My 12 New Things

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Thing #9- August 2010- Reading the Classics

Me in front of a book-adorned parking garage near the library
This month my New Thing isn't dangerous, bada$$, or hardcore in any way. You may not even think it's interesting, but bare with me... I'm broadening my cultural horizons.

I'm reading the classics this month and I'll tell you why.

I love to read, so that part doesn't necessarily make this activity qualify for a New Thing. However, I generally like the "chick lit" kind of books. I love anything by Sophia Kinsella and Marian Keyes and will sometimes even judge a book by its cover. If the graphics are cute and the tagline sounds interesting, I'll give it a whirl.

Using that cute graphics/ catchy tagline philosophy, I recently read two Candace Bushnell books back to back. Bushnell is best known for her book that turned into a little series called Sex and the City. I haven't actually read that one, but I did read One Fifth Avenue and Trading Up. Both were fairly entertaining, though Bushnell seemed to recycle some of her ideas and used the same brooding author character in both books. In One Fifth Avenue his name was James. In Trading Up his name was Craig and both were described as a modern day Tolstoy. There was a good amount of detail around describing the similarities around these characters and Tolstoy, so I thought maybe I should know who this Tolstoy guy is.

Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
I googled it and it turns out that Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy is widely regarded as the greatest of novelists. In researching other authors and literature that topped a Greatest Classics list, it became apparent that I hadn't read many of them. I had only read a handful on the list. I loved most of the ones I had read- Huckleberry Finn, Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Scarlett Pimpernel. However, I thought Catcher in the Rye was odd. No one ever says that, but I'll admit it. 

As there are so many classics that I have never read, my first thought in reviewing the list was to displace blame with, "What the h, Bucklin High School?! How dare you let me out in the world like this!"

I thought it was time to rectify the situation. Later that day, I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up a few classics that I will be reading between now and the end of my New Things project. (There is just absolutely no way I can get through all of them this month. Have you seen the size of some of these books)?!

Here's my reading list:
War and Peace by L. Tolstoy
Anna Karenina by L. Tolstoy
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Emma by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I'll keep you posted on my progress and what I think about each of the books. I'm currently working on War and Peace and I have to admit, this is taking longer than I expected. I can usually whip through a 400 page chick lit book in a few hours. It turns out I'm a slower reader if there's more depth to the story.

I just know that at the end of this project I'll feel much more cultured and well-read. If nothing else, I'll be able to throw out Tolstoy references at dinner parties, just because I can.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Thing #8- July 2010- Media Cleanse

It's finally over. For New Thing #8, I conducted a ten day Media Cleanse in which my rules included no television, movies, social media or flipping through magazines. I also couldn't do any aimless internet surfing. If I went online, I had to have a purpose in mind and I had to get in and get out.

The point was that I had been wasting too much time in mindless activities.

I would sometimes get online to check a couple of things and 2 hours later will realize that I forgot what I had initially been looking for. I would get swept away on Facebook or Twitter, wondering what was going on in the world (aka what my friends are up to). It's never really interesting. I don't need to know that someone just harvested truffles in Farmville or that someone else worked all weekend.

News headlines are a big time-wasting culprit, too, and the astonishing thing is that it's not the important stuff that I would spend my time on. Right before deciding to do a Media Cleanse as a New Thing, I found myself at the end of an article and scratching my head as to why I was there at all. The headline I had followed was called "Why the beard, Brad?"

I did, indeed, want to know "why the beard, Brad?" But is it important? Is it really relevant to my life? No. It's not even important or relevant to his life, apparently, because the answer to that question was that he was bored, so he had decided to grow a beard and put weird little beads in it. And I wasted my time reading about it. And you just did, too. :) The mindlessness needed to stop.

And it did. For 10 full days. (Mostly).

I did have a rough go of it a couple nights ago. I was stressed and tired and wanted to lay on the couch and watch tv. But, I knew if I did, I would hate myself in the morning. So I did what I always do when I don't want to hate myself in the morning. I called my mom to talk me down. It worked and the crisis was averted.

I have to admit, though, that last night I did go a little crazy. It was a little reminiscent of my Pepsi and Doritos incident during my Kind Diet (New Thing #2- February). I knew I was on the home stretch, but just couldn't take it anymore. All of the productivity and mindfulness of the previous nine days got the best of me and I threw all caution to the wind. I laid on the couch and watched Kathy Griffin- My Life on the D-List AND I perused At that same time. Shocking, I know. I'm not even ashamed, though I know I should be.

This was an excellent New Thing to have subjected myself to even though it sucked most of the time. I learned that I can in fact survive without social media, television and other mindless forms of entertainment. I got a lot of great things knocked off my to-do list. (Though I'm only a few things shy of completing my Christmas shopping I didn't get that stupid recipe conversion done. I'm not worried about it, though. There will be plenty of winter months in which that project will sound appealing).

While I won't be continuing on in a media-free state, I will be limiting my screen time significantly moving forward and will be much more mindful of how I spend my time.

I'm now signing off to go steam clean my carpets. Ciao!