Interesting Reads: 1.10.2014

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Say No to the Standing O
By Tane S. Danger
From Minnesota Playlist

By giving everything a standing ovation, we diminish the act to near uselessnessAre we standing because we were actually so moved we couldn’t remain sitting, or because we’re hoping to shorten the time until we get out of the theater by a few seconds?

Some excellent points, but I’ll definitely stand at Claire’s spring dance recital!

What It Means to Be a Public Intellectual
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
From The Atlantic

These are Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”—not simply a lack of answers, but an obliviousness to questions. The awareness of this is humbling and euphoricAt that moment one realizes that it isn’t the cool facts which wise you up, but the awareness of a yawning, limitless, impossible ignorance.

As usual, Coates has provided a well-reasoned commentary on contemporary racism.

When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women
By Connor Friedersdorf From The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf, a man, ponders how many women have been driven out of personal journalism (blogging) due to the preponderance of mysogynistic trolls. While I‘ve haven’t dealt with any trolls, I’ve definitely heard horror stories. The terrible, mysogynistic things that women on the internet have been told is appalling.

The Hidden Ecosystem Of The Walmart Parking Lot
By Adele Peters
From FastCo.Exist

When I was a teen, my family and I would frequently pull the camper into a Wal-Mart parking lot as we were on our way to our ultimate destination. I remember waking up one morning, struck by the general oddity of doing such an almost normal thing.

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Interesting Reads: 11.25.2013

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Sarah Silverman Shouldn’t be Dirty
By Esther Zuckerman 
From The Wire

Zuckerman responds to a critic’s sexist take on Silverman’s comedy. Apparently, so she could enjoy commercial success, she should tame down her act and be more lady like. I think she’s already received considerable commercial success.

Home on the Hearst Range
By Cat Buckley
From Vanity Fair

Gorgeous photos from a new book about the Hearst Ranch surrounding the Hearst castle are accompanied by historical background text.

An Interview with Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

a little (or a lot) about Laura | Laura Ingalls Wilder | The 1000th Voice blog

Alright, Laura fans! Today is the first of at least two interviews with Laura experts. Kelly Kathleen Ferguson is an author and Ph.D. candidate in creative nonfiction at Ohio University.

 

My first question truly starts at the beginning. Please tell me a little about your first experience with the Little House books. How did you discover/learn about the books? Did you immediately fall in love with them?

Here is an excerpt from my book, in which I explain the beginnings of my Laura obsession.

The origins of my pioneer story began October 2, 1974, in a little house made of red brick in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On that day my mother gave me the Laura Ingalls Wilder box set for my sixth birthday, the yellow-covered Harper Trophy Edition illustrated by Garth Williams. I don’t know what the set cost, but each book retailed for $1.50 ($1.70 Canada).  At some point I took a magic marker and wrote my name in the space provided (Belongs to _________). I scribed each letter with extreme focus, careful to remain on the line. This was serious business.

From first read, I was obsessed with my life as Laura, and set out live like her in every possible way. It wasn’t easy, proving up a claim in the suburbs. I built cabins out of Lincoln Logs and tended faithfully to my plastic mustangs. Autumn I gathered acorns and dried Kudzu berries on the back deck. Winter I braided pine straw to burn in the fireplace, watching with satisfaction as my fuel turned blue then white then withered into smoke up the flue.  Spring I plowed the centipede grass, cursing those pesky roots. Summer I sowed birdseed crops in the houseplants that my mom, sighing, yanked out. Like Pa, I dutifully replanted despite the destructive forces of nature.

Ahhh, I love that! So, it definitely seems like Laura inspired your career path. Is that correct? 

Yep, Laura has pretty much been a huge life inspiration. I was always fascinated about how she became a famous author later in life, in her fifties. So I still have time! Laura’s path was always in the back of my mind as I played in bands and bartended and renovated my old house and whatever else it was I was doing through my twenties and early thirties, this idea that it’s better to have experiences to write about. And I’ve always loved how The Books are about fearless reinvention but this sense of stability, a sense of self, at the same time. The Ingalls family had a china shepherdess that Ma always placed on the mantel—soon as Pa built one. I have a Maneki Neko (the Japanese “welcome cat.”). When I unpack it that means I’m home. Once I decided to be a writer I became a homesteader of sorts, I’ve had to move where the opportunity lies. Laura’s willingness to move and change has been with me since I was six. In a way, she’s the stability I bring with me, because yes, I still have that yellow box set and it is also a symbol of home for me.

You’re absolutely right. I’d always known Laura was a bit older when she started writing the books, but I was surprised and inspired that she has such a body of work after her “late” start in the writing world.

Taking a bit of a different turn, I understand that some readers identify and side with Mary over Laura. Wendy McClure says they’re usually the older siblings, who enjoy her bossiness. I’m a Laura fan. Until reading The Wilder Life I didn’t realize people gravitated toward Mary. I’m particularly uncharitable in my thoughts towards her because she constantly bullies Laura. So, Mary or Laura? Who’s your favorite? I’m pretty sure I know the answer!

You know it! I’m the girl who shoves too many pebbles in her pocket so it tears. with boring brown hair all restless and flutterbudgety who’d rather help Pa with the chores than sit inside. Bo-ring.  Although one of my favorite parts in the series is when Mary admits to Laura about how as a young girl she wasn’t really good, because she was showing off.

This seems like a good transition to Laura’s progeny. Rose Wilder Lane is a complicated individual who has played a controversial role in the writing of the books and Laura’s life. I think she sounds incredibly fascinating; if not at the very least a little shady. I can’t wait to read more about her and her own writings. What are your thoughts on Lane?

Unfolding the wondrous life of Rose Wilder Lane was one of the many fascinating side journeys my Laura trip took me. On my to-read bookshelf is Travels with Zenobia: From Paris to Albania in a Model T, the writings Lane kept while roadtripping with her bestie Helen Boylston. That trip would be an adventure now, much less in 1926. And who thinks to name a car Zenobia? Lane lived in San Francisco, New York, and Paris as well as extensive periods in Albania. On the night of her death she was scheduled for a next day flight to work as a war correspondent in Vietnam. Although she was known more for her fiction, I prefer her nonfiction. She had so much to write about. I don’t know that she ever found herself as fiction writer—except through her mother’s stories.

Pamela Smith Hill has written a great book, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life that examines the role of Lane in the Little House books. I think Smith Hill nails it, that Lane was an intense editor along the lines of Maxwell Perkins—meaning extensive shaping and key suggestions. Undoubtedly, Lane took her mother’s writing to the next level with her professional experience. But any time spent with each writer’s voice tells the story. Lane simply didn’t have the prose chops.

Throughout all of your Laura-related research and travels, I’m sure you’ve come across some interesting information. What surprised you most? What seems to surprise non-Laura experts?

Aside from the Rose/Laura “scandal,” which I think can get blown out of proportion, under scrutiny Laura really pans out to be who you would expect—a hard working farmer, a lifelong love to Almanzo, a great baker of gingerbread, and active member of her small town of Mansfield. And she continued to enjoy a snazzy dress or two along the way! The person from the Books whose true story surprised me the most is Eliza Jane Wilder, who is mostly known for being the mean teacher who picked on Carrie and gossiped with Nellie Oleson. But she was a pioneer in her own right.

Here’s a post I wrote about her:

http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com/2012/lousy-once-lizy-yes-but-lazy-the-real-eliza-jane-wilder/

From there, mostly when I talk to non-Laura experts, I have to remind them that I’m talking about the BOOKS, not the television show. People either loved the books or never heard of them.

And last thought, what surprised me the most during my travels (the “archive of the feet”), was the diversity of the Midwestern landscape. It’s easy to think of the middle of our country as a big blot of cornfield, but driving the two lane highways showed me the difference from the rolling green, almost Southern feel to eastern Kansas to the high, moonscape prairies of South Dakota.

I grew up in eastern South Dakota (my childhood dentist was in DeSmet). I went to college in western South Dakota and now live outside Minneapolis, so the very changing geography of our area of the Midwest is one I’m quite familiar with! I do think most people do misunderstand it and think it’s all flat with lots of grass. Like Laura keeps pointing out in By the Shores of Silver Lake and Little Town on the Prairie, eastern South Dakota is deceptively flat. You only have to take a walk out into a field to realize that there are bumps and rolling hills all around you, but drive an hour down the road, and you’re probably looking at an entirely different landscape.

Do you have a favorite Little House book? If so, which one and why? Also, do you have a favorite book about Laura? (Besides your book, of course. 🙂 )

1) Well, favorite always seems to be whichever one I’m reading. But the book that flashed in my head at the question was By the Shores of Silver Lake. I love Lena, and how she and Laura gallop the black ponies across the prairie. I also find compelling the juxtaposition of the Ingalls family’s final destination in this blank slate of a landscape with Laura’s turn from girl to young woman. Silver Lake is where she really comes of age, when she realizes she’ll have to teach and help send Mary to school. She has to be (gulp) grown up and hey, hold on!—isn’t that Almanzo Wilder and his brown Morgans on the horizon? I also love the discovery of the items of the Surveyor’s House. And, and, and.

2)  My fav is William Anderson’s Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography. It’s written for a young audience, and emulates Laura’s style. I loved reading bios on Martha Washington and Florence Nightingale as a kid. Sometimes I don’t want my idols “complicated” or all the dirt. I just want a good story that balances crises with a positive spin. Anderson’s Bio is large part of what launched my whole project, this idea of Laura being a real heroine I could admire, not just literary one, as well as making me think of Pepin, South Dakota, et. al., as actual places I could visit.

Thank you so much for participating in my interview! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I suppose my parting note is that my goal is for people to pass the Books on to the next generation. Whenever I hear of someone giving the books as a present or reading them to their kids, I get a warm feeling inside.

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson is indeed a Laura fan and expert. I love how she capitalizes the ‘b’ when referring to the Little House books. Check out her book here and her blog here

Interesting Reads | 5.31.2013

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Erotic Republic
By Afshin Shahi
From Foreign Policy

A surprising sexual revolution is underway in Iran. Afshin Shahi shines a small spotlight on the revolution with some interesting data.

Chasing fireflies in rural twilight
By Andrea Badgley
From Butterfly Mind

I hope you enjoy Badgley’s well-timed childhood reverie on her excellent creative nonfiction blog.

Company Man
By David Sedaris
From The New Yorker

Another Interesting Reads feature and another David Sedaris piece. Maybe it’s because he’s now middle aged, but this is a far tamer piece that what made him famous. All the more, I was still entertained while reading it.

Have you read anything interesting lately?

Interesting Reads | 4.26.2013

I know it’s cliched, but can you believe it’s the end of April? Like, really, the end of April! In Minnesota the snow is just now melting. It’s really been a crazy month with Claire’s birthday, our quick move that started a week ago on Wednesday, and about three snowstorms that dumped up to two feet of snow on us. Listen, I’m ready to be outside! And to blog again.

While I haven’t had time to blog, I have had time to read a few interesting articles. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

A Cat-Hater’s Handbook: Irreverent Vintage Gem Illustrated by Tomi Ungerer by Maria Popova
Brain  Pickings

I am not a cat lover by any means, so the topic of this post is appealing to me. But, beyond that, it’s a really funny look into the cat-hating thoughst of Mark Twain, Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash and more.

Say it Out Loud: How David Sedaris Makes his Writing Better by Kristin Hohenadel
Fast Co. Create

I love insights into how writers write. This is a great look into how David Sedaris writes and edits for maximum laughs. The best part is that it’s not the typical read-out-loud advice!

My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters by Deborah Copaken Kogan
The Nation

There’s no way around it; if you’re a book-loving woman, this will piss you off.

Have you read anything interesting lately?

For those who’ve feared that I would never return, I promise you that I’ll be back on Monday with my planned reading post, Wednesday with a book chat post and Friday with what I’ve watched (hint: it’s not much!).

Movies I’m Looking Forward to with Excitement

Over the next few months a few movies will hit the big screen, and I’m very excited! As per usual, I probably won’t watch them in theaters, but I’ll be waiting for them to be released on DVD.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

I shouldn’t have to explain my excitement about this movie!

In Theatres May 10th

The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

Sounds interesting. A comedy about three teenagers who decide to build a house in a forest and live off the land.

In Theaters May 31

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

A Shakespeare retelling in the hands of Joss Whedon. This should be promising.

In Theaters June 7th 

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

Directed by Sophia Coppola, this movie is based on a true story.

In Theaters June 14th

Any movies you’re looking forward to in the next couple of months?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

What I’ve Watched: March

What I’ve Watched is a summary of new things I’ve watched in the previous month. Read more about What I‘ve Watched here.

The Lucky One The Lucky One | Warner Brothers | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

Surprisingly good. It follows typical Nicholas Sparks stories and the movie adaptations: a row boat, Spanish moss, someone keeping the couple apart. It’s sacriligious as a book lover to say, but this is the way to experience a Nicholas Spark book. As a move it’s a fun, romantic way to spend a couple hours, plus Zac Efron is hot and no longer jail bait.

Les MiserablesLes Miserables | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

This movie didn’t garner so many prestigious nominations and awards for nothing. It’s a great adaptation. The acting, set design, and costumes are great. Anne Hathaway’s performance was breathtaking and heartbreaking at the same time. Also, I love Helena Bonham Carter’s oddities. Casting her alongside Sacha Baron Cohen was pure genius in my opinion.

Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

This was good. I was a little tired when we first watched it, so I’ll have to rewatch it to figure some plot points out. This movie furthered my respect and admiration for Kathryn Bigelow.

Bates Motel Bates Motel | A & E | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

The Atlantic Wire accurately reviewed this as campy. It truly is. It’s so weird, and it’s a mashup of modern and vintage. iPods exist in this world, yet Norma and Norman dress as they are in the still. It’s delightful, and I have to catch up!

Rise of the Guardians Rise of the Guardians | DreamWorks Pictures | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

This was Claire’s Easter gift. It was good. I personally loved the tattooed, Russian Santa.

Have you watched anything interesting lately?