Monday, July 14, 2014

new kings on the block

I finished another great book this afternoon by the pool. The New Kings of Nonfiction is an anthology of the best nonfiction writers of our time, according to Ira Glass, who wrote the introduction. If This American Life had a collection of Greatest Hits in writing, it would be this book. Featured writers include: Jack Hitt, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, James McManus, Dan Savage, Chuck Klosterman, David Foster Wallace, Coco Henson Scales, Mark Bowden, Lawrence Weschler, Bill Buford, Susan Orlean, Lee Sandlin and Michael Pollan. This book covers a range of topics from talk radio, the cattle industry, poker, Saddam Hussein and other unrelated people/places/things. Every single story was well-done and I learned a few or many things about a new topic. I have read books by several of these authors and their pieces were some of my favorites, including Malcolm Gladwell's "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg," which explains how we know everyone and how you get to know everyone. My two favorite pieces were by authors I had never read until this book- Mark Bowden and Lee Sandlin. Mark Bowden wrote a fascinating article on the life of Saddam Hussein- his daily routine and his rise to power. Here is an excerpt from his piece: 

Walls define the tyrant's world. they keep his enemies out, but they also block him off from the people he rules. In time he can no longer see out. he loses touch with what is real and what is unreal, what is possible and what is not- or, as in the case of Qanbar and the wall, what is just barely possible. His ideas of what his power can accomplish, and of his own importance, bleed into fantasy

Secondly, Lee Sandlin wrote what was surprisingly my favorite story in the whole anthology. Entitled, "Losing the War" Lee Sandlin wrote about the effects of World War II on veterans and how the war was viewed in the United States. I'm not a big history buff, and rarely enjoy pieces about war, fiction or non, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Sandlin's article. I found it extremely thought-provoking and Sandlin wrote how I feel we feel about war:

People my age and younger who've grown up in the American heartland can't help but take for granted that war is unnatural. We think of the limitless peace around us as the baseline condition of life. all my life I've heard people say "war is insanity" in tones of dramatic insight and final wisdom.

also loved: 

Whenever people talk about the meaning of history somebody brings up that old bromide from Santayana, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But that's nonsense. the circumstances that created an event like World War II couldn't be duplicated no matter how many millennia of amnesia intervened.
Besides, even if we did want to follow Santayana's advice and remember the war, how could we do it? too much of its detail and complexity is already gone, even at this narrow distance. As Thomas Browne wrote, "There is no antidote to the opium of time." there are warehouses of secret wartime documents still scattered in nondescript factory districts all over the world- stacks of debriefings from some nameless Pacific island that fifty years ago was swallowed up in an artillery barrage. No one will ever unearth them all and produce a final accounting of the war- any more than the world will finally achieve justice for the war's innumerable, officially sanctioned crimes. Oblivion has always been the most trustworthy guardian of classified files.

I don't know about you but I always feel a great sense of accomplishment when I finish a solid nonfiction book. You will feel that sense of accomplishment after this one, I promise! I learned so much but was entertained and interested the whole time. Read this and learn something. And get a Goodreads account.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

super sad true love story

Preston told me I need to write more book reviews on here, but I think the reason I haven't lately is because I haven't really read anything I loved or wanted to share with others, until last week. I finished Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart when were in California. I really enjoyed this book. Initially I saw it while browsing friends' books on Goodreads (if you don't have one get one. I will say it every time I talk about books on here) and I was intrigued by the title and the cover art. I love a book that makes me feel and this one did. The consensus on Goodreads was people either loved or hated this book. I can see it going either way, because I gathered that it was a satire on our generation and our obsession with social media and the need to know everything about everyone, good or bad, which resulted in outrageous dialogue between Eunice and her friends. Let me start from the beginning. 

This book takes place in the United States in the future...maybe 2050 or something. They probably say it in the book but I don't remember. Lenny Abramov is a middle aged man who becomes infatuated with Eunice Park, a young Korean girl he meets abroad. Eunice is pretty and smart, but shallow and worldly and to me represented us (me, you, your friends). The book follows their relationship in New York and is told from Lenny's perspective and Eunice's correspondence between her sister, mother and best friend. Everything is digital in this society and you're able to learn someone's stats immediately from where they went to school, how much money in their back account, and how they rated on physical attraction compared to everyone else in the room, from a little device called an äppärät, which to me represented iPhones/mobile devices in general. People are obsessed with their äppäräti and communicate solely through them. Riots start breaking out in New York City and around the world and what really matters becomes very evident. What I loved about this book is despite the crazy futuristic jargon and obscene trends of future USA, the raw human emotions of love, fear, vulnerability, sadness and loneliness remained and Shteyngart writes about this emotions in a very real way. 

This was a pretty easy breezy read and I can totally see people writing it off as fluff, but I found it a little unnerving how initially outlandish Shteyngart's future America was, but how so many trends and habits of Shteyngart's America so closely mirrored ours. I also enjoy books and television which pokes fun at our generation and this book made me giggle a few times. Overall, I thought it was a great read and an interesting satire on our media obsessed society and different perspective on the reality of human emotions and relationships.

Here's an excerpt:
"And when he was talking to me at dinner, usually I listen to everything a guy says and try to prepare a response or at least to act a certain way, but with him I just stopped listening after a while and looked at the way his lips moved, the foam on his lips and his dorky stubble, because he was so EARNEST in the way he needed to tell me things. And I thought, wow, you're kind of beautiful, Lenny. You're like what Prof Margaux in Assertiveness class used to call "a real human being.""

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

monthly playlist: july



1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12 // 13

Thursday, July 3, 2014

driving down the 101

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were jam-packed with activities. 7 AM Sunday morning Molly and I went to Soul Cycle which is a very trendy spin class for the 1%. They only have studios in California and New York so I had to take advantage. I LOVED it. Spin class is one of my favorite forms of exercise and Soul Cycle is done in the dark so you feel like you're at a rave but burning hundreds of calories. We had the sassiest instructor named Franz and he truly made our first Soul Cycle experience a memorable one.
After Soul Cycle we went to church and had brunch at the yummiest restaurant in Venice called 26 Beach Restaurant. Get any of their french toasts, they are works of art and worth every calorie. After brunch we did the Hollywood sign hike in the heat of the day. I got a tan and took this cheesy yoga pose pic at the top. Pretty cool to see such an iconic landmark, regardless of how touristy it is.
After hiking we cooled off at Santa Monica Beach. I told Preston I would be very content with living in Santa Monica and he would be too. So maybe someday we'll find ourselves back. After playing at the beach we had dinner at Umami Burger, which was a little overpriced, but delicious. Preston makes fun of me because he says I have trigger words when it comes to menus. If I see certain words, regardless of the dish, I will order it. These words include: truffle, aioli, arugula, salted caramel, pumpkin spice, goat cheese and duck. We are always adding to my trigger word list. At Umami there was an entire section of TRUFFLED burgers. Bye. We also got cheesy tots which are as delicious as they sound.

After dinner we literally drove down the 101 listening to Phantom Planet on repeat and took turns reciting lines from The OC. We went to Santa Monica Pier and rode the ferris wheel which is my favorite amusement park ride thanks to The Notebook.
Very early this year I set my hopes for a day at Disneyland after we bought our tickets to California. I told Preston I would rather have a low-key actual anniversary day and celebrate it for real a week later in Disney. After much persuading and sneaky texts between Grady and Molly, we planned to go to Disney on Monday, June 30. Disneyland was all I had hoped it would be and my long time dream was fulfilled. Molly and I were going for Mary-Kate and Ashley circa 1999 in the above pic.

From the moment the park opened to the 9:30 PM fireworks, I felt like a little kid all over again. I remembered all of the Disney movies I was raised on and totally understand all the hype about this place. I went to Disneyworld when I was 8 and remember most of it, but have always wanted to experience its predecessor. I had the best time and hope to someday return maybe with my own littles.
Our last day in California started with a visit to another bakery I found on Yelp called Bottega Louie. I think this was my favorite spot, not entirely for the food, although it was delicious. Bottega Louie is in downtown LA and has the most gorgeous and spacious store front. It was like having lunch at Bergdorf's if Bergdorf's was a restaurant. Super glamorous and the most beautiful pastries and treats. I think this is the west coast's version of Laduree and in my opinion, was just as good. (Can we all be honest with ourselves that most expensive macarons taste kind of the same? They're all delicious?)
Bottega Louie was close to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was the last spot on our list of things to see. This building is really magnificent and such a unique structure. Preston told me when they were building it, they had to create new software because existing software couldn't accommodate the crazy angles and curves. Once again he was in architect/civil engineering heaven. We got to tour the inside and see the auditorium because the LA Philharmonic wasn't practicing. It is a spectacle and it's another spot I'd like to return to and see a performance.

Our happy trip ended with one last romp at the beach. I mostly laid on my towel and took a nap while Preston swam. After our 5 days in California I can see why so many people refer the west coast as the best coast. I can't say I'm 100% converted, but I would not mind at all someday calling southern California home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

so glad to meet you angeles

We returned to Dallas at 2:15 AM this morning after a five day jaunt through southern California. Danny Ritter married Kellianne Coltrin on June 28 in the Los Angeles temple and we flew out to celebrate their wedding and spend time with friends.

We arrived to LA at 8 AM on Friday and our first stop was Magnolia's Bakery for the best banana pudding in the world. After Magnolia's I marveled at everything in the Marc by Marc store (the only store we don't have but should at Northpark) and we snapped some pics in their photobooth. After shopping on Melrose Ave. we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This was a gorgeous museum, which we kind of zipped through because we were hoping to beat traffic on the way to Huntington Beach.

There was a great contemporary and modern art collection and I especially enjoyed Chris Burden's "Urban Light" outdoor sculpture (is this the sculpture in No Strings Attached when Ashton gives Natalie the carrot bouquet???). After LACMA we braved the infamous LA traffic to Huntington Beach to spend some time with friends and Danny before his big day.
Danny and Kellianne were sealed for time and all eternity in the Los Angeles temple the morning of June 28. It was a beautiful and heartwarming sealing. I met Danny after I started dating Preston and have always been a big fan. So big a fan that I tried to get all my close friends to date Danny, which didn't work out, but he did find a wonderful bride when he met Kellianne. Danny was a groomsman in our wedding and when we heard the news he was engaged, we were so excited to come to LA to attend his sealing and celebrate his marriage. Danny is a great example to Preston and me and is the quintessential guy you would want to take home to your parents. Preston and I are so lucky to call Danny one of our friends and when I met Kellianne very briefly in March, I was excited for both of them. They are both top notch individuals and will make each other so happy. Congrats Danny and Kellianne!!

After the sealing and luncheon we had some time to kill so we drove to the Getty Center, which was on the way to the reception. Preston was very excited about this spot because he used to want to be an architect, and the Getty is an architect's dream. It really is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen in my life and its views of the city are spectacular. Every corner of the Getty was a vision and I couldn't stop taking pictures and fawning over each structure. I can't help but fantasize about how gorgeous of a reception venue this place would make. I highly recommend this spot if you're in the area.


I'm obsessed with Yelp, treats and trying new restaurants. Yelp released a list of top 100 places to try in the United States and several of them were in California. The #5 spot was Porto's Bakery in Burbank which just so happened to be a few minutes away from the reception. We made a stop and I am still dreaming about the cheese rolls and mango turnovers we bought. Do yourself a favor and pay this Cuban bakery a visit. The prices are great and we got 8 sweet and savory pastries for under $7.
This concludes the first 2 days of our California adventure. I have sooo many pictures and so many things to say so I thought I'd break it up into manageable entries instead of one monster post that no one wants to read. Stay tuned for more pics and stories!