Wednesday, 30 April 2008

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.

First published seven years before I was born
and read cover to cover till the cover was worn,
this book is a book that means so much to me
this book that defines me is The Lorax, you see.

The first several pages are dreary and dank
and give the impression the old Once-ler once stank.
Then BAM! the page turns and the scene's lush with color
and the world that you live in seems quite a bit duller.

Those Truffula Trees with tufts softer than silk
emitting the smell of fresh butterfly milk!
How I wanted a Truffula Tree in my yard
and a Lorax to live there and always keep guard.

And that greedy Once-ler had the same exact thought
but his motive was nefarious and icky as snot.
Instead of enjoying the beauty of that tree
The Once-ler thought only of dirty green money.

He chopped down that Truffula Tree with a WHACK!
and soon called in the rest of his pack.
They chopped down those trees again and again,
they chopped down those trees and only stopped when
there was nothing left.

The land was barren, dirty, and spoiled.
The Brown Bar-ba-loots looked around and recoiled.
The Swomee-Swans choked in the smog.
The Humming-Fish left to escape the dense fog.
Nothing could live in a land so dirty.
Even The Lorax left with a heart that was hurty.

It's easy to think this is nothing but fiction,
but look around and you'll see the affliction.
From forests clear-cut because it's easier that way
to beaches so dirty you'd swear it foul play.

I knew as a child all this was preventable
and so I decided to prevent the lamentable.
To law school I went and then EPA
and there I work to this very day.
I'm trying my best to speak for the trees,
but it's an uphill battle, so I'm asking you, Please.
Please try to walk when walking will do.
Please turn off the lights and recycle, too.
We all live here on this planet together;
if we all do our share then things will get better.

We are each and every one a Lorax, you see,
and a Lorax, I think, is the best thing to be.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Boxcars FTW


The Boxcar Children were my childhood companions and as long as the mysteries weren't too scary (book 7 or 8 with the creepy basement under the cave or whatever, I'm looking at you) I tried to read them in one sitting. Unfortunately, because I am made of lose I can't remember much about the books.

Here are things I can remember without using the internet:

benny, violet, henry, and.. and... I can't remember the other girl's name
grandfather alden
henry mows lawns
blue cup
solve mysteries
how do they find all these mysteries?
there is a housekeeper
the ages are fucked up

I don't have any of the books here at my current residence and I didn't plan this very well enough to get to the library and check any out so instead, you get to take the memory journey with me through the internet. Ready?

"The Boxcar Children is a children's literary franchise originally created and written by American writer and first-grade school teacher Gertrude Chandler Warner and which today includes well over 100 titles. The series is aimed at middle readers in Grades 2-4."

A hundred titles?! That's crazy! When I was wee there were only 30.

Detour: Gertrude Chandler Warner
"She was criticized for displaying children with little parental supervision; her critics thought that that would encourage child rebellion. Her response was, however, that the children liked it for that very reason."

Oh, G-C-Dub, LOVE. Also, you guys, she only wrote 19. Kinda like BSC.

"The first book tells the story of four children: Henry Alden, 14; Jessie Alden, 12; Violet Alden, 10; Benny Alden, 6; and their dog Watch. Upon the death of their mother and father, their grandfather assumes custody of the children, but they run away because they believe him to be cruel. Finding an abandoned boxcar, they start a new life of independence. A man named Dr. Moore, who lives in a nearby city, hires Henry to do jobs around his home, such as mowing the lawn and organizing his garage. With the help of Henry's income and living off the land, the children are able to take care of themselves until Violet becomes ill and they must go to Dr. Moore for assistance."

Jessie! That was her name. Besides that I have to say my memory wasn't too bad. Does Dr. Moore know that they are living out of a boxcar? I used to wonder this to myself often. How it was so shady. Probably I was wondering this because I was obsessed with the books longer after Grades 2-4.

"When Violet is taken ill, Dr. Moore finally contacts James Alden, who arrives just after the children bring in Violet for treatment. Not wanting to frighten the children into running away again, their grandfather referred to himself as Mr. Henry (Henry being his middle name). Not knowing that the man was their "cruel" grandfather, the children warm to his kindness and are surprised but delighted when Dr. Moore reveals to them that he is their grandfather. After moving in with their grandfather, Mr. Alden moves the boxcar to his backyard for their enjoyment."

and... the fuck? I mean, really, what?

"The Gertrude Warner Museum opened in a red boxcar in Putnam, Connecticut in 2004.[4]In July 2004, a museum in Putnam, Connecticut was opened to honor Gertrude Warner and the Boxcar Children series.

She is buried in Grove Street Cemetery, Putnam, Connecticut."

UM I MUST GO THERE! Road trip? Very yes.

In the list of books I've found "7 The Woodshed Mystery." This is the one that scared the shit out of me. I think I might have finally read it when I was in high school. There was a trap door and when the children opened it for the first time, I closed the book shut and moved on to #8 (Lighthouse Mystery, also scary btw). Amazon says that the phrase "potato pit" appears often in the book so perhaps that is where the trap door leads, but creepy people hang out there, I promise. (Amazon also says the phrase "old candlestick" appears often. I did some boxcar-style sleuthing and discovered that perhaps an old candlestick was found in the shady potato pit. It must be a clue.)

Also from Wackopedia, a list of strange circumstances they constantly stumble across:

The Aldens try to figure out why Bill disappeared.

Eccentric Aunt Jane needs help on her ranch. The Aldens overturn a plot against her.

Marooned on a mountain, the Aldens survive a landslide and find a Native American secret.

Benny's curiosity, while staying in a fishing village, leads to capturing a swindler. [Note: If Amazon could do that phrase thing for the whole series, "Benny's curiosity" would appear at least one billion times.]

Floating down a lazy river, Benny finds a blackmail scheme in progress.

The children try to clean up and old library so it can receive landmark status, but someone else tries to stop them.

The Boxcar Children try to find out who's responsible for causing some trouble at Edward Marlow's zoo.

Someone is trying to keep Max Greene from inheriting his great aunt's estate.

Man! Don't you want to read them all now?! I sure do. Too bad my mom told me that my collection (#1-31) got destroyed when the basement flooded.

I think I might check them out from the library though. That is, if someone else doesn't try to stop me!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Claudia and the Great Search (BSC #33)

heather What I am about to say might make you feel violated, but I have to tell you. You have a right to know. Whew. Okay. Here it is: The first 35 Baby-Sitters Club books were written by Ann M. Martin, just as the covers suggest. But the rest of the BSC books—at least the next 40—were written... BY A MAN. I found out about Scholastic's ghostwriting policy deceit a year or so ago, and I have tried really hard to come to grips with it, to, you know, just live with the fact that I thought I was taking my fun aunt Ann M. Martin along to my friends' houses, but really I was bringing along a creepy, grown ass man to slumber parties. It's gross, of course it is. And I feel betrayed, yes. But I want to forgive Scholastic for the lies, to move on. They gave me Harry Potter, didn't they? But before Harry Potter, they gave me Claudia and the Great Search. I recently reread BSC #33 for Collective review, and unlike Dawn and the Older Boy (BSC #37, the second title penned, funnily enough, by a Creepy Older Boy) Claudia and the Great Search (BSC #33) was written by fun Aunt Ann. OR SO THEY SAY.

Claudia Kishi (who—in college—surely moved to NYC with her poet/guitarist boyfriend) is a charter member of Stonybrook, Connecticut's very own Baby-Sitter's Club, along with her best friend Stacy McGill (who I'm positive grew up to be the editor of a successful fashion magazine); and her two long-time pals Mary Ann Spier (who undoubtedly had a pregnancy scare in high school), and Kristy Thomas (who—when was not touring with the LPGA—certainly became a practicing lawyer. And also, obviously, a lesbian). Early in the series the fabulous four are joined by Dwan Schaffer, a California transplant (who grew up, I'll bet, to found Trader Joe's); as well as two junior members, Jessie Ramsey (dancer) and Mallory Pike (ginger-head).

And there you have the first three chapters of Claudia and the Great Search.

For the rest of the story we follow Claudia as she determines that she is adopted, that her "parents" don't love her, and that she needs to find her real parents. Why does Claudia think she is adopted, you ask? Well, Claudia's sleuthing early in the book brings about these clues. a) Claudia's sister Janine is a certifiable genius, while Claudia can barely spell. b) Janine wears plain outfits like this: "a long pleated plaid skirt, a white shirt with a round collar, stockings, and blue heels." (Which, incidentally, was my middle school chorus uniform.) While Claudia wears funky outfits like this: "a very short black skirt, and oversized white shirt with bright pink and turquoise poodles printed on it, flat turquoise shoes with ankle straps, and a ton of jewelry, including dangly poodle earrings... hair swept to one side in a high ponytail held in place with a huge pink barrette." (Which, incidentally, is something Carrie Bradshaw would wear to the post office.) c) Claudia (the second child) finds more pictures of Janine (the first child) in old family photo albums. And d) There is a locked box on her father's desk. (She is sure it contains her birth certificate from her actual parents.)

As is the way with all BSC books, it turns out Claudia's family really does love her. Plus—surprise!—she's not adopted: her grandma was a funky dresser, too! And along Claudia's quest to (momentary) self-acceptance, she helps a babysitting charge get into preschool! And she learns that, no matter what, her friends are always going to stand beside her. (Even when Scholastic starts pooping out BSC Super Mysteries.) Also in this book, Claudia uses a microfiche machine at the library, which really isn't significant, just proof that it was written in 1989.

Oh, and one more thing: that locked box on top of Claudia Kishi's dad's desk, it was full of cash!

I never had much in common with the BSC, and certainly my parents didn't have a box of money in their bedroom. If they did, I would have probably stolen it—twenty dollars at a time—for delivery pizza. When mom and dad found out, they would have definitely felt violated. But hey, guess what, that's life. Just another friendly lesson from Stonybrook, Connecticut.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Phone It In Friday: Book It!

Hey, do you guys remember Book It!? You know. Book It! I'm not screaming at you, I just think there was an exclamation point after the It. Anyway, you read books. And got a button. And the more books you read, the more stickers you got on your button and eventually you got a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Awesome.

Anyway, so you know how we answered all those questions earlier this week? About books and junk? Your turn!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Books and memes: I don't care if it's polygamy, I want to marry them.

Hi kids, it's me. Tuesday night what's left of my tiny little heart was shattered into about a billion pieces, so Jennie was kind enough to take my place here yesterday while I recovered. I'm not 100%, but I am better. And still completely smitten with Brooks Laich.

Here we go:

1) What book are you reading right now?
Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk. See, I finally read Jane Eyre and that book made me SO ANGRY that the only book that could possibly follow it was something sick and twisted by Palahniuk. So Palahniuk it is.

2) What is the fourth sentence on page 133 of that book?
"Cold spots, bad smells, eerie feelings--most people don't need an exorcist."

3) What is one book that changed your life?
Deliverance by James Dickey. Wow. I am so surprised I just typed that.

4) What is one book that you read again and again?
Actually, I read all of my books again and again; I'm not terribly smart, you see, so I need a re-read or two to figure out what the hell is going on.

5) What three books would you want on a desert island?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Complete Calvin & Hobbes. I heart that strip so hard.

6) What is the funniest book you've ever read?
Oh my gosh, have I even read a funny book? Uh, I'm gonna say Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

7) What book made you cry the most?
Ho-ly shit, that last Harry Potter book. That scene when Harry's about to walk into the Forest, I mean, WTF mate? Could I have possibly cried any harder? I do not think so.

8) What book do you wish had been written?
The Love of the Last Tycoon. Every time I read what there is of it I get SO PISSED OFF that Fitzgerald died before he could finish.

9) What would be the title of your autobiography?
Much Ado About Nothing.

10) What book do you keep meaning to read?
All the ones I haven't yet read, of which there are many.

11) What five books should everyone be required to read?
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, uh... and some other books. I dunno.

12) What book was the biggest waste of your time?
Atonement. See below.

13) What was your favorite book as a child?
The Lorax. It's pretty much the reason I do what I do for a living.

14) What book have you read the most?
Given that I've read The Great Gatsby at least once a year for the last fifteen years, I'm a-gonna go with that one.

15) Is there any book's ending that you would like to rewrite? What would you change about the original ending?
Ooooooh yeah, the last section of Atonement pretty much ruined the entire book for me. For serious, I got so angry I threw the damn thing against the wall, which, apparently, is what one does to books that make you angry.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Books— oh! no. I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings.

JennieI don't mean to be all tricksy, Internets, but Kat and I switched days. She is busy being a hockey fan and I, well, I have a lot of time on my hands, so it doesn't really matter what day I post. I'm sorry that you're stuck with me today, but Kat will be here tomorrow. Let's get down to business, shall we?

1) What book are you reading right now?

Anna Karenina. I'll admit, I was skeptical at first, mostly because of the sheer SIZE of this book (big things intimidate me (that's what she said) so I was scared), but now I can't wait to read it! I'm all, "yay, it's time to read," which . . . OK, is nothing new, but whatever. The other day, I went home at lunch to read (I stopped trying to read in my office on my lunch break because people come in and are all, "what are you reading?" and I'm all, "nothing, now that you interrupted me," and I'm not supposed to talk to my boss like that anymore) and right as it was time to go back to work, Vronsky shot himself! Um. Spoiler alert. Oops. Anyway. Vronsky shot himself and I was all upset that I had to go back to work and WHY will no one pay me to sit at home and read all day? Why?

2) What is the fourth sentence on page 133 of that book?

"Moving chairs with the help of unobtrusive servants, the company settled down, dividing itself into two parts -- one by the samovar with the hostess, the other at the opposite end of the drawing room, round the ambassador's wife, a beautiful woman in black velvet with sharp black eyebrows."

3) What is one book that changed your life?

Um. Green Eggs and Ham. Stay with me. You see, when I was but a tiny child, I wouldn't eat anything. Well, I mean, I ate some stuff, because HELLO, if I didn't eat anything, I wouldn't be here right now. Anyway. I never tried anything new. So one day, I was reading Green Eggs and Ham and it finally sunk in that maybe, JUST MAYBE, if I tried something new, I might like it. So I tried something new. And I liked it.

That story is not true, but it should be. I'm just not really sure how to answer this question.

4) What is one book that you read again and again?

Pride & Prejudice. Catcher in the Rye. Fahrenheit 451.

5) What three books would you want on a desert island?

Pride & Prejudice. Catcher in the Rye. Fahrenheit 451.

6) What is the funniest book you've ever read?

Me Talk Pretty One Day. You guys, the story about his brother (You Can't Kill the Rooster) made my entire body hurt, I was laughing so hard.

7) What book made you cry the most?

I'm with Heather. Little Women made me cry so hard I had to put the book down, on account of I couldn't see the words anymore through ALL THE TEARS, TEARS, TEARS, TEARS!

8) What book do you wish had been written?

Things Everyone Else Knows That You Don't by . . . I don't know, someone smart.

9) What would be the title of your autobiography?

Ouch, I Fell Down Again

10) What book do you keep meaning to read?

Life of Pi. I think I actually have it. Wait, no. I don't have it. I think about buying it every time I'm in a bookstore, but I never do. I checked it out from the library once, but I had to take it back because it was overdue (standard). Wow, good story, Jennie, tell it again!

11) What five books should everyone be required to read?

I can't come up with a better answer than The Complete Collection of Calvin & Hobbes. Those books have everything. Also, throw some Dr. Suess in there.

Laziest. Answer. Ever.

12) What book was the biggest waste of your time?

The Devil Wears Prada. Actually, it's one of the few books I didn't finish. I think I made it about three chapters before I got fed up with the TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE writing and threw the book across the room. If you knew how anal-retentive I am about my books staying in pristine condition, you'd understand that that's a BIG DEAL. CAPS LOCK.

13) What was your favorite book as a child?

Maniac McGee. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Ooh, The Polar Express! And Where the Wild Things Are. And The Great Kapok Tree. The Giver. A Wrinkle In Time. Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse. Also, I had this Sesame Street book about Grover getting lost in some weird funhouse (?) when I was really little (5? 6?) and I read it all the time. I remember getting in trouble once because I was reading it when I was supposed to be in bed and my dad was all, "Jennie, you go to bed RIGHT NOW or I will throw that book out the window," and so I turned off the overhead light, crawled under the covers, and read it with a flashlight.

14) What book have you read the most?

For some reason, I've read The Handmaid's Tale A LOT. Maybe to remind myself that my life isn't so bad? I don't know.

15) Is there any book's ending that you would like to rewrite? What would you change about the original ending?

I've thought long and hard (hee) about this and I don't have an answer. So I'll answer a completely different question. You know what movie's ending I don't like? Once. I can acknowledge that it was a good ending, I guess, and I know it wasn't one of those romantic comedies where two crazy lovebirds finally work things out. No. It was REALISTIC. But still. It made my heart all hurty. Like really hurty in a way that I like to avoid. Actually, my heart gets all hurty again whenever I think about it so I'm going to stop now.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

the books, i've read them.

1) What book are you reading right now?
The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel.

2) What is the fourth sentence on page 133 of that book?
"Jean had five boyfriends, all named Jim."

Amy (or Hemps as I call her in my head, we're totally BFF after me having read, like, everything she's written) loves DEATH. It is her favorite thing to write about ever I SWEAR. Anyway, I was certain that the sentence would be at least a little like death so I could tell you about how much she loves it and that sentence up there with the boyfriends and the Jean isn't deathly at all. But let me just say that the fourth sentence on page 133 is the fourth sentence of her short story "Murder." Gee whiz, Hemps, lighten up.

3) What is one book that changed your life?
I can only pick one book? That's dumb.

4) What is one book that you read again and again?
I have this weird thing where I don't like to read books again and again because I tend to forget details--hang on. I've written about this before:

"The thing is that book is back there, in the memory, somewhere because the moment I start re-reading (Hey! I remember liking this book but not what it was about ... I'll read it again!) I REMEMBER EVERYTHING. Ohhhh, I remember, this is the one with that lady... and I bet she does that thing? I wonder if she does that thing or not? was it another book? for another 12 pages when she finally does the thing and I move on to wondering about something else. This process makes me absolutely crazy. I've never been able to enjoy a book the second time around unless I already remember the entire plot going into it."

5) What three books would you want on a desert island?
The Da Vinci Code. I would take the Da Vinci Code. So I could burn the Da Vinci Code.

6) What is the funniest book you've ever read?
One of my college roommates brought home a book one day from the freebie shelf at the church where she worked. My Husband, My Friend was a marriage book, a guide to being happy and making your spouse happy. It was offensive on all the levels possible--put a ribbon in your hair to surprise your husband when he returns home from work, etc. It had a whole section listing things that could help you feel more feminine: choosing a stencil such as ducks or teddy bears to decorate the home with, subscribing to a woman's magazine, taking a daily bubble bath with candles to relax, etc., etc. We would have readings of it--you know--to keep us feminine. The Notorious AMR, our ninth roommate and boyfriend about town could read it in the most condescending way. I used to have a video of him doing this and I just scoured all my backed up photos from back in oh-five and the videos are gone. I'm trying not to think about what other videos were lost. Anyway, I also scoured the internet desperately trying to find the book as well and I think it's too old and atiquated and offensive to have survived the dot com boom. Old housemates, if you're out there reading this, please comment funny things about the book, kthnx.

7) What book made you cry the most?
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts: I threw that book across the room, I fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon crying, and I couldn't pick it up again for a day. Something about reading despicable stuff makes it so much harder for me to swallow and I felt so caught off guard by it.

8) What book do you wish had been written?
I really loved Cold Sassy Tree. Olive Ann Burns died before finishing its sequel which was published as a collection of notes. I devoured the notes, burdened with guilt. Spenser's Faerie Queene is unfinished, some say Canterbury Tales is unfinished. And I sure do wish my coCollectivers would write me some books already.

9) What would be the title of your autobiography?
Uh, Abigail M. Schilling?

10) What book do you keep meaning to read?
She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel because Heather is always chattering about it.

11) What five books should everyone be required to read?
Heather picked this topic. Obviously. Heather LOVES forcing people to make favorite lists. I HATE making favorite lists. (See here.) Here's why: I choke. I feel like it's a life or death decision and I don't have the capacity to make it. I can't choose! OKAY!?

(But you should read Harry Potter. And most books on those lists that the internet likes to post.)

12) What book was the biggest waste of your time?
I'm really good at not finishing a book if I don't like it. In fact, I'm really good at not finishing books in general so I've never wasted my time. Unless you consider chick lit a waste of time. I obviously don't, nor do I consider all the trashy TV I watch wasting time. Standard.

13) What was your favorite book as a child?
Goodnight Moon
The Boxcar Children Series
The Twelve Candle Club Series (Christian babysitters club knock off)
Homer Price, Centerburg Tales, and everything else by Robert McCloskey

14) What book have you read the most?
Is this different than question four? I'm tired of questions. How about a story instead?

Canadian author Yann Martel (Life of Pi) has been sending a new book every two weeks to the Canada Prime Minister. See the PM doesn't really believe in the arts or funding the arts or allowing the arts to exist and Yann thinks he just doesn't know any better so he's been sending him books to help educate him. He's been making sure each book is less than 200 pages too because "the Prime Minister is a very busy man." Isn't that so awesome? You can read about his project and his letters to the PM here at What Is Stephen Harper Reading? (I heard about this from my blogging friend Anna from junior high. She finds cool things before the rest of the internet, I swear.)

15) Is there any book's ending that you would like to rewrite? What would you change about the original ending?
I'm sure there is a million, but see I get all pissed and rage-y if I don't like the ending, I tell the whole world, and then, disenchanted with the author, I start to forget about the book, and slowly, return to my regularly scheduled excessive use of commas. My life, it is fleeting.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

heather Hey, look: it's a book meme!

1) What book are you reading right now?

The Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel. (A couple of years ago, Heather Nicole of I Heart Heather introduced me to Haven Kimmel by way of Kimmel's memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and I don't think I have ever enjoyed an author more in my whole life.)

2) What is the fourth sentence on page 133 of that book?

What is present is finite; what is absent is infinite.

3) What is one book that changed your life?

When I was 20 I read Salvenka Drakulic's memoir, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, and it was like seeing the world for the very first time. Also, several years ago, a comic shop owner convinced me to read the series Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore, and I'm still not finished growing from that story.

4) What is one book that you read again and again?

The pages are falling out of my first four Harry Potter books from over-reading. Gosh, I love magic.

5) What three books would you want on a desert island?

a) To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
b) The Complete Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
c) Emma, by Jane Austen

6) What is the funniest book you've ever read?

A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel is tied with Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding for just absolute hilarity.

7) What book made you cry the most?

Uh, Little Women. That book should just live in the freezer.

8) What book do you wish had been written?

The Handbook For Daughters With Mothers Who Have Mental Illnesses, by Literally Anyone With Experience.

9) What would be the title of your autobiography?

Magical Me, obviously.

10) What book do you keep meaning to read?

At Collective HQ, we all talk about how we should read Proust. But I don't really mean to read that. I mean, Kat and Jennie will probably read Proust, but me and Abigail? We have Gossip Girl recaps to pour over. New episodes start TODAY! OMG! Jacob!

11) What five books should everyone be required to read?

Okay, first let me tell you that I asked a bunch of people this question a few months ago and the book that was suggested the most was The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, which is a really excellent suggestion. But you should get it at the library, because it costs a LOT of money at the bookstore. But, here's my five:

1) To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
2) Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
3) Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong, James Loewen
4) The Color of Water, James McBride
5) The Tale of Desperaux, Kate DiCamillo

12) What book was the biggest waste of your time?

Okay, no one get mad, but I really hated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). It was tedious and not so entertaining, plus also there was a LOT of math in it.

13) What was your favorite book as a child?

Robert the Rose Horse, by Joan Heilbroner. I loved it so much, in fact, that I pocketed my library's copy, and I still have it.

14) What book have you read the most?

The Bible.

15) Is there any book's ending that you would like to rewrite? What would you change about the original ending?

Would change and have changed. From nearly the first moment I finished it, I began a rewrite of Little Women, which included Beth living and Jo marrying Laurie. My imagination, it is a fragile place. Sometimes I have to lie to it to be able to sleep at night.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Phone it in Friday: Sing Along

This week we got nostalgic here at HQ and dwelved into our past. Do you dare do it? Do you dare confess your inner hearts to the internets? Please tell me you do because we don't think we can go through the weekend without another selection of terribly addicting songs getting stuck in our heads.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Hold me close, young Tony Danza

JennieSo it seems like everyone else put a lot of thought into their songs. They all shared some feelings and probably touched each and every one of you (dirty) in some way. I decided not to go that route. You'll see.

Here are, in no particular order, the Top 5 Songs of My Childhood:

1. Rubber Duckie:

With lyrics like, "you make bathtime lots of fun," and "when I squeeze you, you make noise," this song seems a bit more inappropriate than I remember, but as a kid, I loved it. Ernie was a little too attached to that rubber duckie, but what do you expect? His life partner, Bert, was a bit of an unfeeling bastard. He had to get a little love from somewhere, so why not his rubber duckie? (YouTube tells me there's a new version of this song, but I refuse to watch it.)

2. Chipmunks

I could have gone with any song here, really, but I had a particular fondness for the songs from The Chipmunk Movie. Not that new abomination of cinema, the old cartoon version. I tend to form an unhealthy attachment to all things I love (see: books, cheesecake, Rivers Cuomo, The Office) and my obsession with The Chipmunks was no different. I watched the show, had a little Alvin doll, wore The Chipmunks on my clothes, and BEST OF ALL, I had a talking Theodore stuffed animal. I took him to the dentist with me when I was six because I had to get some teeth pulled. The problem with going to the same dentist NOW that I did as a child is that he remembers this.

3. It's Not Easy Being Green:
Seriously. It's not. Do you know how much those low-energy lightbulbs cost? ZING!

4. I Wanna Dance With Somebody
: Oh, Whitney Houston. How I loved you back before you met Bobby Brown and discovered that crack might not, in fact, be wack. I have fond memories of my mom playing this song and my sister and I dancing around the living room, jumping on the sofa (clearly my dad was not home), and singing into invisible microphones. Hell, if this song comes on at any time, no matter where I am, I have to fight the urge to jump on a table, sing along, and flail my arms around in an attempt to dance gracefully.

Embedding disabled? WTF, YouTubes? Whatever, you can watch it . . . HERE.

5. The Gopher Guts Song (stay with me): So when I was little, my dad taught me this song. It soon became my favorite song to belt in the car, much to my mother's dismay. I knew it completely grossed her out, which was part of the appeal. I soon taught it to the kids at school and the kids at daycare and my sister and, really, anyone who would listen to me for a few minutes, and we sang it and sang it until every adult in a 20 mile radius wanted to tar and feather my father. True story. Sort of.

I was going to record myself singing the song, but I really don't want that floating around The Internets, so just . . . here.

Those songs all made me supremely happy as a tiny child. OK, they still make me happy. In other news, here are five adult songs that make my insides happy, no matter what sort of mood I'm in:

The Underdog

Yeah, I know that's six songs. I never was any good at math.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Straight A's.

Boyohboy was this the easiest and the toughest assignment ever. I thought I might be flippant about it, populate this list with the likes of Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet and New Kids on the Block's Hangin' Tough (both albums that do in fact mean quite a bit to me, particularly that part in "Never Say Goodbye" when Jon Bon Jovi wails, "We danced so close, we danced so slow, and I swore I'd never let you goooooo!"), but alas, I take myself far too seriously for my own good.

So instead I made you a Muxtape of my favorite songs from some of my favorite albums, and it kind of hurt me a little bit to do it. (I don't read one or two chapters of a book I read THE ENTIRE book and so I don't just listen to one or two songs from an album I listen to THE ENTIRE album. Ahem.)

Here we go:

1. Black Love by The Afghan Whigs

Black Love

When I decided that no thank you I do not want to go to the University of Florida with my high school boyfriend, he decided to go to the University of Kentucky instead. And also he decided to take another girl to the prom. And that is when this album became my WHO FUCKING NEEDS BOYS ANYWAY? album, the album I listened to after every tortuous breakup, the album that reminded me BOYS ARE DUMB.

2. Pinkerton by Weezer


They say it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. They are full of shit. I wouldn't wish unrequited love on my very worst enemy, and for most of my college years I weeped from the agony of love unrequited. And when I wasn't weeping, I was listening to this album on repeat and singing "El Scorcho" very very loudly. (Alex can certainly attest to this). Oh the days I spent pining away for my next-door neighbor, singing to the wall between our rooms and wondering when he was finally going to see me. And really, all along I was in love with his roommate but didn't realize it, and by the time I figured it out of course it was too late. Pinkerton explains exactly the reason why nineteen-year-olds should not be entrusted with hearts on fire.

3. Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams


Fuck, where do I start? "Call Me On Your Way Back Home" is the saddest sad song that was ever ever written. Fuck. I can't even talk about it.

4. Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins.

Chutes Too Narrow

The Shins changed my life (heh) and I am hard pressed to pick just one of their three very awesome, very different albums for this list. But Chutes Too Narrow ultimately wins out because it is the home of "Young Pilgrims," the one song of all the songs ever written in the history of songwriting that could have been written just for me.

5. Boxer by The National


For countless reasons great and small 2007 was a very hard year, harder than all those years I had cancer, harder than the year my father broke my retainer but thankfully not my jaw, harder than having to bear all of those boys telling me they were in love with me, but they didn't want me. (Douchebags. I date them.) Boxer is the album that got me through 2007. This is the album that means more to me than you will ever ever know.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

we fight, we laugh, we cry, as the years go by

"Don't you think we should have a song?" was never uttered by either one of us probably because that took too much self-awareness and too much decision making. Him and I, me and him, we made a habit of crossing the line as though it were a finish line and also a habit of listening to music. Music has never meant a lot to me. I don't connect the way some people do it, I don't rush to buy new albums, I don't even read music related things on the internet. I have a feeling he is the same way.Yet we found ourselves deeply connecting to one another through music.

When he broke my heart, he broke my music along with it and I had to part with mix tape after mix tape because I couldn't hear it without thinking of us: me tucked into the couch behind his desk and him, hitting play on a new song and then tipping back in his dorm room desk chair so that our ears were beside each other, listening.

The whole crux of the heart breaking was his decision that I didn't matter to him and that we didn't matter either. Imagine my relief when seeing him years later, he listed all the things that he couldn't see or hear or do without thinking of me. Music topped that list: trying to learn all the words to Ice Ice Baby together, Five for Fighting's 100 Years blasting in my car as we drove down the coast with the windows down, the demo CD a guy in our dorm had distributed. Staying up too late talking about what Nickel Creek's Speak meant.

There are a million songs that meant something to us. Some of them have come to mean something else to me and some of them have disappeared into oblivion and I can't recall lyrics or names or tunes of songs we would spend hours listening to together.

I've had other music experience since then: an obsession with Rilo Kiley's Absence of God (I still have no idea what it's about. I almost tried to figure out over the weekend, but then I remembered that I've tried before by critically reading the lyrics. I thought about googling "what does it mean?" but that feels like betrayal to the song after loving it for so long for just being itself.), an obsession with Youth Group's Forever Young (most played on my iTunes by a landslide, Ryan and Marissa's song from The OC, featured in the New Zealand commercials), an obsession with Dave Matthews' Stay or Leave (and the story I was told when I first heard it which made me immeasurably grateful for a life without teenage pregnancy followed by marriage followed by bitter unhappiness).

But none of those songs have memories that belong to me and I think that's how I prefer my music. Very distant. Very hard shelled and soft spoken. The local grocery in the city where I work tends to play a very eclectic mix of music spanning 1989 to 2001 which is as awesome as it sounds. Most everything I know from that time I learned after from a great radio station in high school, but I never followed music before that.

Except for one artist.

When I was in the fifth grade, my mom, brother, and I took a road trip with our best friends. We drove one of those big-ass 16-passenger vans despite there only being eight of us for reasons I can't remember and we spent two weeks traveling the country. We spent time with my grandparents as well. Two weeks in a van with your family is too long. Two weeks in a van with your friends is too long. Two weeks of the combined dynamics of you, your family, your friends, their family, and a visit with your oft-volatile grandparents? Kind of disastrous. I have a lot of good memories of that trip (Justin's farting problem, the random rock museum in Wyoming) and a lot of bad memories (sharing a double bed with my two friends sobbing while my aunt screamed at my mom for hours). But the think I remember most from that trip is Amy Grant's album, Heart in Motion. Before that trip I didn't know who Amy Grant was. After that trip I was alleged to her. I remember spending the last few days of that trip--days we spent hightailing it back to Chicago so we could get back to school and to undo the destruction we had done to all our relationships--listening to the cassette tape on a borrowed Walkman over and over and over and over again. Sometimes I was shushed because I was singing along too loudly. Sometimes I opted out of getting out and stretching at gas stations because I just wanted to listen. When I wore out Heart in Motion I found House of Love in the glovebox.

"That's what love is for... to help us through it. That's what love is for...nothing else can do it. Melt our defenses, bring us back to our sense, give us strength to try once more. Baby, that's what love is for."

(Bonus marginally related fan vid.)

Monday, 14 April 2008

And like the Prophet said, they’re getting organised

heather I must start this week with a confession, because you'll find me out anyhow. Kat!, Jennie!, and Abigail! possess many splendid qualities that I do not, and one of those qualities is musical discretion. They consistently listen to diverse, soul-affecting music. They attend concerts with other music aficionados. They have refined taste and read music reviews and discuss cover songs and who knows what else. Kat! and Abigail! both send me music, and I do enjoy it. But the music in my dreams (especially the montages) is nearly always Celine Dion. If music were food, the rest of the Collective flies to Italy for pasta, while I eat spaghetti at The Olive Garden. I have owned every single Backstreet Boys and N'Sync Album. This week I am meant to tell you five songs or albums that define or mean a lot to me. Feel free commence the judging, because here they are:

The Rainbow Connection, Kermit the Frog — I was fourteen the first time I took a plane ride somewhere all by myself, and I knew when we lifted off the ground that some people were made to get married and have families, but I was born to fly. When I was a child, Kermit asked, "Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?" And I was all, "Yes, Kermit the Frog! I have!" Then he reassured me, "I've heard them calling my name." Which, I must say, was quite a relief. I'm a bit of a square peg in a round-holed world, but so was this talking frog, so at least I wasn't alone! And Kermit continued his song. "Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors? The voice might be one in the same. I've heard it too many times to ignore it. It's something that I'm s'posed to be." Then that singing frog gave my life purpose: "Someday we'll find it, The Rainbow Connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me." (La da da da da day da doo.)

Rocky Top, University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band — It doesn't translate well to the Internet, my deep, fervent, abiding affection for the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, but it is the longest, truest love affair of my life. I can't... even now, I can't describe it to you. I could show you the ticket stubs, souvenir programs, team jerseys, newspaper clippings, VHS tapes of March Madness. There are 15 years worth of those things (and counting) stored away in my bedroom. I've been there: I've played in Thompson-Bolling Arena. My first unchaperoned plane ride was to the University of Tennessee, where Pat Summitt said I had a nice crossover, like Jesus said Peter could walk on water.

I Come to the Garden Alone, C. Austin Miles — Oh, I was brought up Baptist. Not regular Baptist, either. No, I was brought up Southern Baptist, and I viewed my whole life in the context of that religion until I was twenty-four-years old. My memories of the church are a perfect mix of fondness and aggravation, freedom and oppression. Nothing makes me angrier than when bad Christians happen to good people. And there seems to be a lot of that going around these days—a lot of redefinition. But whenever I hear this old hymn, I am back in the wooden church pew I grew up in. It's Sunday night; the doors are open to let in the breeze. My white patent leather shoes glow against the olive green carpet of the sanctuary, and there ain't nothin' but the piano playing and the tree frogs chirping and my own voice echoing through my soul as I rest my head on my arms on the pew in front of me and sing, "I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear, falling on my eat, the son of God discloses. And he walks with me and he talks with me. And he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known."

Giraffes #1, Chris T-T — Last year, through my blog, I met a fella named Geo. He is a UConn Lady Huskies fan, which makes him my arch nemesis, but every Friday he sends me music. The first song he ever sent me was Giraffes #1, a song that tells the most perfect story. See, there are 280 giraffes on the British mainland, shared between 85 zoos and private collections. The giraffes are getting organized, and counting down to their own Year Zero. The first giraffe learned to swim and led a bunch of other giraffes to England. He wrote down three rules to live by: Stick your neck out. Stand up taller. Don't look down now. And that's what those giraffes are doing right now, just getting ready to learn to fly right out of the fences humans built for them. Boy, I wish that would happen. I would stand out in the street and cheer, "Don't look down now! Stick your neck out! It's okay! It's okay!" Probably because I would want people to do the same for me.

Back in Black, AC/DC — My college boyfriend was named Chip and I loved that boy in the innocent, reckless way that only a twenty-year-old girl can love a person. In the first summer of us, I asked him didn't he think we ought to have a song. He said, "Yeah, sure, just pick anything off the AC/DC Back in Black album." Instead of You Shook Me All Night Long or Let Me Put My Love Into You (both appropriate choices), I went with the title track, Back in Black. When we broke up for the last time he said, "But no one will ever love me the way you do." He was probably right, and God, no amount of money in the world could convince me to be twenty years old again.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Phone It In Friday: Phoning It In

Friday snuck up on us here at Collective HQ, so thank you to Scott for the (friendly) reminder that it is NOT in fact the weekend yet and we should probably wait until five to drink this ice cold pitcher of delicious margarita. But YOU, friends, are not off the hook either. Leave your interviews with fictional characters in the comments, or leave us a link to an interview on your very own blog.

We can't wait to see what you come up with.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Let's start at ridiculous and move backwards

JennieI couldn't figure out just one person to interview, and so instead, I (sort of) interviewed all (ok, MOST) of your suggestions. So if it sucks, it's all your fault. Ha! Responsibility, deflected.

Jennie: Order! Order, please! Welcome to the first meeting of the Fictional Characters Coalition. I'm glad you could all make it. Well. Most of you made it, anyway. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy decided not to join us after a . . . misunderstanding at the orientation cocktail hour last night. I understand Bridget HAS apologized, so let's move on.


Yes, Dwight?

Will there be beets served at this meeting?

Um, no?

Well, there will be now, because I've brought everyone a selection of Schrute Farm's finest beets. Mose?

Dwight, could you make Mose stop throwing beets at people?


Fantastic. Anyway . . .

Willy Wonka:
We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams.

. . . OK, thank you, Mr. Wonka. Now, our first order of business is to elect a president.

Barney Stinson [standing]:
If I might interrupt here. I think we all know I should be President on account of . . . I'm awesome.

Ted Mosby, Architect:
I'd vote for President Swarley.

Don't call me that. NOW. Listen here. If I am President, I will decree that every man suit up EVERY DAY and every woman suit down EVERY NIIIIIGHT, oh yeah, high five.

Yeah, no, Barney. Sit down.

Andy Bernard:
If I may be so bold, when I was at Cornell, the Ivy League college I attended for four years, I was elected president of my acapella group and AS PRESIDENT, I took us all the way to the National Acapella Sing-a-long Finals. Therefore . . . I will be President.

QUESTION. Shouldn't Andrew Bernard be disqualified for already having been interviewed this week?

No, Dwight, we don't turn anyone away here.

Well, we should. In any case, I would like to be Assistant President.

Assistant to the President?

No. Vice . . . Assistant President.

Fine, Dwight. But we still need a President.

Bridget Jones:
I nominate . . . Mr. Darcy!

Well, Bridget, Mr. Darcy is not here because you poured water all over his shirt last night.

Bridget Jones:
Oh. Right. Well. It was worth it.


Dude. Is this almost over? I gotta get back to the island.

Sorry, Hurley. Hey, do you want to be President? You get along with everyone. Even Sawyer.

No way, dude. Good food you're serving, though.

Willy Wonka:
The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.

. . . Great. OK, I nominate Figment for President because he has a Rocketship (duh).

Thank you for this great honor, Jennie, I --

Han Solo:
I have a rocketship.

You can be Vice President, then.

Excuse me, I believe I've already been granted Vice Assistant President status.

Oh, right, you're Vice Assistant to the President. Han, you can be Secretary of . . . I don't know, shooting people with blasters.

Can I be Secretary of Awesome?

Sure, whatever. Just sit down and BRIDGET JONES, you get away from that bar!

Bridget Jones:


Bleep bloop bleep.

. . .

Han Solo:
Chewbacca has to go to the bathroom. Can R2-D2 take him?

You don't have to ask my permission to go to the bathroom.

QUESTION. Can they ask my permission to go to the bathroom?


Willy Wonka:
Bubbles, bubbles everywhere, and not a drop to drink . . . yet.

Bridget Jones:
Ooh, is there champagne?

This meeting is adjourned.

Thank you all for coming. Please file out in an orderly manner. Let's go, move it along.


Han Solo [takes out blaster]:
I'll take care of this.

Han Solo, did you just shoot Dwight?

Han Solo:
. . . no?

Give me that.


Han Solo, you give me that blaster, RIGHT NOW.

. . . fine.

Thank you.

Aaaaand SCENE.

(don't worry, Dwight's OK)

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

I bent my Wookie.

To: Mr. Chewbacca
From: Kat!
Date: 09 April 08
Subject: Interview

Dear Mr. Chewbacca:

Can I please interview you for this Collective post for which I have no time to actually interview you?


To: Kat!
From: Chewy
Date: 09 April 08
Subject: Re: Interview


Don't ever email me again,

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

I went to a little school called Cornell. Maybe you've heard of it?


helms_small.jpg I had the privilege of interviewingsearching on youtube Andrew Bernard. He's from The Office which means if you're Scott you probably don't know him. But know this: you will still love the clips below. I promise.

Q: Andy, could you please sing me a song?

Q: What's on your iPod?

Q: How do you feel about the new guy?

Q: How do you 'nail' something?

Q: What are your plans for Saturday?

Q: Andy, please describe an example of an overreaction?

Thanks so much for your time, Mr. Bernard. Can't wait to see you again on a new episode of The Office THIS THURSDAY.

Monday, 7 April 2008

He's dot alone! He's still god be! STUBEFY! STUBEFY! STUBEFY!

[Caution! Cuidado! Mind Your Head! Harry Potter Spoilers Below.]

heather "I like it because it's ugly," Neville Longbottom says as he shows me a wilted plant from the collection in his office. "I know it doesn't look like much now, but if you're patient and gentle, it will astonish you with color when it opens up." Every surface in Professor Longbottom's office is covered with plants. Some are traditionally beautiful, and some are downright menacing. The one he is holding up to me now is, as he says, simply ugly. His office is made almost entirely of windows, except one solid wall behind his desk, which is singularly decorated with artwork from his three-year-old daughter. He tells me the solid wall was once glass, but he learned early on not to turn his back on his students. Almost as confirmation, a loud bang erupts from a corner of the office, sending dozens of plants scurrying back down into their pots. One lone garden gnome jumps from a hanging plant, and shrieks all the way out the door. "Confiscated Dragon’s Tongue Firecrackers," Professor Longbottom says. "I've been waiting for them to disarm for a week now." There is a hint of fondness in his voice as he shakes his head and pinpoints the genesis of the noise: "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. They're everywhere."

I have been talking to Neville Longbottom for five minutes and already I've seen a rare species of Peruvian Ficus, been attacked by an over-toothed sweet potato, and been rendered temporarily deaf by an explosion of George Weasley's finest munitions. These are the perils—and pleasures, I suppose—of having an office at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

This is only my third time at Britain's most famous magical school, and I am as excited as a House Elf on Dobby Day. I am particularly enthusiastic to be invited to sit down with Professor Neville Longbottom. It was he who partnered with Hermione Granger-Weasley to spearhead the legislation that allowed me to interact with witches and wizards in the first place.

Several years ago—while on holiday in London—I stumbled upon The Leaky Cauldron. I was surprised to find one of America’s most infamous right-wing journalists, Ann Coulter, there; and even more shocked to find that she went by the name Rita Skeeter in Britain. I was able to contribute to The Daily Prophet’s coverage of the Skeeter Conspiracy, and after Skeeter/Coulter’s prosecution and the loss of her Muggle journalist credentials, the Minister of Magic granted me special distinction as a member of the magical community. Over the years, Professor Longbottom has fought hard to help me retain that status. It is because of this kinship, perhaps, that he has granted me the interview.

As I sit down across from him at his desk, Longbottom silently summons two cups of tea. I mention his reluctance up until now to talk to reporters. He takes a long drink before answering. “After the defeat of Tom Riddle all those years ago, reporters were always after me, trying to get to Harry [Potter]. They also falsely reported that Remus Lupin had died. He hadn’t, of course, and the mourning it caused when they falsely reported it! Those reporters were like Dementors, hovering and trying to suck out any possible bit of my unguarded soul. The whole thing just turned me off to interviews altogether.”

Longbottom pauses, and looks thoughtfully up at the ceiling. “Gosh, how many years ago was that?” I tell him it has been ten years since the fall of Tom “Voldemort” Riddle, and he seems bewildered by that number. I ask him if it seems shorter or longer. He says that in some ways it seems like yesterday, and in other ways it seems a lifetime ago. This is the conversation that follows:

HH: I don’t mean to demand information from you about The Battle of Hogwarts or your fight against Riddle. I know it must be difficult…
Longbottom: No, it’s okay. I’m not pained by it, and I know you’re not going to try to use me to get to Harry [Potter], or Hermione and Ron [Weasley]. It’s just… I didn’t have that much to do with it.
HH: Didn’t have that much to do with it! It was you who rushed out and slew Riddle’s snake. You destroyed the final barrier between the most evil wizard the world has ever seen and death. Every history book that includes the Battle of Hogwarts will mention your name, forever.
Longbottom: Nah.
HH: I’m serious.
Longbottom: It was Harry who killed Riddle.
HH: You were the leader of Dumbledore’s Army. You’re a hero, Professor Longbottom. Do you really not know that? Are you just being coy?
Longbottom: We teach History of Magic here, and I’m sure I’ve never heard anyone mention my name.

I bet him lunch at The Hog’s Head that I can find his name in at least five places in Bathilda Bagshot’s A History of Magic. We walk to Professor Cuthbert Binns’s classroom to borrow one of his books. I open it to the index and find the following entry:

Neville Longbottom’s awe seems genuine as I count the pages referencing his name. I am at twenty when he pulls a gold coin from his pocket and begins turning it over in his hand. I ask him what it is; he blushes and says it is the coin Hermione Granger-Weasley made for Dumbledore’s Army when he was at Hogwarts. “Nervous habit,” he tells me. I wonder aloud if Bathilda Bagshot should add that anecdote somewhere between pages 260 and 265.

Back in Professor Longbottom’s office I spot the Sorting Hat. I am surprised to find that it is here among all this dirt. Neville assures me that the hat likes it in his office and often bursts out into spontaneous song, or shouts at the pre-pubescent mandrakes to quiet their bickering. He asks me if I’d like to try on the hat. I am caught off guard. “I’m not magical,” I tell him.

“The hat doesn’t care if you’re magical ,” he says. “It sees the desires of your heart. It will Sort you.”

I have, of course, dreamed of being Sorted since I first read Hogwarts: A History, but I am afraid I couldn’t stifle my disappointment if the Hat refused to Sort me. Or, worse yet, what if the Hat Sorts me into a house that causes my friends to heckle me, to call me borderline retarded. I reluctantly decline.

I suppose Longbottom senses this, identifies with it somehow, because he pulls the Hat off the shelf and plops it down on my head. I close my eyes and clench my fists, expecting it to hurt. It does not.

“What’s this?” the Sorting Hat asks in a gruff voice. “September already?”

“Not yet. I just thought you might Sort a friend of mine,” Longbottom says.

The hat lets out an exaggerated sigh. “Fine,” he says at length. “But only because it’s so obvious. This one’s a Hufflepuff.”

Professor Longbottom plucks the hat from my head, thanks it and sits it back on the shelf. “My wife, Hannah, was a Hufflepuff,” Neville Longbottom tells me with a wide smile. “I myself was almost sorted into that house.”

I withhold from Longbottom the fact that even though it is likely I will never be able to perform magic, I did buy a wand at Ollivander’s on my first trip to Diagon Alley. I ask him of what accomplishment he is proudest. Was it his large part in the destruction of Tom Riddle, the numerous species of magical plants and herbs he’s discovered in the last decade, his involvement with Muggle relations legislation, his time spent as an auror in the wake of The Battle of Hogwarts?

His words are usually so measured, so cautious, that I think he surprises even himself when he answers immediately: “In my first year at Hogwarts, at the end of the year banquet, Professor Dumbledore awarded me ten points for courage.” Professor Longbottom does not mention what brave feat it was exactly that earned him the points. “It tipped us, Gryffindor, over Slytherin, and we won the House Cup.”

“That was your best victory because you took the title right out from under Slytherin?” I ask.

“No,” he smiles. “It was my best victory because Albus Dumbledore said I showed ‘a great deal of bravery’. You would have had to know him to know what that feels like. He was a great man, the greatest. I don’t deserve to have my name in the same book with him.”

“Were you always brave?” I ask Neville.

He shakes his head. “No. No, I was never brave. I was always afraid. I was afraid before I came to Hogwarts that I wouldn’t even get a letter. I was afraid when I got here I would flunk out. I was afraid in Potions. I was afraid to ride a broom to tryout for Quidditch. I was afraid when I joined Dumbledore’s Army. I was afraid when I battled in the Department of Mysteries. I was terrified out of my mind before I sliced the head off of Riddle’s snake that day during the battle.”

“But you did it anyway,” I tell him. “Despite your fear.”

“Yeah,” he says. “I did.”

“That’s courage,” I tell him.

He smiles. “Yes, well, I am a Gryffindor.”

Behind Professor Longbottom’s desk, the plant he showed me at the beginning of our visit finally opens up. I sit silently as it exposes its petals: deep indigo tips, followed by vivid orange, and finally a pink core as bright as Father Christmas’s cheeks. It is, as Neville Longbottom predicted, astonishing.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Phone it in Friday: Mama said knock you out

Dear Internets, it's been a violent week here at Collective HQ, and we're all busy icing down our punching hands. So, tell us. Who would YOU like to punch? Also. Where would you punch them? The kisser? The neck? The ballular area? The options, they are plentiful.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The offer, Dwight, was for one punch, which I absorbed. I had no idea there’d be a second punch, so . . .catch-22.

Jennie Look. As much as I talk about kicking people in the babymaker and the nuts and whatnot, I'm not a violent person. I don't like actual physical violence, but I like threatening people with it. You might be thinking, "that makes no sense," but what . . . are you new here or something?

Tyra Banks

Look, America's Next Top Model is high on my list of guilty pleasures, but I've almost had to stop watching it because of Miss Tyra. Can you imagine? Having to STOP WATCHING a TV show? The sky would fall to the Earth and everyone would be all, "wtf, Chicken Little, where the hell were you?" If you study each season of ANTM, which I have AT LENGTH, normally during a Saturday or Sunday VH1/MTV marathon, you can actually watch her getting more and more obnoxious as the seasons progress. And now she has her own talk show. Someone must stop her and if that someone is me, I will do it by PUNCHING. And possibly kicking. Maybe even biting. It's only fair, she's like 8 feet tall and I? I am not.

Bill O'Reilly/Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Tucker Carlson/Nancy Grace/all the other talking heads that make me want to stab myself in the eyes (and ears)

I put all of these . . . people together because I don't think any of them have enough humanity to fill up an actual person. Therefore, I am allowed to punch all of them. Also, Jon Stewart will help me by berating one of them and calling him a dick on national television and it will be awesome (watch it all, it's worth it):

The Douchebag Brothers from Top Chef

Spike and Andrew from this season of Top Chef make me want to punch them every time they open their mouths. Let's put it this way. They both think talking like Borat is funny. The end.

Scott Stapp

Look, I know he's not really famous anymore and ALSO I don't even think Creed is a band anymore, but I don't care. As long as radio stations insist on playing his songs (why, GOD, WHY?), I will want to punch him.

Dane Cook

If I could give the world one gift (besides taking Two and a Half Men off the air), it would be to permanently erase Dane Cook from the Earth. I don't mean kill him or anything, I mean, every comedy special he's ever done? Gone. Every movie he's ever made? GONE. Then I'd banish him to Siberia or something and his punishment would be to listen to Jessica Simpson perform his comedy bits. Also, I'd punch him in the face.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

5 people I'd like to punch.

The five douchebags who have been sitting across the negotiating table from me since Monday morning.

I fucking hate those guys.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

punching is kind of a talent of mine

Spencer Pratt
Spencer Pratt is an evil genius featured on MTV's "reality" show The Hills. Spencer Pratt is the most manipulative person on television. Spencer Pratt steals your babies, kills your puppies, and eats kittens. Spencer Pratt smarms his way into your life.

Spencer entered the scene on season two of the show after seeing season one and deciding that he could get famous by dating one of the girls. So, oh-so-smoothly, he tries dating two of the stars at once. This backfires, eventually, but not before he has wooed Heidi, a former protagonist, into believing his lies. He has since carried on a long-term relationship with Heidi. He manipulates her and treats her like shit. He has changed her. He has turned her against all her friends. And he spreads sex tape rumors and denies it. I hate him so much. Also, so does the rest of the United States. If punching was acceptable behavior, he would so be dead.

Morning Show hosts and talk radio personalities
These people try so hard to appeal to so many different bases that the end up being crazy people. Trying to please everybody pushes them into a box and they act like lunatics, say stupid things, and alienate all around them. They breed ignorant people who try to emulate their behavior. They abandon truth simply so they can justify the one thing they think is true. They make everything personal, they keep nothing business, and they don't even know what business means. They are the opposite of tact.

If the subject matter is political in any way then multiply punches by 100.

Douchebags would have dated my friends and totally didn't deserved them and then fucked it up.
Earlier this year, before this topic was ever on the table, a friend and I were shooting the breeze and discussing people we'd like to punch. My list was almost all people who had wronged my friends. With my own problems I tend to rationalize and emotionalize, but when it's my friends getting shredded I get violent. I get rage. I imagine scenarios wherein I use my fake martial art skills to bring someone DOWN.

Don't mess with my friends. I will roundhouse punch your face.

Dolores Umbridge

Lady, I hate you in all the ways.