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It has been awhile since I reviewed a book. This is partly because it has been awhile since I last read a book. That is to say, a book besides Lord of the Flies, which I pore over constantly when planning lessons. I was in serious need of some literary variety in my life.

I recently got an iPhone, and like so many before me, I am greatly enjoying it. One of the first apps I downloaded was iBook. The app store was advertising it, and while I thought my phone was a bit small to read a book on, I downloaded it. I figured it was free, why not? Then the other day I had the sudden urge to read something new, something good. Since I now live on a small island, it now takes about half an hour to get to the nearest bookstore. It isn’t so much the distance as traffic and finding parking, a pain in the neck all around.

So what to read, and where to get it. I decided to poke around the iBook store, but the way they organize their books didn’t really lend itself to browsing (or at least not the way I was doing it, I should play with the app a bit more). Then I remembered that a friend (hi Mike!) had recently mentioned a book on twitter that sounded interesting. He described Ready Player One to me as “Dan Brown for geek fanboys,” which could mean a lot of things, but it sounded fun to me. The book was in the iBook library and I downloaded it, hoping that the small screen wouldn’t make me insane.

Reading a book on an iPhone wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I would certainly say it slowed me down a bit. It was harder to get immersed in the story when you had to turn the page every 20 seconds. But eventually my brain would get the rhythm, and it didn’t detract from the story.

Anyway, onto the actual review. As usual, spoilers will be written in white text so you can highlight and read them if you choose too. I will try to indicate if they are major or minor, in case you just want to be mildly spoiled.

Let me start with a brief plot summary – It is 2044 and the world is in seriously bad shape. This is your typical distopian future, fires in the street, poor living conditions, a beaten down populace, the haves are few and far between and they have everything, the have-nots are barely scraping by. Our hero is a have-not, albiet a resourceful one when it comes to his main hobby – a virtual world called Oasis. Oasis is a fully (depending on how much equipment you have) interactive virtual world. The sad, beaten down people of earth use it to escape the horrific real world; they go to school, work, carry on friendships and romances, battle for virtual money and status, and generally enjoy things reality can’t offer them. When the creator of Oasis died, he left behind a massive puzzle to be solved by players. The prize for solving this mystery is the “egg,” a symbol for unimaginable wealth and control over Oasis itself, everything that the creator of the game, James Halliday, left behind when he died. This leads to huge amounts of the population devoting themselves to solving this puzzle, the clues of which are deeply rooted in 80’s culture of all kinds. Our main character, Wade, devotes any time that isn’t taken up by virtual high school  to solving the puzzle that so many people have obsessed over. After the contest drags on for 5 years without anyone finding the first of three keys, some people lose interest. But not Wade, and not thousands of other “gunters” as they are called (egg hunters).

What’s bad – The author has a little bit of a wish-fulfillment issue going on. Since the story is immersed, literally, in technology, he occasionally dives off into long tangents about the cool and mostly imaginary technology on offer. Suits that allow you to physically feel what is happening in the real world? Fine. Boxes that release scents into the air so you can smell what you are seeing? Silly, especially when placed in a chapter that is devoted to describing how people can feel, smell, order food that really arrives at your apartment, blah blah blah… It is like the author made a list of everything you would need to make virtual reality as real as possible, then wrote about all of them. And no one told him to cut it down. Leave something to the imagination, not many people are sitting there thinking, “but what about smell!”

The writing itself also leaves something to be desired. The author’s desire to describe everything is related to bigger issues with “show don’t tell.” If Cline wants to tell you what something looks like or how someone feels, he just tells you. All too often there is no effort to integrate information into the story, instead it gets its own descriptive paragraph. Most of the time Cline has taken the time to describe something because it comes up later in the story, but he doesn’t seem to realize that its place in the story is description enough. Everything doesn’t need its own detailed introduction.

What’s fine – 80’s 80’s 80’s! Any connoisseur of 80’s culture is going to enjoy this book. The sheer number of movies, videogames, bands, songs, actors, pop culture icons, etc. that are mentioned in this novel is staggering. Me, I’ve never been overly into the 80’s. I was seven when the 90’s came along, and even then I’m really more of an aughts girl when it comes to music, movies, and gaming culture. I did enjoy some of the name checks, like Wil Wheaton, but I can see how someone who is more into the 80’s would get more out of the book in general. In order to “win” the game and collect all the keys, gunters have to be encyclopedias of knowledge about the 80’s, a decade James Halliday was obsessed with. Puzzles include things like (minor spoiler) reciting entire movies and successfully playing through Pac Man without making a single mistake, and only the most obsessed will survive.

Another mention for wish-fulfillment for the “fine” catagory. What annoyed me about some of the other wish-fulfillment was that it was too much “listing” and not enough story. But there is another, romantic comedy-esque style that also shows up. (Minor spoilers to follow). Our protagonist starts off the novel looking like what one might expect someone who spends all their time in a virtual world to look like. He’s spotty, pale, and overweight. But after suffering a soul-crushing setback, Wade downloads a program that forces him to exercise in the real world before he is allowed to play in the virtual one. Thus our chubby nerd transforms into six-packed hero, just in time to do something that demonstrates his willingness to leave the virtual world and kick ass in the real one. This is the kind of wish fulfillment I don’t mind. The authorial urge to take an ugly duckling and swan him up a little is strong, if not original. Taking care of ones’ self physically is a tried and true sign of growth in fiction, so I’ll give the author a partial pass for leaning a bit too much on the “training montage” school of character development.

But also, let’s face it, it undermines his “it’s not what’s on the inside that counts” message a bit.

Another thing I’d have to put in the “fine” catagory is the ending. After working our way through this book of incredibly complex puzzles and epic battles, the story seems to end quite suddenly. But perhaps that was just me. Also, (major spoiler) the big red button that destroys the entire online world? Mmm, not sure what to make of that. Clearly the message is that part of the reason humanity is going down the tubes is because everyone spends all their spare time in a virtual world where they can be and do anything they like. Wade will presumably be pressing that button at some point, thus forcing humanity to face what they’ve done to the real world and work on solutions to the disaster that is Earth. But if you are going to introduce a major button like that, wouldn’t that fall under the Chekov’s gun rule? For those who are unfamiliar, the rule basically means that one shouldn’t put a gun on stage if it isn’t going to go off at some point later in the story. Can we not even get a quick conversation where Wade and the virtual Halliday discuss the pros and cons of the button? No? Just going to throw it in there, say “you might want to push this at some point, up to you, moving on”? Ok… If the author writes a sequel that features the button, I officially retract my complaint. Spoiler over.

The good – This is a really engaging story. I think the comparison to Dan Brown is fair – the writing is weak (better than Brown’s, but still weak) but the plot is really, really fun. James Halliday and his cohorts were clearly based partly on real world characters like Jobs, Wozniaki, and Gates. I think Cline has a strong grasp on human nature that shows in his character development. The main characters tend to be a tad overdramatic, but then again, they are teenagers. I wouldn’t say their drama queen tendencies aren’t a fair representation of your average 18 year old.

I really enjoyed learning about some neat pop culture history. As I mentioned before, the book is awash in 80’s nostalgia. While I couldn’t always relate to the obsession, it was interesting to learn more about the Atari, or hear a story about the man, John Draper, who discovered you could make free long distance calls by blowing a penny whistle a particular way.

I also found myself in the rather unique position if being midway through this book when Steven Jobs passed away. Suddenly, the anecdotes in the book were showing up in articles about Jobs’ actual life. One article in particular, on Slate.com, mentions what a large impact John Draper and his whistle had on Jobs and Wozniaki in their youth – inspiring their first foray into the technology business (You can find the article here). My first computer was an Apple, my current computer is an Apple, and I was reading Ready Player Oneon my iPhone. The sadly premature death of Steve Jobs lends the book an air of poignancy I’m not sure it would have had otherwise.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was the twist it took about three quarters of the way through. I was genuinely surprised (major spoiler) not only that Wade was dragged out of his apartment by the evil corporation he’s been battling, but that he’d carefully planned the whole thing to gain special access to their system and save his friends. It was a level of badassery I hadn’t expected from Wade, and a pleasant break from the near constant immersion in the virtual world. Glimpses of the real world are sprinkled throughout the book. Wade’s rare forays outside are quite engaging. Cline doesn’t engage in over-description when Wade is outside Oasis, and this is a very good thing. Because the reader has spent so much time thinking about the 80’s, most of us are probably picturing some cross between Blade Runner and Back to the Future II (the ugly future, not the shiny one) anyway. The jarring differences between Wade’s real life and his virtual one make for some of the most interesting moments in the book.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Especially since most people my age have an undying affection for things like The Breakfast Club (when it comes to 80’s movies I’ll take Aliens over John Hughes every time, sorry!). I’m a little surprised this book isn’t listed as a young adult novel. The themes and writing seem very YA to me. Cline has included a lot of really dark themes here – murder, terrorism, evil corporations, suicide, a distopian future, racism, sexism, homophobia, and on and on… But when it comes down to it, the book can’t help being fairly gleeful and happy. This may be due to how much fun the author is clearly having with his subject. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the tone of the book did mean that I never once (spoiler) had the least doubt that everything was going to work out just fine. There was just no way that Art3mis was going to get murdered or the corporation was going to gain control over the egg. It just wasn’t going to happen. Nothing wrong with an upbeat tone, but it didn’t really lend itself to suspense. 

Here ends my rambling review. As usual, my attempt to put things into good, bad, and fine categories just meant I put everything all over the place anyway. But hopefully I got my point across. If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend it. And go into it expecting what is basically YA that is a billion times better than Twilight, but not on the level of something like Hunger Games or A Wrinkle in Time.

Edit: I should probably mention that I am often mildly annoyed by books written in the first person. I think it is tough for a lot of writers to write a solid protagonist without the “I did this, I did that, this is how I feel, me me me” making the character seem a lot more self obsessed than they are actually meant to be. But this is a personal preference and might not bother other people at all.

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I like this…

I really liked this quote I saw today. It is apparently from Doctor Who which I don’t watch. I probably should, it looks like something I would like, but it seems like it is a pretty complicated mythology and I would want to do it properly when I have time to concentrate on it.

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.”

Always a good thing to remember.

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1. The word “digging”

2. Dorothy Sayers. I bought a book of her short stories at a used book store while we were in Chicago. Love her stuff, she is a better Agatha Christie. I’ve read some of the short stories before (and all of the novels) but some of these are happily new to me. I’ve been reading a story or two a night before bed, and I am almost done. So not excited for that! What will I keep next to my bed next? Short stories are perfect because I can’t get sucked into reading too many chapters.

3. Bright lipstick, still. Kind of. I can wear it to go on walks. Working my way up to actually wearing it out with friends.

4. The Bruins. I am watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs right now and TENSE! Bruins are winning 3-0 right now, I hope it stays that way! With the way I write blog entries the game might be over before I finish and I’ll have to edit this. Edit: Bruins are Stanley Cup Champions! Won 4-0, what a series!

5. Restaurant patios. A place we really like down the street opened a new patio and it’s great. It is huge and has all these lights and plants and so on. Really pleasant way to spend an evening. The weather needs to be friendlier though, come on summer!

6. Curry and Greek Salads. Not at the same time, but just in general I’ve really been craving curry dishes and I’m still on my endless Feta cheese kick. I bought a Greek salad the other day and threw it in the fridge for the next day. Sleepyhusband ATE IT WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. Rageface. I’ve also been into anything really spicy. I pretty much dump cayenne all over everything I eat right now.

7. Nights out with friends. I tend to be the one who brings my group of friends together because a) I am sporadically employed and have a lot less to do and b) I get bored really easily and immediate start thinking of ways I can get people to enable my restaurant addiction so I don’t have to cook. On Saturday I managed to get two sets of couples to get Indian with SleepyHusband and I. It was my college best friend and my childhood best friend and their significant others, and we had a fab time. Then CollegeBest and her SO came over to our apartment and we played monopoly on xbox (and I won, long live the top hat!).

8. Travel plans. We finally got our act together to get tickets to fly over to see SleepyHusband’s Dad for his birthday in August. SleepyHusband’s brother and his girlfriend will also be there. We all have a fantastic time together, so excited to see them!

9. Summer TV. Standards are lower, because it is summer TV, but light, fluffy summer shows are perfect for a warm evening. Covert Affairs, White Collar, Memphis Beat, The Glades… Yes, I have a crime show problem. This is a cry for help!

10. Now that I’ve come this far, I want to post 10 things… Uuuuum… I’m digging that my week is half over! I am currently doing a 6 day week because of a weird scheduling thing with the 3 week program I am teaching for right now. It is only 3 days in, but I’m finding the psychological effects of knowing I have that extra day coming are making me a bit twitchy. I’ve found this job really, really intense because the kids are so low level. I never have a second to sit down and I have to be so hands on that I’ve started buying a smaller coffee because I don’t have time to drink my normal size before it gets cold. (hi teachers who work with young children! I don’t know how you do it! I would lose my goddamn mind!) This really isn’t a “things I’m digging” entry is it? Yay for my week being half over!

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Before we found out that I was getting laid off (or put on furlough, or hiatus, or whatever) we bought tickets to visit SleepyHusband’s brother in Chicago. I’m glad we decided to get the tickets before we knew, because if we’d known in advance that we’d be a tad short on cash, we probably would have done the responsible thing. But instead of the responsible thing, we got to do the fun thing without the guilt! Win win right?

On Thursday afternoon we got in a plane (there was a 30 minute delay, the first time I’ve seen a 30 minute delay when it was genuinely a 30 minute delay.) When we got into Chicago, it was rush hour, so instead of sitting in traffic we grabbed a subway train into the city and H’s brother picked us up from a stop near his apartment.

SleepyHusband’s brother, who I’ll call BIL (for brother in law) lives with his girlfriend who I’ll call Providence. They have a 9 month old dog named Max and HE’S ADORABLE. Sorry, had a caps lock moment there.

SleepyHusband and I have been excited for this trip forever, and it really didn’t disappoint. When we got to the apartment we met Max, who did a little guard dog barking but warmed up quickly when he realized he was going to get some new people to play with. We headed straight to the roof deck of their (really nice) apartment and enjoyed a beer while watching the sunset. This would prove to be the last of the nice weather for the weekend, but I’m glad we got to watch one beautiful sunset before the rain came!

I grabbed a shower, because how nice does it feel to wash off that stale plane feeling? Then we had some margaritas, then some beers, then I realized I wasn’t going to make it to dinner and crashed relatively early.

Friday we went out for a nice greasy lunch of burgers, gyros, and lazed around a bit, then went out to an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Fuego. No complaints from anyone about our food and margaritas, great meal all around! We went from there to a bar where some of BIL’s friends were playing, a band called Kickbush (gonna look them up on iTunes). They were really great and we had a blast, followed by another bar for a DJ friend of BIL’s group of friends. We headed back to the apartment instead of hitting the band’s after party, since it was late and we wanted to be functioning the next day.

Saturday was a slow start for some. SleepyHusband and I took the opportunity to order some Jimmy John’s, because they have incredibly awesome sandwiches. The Beach Club sandwich is my personal favorite. Really, if you have the chance to get Jimmy John’s, jump on it. We had some cheapy tickets for the Cubs game that night, but unfortunately the weather was miserable. One of these days I’m going to check out Wrigley, but the others and I were not keen on sitting in the rain. If I had had access to all my warm clothing I might have decided to go, but we didn’t really pack well enough for the yucky weather, and Providence was coming down with a cold while we were there.

In the afternoon we hit up the grocery store for grill supplies. My brother was passing through town on his way to a summer trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains. He’ll get school credit, and right now he is taking his time driving across country with a friend. They left 20 days before they have to be there so they could take it really slow and explore. We overlapped in Chicago, so he came over that evening to join us. Max spent a lot of his visit barking and growling at him, it was pretty funny. He would bark and bark, then let my brother pet and cuddle him, then go back to barking. Not the most effective guard dog, hehe. He had warmed up by the end of his visit. Belly rubs don’t just come around every day (or, actually, they pretty much do with BIL and Providence as parents).

One of SleepyHusband’s roommates from college also lives in Chicago. He’s a great guy, lots of fun. He came over as well with his girlfriend. The seven of us made steak, pasta, artichokes, and salad. Of course, when I say the 7 of us, I mean I had absolutely nothing to do with any of the cooking. Pat took care of steak, Providence did pasta, BIL did a bunch… I really wasn’t paying much attention. It was pretty much the three of them. We all hung out, chatted, watched TV, and ate the awesome food that SH, BIL, and Providence turned out. The steak was great, but I have to give a shout out to Providence’s pasta. She called it balsamic cream with mushroom I think? I have to email her and snag the recipe. It was really unique and delicious.

BIL and Providence were nice enough to offer my brother a spot on the couch for the night, so he stayed over. The next day we all slept late, then headed out for some brunch. My brother had to be on his way, but the rest of us ended up at an Irish pub. Everyone else went for the totally delicious sounding burgers (I tried some of SH’s, so good). I couldn’t resist the chance at an Irish breakfast. It included eggs, toast, beans, bangers (sausage, but it was listed a bangers on the menu, going for authenticity!), tomato, and last but very much least… black and white pudding. Google it if you are not familiar, but black and white pudding means they are really committing to the authentic Irish breakfast. Blech. I skipped eating those, but the rest of it was so very good.

We still had a couple hours before our flight, so we watched a Netflix movie that BIL and Providence hadn’t watched yet, Due Date. It was entertaining I guess? I went back and forth between finding parts really funny and thinking parts were terrible. Overall, I’d say I won’t watch it again.

When the movie was over, we packed up and headed to the airport. Unfortunately, due to some bad weather here, our flight was delayed a few hours. We got in at around 1 am, then had to wait in a looong line for a cab. But we did finally make it home!

It was a really fantastic weekend. A weekend that reminded me that Chicago is a city I could really see myself living in, we both could. BIL says he gets that from his visitors from lots of cities. I guess Chicago really appeals to people from everywhere. I already can’t wait to go back!

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I’ve started watching a new show on CBS called Chaos. So far it is ok, cute, funny and earnest. We’ll see if they grow into their voice a little better. Anyway, I was watching Friday’s episode tonight (love our DVR) about the CIA team at the center of the show was trying to get a man’s wife out of N. Korea. One of them is talking about how they might have to give up and gives this little speech that I actually thought was a good little bit of writing (and well-acted by the cute British actor, James Murray) –

“Song is ready to die for his wife and her for him, they are the very definition of star-crossed lovers. Anyone who knows their Shakespeare, or has caught a midday telling of Ella, will tell you that star-crossed lovers crush anything that gets into their orbit. Which in this case would be us.”

I’ve been teaching a bit of Shakespeare in one of my classes. Since these are ESL students and Shakespeare is not even easy for most native speakers, we use adapted text. Some of the students could probably handle the actual play if we went really slowly, but since some of them are with us for 6 months and others just two weeks, not to mention the different levels in any given class, this just wouldn’t work. The play is turned into a simplified short story with easier vocab and occasional direct quotes from the play. I like using them because Shakespeare does tell a hell of a story, but it is tough sometimes to read them and know what the kids are missing out on. I always encourage them to give Shakespeare a try in his raw form sometime.

Finally I realized I was missing an obvious compromise. I could have them read the short story form of the plays, and pick and choose scenes for them to read in the original language. I tried this for the first time on Thursday and I think it actually went pretty well.

We are reading Twelfth Night, one of my favorites. We read the story up to the scene where Olivia and Viola (as Cesario) meet for the first time, and then I handed them that same scene from the original. I chose this scene because it has one of my very favorite moments in Shakespeare. It is a good little speech on it’s own, but even better when you read it with all the layers of deception and love in play at this moment in the story.

Viola describes what she would do for Olivia if she loved Olivia like Orsino does –

“Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out ‘Olivia!’ O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth,
But you should pity me!”

Good stuff.

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Weekend

The husband and I spent the weekend at his parents’ house in Missouri. I had a job interview at a school there. It would be a great opportunity and looks to be a great job… But Missouri? I find myself changing my mind from minute to minute about whether or not I could really move there.

It isn’t that I don’t like the city, I do. We spent a summer there after I graduated from college and I’ve always maintained that it is a really nice place to visit… But I wouldn’t want to live there. Leaving behind my family and friends and the city I love so much would be really hard, but there are so many advantages. It would be a big step towards the career I really want and an opportunity for us to save a lot of money.

Up until now we’ve treated the decision as a “don’t count your chickens until they hatch” sort of thing. There was no reason to obsess about the pros and cons before I’d even interviewed. But now the offer or lack thereof is coming within a week, and decisions have to be made.

There is one upside to all of this. I have something to be happy about no matter what the school decides. I’m either going to get a great job and we’ll start an interesting new chapter in out lives, or I don’t get the job and get to stay in Boston. So no matter what happens, I’ll try to focus on the positive side.

The weekend was a lot of fun. We flew in Thursday night, and one of the husband’s friends came over and we all had some steak and conversation. After the parents headed to bed the three of us jumped in the hot tub (along with a neighbor who came over when he heard our mini party going on) and hung out there until I headed to bed. When we got up the next morning the H made me some eggs and bacon and I had a little downtime. The interview was in the afternoon. The people who interviewed me were really nice, and I think it went pretty well.

After the interview I talked to my mom about how it had gone, and spent some time relaxing. The whole process and knowing that I’d have to wait a week to find out about the job left me wound up, so we pretty much hung around watching TV (Star Wars 4, 5, and 6 marathon). In the early evening we went over to another one of H’s friend’s apartments. We ordered Jimmy Johns which, if you are not familiar, makes bliss inducing subs. Seriously, that sandwich was everything I remembered and hoped for. I don’t even know how they do it, but the Beach Club is spectacular. This friend lives with his girlfriend and their insanely adorable little dog. Normally I prefer bigger dogs, but this little girl has so much personality and is so darn sweet (and she really thinks she can beat us at tug of war, mostly because we let her win all the time).

That night we went out and bought passes to a music… festival I guess you’d call it? Basically you paid $20 for a bracelet that let you into a few different bars that all had several musical performances. I wasn’t familiar with any of the bands, but some of them were pretty good. We got home relatively early and hopped back into the hot tub (gotta take advantage of that thing when we have access).

Saturday we went for another one of our favorite meals in the city, Winstead’s. Purveyors of what they call the steak burger, this place is the most delicious, unhealthy food pretty much ever. You can order a burger by how many layers you want, from one to three. They are basically shredded steak pressed into a flat burger. Then you can add tons of toppings like mayo, mustard, pickles, onions, grilled onions, cheese… Not that I got all of these things on my two layer burger. Ahem. Afterwards we stopped by the lacrosse game H’s dad was coaching. Since it was incredibly hot and they were winning by a lot, we only stayed about 15 minutes before heading back home for some air-conditioning.

Saturday night was really relaxed. A few of H’s friends came over and we went out to buy steak, salad, and wine and grilled on the porch. A long, pleasant evening ensued, partially due to the fact that the hot day had led to a perfect temperature when the sun went down. I bought a few bottles of my favorite recent discovery, a Malbec called Gascon. Good conversation, good food, good drink, good fun. Later we moved to the basement for pool and ping pong. I finally had to bail a little earlier than everyone else. It was a good time, but after a long weekend of good times I wanted some good sleep before getting on the plane today.

We were happy to be home. It was nice to get in at around 6 pm, since it left us the evening to relax. Coincidentally, my brother was dropping my dad off for his flight back to the UK just as we were getting in, so we got a ride in return for a couch for my brother and his friend for the night.

I’ll end with a picture of my mother in law’s cats, who came to check out the mysterious new stuff that came into town with us. One is easy to see, the other is behind the suitcase blending in with the rug –

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Everyone has their guilty pleasures, whether it be a Beiber song tucked into their itunes, a penchant for terrible Chinese food, or any number of other less than impressive cravings. I’m practically made of guilty pleasures, and sometimes I find myself censoring my blog a bit in regards to them. I’ll write a book review of a respected Victorian author, but I didn’t mention that after reading the book I watched one of the worst movies ever, a movie I happen to love. Time to be honest! I figure I’ll put them in categories, much like the category checklist I use to sort my posts.

Books – Elizabeth Peters. What can I say? She writes these brilliant, romantic, action adventure books that I just love. I think I have written about her before, maybe in my Prague blog? Her main characters are almost always women, and they are always funny, badass, and have pretty decent taste in funny, badass men. She doesn’t veer into the shirtless Fabio on the cover type romance, which I like, since that’s never really appealed to me (I gave it a try a few times, just couldn’t get into them). She’s also a historian, so her stories tend to take place in really awesome places, like early 1900’s Egypt. If you are unfamiliar, please, do yourself a favor (ok, i’m pretty much talking to the ladies here, guys probably won’t get into her) pick up Crocodile on the Sandbank. From there the rest of the Peabody character books are great, as are her Vicky Bliss books.

Food – I’m gonna go with mac and cheese. I say this because I’ll sometimes hear people badmouthing good old-fashioned boxed mac and cheese and going on about from scratch and gourmet… Yea, gourmet mac and cheese is awesome. It is very difficult to go wrong with pasta and cheese. But I also love Velveeta, what can I say.

TV – Crime shows. I’ll watch pretty much any crime show until it gets too terrible to deal with. I’ve stuck with NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Bones through thick and thin (and believe me, as time goes by and plots are used up, things can get thin). I gave up on House a couple of years ago (painful, cause how much do I adore Hugh Laurie?), but I’d say the saddest show I’m still clinging to is CSI. Put a shark in a hotel pool? I’ll watch it. Make Justin Bieber an evil child bomber? I’ll watch it. Have a cute, normal guy be single for the million year duration of the show for some bizarre reason (get on that Nick)? I’ll watch it. Don’t think, “well if some people are still watching it, maybe I should get it out…” No. Bad. Don’t do it.

Movies – The fact that I enjoy those incredibly goofy syfy original movies (hello Ice Spiders) is already common knowledge, so I’m going to go in another direction. Any questions about why this movie is a guilty pleasure should be answered by the title – The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. Starring people like Noah Wyle and Bob Newhart who you’ll vaguely remember from other, better stuff, this movie is about a nerd who becomes the keeper of a library full of mythical objects. Soon after he gets the job, however, he has to go up against something called (guilty pleasure alert) The Serpent Brotherhood. It was made for TV by… TNT I think? Anyway, it is ridiculous and corny and funny and great. It shows up on TNT every 6 months or so, and I always record it, watch it at least twice, then burn out on it. This is the reason I can’t own this movie, I think that would just ruin it for me. L:QftS is the best kind of terrible movie – silly and charming, with a definite sense of humor about itself. Plus Noah Wyle is cute. The two sequels are just regular terrible, but L:QftS will always have a place on my DVR when it comes around.

Place – My big red couch, right side. If I am home, that is generally where I can be found. Yes, there is a dent (What? We’ve had the couch for a long time!)

Teaching fallback – Apples to Apples. If you’ve never placed this in your class (it is easy to justify for ESL, vocab!) I would get on that. It’s a blast.

Place to go – Kansas City. Not so much a guilty pleasure I suppose. It is cute little city and my husband is from there. But the reason I like going there is because they have amazing food. So I think it counts. OMG Winsteads. Steak burgers that you order based on how many layers you want. They are disgusting and wonderful.

Hobby – Video games. Sure, people would argue that gaming is an art form in its own right at this point, and not really a guilty pleasure. In fact, I’m among them. If you’ve ever played through a game like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Fable 2 or Bioshock you might know what I mean. At this point, many of these games are basically interactive movies and tons of fun to boot. I would say the guilty part would be how I play. I get obsessed when I find a game I like. Dragon Age, for instance, basically took a week of my life the second I got it, and I’ve played it many times since. It wears off eventually, but let’s just say the dishes don’t get done by me when I find a game I love.

I’m not even going to do a music category because it would be too hard to choose. I’ll listen to anything, and if it is going on my gym mix the quality takes a nosedive because anything that has a beat I can kick my own butt to will do. I used to be a huge music fan, but in recent years I’ve just found that it isn’t a priority. I listen to the radio and download things that catch my fancy. I mostly listen to the hip hop station and, here is the part that might worry people, I’ve never heard a song by Arcade Fire. I’ve heard of them because they seem to be the Kings of Leon of a couple years ago when it comes to popularity, but never heard them.

So what categories am I missing? Anyone else want to admit their crappy taste in something?

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