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TL;DR Challenge – The Stephen King Edition

Stephen King

Image via Kotaku.

So, here’s how the game works: I’ve taken a bunch of relatively well-known stories, all centered around the same theme, and whittled their plotlines down to a one-sentence summary. Your goal is to see how many you can match up with their original titles and authors.

The theme of the day is Stephen King, which will hopefully be tougher than the arbitrary “classics and favourites” I picked to test-drive the game. (Though a surprising of people were stumped by the tale of the red-haired orphan. As Canadians we should know that Pippi Longstocking is not the literary world’s only red-haired orphan!) The selections made can be short stories or full-length novels, but I promise none of them is the single episode of The X-Files he wrote back in the fourth or fifth season of the series.

You can check your answers here.

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Just For Fun

What if nerds ran the children’s presses? You might find books like these at your local library . . .

Waste

Waste by Tristram Stuart

Image via Bookchanging.

Title: Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

Author: Tristram Stuart

Year of Publication: 2009

Genre Keywords: agriculture, conservation, corporate, environmentalism, equality, government, health, malnutrition, policy, poverty, social problems.

Summary: Can you imagine? We live on a planet where people die from starvation and malnutrition every single day . . . but they don’t have to. The wealthy produce and consume more than enough food to ensure everybody’s thriving. In fact, the amount of food we waste as a matter of course could feed all the world’s hungry if we were only more careful about how we use it! Tristram Stuart takes a penetrating look at the ways British supermarkets, food suppliers, restaurants, farms, fisheries, and families all contribute to the problem of waste. Obviously we can’t send our near-spoiling tomatoes to West Africa to alleviate starvation . . . but with foresight, we could stop producing more food than we can consume, liberating land to use for crops that can actually help the global poor to get fed.

Who’ll Love It: If you’ve got a head for facts and figures, it’s fascinating reading. But even those who are less mathematically inclined (self included) will get the vivid picture Stuart paints of the shocking travesty of human wastefulness and the ways we can combat it. For anybody interested in reducing their environmental footprint – or, for that matter, spending less money at the supermarket – the book is full of information that will teach you how to consume more sustainably.

How Can I Make A Difference? A lot of the large-scale wasters in Stuart’s book are corporate: big supermarkets, agri-business, and commercial food producers. But there are ways to save even on the individual level. Even the most frugal of people – and I come from a long line of very frugal people – can learn from Tristram Stuart’s eco-friendly ideas. Nor do you have to go as far as he does to cut back your wasteline. (Stuart describes dumpster-diving for perfectly good food that’s been tossed out by wasteful businesses instead of purchasing his meals.)  Some less extreme suggestions for trimming your waste and  your budget:

  • Write a shopping list while you’re still at home, so you can check for forgotten items in the back of your fridge, cupboard, and freezer.
  • Don’t shop hungry! People who buy groceries after having eaten are less likely to impulse-buy unnecessary items.
  • Plan your menus so you can use up leftover cooking materials.
  • Stick to your list: don’t be seduced by marketing schemes trying to get you to buy more.
  • Wasted groceries

    Image via InfoChange India.

    Get a big freezer. It’s an economical way to make it possible to buy bulk meats or produce near the end of its shelf life and save it until you’ll be able to eat it. You can also freeze bread to keep it from going stale.

  • Visit farmers’ markets, where you can buy knobbly-looking produce that often gets rejected by fussy supermarkets.
  • Do your homework, and refuse to buy food from companies that use unsustainable practices . . . just like when people began avoiding tuna that wasn’t dolphin-friendly or started favouring brands of chips that cut out trans fats. Now it’s a marketing feature!
  • Eat the crusts off your bread. Alternatively, turn them into breadsticks, bread crumbs, and croutons. Whatever you do, don’t just toss them in the trash!
  • Skip the step in the recipe that tells you to peel potatoes, carrots, parsnips, apples, or pears. It’s often not necessary and it stretches your food purchase – you paid for that apple peel!
  • Learn more about what best-before dates really denote. Food that’s “expired” usually isn’t. It may have passed its absolute freshest point, but it’s a very long way from being inedible.
  • Cut back on your meat consumption, and consider using parts of the animal considered unconventional in the Western world. There are some great recipes available if you’re willing to look!
  • Teach children about where their food comes from (that’s the land and the people who grow it, not the supermarket shelves) so they learn to respect it as a product of somebody else’s hard work, not an inexhaustible and free resource that they can waste with impunity.
  • Don’t force guilt on people for failing to overeat: that’s a waste, too. Instead, learn (and help others learn) to take no more than what you’ll eat, finish what’s on your plate, and take what’s left over to work or school as a hot lunch instead of fixing a sandwich. Or serve it as leftovers in place of the next night’s cooking.

Book Burning Banner

I made a Photoshop thing!

Okay, okay. I know there are people on the ‘Net who do this sort of thing every day, but  I have never managed to make anything remotely cool-looking in Photoshop. And this I did without any help, without any begging my husband to teach me the tricks, without any form of helpless-girl routine – just me and Google and About.com, slugging it out in a battle for computer supremacy. A few false starts and one minor meltdown later, I won!

"Where books are burned in the end people will be burned, too." (Heinrich Heine, 1797-1856)

Image via . . . me! You really cannot overestimate how proud I am of this humble graphic.

I would be pleased – nay, honoured – if anybody and everybody over the great, wide Web would borrow, share, trade, and otherwise play with the image I made in service of a greater cause. Naturally, I would be most pleased of all to see people adopt it as a way to speak up against the book-burning slated for 9/11 and any other book-burning displays in general.

Credit for the original, unaltered image goes to Old Hickory’s Weblog, a blog about Andrew Jackson that mentions Hitler during a discussion on appeasement.

Good Night, Sweet Angel

Cover art for Good Night, Sweet Angel by Clare McNally

Image via Amazon.

Title: Good Night, Sweet Angel

Author: Clare McNally

Year of Publication: 1996

Genre Keywords: afterlife, child in danger, ghosts, haunting, murder, parenting, possession, psychological thriller, supernatural, suspense, thriller.

Summary: After her abusive ex-husband dies trying to get revenge on her and her daughter, all Jenn Galbraith wants is a new start. But that won’t be so easy. Evan’s angry spirit is searching for them from beyond the grave, wanting above all to get revenge on Emily for telling the truth about her father’s abuse. Emily has one ally in this supernatural battle – a ghost-child called Tara. But Tara isn’t always a nice friend; she can be capricious and mean-spirited, and she’s causing Emily some trouble. But surely it can’t be greater than the trouble Emily would be in if her father got to her . . .

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who likes a genuinely creepy ghost story will be enthralled by this one. Tara’s ghost leaves nobody at peace; even minor characters feel her wrath in the form of strange hauntings during a Thanksgiving visit. And don’t forget to look out for strange side characters like Laura, the fifties-throwback housewife, her creepy fieldhand, and her troubled son. It left me inspired by its perfect blend of paranormal phenomena and real-world creepiness.

A Touch of Romance: Most of the book’s emphasis is on the fear factor of a malevolent haunting, but even that leaves time for a single mother to find love. What’s noteworthy is how   lovable her beau really is! Nick Hasken is an all-around sweetheart, a science professor with a love of karate, ballroom dancing, and really nerdy ties and T-shirts. Even more refreshing, he’s not your average bodice-ripping muscleman from the cover of a Harlequin romance. He has a bit of a belly, an awkward sense of fashion, and ever-present chemical stains on his skin from the science lab. But I’ve rarely found a love interest so endearing in any book I’ve read! (To carry the point forward, the evil ex-husband is repeatedly described as “handsome”. Looks really aren’t everything here!)

The Lost Symbol

Cover art for The Lost Symbol

Image via Knopf Doubleday.

Title: The Lost Symbol

Author: Dan Brown

Year of Publication: 2010

Genre Keywords: action/adventure, archaeology, CIA, conspiracy theory, Freemasonry, kidnapping, metaphysics, mystery, religion, symbology, thriller.

Summary: Now-famous symbology professor Robert Langdon is invited to give a last-minute lecture in Washington, D.C. . . . but when he gets there, he finds he’s been tricked by a violent madman in need of a symbologist who can deliver the closely-guarded Masonic pyramid, crack its code, and lead him to the human race’s greatest source of wisdom, guarded for centuries by the Freemasons. If Langdon can decipher this high-stakes puzzle, his mentor Peter Solomon goes free; if Langon fails, Solomon dies. Langdon enlists the aid of Solomon’s sister Katherine, a scientist on the verge of a major breakthrough in Noetic Science, to try to solve the puzzle posed by the Masonic Pyramid.

Who’ll Love It: Any thriller fans will eat up the standard roller-coaster plot with the twists and turns typical of Dan Brown. But Brown has stepped up his game to create a genuinely well-written mystery full of interesting scientific and philosophical information and even a few touches of sparkling humour. It has a quality of storytelling that his past works have lacked, which makes the “intellectual thriller” a lot more thrilling as a puzzle for clever readers who enjoy solving mysteries or reflecting on ideas but have, in the past, been turned off by Brown’s stilted style. If a literary snob like me loved this story, who wouldn’t?

Is That Real? Dan Brown throws a lot of weird-but-true facts into The Lost Symbol. You can check out a scattering of them here on his web site. And that’s only the beginning!  Katherine’s area of expertise, noetic sciences, actually exists. A Google search on Freemasons can open a door bigger than anything I can link to here. And Brown makes a point of noting  that “all rituals, science, artwork, and monuments in this novel are real”. The Lost Symbol can be the inspiration for further reading about a lot of fascinating (and fantastically strange!) stuff. Find out what’s fact and what’s fiction!

A Masonic symbol carved in stone

Image via Debate It Out.

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