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta. Get gangsta with your shovel, okay? And let that be your weapon of choice.

BONUS BONUS: 

Ray tells it like it is.  (From Achewood by the inimitable Chris Onstad.  Go read the whole goddamn thing.)

Ray tells it like it is. (From Achewood by the inimitable Chris Onstad. Go read the whole goddamn thing.)

Lucinda ate this this morning and will hopefully imbibe some of this later today.

How Soap Operas are Changing the World, and Why That’s Great

I will not pretend to be a fan of soap operas, but this headline got my attention immediately:

The secret to bringing down India’s birth rate: get more women to watch soap operas

It turns out that there’s a significant level of correlation between which regions of India have access to cable television and which regions are experiencing lower total fertility rates.  The study on which the article is based goes into further detail of the positive social change in its abstract:

Using a three-year, individual-level panel dataset, we find that the introduction of cable television is associated with significant decreases in the reported acceptability of domestic violence towards women and son preference, as well as increases in women’s autonomy and decreases in fertility. We also find suggestive evidence that exposure to cable increases school enrollment for younger children, perhaps through increased participation of women in household decision-making.

Apparently, similar findings were uncovered when tracking fertility rates in relation to cable-viewing in Brazil.   Continue reading

Pick-Me-Up: Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman, by Renee Lupica

This is lovely AND a little disheartening that it’s a fairy tale.

I.

Once upon a time a woman never got married, but had many fulfilling relationships, a job that kept her comfortable, an apartment that she got to decorate just for her, and hobbies that stimulated her mind.

The End.

Read the rest at The Hairpin.  Also, do yourself a favor and read ALL of the Scandals of Classic Hollywood series by Anne Helen Petersen.  Insightful, hilarious, and a fascinating lens through which to view cultural change.

Lucinda appreciates new weird fairy tales, like this one.