october sky

Attention fellow science nerds:  If you haven’t seen October Sky, you must watch it immediately.  Not that you have to be into science to appreciate this movie.  And I’m not sure why I missed it when it was released in 1999, but that’s the beauty of Netflix.  The motivating factor for me to add it to my queue was that the main character in October Sky is one of my husbands.  But see, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back in my teaching days, I always listed my Top Five Husbands on the board every year.  I usually did this on the second day of class, as to not freak out my new students too much on day one (although my reputation preceded me and there were always a few kids calling me Mrs. Maguire right away).  And then there was Dana, who thought Tobey was her husband.  As if!  My students were allowed to either call me Ms. Colasanti or one of my married names.  Those were some fun times.  This list changes a bit each year, although Tobey and Jake have held the top two spots since the list’s inception.  Here is the current list of my husbands:

1.  Tobey Maguire
2.  Jake Gyllenhaal
3.  John Krasinski
4.  Jack Bauer*
5.  Joshua Jackson

Hmm.  That’s a lot of J’s.

Here are some items you’ll need for your viewing session:

1.  Tissues
2.  Some more tissues

October Sky tells the story of how Homer Hickam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) was first inspired by astronomy.  The second he saw Sputnik fly across the sky in orbit, Homer knew that a career in astronomy was his fate.  This scene resonated strongly with me because I swear, the look on Jake’s face was the exact same look that was on my face the first time I saw Saturn’s rings through my telescope.  Even though there was no way to actually see what I looked like in that moment, I recognized it when Jake showed me.

Homer’s passion for astronomy saves him from a life of working in the coal mines.  He and three friends form a group called the Rocket Boys and become expert rocket builders.  Of course there are setbacks, and the scene where Homer is being lowered into the coal mine, looking up into the sky and seeing Sputnik again is heartbreaking.  Everyone expects his life to be wasted away underground when all he wants to do is live among the stars.  This story will inspire everyone to follow their dreams.  Other perks:  Jake’s southern accent is just as sweet as it is in The Good Girl, and this film has an awesome vintage soundtrack (second only to Stand By Me).

This film is based on the true story of Homer Hickam, who later became a NASA engineer.  Next on my reading list is his book, Rocket Boys.

*I am quite aware that Jack Bauer is fictional, but he’s still a vital part of this list.

something real

Skye posted this question:

I read this book “WHEN IT HAPPENS” by Susane Colasanti….and ever since ive read the book….???
i want a relationship just like the girl had when im older. i want a guy to love me so much….and for him and me to have the same interests…if youve read this book, please tell me if the relationship that Sara had with Tobey could be real….as in something that i could someday find. thanks.

Lots of readers ask me whether Tobey was based on a real boy and if the relationship Sara and Tobey had could be something real. Yes and yes. Their relationship was based on a relationship I had during senior year of high school. Introspective, sweet boys like Tobey really do exist. And you really can find them.

I believe in soul mates. I’ve always believed in them, but now I have evidence that they are real. There is a magical connection between certain people that cannot be explained and cannot be denied. So never give up, Skye. True love is out there for you!

cali vacay part two

Here in New York, Real February has begun.  Up until now, this month has pretty much been Fake February, with its record-breaking 68 degrees on February 6 and another day in the 60’s last week.  That’s done.  Now it’s cold.

Times like these make me reflect on sweet summer days (conveniently blocking out the deathly heat waves and crazy humidity) and fun vacays to warm places.  I’m going to Miami Beach next month (but before the vernal equinox, because it’s so rock star to relax on a rooftop pool while it’s freezing winter back here).  But today, I want to share my photos from my Cali vacay.  I wrote about my trip to San Diego/LA/Malibu/La Jolla here and these are the photos to go with it.

I like animals (not to eat, just to chill with).  When I’m traveling, sometimes I develop bonds with iguanas or pelicans or fat cats.  I have a tendency to name them all Buddy.  I do not know why I do this.  In Bonaire, I was out on a pier and this massive iguana scrunched in real close, all staring at me with his big, yellow eye for twenty minutes.  He was the original Buddy.

These Buddies were on the Santa Monica Pier:


They let you get really close.  For comparison, here’s a Buddy flying away:

buddy taking flight

By observing the seagulls, I learned that they are quite territorial about streetlamps.  Only one Buddy per streetlamp was allowed for as far as you could see.

One of the many awesome features of the Santa Monica Pier (besides Skee-Ball – woot!) is the Big Wheel.  There are some sweet views from the top:

Santa Monica Big Wheel view

Every Sunday, you can visit a temporary memorial next to the pier called Arlington West:

Arlington West

Each white cross represents one American soldier who has died in this stupid war.  That’s almost 4,000 deaths.  You can read more about Arlington West here.

I love how green California is.  There are lots of recycling bins and environmental initiatives and solar panels happening over there.  Peace out, my West Coast neighbors!  You guys rule.  This was a holiday store display (I forget which store, though):

happy holiday recycling

Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer!  Love that.

This is the rooftop beach at the amazing San Diego W Hotel:

W Hotel San Diego rooftop

The sand was heated.  And they had a bonfire, but no marshmallows to toast.  They might want to rethink that decision.  We also stayed at the Beverly Hilton, which was so decadent and fancy.  There’s a big aquarium built into a wall with lots of Buddies, but my photo was too dark.

I took these in La Jolla on the day with the enormous waves:

La Jolla sunset

La Jolla waves

You might not be able to see, but there’s a whole group of pelicans on the rocks.  The pelicans like to chomp on their feathers.

If you’re also freezing cold these days, do not worry.  Only one more month until spring!

Sparkly Cali sunset


Here’s something I’ve learned about writing:  You’re not supposed to date your books.  Meaning when people read them, they’re not supposed to be able to tell what year the books take place.  While I get the concept of avoiding dating to infuse a timeless quality into a book (which makes it a potential classic, a book that can be read for years to come while still sounding current), I don’t see the problem with dating.  Some of the most cherished teen novels, including bestsellers, are dated and it doesn’t hurt them at all.  In fact, dating enhances their stories by establishing an authentic sense of place and time.

Take my all-time favorite young-adult novel, The Outsiders.  The greasers/socs conflict and what everyone’s wearing indicate that the book is set in the 1960’s.  References to Paul Newman, drive-in movies, and slang like “fuzz” reinforce that sense of set time.  Sort of like “crumby” all over the place in Catcher in the Rye.  But knowing that The Outsiders is set in the 1960’s and absorbing its historical significance doesn’t detract from the book’s status as a classic.  It’s a classic because it’s a freaking brilliant book.  So if a book is outstanding and its characters deal with universal issues, then why is dating a bad thing?

I recently read Nick Hornby’s Slam.  Excellent book, love Nick Hornby.  Slam is dated.  The main character tells us that the story happened “before May 21, 2009.”  Also, Brokeback Mountain is playing as a new release in movie theaters during the story, indicating that the book is partially set in 2005.  The always incredible Laurie Halse Anderson used a lot of slang in Prom.  This makes Prom even better because the dialogue feels so real.  That’s what kids love to read.

Not like I set out to date any book I write.  I’m down with the timeless, warm fuzzy thing.  But sometimes it helps the story to connect with a solid time setting.  Take Me There is set in New York City and references September 11 as an immensely significant event that the characters experienced a few years before.  I felt that was important.  Hopefully, the book is still a good read.

And hey, what about quality TV shows?  It’s not like any of those pop-culture references in Gilmore Girls or The Office detract from their awesomeness.  When the characters refer to current events or use slang, it just makes them more believable as characters.  Like they live in the real world with the rest of us.  And yes, the world is changing.  These things won’t be the same thirty years from now.  But I’ll bet the characters on a show or in a book will still feel as real.  Real in their time which, because they are classic, we can always relate to.

clear eyes, full hearts

Nooo!  Friday Night Lights might be canceled?!  That is just plain, flat-out wrong.  Especially when way too many mindless reality shows about people who just want to be on TV are so popular these days, while this way better show is irrationally watched by, apparently, not enough people.

Do not let this amazing show become another My So-Called Life situation!  If you’re a fan, please go to the Save Friday Night Lights website to find out how you can help.  You can send a postcard to NBC or sign the online petition.  Too bad we weren’t online back in the days of Jordan Catalano.

myspace vs. facebook smackdown

So I’m finally on MySpace a zillion years later.  You are officially invited to visit my MySpace because I want to be your friend!

Q:  What took me so long to get there?  A:  Resistance to additional time suckage.  But actually?  It doesn’t seem like there’s all that much to do over in the MySpace world.  It’s cool to see messages, but what else is there?  Maybe I’m missing something.  If there are secret fun things going on, please share.

Meanwhile, there’s lots to do on Facebook!  Since I am ruling the Dawson’s Creek Trivia Challenge (well, my rank is still 2, but I’m holding steady and gradually encroaching on that #1 spot), I’ve moved on to The Office Trivia Challenge.  That alone is hours of “Hi, I know I should be doing something productive now, but I know what Jim’s favorite sandwich is and I’m going to apply that knowledge, dammit!”  As if that’s not enough entertainment, you can send people cookies and cast spells on them.  You can play with magnetic words, add fishies to aquariums, show which books you’re reading, and promote green living.  And what does MySpace have?  I can’t even feed my LJ blog onto it!  But Facebook lets you feed your blog there.  And everything’s so easy to do.  So why’s everyone on MySpace?  And why hasn’t MySpace caught up with Facebook’s app skills?

I must be missing something.

steve martin = kindred spirit

I was looking at Picasso’s Three Musicians at the MoMA.  A guy wearing a baseball cap all pulled down was standing next to me.

He was Steve Martin.

I instantly knew two things:  He wouldn’t be able to enjoy looking at art for much longer because people would recognize him any second, and we were kindred spirits.  I was 13 years old.  There was no reason for me to think we had any kind of connection, but there it was.  About ten minutes later, I passed him walking through another room.  He still had his cap pulled down.  He walked quickly, staring at the floor.  But he looked up when I passed him and our eyes met.  It made me so profoundly sad that he couldn’t just go to the museum without all of this attached drama that I left and went straight home.  Being 13, that encounter bothered me for days.

Fourteen years later, Shopgirl was released.  I got to the Union Square Barnes & Noble three hours early for a front-row seat to Steve’s reading.  You know how when a big event happens to you that involves someone else, and it means so much to you but it’s actually nothing to the other person?  Yeah.  That’s what the whole MoMA experience was.  For some reason, it affected me a lot and I’ve felt connected to Steve ever since.  So after his reading, I went up to him and told him the story of what happened.  But then I felt like a big dork.  Because what does he care?  He’s heard a million stories just like mine.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin     Shopgirl by Steve Martin


I just finished reading his new memoir (he calls it a biography of a guy he used to know instead of an autobiography), Born Standing Up, and recognized this part when Steve was describing his life during insane fame:  “I would pull my hat down low on my head and stare at the ground…I would duck around corners quickly at museums.”  You might think he asked for this kind of life, being famous and all.  But there’s something odd about the way celebrities make us feel all excited that we’re in the same room.  And the way some people won’t let them just…be.

This short clip from his recent Charlie Rose appearance is a testament to the power of writing.  How writing can inspire change and motivate us to overcome inertia.  Thanks for sharing this with me, Laila.

super fat tuesday

There’s this understood rule that authors shouldn’t discuss politics on their blogs.  Like we’re not allowed to have opinions or something.  But I don’t get what the big freaking deal is.  Especially since I’m a very opinionated person and I welcome discussion.  And if my ideas inspire thought and change and action, those are all good things.  But just like I’m a vegetarian who lets you eat your bacon in peace (I do remember how crispy and delicious bacon is; crunch on), I belong to the Live and Let Live school of life in politics.  Isn’t that the basis of achieving world peace?

So I’d like to share a few things about this amazing day with you.

The super part:  When something makes you so passionate that it takes over your life and makes you believe that your dreams might actually come true, that’s a righteous thing.  I’m not embarrassed to admit that this is the first time in my life I actually care a hang about politics (note:  being insanely angry about the way things have been for the past eight years / pissed that my vote was ignored during the last presidential election along with all the other votes for the candidate who really won doesn’t count).  I always voted, but I never felt passionate about a candidate.  Until now.  Which is why I’m volunteering.  I’m one of those people you saw today, handing out flyers and speaking with friendly neighbors near (but at least half a block away from) the voting station.

The fat part:  Today’s excitement sparked my mission to find the perfect cupcake (with Crumbs being the reigning champion thus far), so I met my friend Tim at Alice’s Tea Cup.  They have an impressive array of teas (including seven types of rooibos!) and serve high tea.  How awesome is that?  I had a delicious vanilla cupcake with pink buttercream icing.  It’s running a close second, mainly due to its rich buttery cake.

The Tuesday part:  If you want to see the primary results, here they are.  And if you want to see which campaign I’m volunteering for, yes you can.

Get involved.  Be informed.  Keep hope alive.