Review: The Poker Bride

The Poker Bride by Christopher Corbett

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America is a land of immigrants. I was always pretty aware of this basic fact as a kid, because I knew exactly where I came from. My paternal grandfather had a thing for genealogy, and, well, the rest of my grandparents were French. While I definitely absorbed the stereotype of an American being white, blonde, and blue-eyed, it puzzled me to some degree, because just looking at the world around me said different. As an adult, I know why: the 2010 census predicts that, by 2043, America will be composed of minorities as a majority. This pictorial featuring mixed race people in National Geographic offers a view of what the average American really looks like. This may seem like a new development to some, but that’s only because the American history taught in American schools is a little pale.

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Review: Don’t Stop Believin’

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Brian Raftery

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If you’ve been reading this blog long, you’ll know that I adore bad music. The cheesier the more bombastic, and the more overproduced, the better, in my opinion. Accordingly, my karaoke song is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (I do both voices and, if the mood strikes, the synthesizer.) And yet, while wailing eighties power ballads to a crowd of strangers is a telling allegory for my life, I shy away from singing with people. It’s not stage fright—the public or an audience don’t register as “people” to me, so I can do that fine. It’s just that music, for me, can be intensely personal: I have songs that I adore that I will only listen to once in a very long while and songs I can’t listen to any more because they remind me of certain times in my life that I don’t want to revisit.

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Review: Fangasm

Fangasm by Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis

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While I love all fans equally (including and sometimes especially the tumblrinas), I have been known to give the Supernatural fandom a hard time. From where I stand in fandom, it’s an easy thing to fall into—a lot of the cases covered on fandom wank (a community dedicated to rubbernecking at bizarre fandom arguments, like John Ringo and John Scalzi’s recent disagreement) tend to come from that corner. But, I say to myself, it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, being a fan means you’re part of the overarching family of fandom, and we look out for family. Even if it’s occasionally out of the corner of our eyes.

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Review: How to Create the Perfect Wife

How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore

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The first time I watched My Fair Lady with my mother, I was disgusted when she sighed over Eliza returning to Professor Higgins as “romantic.” (Keep in mind, this was the thick of the Wombat Years, so it took very little to anger me.) Eliza, a spitting tigress of a slip of a woman, had spent the whole musical suffering under his tyrannical hand. Plus, she had a love interest—the adorable Freddie—and even had a whole song about wanting him to be more direct in his affections. (Were this tumblr, I might refer to it as a “WE SHOULD TOTALLY MAKE OUT” song.) George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion to poke fun at the Galatea myth, and he, like myself, was infuriated that the musical adaptation pulled this.

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Review: Cleopatra, a Life

Cleopatra, a Life by Stacy Schiff

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For me, learning about history is the process of filling in the spotty list inside my head known as “the sequence of human events.” Context, as I’ve said before, is the one thing that I absolutely crave. While my circumstances are unusual, I think that most people lack context for Cleopatra. Contrasted against the surviving documents of Roman history, we have precious few from her own hand or her own land. This means that the record on Cleopatra has been written by that most pernicious kind of historian—crotchety old white dudes. They are not the kindest to powerful, intelligent, rich, or mixed race ladies in general, these generalized gentlemen, so when one woman is all of those things… Well, that’s when we get Liz Taylor.

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Review: Nerd Do Well

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

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The dividing line between my furious childhood and my equally, if more problematically, furious adolescence (which I like to call the Wombat Years) is, undoubtedly, my preteen travels, a series of trips where I was essentially a large piece of angry luggage. (Anger was a big theme for the young Clare.) I really hate talking about it, as I feel like any way I try to express what a negative impact it had on me is either going to sound incredibly selfish (“Poor me! I had to travel as a child!”) or incredibly ungrateful (“How could my parents take me along with them?”). Instead of trying to navigate those waters, my coping mechanism has been repression. For the life of me, I could not tell you dates or locations; it’s just a blur of painful homesickness, fatigue, and endless waiting. (And anger, obviously, but that wasn’t a related condition, just a constant one.)

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Review: LEGO, A Love Story

LEGO, A Love Story by Jonathan Bender

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As Jonathan Bender points out at the beginning of LEGO, a Love Story, adult fans of LEGO (more commonly known by the abbreviation AFOLs) have a name for the period of time between playing with LEGO as a kid and playing with LEGO as an adult: the Dark Ages. I ditched LEGO fairly early on in my childhood, mostly because, despite my best efforts, you could not actually eat the damn things. (I moved onto eating glue.) But I emerged from my Dark Ages when LEGO picked up the The Lord of the Rings license. So far, I’ve just organized my LEGO bricks and started collecting female minifigures, but I’ve been looking for a way to start building with the damn things. When I saw LEGO, a Love Story at the library, I thought Bender’s experience getting back into it might help me along my own journey.

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Review: Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock by Warren Littlefield with T. R. Pearson

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After this year’s Saturday Night Live finale, I fell in love with the show. When I discovered it was on Netflix, my world blew up—I determined to watch Saturday Night Live from 2001 on, in order to track the careers of several performers who have been on the show. (I’m picking up the backlog with the A. V. Club’s coverage of classic Saturday Night Live.) I’ve also determined that, once I’m done, I’ll catch up with the rest of the world and watch 30 Rock, as well as Parks and Recreation. Considering my newfound love for NBC comedies and my established love for oral histories, I snatched up Top of the Rock while browsing at the library without a second thought.

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Review: Decades

Decades by Cameron Silver

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There’s something very alluring about coffee table books, especially ones that could function as coffee tables all on their own. (This sucker is heavy!) While my editing side finds their lackadaisical publishing information pages frustrating, I can’t help but find them very glamorous. As someone who appreciates the codex, they’re a bit like finding a gorgeous version of a very functional object. Which is exactly why I picked up Decades, even as I tried to justify it by trying to learn more about twentieth-century fashion design. (And even that is just a way to hug the eighties just a little bit closer.) But a coffee table book isn’t really the place to start to get yourself properly contextualized…

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