Book of the Month – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

homicide

Last year, I read a book called Difficult Men, which was all about the men (sigh, because it’s always men) behind some of the best TV shows, the ones that brought on a new wave of television (ex. The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men). This book talked about The Wire and its creator, David Simon, extensively. In the midst of that discussion, a book Simon wrote, entitled Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, was mentioned. It sounded interesting, so I added it to my list of future reads.

Well.

This book is like nothing I have read before. The premise is this: In the late 1980s, David Simon, a reporter, gained no-holds-barred access to the Baltimore homicide squad for a full year. He followed them around on their cases, hung out with them, got into their brains, and then he wrote this book.

It is captivating, on so many levels. It is a fascinating look at the city of Baltimore, a place that has long been besieged by violent crime (it still is). It is an illuminating examination of the police force and how it functions, both as an independent entity and within the city of Baltimore. It is a searing and heartfelt portrayal of the men (because it is almost entirely men) who dealt, on a daily basis, with the most brutal atrocities that human beings can commit against one another. Not only how they dealt with the violence on a professional level, but, more importantly, and more interestingly, on a personal level.

Simon really gets under these guys’s skin. He gets into their heads. He understands them and the system that they work in in a way that is probably completely unprecedented. I was often appalled reading this book, many times disgusted and disgruntled and disillusioned. But I couldn’t put it down. (It is the reason I have started bringing a book to the gym, so I can read while I ride the stationary bike.) When it was over, I missed those detectives with a fierceness that surprised me.

I haven’t read very many books like this. It is, on occasion, very dense. But it is an extremely worthwhile read, whether you like a good murder mystery, or whether you are interested in psychology, or whether you’d just like some insight into police work in the 1980s. Do be warned, though: Simon does not pull punches when it comes to the gruesome and brutal nature of what the cops encounter. I can’t recommend this book enough, and I can’t wait to get my hands on his other book, which, ironically and, perhaps, inevitably, is about the year he spent on the other side of the law, getting in good with Baltimore’s drug culture.

Find other books I have recommended here

Book of the Month – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

my cure for writer’s block

I have started three different blog posts in the space of ten minutes and backspaced each one of them into oblivion. The words I want to say won’t come. I can’t seem to delve into any topic of actual substance. All I want to do is curl into a ball on my couch and watch eight straight episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, nursing my borderline-insane crush on Andy Samberg.

So … that is what I am going to do.

I’m not going to force myself to write something. Sometimes, our creative souls need a break. I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself lately; with Bryan away on business, I have had a lot of time to myself, which I feel should be full up to the brim with productivity. I even made myself a list of things to get done entitled Things to Accomplish While Bryan is Gone. I knew it was a mistake the minute I did it, but I did it anyway, because I’m a slave to the to do list.

So for tonight, I am cutting myself a break. I’m not going to sit down at this computer and force myself to bleed all over the keyboard for the sake of an essay about something deep and meaningful, because chances are that the resulting words would be anything but deep and meaningful.

For tonight, I’m going to allow myself the simple pleasure of curling up on my couch with my favorite NYPD precinct and a late dinner, and I’m not going to worry about having five blog posts written for next week, or about writing at all.

I’m going to let myself rest. Then perhaps tomorrow I will come back to the keyboard, refreshed, and ready to create once more.

my cure for writer’s block

2015 Photo Project: The Macro Challenge

What is the macro challenge, you ask? This: figure out a way to make a bunch of close-ups of random stuff look interesting. Step number one was making sure that I took photos of more than just plants. Step two was … well, I didn’t really have a step two.

Originally, the theme for May was portraits. But when May 22 rolled around and I had taken only one (blurry, badly composed, defiantly subpar) photo, I knew I needed to change things up. I’d been falling behind on this project for a while already, and I didn’t want to continue that downward spiral. So I made the executive decision to switch the themes for May and July; I’ll be doing those portraits in the summer instead. May is a fabulous time for macros anyway: spring is in full swing around me, and all I want to do is bury my nose in all the delicious details anyway.

So here are a few (if 26 can be called “a few”) from the photo walk that I took last week! It felt so great to get out of the apartment and just wander around with my camera. I forgot how creatively liberating that can be.

Also, here is my river valley photo of my favorite bridge, from a slightly different perspective. I dig this photo pretty hard.

ISO 100  ||  28 mm at f/10  ||  1/125
ISO 100 || 28 mm at f/10 || 1/125

And two portraits of Bryan. Haven’t decided which one to officially include in the project yet.

wpid-2015-05-22-10.15.44-1.jpg.jpeg

 

photoproject-0088

 

Check out the rest of the photo project here. I think May macros has been my favorite so far. What about you? Do you have a favorite from this series, or are you working on a year-long project of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

2015 Photo Project: The Macro Challenge

Robin

 

Photo by Kaihla Tonai © 2014
Photo by Kaihla Tonai © 2014

This girl, you guys.

She’s turning 15 today. Time seems to be slipping by faster than I can even comprehend it, because I’m pretty sure that just last week, my mom was sitting me down at the kitchen table to tell me she was having another baby. I’m pretty sure just the other day, my baby sister was a literal baby, falling asleep on my chest while I lay on the couch watching TV after school.

But alas, no. She has grown into an incredible young woman who baffles me every day with how kind-hearted, generous-spirited, and genuinely good she is. She makes me proud with her voracious appetite for books (having her read and enjoy one of my recommendations is a huge highlight for me) and in her, I see a kindred, introverted spirit. She is quirky and wonderful and as much as I wish I could make time stop, I would never, because then I would be depriving myself and the world of an amazing person.

Happy birthday, Robin. Love you so much more than I could have ever dreamed possible.

Robin

the anguish of postponed motherhood

wpid-20150520_063511.png

I have no children, but I am a mother. I feel it in my bones; I have always felt it in my bones. So the fact that we “are not ready” to start our family grates at me, scraping the flesh of my heart on a daily basis. Sometimes, it is the only thing that I can think about, a constant thrum of anguish at the centre of each day. All of our “reasons” look flimsier and flimsier next to the raw need in my heart.

I work with children; every day, I look at each one and think, “I could have a child like you.” I sit with the preschoolers at nap time, so pleased when they want just me to rub their backs, melting into a puddle of goo when they make funny comments or do sweet things, like the four year old boy who took my hand in his and cuddled it to his chest, saying, “I’ll keep you warm,” when I told him I was cold. I watch every child that goes through my care and think, “My future could look like you.”

There is a list on my phone entitled “Baby Names” which I have had since I was nineteen or so. The names haven’t changed much. I’ve had the same ones picked for several years now. I have names for every eventuality: two girls, two boys, boy and a girl. A surprise third child. Except for middle names, mostly because the idea of middle names confounds me. (What is the point?) In idle moments, I entertain myself imagining the little people that will go along with the names that I have chosen. I wonder how their names will shape them. I toy idly with the name Khaleesi (though I agree 100% with my BFF when she said to me, “Jessica Michelle McGale-Cooper, I will not be an auntie to a human child named Khaleesi.” Thank you, voice of reason.)

One day, while babysitting for the sweet six month old baby boy that I get the pleasure of looking after every week, we were sitting on the floor, playing, and amidst all the babble and the joyous kicking of legs and blowing of bubbles he went still, and he simply looked at me, with his impossibly wide blue baby eyes, and he did not look away for at least a minute. He held my finger and stared at my face, and tugged so hard at my heart that I burst into tears right there.

I was born to be a mother. Of this, I have always been certain. And so it kills me a little bit to have to postpone this transition.

Not only that, but it feels like a lot of pressure. Because, it seems to me, if I am postponing the one thing I want more than anything in the world, I better have a damn good reason for it. I better be spending my time wisely. I better be accomplishing absolutely everything I have listed on every to do list I have ever made. I better be checking things off my bucket list left, right, and centre. Because if I’m not, if I am simply whiling away the time, staring at the biological clock as it ticks away, then what the hell is the point? I might as well get knocked up now, reasons be damned.

But if any of this agony is to have any meaning, I need to be doing something with my time. And so, anxious person that I already am, I have become exponentially more anxious about how I am spending my life. Am I doing something productive? Am I moving forward on anything? Am I achieving anything at all?

Some days, it feels like I will buckle under the pressure: the anguish of postponed motherhood, and the pressure of it, too. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, and no matter how I wiggle and twist and push, I cannot seem to find a way out.

Someone hand me an exacto knife.

Do you have any suggestions for improving the situation I find myself in? Have you ever experienced anything similar? (Doesn’t have to be baby related.)

 

the anguish of postponed motherhood

Book of the Month: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

beforeifall

I chose this book entirely by accident: I needed something to read on the plane home from Vegas, and this was the first e-book available from my library that I vaguely recognized. Boom, done.

And then I read it, and it decimated my world, guys. (In the best way possible.)

Before I Fall is great for a number of reasons.

  1. It follows the Groundhog’s Day formula without feeling tired or forced. It really works, mostly because no two days feel the same. There is very little non-essential overlap.
  2. The main characters are all complicated, not-entirely-likeable girls. I liked that these girls were allowed to be human beings who were often terrible, but sometimes not, who were regular high school girls who could be wonderful to each other and awful to others, and vice versa, just as easily as breathing. We give a lot of leeway to male anti-heroes but very little to females, which is lame. Unlikeable characters are often the most interesting. I did not like Lindsay at all, but she was certainly the member of the gang who intrigued me the most.
  3. The main characters are all best friends, and the story is about their friendship more than anything, a friendship which is real and dynamic and layered.
  4. The pain of reading it, knowing that there is no way out. That, no matter how many times she Groundhog Days it up, there is no real waking up for Sam. It lends the story an emotional depth that resonated strongly with me.
  5. Sam goes through a strong, believable character arc is the story progresses, going from spoiled, bratty, awfulness to someone with a little bit more awareness and compassion for the people around her. She is certainly no saint by the time the story winds down, but she is markedly different than when we began. It is quite rewarding.

This is quality fiction, y’all. It baffles me how people continue to discount young adult fiction. I find most of the stories I love the most are young adult.

This is where it’s at. 

 

Book of the Month: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver