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Category Archives: Humor

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Packing for MarsLet’s start with a disclaimer: I read this book many months ago, soon after it came out in hardcover.  While my goal here is to mostly review recent reads, I’m making an exception in this case because of its trade paperback release last month and the final Shuttle missions.

If you’ve read Mary Roach before, you know what to expect: easily accessible science, research into unusual but fascinating areas, and a healthy dose of humor.  Packing for Mars is true to form, and was one of my favorite books to hand-sell during the last holiday season.

Before reading this book, I thought I knew a lot about the space program.  My father is an actual rocket scientist, and NASA has occasionally entrusted him with things like moon rocks.  I’ve read The Right Stuff, more than once.  We have Shuttle magnets on our refrigerator, and I even played with an astronaut Cabbage Patch doll when I was growing up.  Somewhere I have a Lego set of a Shuttle on a launch pad.

Packing for Mars, however, explores space exploration from a very different, but very human, point of view.  From the psychological effects of being confined in a small capsule or floating freely out in space to the problems that arise from collecting human excrement without gravity, this book is an in-depth look at the lesser-known engineering marvels that have allowed humans to travel, live, and work in the void of outer space.  It is not just a matter of how to propel machines into space that interests Ms. Roach, but the idea of learning what humans need to survive in such and environment and adapting the vehicles accordingly.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

BossypantsI was looking forward to this book like a person looks forward to things they look forward to. And there were parts of it that totally piqued my interest and made me “LOL” in the literal sense (and then explain myself to whoever was in the room). But for the most part this book was only mildly entertaining. I know! Sacrilegious.

The vague premise of the book is Miss Tina Fey teaching you how to rear your child to grow up like her: a confident, witty, feminist geek who doesn’t march to the beat of her own drummer only because she decided to play the triangle instead. And let’s be honest with ourselves: who wouldn’t want to be Tina right now? She writes great shows and movies, gets to star in said great shows and movies, has a great family, supportive parents, and counts Amy Poehler as one of her friends. Sign me up!

But the way she goes about teaching you is kind of an organized mess of anecdotes that show how Tina or someone she loves/admires responds to a given life experience. Which, okay, I guess you are the sum of your actions. But hearing about her honeymoon cruise debacle, how she discovered she liked white guys, and her inability to decide whether or not to have another kid is stuff that is interesting only to close friends. And although I’d like to consider myself and the great T.Fey besties, my lack of interest in such anecdotes proves that I’m not.

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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Book Reviews, Humor, Memoir / Biography

 

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff by Mary Roach

Stiff by Mary Roach

If you’re anything like me, you watch those formulaic detective shows. You know, the ones where everything is packaged in a neat bow at the end – usually with the help of a medical examiner who knows the exact time and date the victim was murdered. And if you’re any more like me (which, creeeepy!), you’ve wondered at the accuracy of that time and date. I mean, is it even possible to know stuff like that?

Apparently, it is.

In one of the disturbingly engaging chapters in Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, she describes a section of the University of Tennessee’s campus devoted to the study of decomposing bodies in various states of…disposal? Eek, that sounds a little indelicate. But get this: some are splayed naked under trees while others are dressed to the nines but stuffed in a car’s trunk. Still others are in shallow graves or dumped in marshy lake water. All of this is done under the scientific eyes of Professors and soon-to-be medical examiners to determine the rate at which the human body decays in various circumstances. E. GADS. Let me warn you right now: if you are at all queasy about this subject matter, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not do an image search of the University of Tennessee body farm. What is seen cannot be unseen.
 

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