the monday inspiration.

I love a game of Would You Rather. If you had to choose, would you pick smelling terrible for the rest of your life or having both your legs amputated? Would you rather have the main character in every movie replaced by Nicholas Cage or every song sung by Nickelback? Would you rather have 12 kids or zero? Would you rather have the ugliest house in a fancy neighborhood or the most beautiful one in an average one? Would you rather a year of travel or a $100,000 check?

One of the fallback prompts that I’ve found to be a telling insight into a person is the following: Would you rather live an average life, die, and be largely forgotten, or would you rather be Van Gogh’d– ridiculed and impoverished during your earthly days and then remembered as a genius forever forward? I think I’d go with the tame and average life (and look at how dutifully I’m walking that talk, ha), but the idea of having people refer to others who have been influenced by HRCK the Herald and its lasting legacy is pretty tempting.

I was reminded of that would you rather when I came across this post– 11 Early Scathing Reviews of Works Now Considered Masterpieces. Here are a few from the list:

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1813)

Early Reaction: …Charlotte Brontë (of Jane Eyre fame) wasn’t buying the hype: “Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré or extravagant…”

Fred Astaire (1899 – 1987)

Early Reaction: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” –MGM Testing Director’s response to Astaire’s first screen test

Ulysses, by James Joyce (1918)

Early Reaction: “In Ireland they try to make a cat clean by rubbing its nose in its own filth. Mr. Joyce has tried the same treatment on the human subject” –George Bernard Shaw

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman (first pub. 1855)

Early Reaction: Upon reading the newly published Leaves, Whitman’s boss at the Department of the Interior took offense—and gave his underling the axe.

*Fellow poet John Greenleaf Whittier supposedly hurled his 1855 edition into the fire.
*“A mass of stupid filth” -Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Criterion, November 10, 1855
*“It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.” –Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Atlantic, “Literature as an Art,” 1867
*“… the book cannot attain to any very wide influence.” –The Atlantic, January 1882

So, to reduce all this to a nice little message,

Go do your thang.

(image)

the prettier airplane catalog.

When I fly, I like to have absolute minimal conversation with those sitting around me. I think you can be a perfectly pleasant seatmate without uttering a word. Really– a smile when you sit down/get settled, an apologetic face and half-stand to show that you’ve got to climb over him/her to get to the restroom, maybe a commiserating grimace if there’s turbulence or an unhappy baby in the row behind– that’s all you need. I follow this protocol pretty dutifully, and I can shut down a well-meaning, kindly soul pretty fast. A sweetie, I am!

The only time that I ever, ever want to talk on a plane is when I’ve exhausted my book, determined dozing off is impossible, rifled through the airline magazine, and have got nothing to do but gawk at the oddities in the SkyMall catalog. In those moments, I feel a slight urge to tap the person next to me to get him/her to weigh in on how many “Hanging Henriettas” have sold in the past calendar year,

or if he/she thinks the Sit Fit is the cure for our country’s obesity epidemic.

In some ways, I almost find the SkyMall offerings to be inspiring. You know that the inventor of the Sit and Fit heard “no, we’re not interested” a million times before someone believed in the product enough to put it on these glossy pages. Persistence paid off.

Anyway, it turns out that the SkyMall catalog is not the only place that collects such strange things. Pinterest, the curator of pretty and whimsy and “love that” and “heart this” wedding inspiration boards and fudgy desserts and messy buns and color blocked outfits, also has some really weird stuff. Here’s what’s made me cock my head recently.

I’m not sure what the official name is, but someone on Pinterest called this the “Bad Mood Couch.” I guess you’re supposed to nestle in there when you want to get away from the world.

Book blankets! I wonder how one would organize a library of these things.

I don’t know how this was determined to be the optimal design, but this thing is supposed to be great for a quick cat nap at work.

To instill both family togetherness and a love of literature at a young age?

I’d definitely consider purchasing this one.

What a wacky world in which we live.

(Images from SkyMall and here)

the princess.

In the pilot episode of Dawson’s Creek, Joey Potter, with her characteristic doleful eyes and heavy dramatic emphasis, says, “We’re growing up, that’s all. I mean, even Spielberg outgrew his Peter Pan syndrome.” I know Joey’s smart and went to some pretend top tier college and all, but she’s not entirely correct. I have not grown past my love for the show or for her character on it, as annoying as she often was. And Pacey is still in my Top 5 (I feel very vindicated for being on board in the early days, as he now dates the prettiest woman alive).

Despite these constants, Joey’s profound utterance holds some truth. She’s now moved on from deciding between Dawson and Pacy (how was that EVER a choice) and has her very own leading dramatic man. She also has a beautiful daughter, one whose voice some anonymous person impersonates on one of the most popular Tumblrs out there, Suri’s Burn Book. A fairly new Tumblr but one that has spread like wildfire, Suri’s Burn Book is written to be the little girl’s judgy, snobby, superior thoughts about other celebrity children. A few examples below:

“Never let it be said that the Beckhams are not cultured. Here are Mr. B. and Cruz painting some pottery at Color Me Mine after soccer this weekend. One of the things I loved most about Cruz Beckham is that he is a true Renaissance man. That, and that if we got married, his name would’ve been Cruz Cruise. Don’t even pretend like that’s not how that would go down.”

“The President pardoned two turkeys this morning, but the real winner was Sasha Obama. Not only is her blazer fun and bold for fall, but that side-eye she’s shooting her father is downright epic. She knows, as do I, that this whole turkey-pardoning bit is stale, and also that, President or not, her dad is embarrassing. Join the club, Sasha. Join the club.”

“I swear, I was just holding this for a friend.”

It’s pretty funny thinking of Suri snidely saying these things, so go check out her Burn Book if you want a laugh out of the paparazzi pics.

(Images via Suri’s Burn Book)

the crush.

I am ADORING Mindy Kaling. I read her Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me a couple weeks ago, and I don’t know the last time I laughed so hard on the elliptical/train/plane.

The book has been compared to Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and while they are similar (AND while I enjoyed Fey’s), I personally preferred Mindy’s memoir by a mile. It’s self-aware, hilarious, insightful, and (cheese alert) inspirational to see someone going after her dream. Here are some snippets  from the book that I loved:

On hypochondriac friends: “In the unlikely event that you do get sick, you do not have to give everyone a play-by-play, as though none of us has ever been sick before, or as though there were some suspense in the story of your cold, with twists and turns (‘I woke up this morning feeling pretty good, only to take a turn for the worse after lunch!’) I know this story. You get better. It works out.” Amen, Mindy.

On using girly manipulation at a photo shoot.  After a pushy and insensitive stylist brought tiny dresses to the set and made Mindy feel bad for not fitting into them, she decided to choose to be strapped into the most expensive, elaborate pink gown. The stylist suggested she pick something more muted (and presumably less expensive to stretch and strap). With no recourse other than to play the card, Mindy proclaimed, “I don’t feel comfortable”: “When I played the ‘I don’t feel comfortable’ card, he knew it was over. ‘I don’t feel comfortable’ is the classic manipulative girl get-my-way line. It’s right up there with ‘I don’t feel entirely safe.'” So true!

On her good friend Jocelyn: “Jocelyn is willowy and half-Asian, and while fitting the bill technically for a model, has no interest in modeling. She’s just that cool. Me, on the other hand, whenever I lose, like five pounds, I basically start considering if I should ‘try out’ modeling. When the three of us walked down the street together, I looked like the Indian girl who kept them ‘real.'” Hah. Mindy is very open about her huge ego.

On being peer-pressured into knitting gifts for her parents with her clique of middle school friends: “Who was I knitting stuff for? If I gave my mother a knitted scarf she’d be worried I was wasting my time doing stupid stuff like knitting instead of school work. Presenting a homemade knitted object to my parents was actually like handing them a detailed backlog of my idleness.” Feel the same.

This photo of Mindy at age 5 has been around the blog world, and her caption for it is “People think I’m exaggerating when I say that I was a happy child who you could not tell was male or female.” I mean…she’s got a point.

Anyway, I was truly sorry when I finished her book, and so I was truly elated to find that she writes with some consistency on The Concerns of Mindy Kaling. It’s a spiffy spinoff of her previous blog, Things I’ve Bought, where she posted product reviews during dead times in the writing studio for The Office. Read The Concerns of Mindy Kaling if you haven’t yet read her book and want to test the waters a bit more, or if you’ve finished it and just.want.more.Mindy.

(Image via The Concerns of Mindy Kaling)

the neat-nik.

I consider myself moderately organized. I have to click “I forgot my password” fairly frequently, but I make my bed every morning. My handwriting is frequently illegible, but even in my most frustrated “UGH I have NOTHING to wear” moments, I’ll still hang the discarded/unsatisfactory items back up in the closet. I love doing laundry, but I can put off cleaning the bathroom for a long, long time (and unfortunately I no longer live with a girl who enjoys doing that). For scheduling, I scribble and scratch out events in a paper calendar rather than coordinate with a color-coded, tidy gcal. Despite these CLEAR instances of relaxed and reasonable standards, I have been told that I should heighten my threshold for mess. To those silly people, I give you today’s post. It could be much worse. 🙂

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

For more of these images, click here.

The man behind these orderly images is Swiss (duh) Ursus Wehrli. He’s made a book of befores and afters like this, and that book comes hot on the heels of another one of his that looks very funny– Tidying Up Art. In that one, Wehrli takes famous paintings and either performs a quick clean (meaning everything gets pushed under the bed), or he’ll organize the paintings like he does in the images above. Here are a few.

Hope you enjoy!

(Photos via Jeannie Jeannie and Amazon)

the culture clash.

There is a long list of things I’m bad at (though being afraid of looking ignorant for ending a sentence with a preposition is not one of them). I don’t paint walls with much attention to detail or care for neatness, evidenced by the “eh, seems close enough” taping style here:

I have horrible timing while telling jokes. I can’t shoot a pool ball without it sputtering across the table in an unintended direction. I am hopeless at falling asleep on planes or in the car. I look very unnatural in casual games of soccer, as can be seen below.

I am also bad at TV. I can get excited about an upcoming show and will dutifully set my DVR for it, but most often the show will languish, abandoned and unwatched. In the rare chance that I do sit down and tune in, it’s basically a given that I’ll be deep in text conversation with someone, or playing Words with Friends, or painting my nails, or doing pretty much anything but paying attention. I never watch shows when they’re actually airing because commercials grate on me too much.

While this means that I miss out on lots of water cooler chat at the office and that I can’t contribute to any Twitter conversation about Dexter/Revenge/Modern Family, what makes me most sad is that I can’t enjoy today’s blog in its entirety. I LOVE the concept, and there are plenty of posts that I do recognize, but for once I wish I were better at watching the tube. I hope the rest of you more devoted  so you can appreciate it all.

Slaughterhouse 90210 takes images from TV shows or movies and attaches a quotation from a famous literary work to them. It’s a similar concept to this blog in that it takes snippets from different cultural/temporal settings and puts them together in an unexpected and insightful way. Here are some that I think most everyone will recognize.

“I can normally tell how intelligent a man is by how stupid he thinks I am.”
—Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

“New friends can often have a better time together than old friends.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

“Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern, like bad wallpaper.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Never was an age more sentimental, more devoid of real feeling, more exaggerated in false feeling, than our own.”
— D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

“She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.”
— Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

“‘There’s a look little girls have who are adored by their fathers,’ Bea said. ‘It’s that facial expression of being totally impervious to the badness of the world. If they can keep that look into their twenties, they’re pretty much okay, they’ve got a force field around them.’”

—Maile Meloy, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It

“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agised as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.”
— Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Slaughterhouse 90210 is great for anyone who likes a side of snob with their pop culture, and it’s making me seriously consider putting More TV Time on my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.

(Images courtesy of Lucy and Slaughterhouse 90210)

the summaries.

Better Book Titles is like a sly, further-abridged SparkNotes. The genius behind the Tumblr is Dan Wilbur, and every day he satirizes a different book. He does so by taking famous books and using photoshop to put a new title on the iconic covers. Many of the new titles are laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m very impressed by the sheer quantity of books Wilbur’s been able to critique.

Better Book Titles does a number of things– books are either boiled down to a single message:

Or Wilbur picks a particular thread from a book’s larger story:

Or he’ll do a cultural commentary regarding the book’s public reception. These ones are my favorite.

(It’s a great book. It’s got a fitting message. But don’t give it as if you’re being whimsically wonderfully unconventional.)

Funny:

I think you could put that title on The Help (Wilbur gives that one this funny name) as well. If I were renaming the Larsson book, I would call it Reading This Makes You Just as Gross as Martin Vanger. If you have any suggestions (that are less against the international bestselling novel grain than mine), Wilbur frequently takes reader submissions, so go wow him with your creativity.

Images from Better Book Titles.