Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Animal behavior

4. Selvästi juovuksissa by Juhani Seppänen (the title is a play on words, and can be interpreted either as "Clearly drunk" or "Soberly drunk.")

Doctor Juhani Seppänen's drinking has gotten out of hand: a six-pack an evening, of course a couple of bottles of wine during weekends, and then all that drinking that needs to be done at movie and book release parties, the one beer right after work at the usual bar for social reasons. And so on. He sits down with his publisher and proposes an idea: What if I won't take a sip of alcohol for a year and I'll write about that?

Seppänen chronicles his non-drinking for a year. None of the information is exactly surprising: if you're in Finland (or pretty much anywhere), it's fairly difficult to not drink alcohol. This pasta dish simply isn't as good without wine! Seppänen wonders why on Earth we have convinced ourselves that putting copious amounts of poison into our bodies is a good idea. Then he remembers that alcohol sales support the economy, at least in Finland. That's why there has not been a serious crackdown on under-aged drinking, who make up a very large percentage of active alcohol buyers and consumers.

Seppänen makes the decision not to tell his friends about his new resolution for fears that it might be seen as a challenge: by God, we'll get this man to drink alcohol, even if we have to fool him into drinking. He goes from party to party, sneakily pretending to raise toasts, ordering non-alcoholic beer so that he wouldn't be ousted immediately.

His personal journal entries are divided by facts about alcohol, alcoholism and alcohol marketing. His writing style is not the most engaging: his supposedly witty jokes and rhetorical questions that are meant to be insightful often just feel like the jokes one's uncle might tell at a wedding and everyone has to 'heh heh' to amuse him. The title is actually a fairly good example of this style: the word play makes no sense in the context of the book, but I guess he really needed to call the book that because it's such a fun pun!

Then again, his writing style is very accessible when it is not (personally to me) grating. It's a pretty good book on Finnish drinking habits, all in all.

5. 50 Games to Play with Your Cat by Jackie Strachan

One of those absolutely ridiculous-seeming books that I just grabbed from the library on my way out. Still, upon actually reading this book I was charmed by it: the games are actually designed with cat socialization and hunting skills in mind, and only a few of the "games" are questionable (building a Hacienda for your cat is not a game).

The book gives good instructions on how to make toys for your cat from everyday household items--yes, mostly from cat-beloved cardboard boxes--instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money on mass manufactured toys that the cat will cast aside as soon as she sees a piece of ribbon somewhere.

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