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a lecture on life

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 by kate

Randy Pausch wanted his kids to remember him. At 46, Pausch had 3 young kids, ten tumors in his liver and only a few months left to live.

“There are so many things I want to tell my children, and right now, they’re too young to understand. … I want the kids to know who I am, what I’ve always believed in, and all the ways in which I’ve come to love them. … I wish the kids could understand how desperately I don’t want to leave them.”

In an effort to preserve himself for his children, Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, decided to deliver a lecture. His topic: “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

Unlike so many who forget their dreams, or think them impossible, Pausch achieved almost every one of them. (And you can’t help but think, if he had more time, his list would have been full of check-marks).

Pausch wanted to become a Disney Imagineer. He did it. He wanted to be in zero gravity. He did it. He wanted to author an article in the World Book encyclopedia. He did it. He wanted to become Captain Kirk. While this he couldn’t achieve, but he did get to meet the man. And he wanted to play in the NFL. Well…we can’t win them all.

This book inspires you to reevaluate your own life and poke around that old toy box to find your own list of childhood dreams.

Pausch’s book is inspiring because of the impressive life he led, not because of what he did after he was diagnosed with cancer. With only a few months to live, he didn’t have to dig up his list of to-dos. It was his list of already-dones. He reminds us that we should always be living our life like we only have months to live.

I can’t help but think if he weren’t dying of cancer, I wouldn’t like him. He comes across condescending and contradictory at times. But I can’t fault him for this, since he had a very limited time to write this book. I’m sure he didn’t have time to mince words.

His messages are clear and simple, and a little bit obvious:

Stop complaining.

“Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I’ve always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out.”

Look for the best in everybody.

“Almost everybody has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.”

Say thank you.

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other. And despite my love of efficiency, I think that thank-you notes are best done the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.”

Tell the truth.

“Honesty is not only morally right, it’s also efficient. In a culture where everyone tells the truth, you can save a lot of time double-checking.”

Be prepared.
No job is beneath you.
Just ask.
Know who you are.
Never give up.

Pausch delivered his last lecture on September 18, 2007.

“’Lucky’ is a strange word to use to describe my situation, but a part of me does feel fortunate that I didn’t get hit by the proverbial bus. Cancer has given me the time to have these vital conversations … that wouldn’t be possible if my fate were a heart attack or a car accident.”

Randy died July 25th, 2008. He was 47.
Previous Post: Review of Through the Storm, by Lynne Spears

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mom Spears' tell-all memoir

Thursday, September 25, 2008 by kate

by guest contributor Jacqui Pini

As an avid magazine reader, I have witnessed Britney Spears’ career since the beginning … how could I not? She’s everywhere. Between her custody battle, head shaving and hospitalizations, it is hard to deny these past few years have been extremely difficult for Brit. Who knows what the future holds for her, but these days it seems she is on a much better path. While I am not exactly a fan of her or her music, I was curious what her mother had to say for herself about all of this.

I just finished Through the Storm, Lynne Spears’ book about the family’s life with Britney, Jamie-Lynn and their brother, Bryan. This book is a very easy read. At times I skipped entire pages while Lynne rambled about her faith and various relationships. There were points in the beginning where Lynne was a little too focused on sharing what was happening in Louisiana. Sorry to say, but that is not really why people are reading the book. On the other hand, I felt Lynne was true to herself in the Southern-manner in which she told the story. She seems to be an endearing woman, naïve at times, but always in fierce defense of her children.

While I do not necessarily see Lynne as a stage-mom, it is apparent she enabled her daughters by allowing them to travel and audition at very young ages. She has positioned Britney as the one who was so “driven” that Lynne could not help but take her to auditions. When I was 10 or so I was driven too… driven by my mom’s Volvo to elementary school like I think Lynne should have been doing with her young kids. Despite the fact Lynne was a teacher, there are few references to school for the girls, and that never really seemed to be a priority.

Lynne touches upon Britney’s unstable behavior, basically blaming it on a man named Sam Lufti. Lynne says he weaseled his way into Britney’s life and was crushing up drugs and putting them in her food last year – around the time Britney was acting erratically and speaking in accents. She also says Sam controlled all of Britney’s staff and would kick her family out as he pleased. They eventually got a retraining order against him … and got Britney back on the right path.

I would have liked to hear this story through Britney as there were so many things that Lynne fluffed right over. It is almost like she is giving us a timeline of Britney’s career through her perch in Louisiana. This has potential to be a very interesting story, but we need to hear it from Britney herself.

Previous Post: The Professors' Wives' Club review

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garden secrets

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 by kate

Four women connected to Manhattan U come together when the dean of the university decides to demolish a faculty garden and build a parking lot. But the real meat of The Professors' Wives' Club is about friendships, conquering fears and figuring out who you are.

First-time author Joanne Rendell successfully juggles four major characters with ease, alternating between women each chapter. Mary is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist with an abusive husband (the dean), Hannah is a former model and art student married to a man who doesn’t understand her, Sofia is a former Hollywood agent who gave it all up to be a mother and Ashleigh is a successful lawyer who is afraid to come out of the closet to father.

Rendell, who happens to be married to a New York University professor, seemed to base Manhattan U largely on NYU. "We live in university housing," Rendell said, "so that's the world I know, and so, of course, real life sneaks into the novel here and there. But I'm not telling exactly where. My husband likes his job at the university too much!"

This isn’t a groundbreaking novel, but it’s a fun read with well developed characters and multiple story lines that keep you on your toes – not to mention a literary subplot involving Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s light enough that you can crack it open when you have a couple of minutes, but interesting enough that you’ll struggle to put it down. This is Desperate Housewives on a mission.
Previous Post: Review of Bitter is the New Black

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from Coach bags to coupons

Thursday, September 11, 2008 by kate

Jen Lancaster is condescending, cynical, egomaniacal, self-centered and downright b*tchy. But in a weird way she makes being bitter becoming. Her blatant, unapologetic honesty gives way to her humanity, flaws and inner strength in Bitter Is the New Black.

I recently interviewed Jen Lancaster after reading her newest book Such a Pretty Fat, and I was interested in her story. She’s a former sorority girl who went from being a successful corporate mogul to getting her car repossessed and almost being evicted from her ghetto Chicago apartment. Bitter Is the New Black follows Jen from her corporate office to the unemployment office (with Prada bag in tow).

And I wasn’t disappointed. Jen is funny, cynical, sharp and sweet. Her panache for pearls and designer duds don’t mesh well with clipping cat food coupons, but she makes do. Bitter Is the New Black reveals the humiliation and shame of losing everything, but does so with wit and unconventional tactics.

In the course of 400 pages (a breezy weekend read) Jen will:

1. Steal a Coach bag from a homeless guy
2. Decide to get married to get out of debt
3. Cancel her COBRA health insurance for a pair of new boots
4. Hurl a laptop at her husband on their wedding night
5. Turn to her pantry to primp, using vanilla extra as perfume and Crisco as lip gloss. (Just call her Miss. MacGyver!)

This chick-lit is light, but deals with the dark subject of unemployment. And with the way the economy has been rolling lately, a lot more of us seem to be following in Jen’s COBRA-financed shoes.

Lancaster’s snotty, sarcastic, self-depreciating humor is addictive. Once you’re done reading all three of her books, you can still get your Jen fix at her popular blog www.jennsylvania.com.

Previous Post: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

david disappoints

Thursday, September 4, 2008 by kate

While I’m not a David Sedaris devotee, I’ve heard the roars of his readership, so I picked up his latest book When You Are Engulfed in Flames – and I got burnt. It’s not that the book is bad, it’s just that it isn’t as good as the hype and I guess I set my sights too high for Sedaris.

He is funny and quirky and poignant at points, but most of the book dragged. Sedaris’ essays jump around in time and place from child molesters in Normandy to skeletons in bedrooms, and most of the good parts are too politically incorrect to post here.

The book culminates with “The Smoking Section,” a chapter that follows Sedaris on his cigarette-quitting journey to Tokyo.

“I didn’t stop throwing my cigarette butts down until at the age of forty-eight, I was arrested for it … in Thailand.”

This is Sedaris’ sixth book of essays, so he must be doing something right, but some essays just left me wondering why they were written. Read it if you want, but I’d suggest sticking to some of his older works.

Previous Post: Twilight review