I’m sure these sites aren’t legal…

… and probably won’t be around for that long. But in the meantime, two things I came across this morning:

A directory of each and every Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

All about South Park, which includes (I think) every episode of the show.

The second one is particularly interesting to me. Given that high speed internet access is coming online fast and given all the other ways that there are television shows online for free or for a small fee, these two different boxes, the TV and the computer, are indeed merging into one. Heck, the stereo is already stuck inside this particular box….

What is important in America (as told by the narrative of magazines at a Wal-Mart)

I found myself in Wal-Mart this afternoon for reasons I won’t even begin to explain. I’m hopeful that no one saw me get out of my car that has bumper-sticker on it which says “Wal-Mart: Source for all of your cheap plastic crap.” Anyway, when Will and I got up to the counter, I looked over the magazine rack and I was struck enough by this to take a picture with my phone:

Jenn and Angolie

Maybe I’m just a little punchy or something, but there’s something rather striking, funny, and disturbing to me that the “news” stand at America’s leading retailer tells this story, as far as I can tell:

  • Angelina’s all-important baby is apparently a boy.
  • Right after she gives birth, I’ll bet she gets right on the tummy flattening routine.
  • Jennifer, despite her forlorn look, is coping, undoubtably because her tell-all book will be on sale soon.
  • Brad, though absent, is apparently a given.
  • Besides A & J and a flat stomach, even more sex tips and a nice garden/patio set-up are worthy desires.

This one goes out for the literary geeks…

I teach on Thursday nights, and I always end up watching late night TV after class because I can never get to sleep early. Tonight (really, last night now) I ended up channel-surfing between a couple of different things, including Charlie Rose, and the guest for the second half of his show was Harold Bloom. “Who is Harold Bloom,” you ask? Clearly, you are not an English geek. In the nutshell, Bloom is a big name (one of the biggest names in the U.S. right now) literary critic. He was on Charlie Rose talking about a wide range of issues, mostly having to do with a new book he has coming out.

In many ways, Bloom represents the kind of literary critic that irritates me to no end– on paper. But I have to say that on the Rose show, Bloom was a charming (albeit scruffy) commentator. It helped that he spoke frequently of the evil that was George W. Bush (and it was pretty amusing to watch Charlie Rose trying to skate around that one), but I just liked what Bloom had to say on a wide range of literary figures.

Who is the most important writer in American letters, according to Bloom? Whitman. I kinda-sorta agree with that one, actually.

Getting at the anti-Harry Potter crowd

This one really goes out for my wife:

91 Ways to Agitate Someone Who Doesn’t Like Harry Potter from a site called MuggleNet. Some of my favorites include:

  • Give them Harry Potter merchandise for their birthday and Christmas and demand that they keep it and treasure it forever.
  • Make them play Quidditch with you.
  • Use the titles You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to refer to random people.
  • If anyone tells you you’ll go to hell for reading Harry Potter, either: a) Jump and down and tell them that you can’t wait. b) Tell them you’ll meet them there. c) Sing “Weasley Is Our King” over and over again. Or d) Ask them to back up this claim with evidence, and laugh at them when they can’t.

Did you hear? Some sorta Harry Potter or other book is coming out….

I feel pretty confident in saying that my wife won’t be reading this blog for a while because she’ll be spending her time reading the new Harry Potter book instead. Anyway, Maud Newton has a collection of nice and fun links about the latest book here.

Two other quick thoughts:

  • Personally, I kind of like the Harry Potter books. I read the first three– I liked the first one the best– and I’ll probably read the fourth one before the movie in November.
  • I guess you could argue that the Juggernaut that is J.K. Rowling, Inc. is so gigantic that it just rolls over other book in the store, children’s and otherwise. I think that’s part of what Newton is getting at. I dunno; I think that anything that gets kids to read is probably a good thing.

One of my official blogging colleagues has a pretty funny “summary” of the new book…

Oprah, Bill Faulkner, and Me: As I Lay Dying

I’m pretty far behind on my Oprah Book Club homework for reading Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I have a variety of excuses, not the least of which is I have to wrap up my teaching by tomorrow. So I’ll just mention a few things about my reading for now:

  • I have memories (not necessarily vivid, but memories) of reading As I Lay Dying as a freshman in college. I think I had read a Faulkner short story or two when I was in high school, but I’m pretty sure that this was the first Faulkner novel I had read. What I remember about reading it 20 years ago now was that I liked it, but there was a lot that I just flat-out didn’t get. This time around, I feel like I am understanding quite a bit more of it, which makes sense since I’m a much more experienced and better trained reader than I was way back when. Better still, this book really holds up for me. Faulkner is one bad-ass writer, that’s for sure.
  • Oprah’s web site has all kinds of stuff about Faulkner and approaching the book, much of which is useful and much of which isn’t. I think I’m particularly put off by the “Faulkner expert,” Robert W. Hamblin. His bio indicates that he’s certainly qualified, but in his video lectures (which don’t really work well on my broadband connection), he looks and sounds and acts to me like someone from the Oprah show called central casting and said “get me an English professor, stat!” Plus I find his critical approach problematic: he’s all about the biography of Faulkner, he’s about saying things like “this is what this novel is about,” and some of the questions he decides to answer strike me as nit-picky to the extreme. For example, one of the questions was “How old are the Bunden children?” Hamblin goes on and ON and on answering this, when it seems to me the real answer should be something like “Well, it goes from oldest to youngest Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman, and Vardaman is either a lot younger than the other kids in the family or he has some kind of mental retardation or something. That’s all you really need to know.”
  • Actually, the best piece of advice I saw on the web site for reading the book came from a fellow club member. He wrote (in part) “I think all this talk about the genious Faulner is (sic) may be intimidating. The best thing I can think of to say is take each chapter simply for what it says at face value. If Vardaman says his mother is a fish, just go along with it, and say “okay….” When things start to get confusing, rather than stop, just keep on going until you find something that really does seem to make sense, really does grab your attention. Then take that point and start to think about why it is interesting, just what made you notice it.

Oprah and Faulkner: the summer begins

So, I am now a registered member of Oprah’s Book Club. No kidding.

I was actually watching Oprah last Friday afternoon under the only circumstances in which I find myself watching Oprah: I had some time to kill and I was too lazy to do much of anything else. At the end of her show (a love fest Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell about the upcoming Bewitched movie), she announced “A Summer of Faulkner,� in which she (and her “club�) will be reading As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Light in August.

Now, you can say what you want about Oprah and her book club stuff, and a lot of literati-types have plenty to say about the O., much of it kind of bad. There’s a good sum-up of some of these feelings on Maud Newton’s blog, including a smug little “debate� between the positions “Oprah is evil� versus “Oprah is okay, I guess.�

I actually know (knew? I haven’t really talked with her in years) a writer who had an Oprah book, Sheri Reynolds, and I did see second (or third) hand how getting picked as an Oprah book was indeed like winning the equivalent of a literary lottery. So it’s no wonder that contemporary writers are pleading with Oprah to start picking contemporary books again (instead of the classics she’s been picking for four or so years now). Simultaneously, a lot of these same literati-types complain and say that Oprah picks light-weight books and that she and her minions are kind of dumb about what they’re reading anyway.

I am reminded of a phrase of certain types of girls when I was in junior high: jealous much?

Anyway, the O. said that you really can’t call yourself “a reader� until you’ve read some Faulkner. I guess I’m a reader because I’ve read all three of the books on the summer reading list, though I haven’t read any of them in close to 20 years. So, with Oprah’s inspiration (it is making me a bit weepy just thinking about it) and a desire to re-read books I remember liking a long time ago, I decided to take the plunge.

Thus my “club membership,� thus this new blog category.

First things first: I went to Oprah’s book club web site, and after free registration, I got in. I have to say I am impressed. She has tips for reading (and Faulkner is certainly a writer that requires some tips on how to get by some of the complicated issues with reading him), links to lectures given by professors (the first one apparently broadcasts yet tonight), a schedule for reading, a place for “Q&Aâ€? for the professors (as if they know anything…,), etc. Why, there’s even a bookmark I can print off! It’s a little confusing to navigate, but a pretty good site overall, and a lot of good “supportâ€? for tackling what I see as a relatively difficult reading assignment.

Second things second: I went and bought the Oprah boxed set this morning. We have older paperback versions of these books around the house, but Annette is in the midst of doing a project that involves As I Lay Dying (meaning that she’s hogging using that book right now), and I didn’t want to share anyway (I think Annette might actually try to read along with Oprah, too). It’s a handsome enough boxed set and includes a little insert titled “William Faulkner: A Reading Experience,� which includes a note from the O. herself, a little Faulkner bio, and some more “reading tips� (with all these tips, they might be making Faulkner too difficult here). Nice.

And third but not last: I’m already behind on the reading assignment– I was supposed to be to page 84 of As I Lay Dying by now. Oh well….

I distinctly remember reading As I Lay Dying the first time around. I’m pretty sure it was the first Faulkner book I read, and it was when I was a freshman at the University of Iowa in an intro to literature class. I recall liking the book quite a bit, though I also recall that class to be kind of crazy in terms of the workload. I remember that we had to also read The Odyssey and parts of Don Quixote and about a zillion other things I don’t remember. But I remember As I Lay Dying.

So, a little bit of reading tonight, but hey, it’s the season premiere of Six Feet Under. I have my priorities.

Check out “Pound”(y), and don’t miss the Weight Watchers cards

In the course of surfing around yesterday while I should have been working on my textbook, I visited this post by John “A Writing Teacher” Lovas about blog writers who got book deals. I’m mostly interested in this for “official” (aka, English professor job) reasons, but I thought I’d post here because it was that post that took me to Wendy McClure’s web site “Pound,” which actually is http://www.poundy.com. Apparently, “www.pound.com” was taken. Anyway, on John’s web site, there’s a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article about how it was McClure’s blogging that lead to a book deal.

McClure has a memoir coming out called I’m Not the New Me, which I know nothing about other than it is a pretty good title. But personally, the part of her site that will keep me coming back is this collection of bizarre Weight Watcher recipe cards from the 70s. What ugly food they used to eat.