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Showing posts from 2010

What We Lose

My pets are old--one ancient and one a senior citizen.

Mephisto (cat, 20 yrs. old) had a stroke and is blind and deaf. The other senses are fine--he can smell us when we come in and will scream to signal. He can feel and purrs loudly when we hold him in our laps--which he always wants to do as it is his only sensation. The stroke though has left him wandering in circles and he bumps into things, so he is not feeling space the way that he should as a cat.

Guinness (dog, 13 yrs. old) is deaf in both ears. The ear canal has been removed from one, and the other is so blocked that it too will require removal. He does not wake when we call to him (he never came) but we use hand signals which seem to actually work better, but you must touch him first to get his attention. We have to be careful to touch him gently if coming up on him as he startles.

We have always suspected that his vision and smell were not what they should be, as he would often jump upon encountering things outside, but…

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Not all dying words are true and this blessing is no less real for being shorn of its ground.

Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

He thought that in the history of the world it might even be that there was more punishment than crime but he took small comfort from it.

When you've nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

I love David Mitchell, the British author (as opposed to David Mitchell, the British comedian) of Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten, Number 9 Dream, Black Swan Green and now this, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet.

Like Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks, Mitchell seems to write one "normal" or linear narrative in between the time and mind bending ones (someone is attempting to film Cloud Atlas. I think this is a very, very bad idea). That said, this is a good book, but not his best, which is rather like saying that The Magnificent Ambersons isn't Citizen Kane.

This is, to a certain extent (which looking back over my blog is a phrase I use too much), a historical romance set at the very end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th on an artificial trading island off the coast of Nagasaki. Mitchell lived in Japan for many years and is very familiar with the culture.

It is both a love story and a historical story--describing pretty factually as far as I have researched a true incid…

Extra! Extra! Loann Agrees With Sarah Palin (sort of)

Oh, how it pains me to say this, but I don't hate the word refudiate or Palin for creating it. And, she is right, Shakespeare added a plethora of new words and phrases to the English language, or at least solidified them from the spoken of the time to what we know and accept today. Any language is a moving, growing thing. A river that is different from second to second and possibly no more so than English which has become the closest thing to a global language (for no particularly good reason other than Imperialism and the British navy). Sometime ago now, I read The Story of English and wrote a little about it--meant to write more and somehow didn't. To a certain extent, Shakespeare defined English. James Joyce gleefully broke it.

So what makes them geniuses and Palin an idiot? Well, there is the fact that their writing is lyric and lasting. That they make sense (even Joyce if you are as learned as he--which I'm not) while Palin is famously incoherent in other ways. She is …

In For a Penny, in for a Pound--Twilight the Movie

I wasn't going to do it. Oh, how I wasn't going to do it. And I didn't. Not really. I only watched part, and even then I was working on other things. Not focusing. But those are really meaculpas.

I watched part of Twilight last night. It was not quite as bad as I expected. I suppose, if your expectation is 0, then a 1 is an improvement. Kristin Stewart was not quite as annoying as I expected. Robert Pattinson slightly more romantic. Which is to damn with faint praise. It's not a very well put together movie. How is it that this woman directed Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown?

Only two things actually interested me enough to pay attention. One, the fact that when Bella and Edward are in the woods and she says Vampire all mysterious and sexy like, the camera cuts away to the tops of the trees and then breaks and comes back to them lying on their backs. That used to be cinema convention for a sex scene, but, as we all know, Bella and Edward don't have sex …

Writing....?

Some mornings I wake up and think, "I want to write a story, start that novel, try something on the page." But rather than walk right in to my laptop which I named "Writer" for inspiration, I have to get ready for work, or if home alone and free, like today, there is the dog to be walked, both animals to be fed and medicated. After my own breakfast, perhaps, and, oh, there is a load of laundry to be started. And I should...

If I am so unhappy and underemployed in my current job, then I SHOULD spend every spare moment actively searching for work. Right? But I didn't do it even when happily employed (although sometimes I think that I have never been happily employed--either I liked the work and not the people or liked the people and not the work, and have never until this job liked the money--but that is a topic I've beaten before.)

And I write essays/blog posts. They are so easy for me--they're half written in my head before I even sit down at the keyboard…

Thoughts on Twilight by Stephenie Meyers

Ok, so I read the damn thing in one night--yeah, I'm weird like that.

It is a page turner, I'll give you that. And yet, when I turned the last page, even with the "preview" of the next novel, I had absolutely no interest in what happened next, because the tension in Twilight (and I presume the sequels) is not whether or not Bella will die, but whether she and Edward will ever consummate their love. And that is the secret of its mad success.

Beyond everything it is a Romance novel that happens to be with young adults some of whom are vampires. If straight (read male) porn is all about seeing the climax, then romance (read female) is all about NOT having the climax. The long, slow building with the end only in the reader's imagination.

I have read that Meyers is inspired by Austen, and while Austen was able to weave a great deal about human nature and even politics and mores of her time into her books, which Meyers absolutely is not, the books are, at the heart, roman…

A Facebook discussion on politics

This was a recent Facebook discussion in which I rambled on so long that I decided to bring it over here to preserve it.

Me: On being in a room full of Republicans/Conservatives...I hate the fact that I can't always articulate answers to their statements or get my valid points across even though I can with people of a similar mindsets. I fear that politeness is misconstrued as agreeing or yielding. L'espritd'escalier.

Me (in response to some short posts): I agree about parties and that a conservative would feel that, but I was talking specifically about my own ability or inability to come up with answers/facts/arguments on the spot even though I can think of a long list of points later. For example, a woman here rattled off some stats from one of those sourceless things that roam the internet and I was 99% sure that I had checked Snopes and found out it was rubbish but I wasn't quite sure enough to challenge.

A: I read George Lakoff's book Moral Politics a number of y…

Housekeeping

Is it just me or does everyone think that their house is not clean enough?

I hate housekeeping. I really do. So I avoid it. So my house probably isn't clean enough, but even when I feel that I really clean, I sit down only to look over and see dust on some surface that I missed.

Part of it is not maintaining. Part of it is living in an old house where there are uneven surfaces and cracks and crevices where dust can hide. I have white stairs--well, they were white when I moved in. Even getting down on my hands and knees with a bucket doesn't seem to make a difference. Part of it is having a dog and a cat and the slow detritus of hair and skin that makes up dust--but other people have children AND a dog and a cat and seem to keep up.

Part of it is simply having too much stuff--too many books, too many figurines with tiny nooks and crannies. I can't dust them all every week, let alone take the books out and dust behind them, so the dust remains and contaminates my clean…

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

Also watched “Fraility” a disturbing little film about faith and families—don’t know what else to say about it.

And finished “The Family…” Is it paranoid? Conspiracy theorist? It seems well-researched and has certainly taken on great meaning in light of recent events to pundits of the left such as Rachel Maddow whom I respect (and—full disclosure--kind of lust after because I love smart nerds).

According to the book, there is a quiet, not-quite hidden or secret, but shadowy nevertheless, organization, known now as the Family who works behind the scenes of Washington politics and from there the world. In it’s guise of innocent prayer groups it places “influential men in key places” thereby spreading JESUS throughout the world. But theirs is a Jesus unrecognizable to me or to most Christians whether they be holiday Christians or Evangelicals.

Theirs is Jesus unfettered by scipture, focused on the 'global picture' and therefore unconcerned about the tiny players (read you and me, th…

American Actresses vs. the Brits

Past weekend, watched “The French Lieutenant’s Woman.” I had read the novel ages ago, and the screenplay even further back.

Must say that I was disappointed. I found it very flat with the exception of Jeremy Iron’s rformance. I love Irons (Brideshead, of course, and in Reversal of Fortune) but have found him passionate only in this Elizabeth I.

It was amusing to see British actors who went on to bigger and better or at least more amusing roles--Leo McKern, Richard Griffiths, and Penelope Wilton known to Doctor Who fans as Harriet Jones. But I was very disappointed in Meryl Streep. For all her fame in accents, I found hers uneven and unconvincing in this.

Which brings up the question, why, when Hollywood is perfectly willing to cast British actors as Brits (and often as Americans) is it so reluctant to cast British actresses as Brits??? Particularly iconic British roles—like this one or Bridget Jones for example. Australians as Americans thrive in Hollywood, and it does not turn around an…

Even More on Social Media and Human Behavior

Do you casually put up anything that comes to mind on Facebook/Twitter, Twitter being designed for this, or do you put some thought into provocative, humorous or controversial statements, hoping for comments or re-Tweets?

I prefer Facebook because a) more of my friends are on it, and b) because it invites lengthier and more diverse conversation, sometimes between friends who don’t otherwise know each other from different parts of one’s life, between high school friends, college friends and Boston friends for example. I prefer the conversation. And find myself irrationally unhappy when I don’t get it.

Do you also worry about when to stop commenting? If you have the last word have you been selfish, or so dull that you are conversation ending? If you do not leave the last comment, then have you been rude and abrupt?

If no one comments then are you unpopular, dull or simply lost in the rush. Which leads to my own low-self esteem general question, “Do my friends really like me?”

I find it humo…

A Musical Hierarchy

Do other people have a music hierarchy? When listening to the radio in the car and you are faced with the choices of two acceptable songs or even two songs in general, what determines which one you stop on?

For instance, for me from this past week, Muse trumps Red Hot Chili Peppers but loses to Death Cab for Cutie, particularly if it’s from the new album of both, but Red Hot Chili Peppers would come before Oasis, for example. Alternative 80’s (Cure, Depeche, Duran (of course), Human League (except for Human—God, I hate that song), etc. wins out much of the time except for really new songs that I adore.

Between “Sometime Around Midnight” by The Airborne Toxic Event and “Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons, both songs that just slay me, the later would probably win because it is newer and I haven’t heard it as much.

There are artists who, if they are the only choice, lose to commercials or even to silence. Coldplay, for example, or James Taylor or (shudder) John Mayer. And this isn’t even…

English vs. the World

Part of my curiosity about language stems from a book that I’m reading called “The Story of English” from the 80’s BBC series of the same name.

In it, it is postulated that English is uniquely capable of expressing such nuances because it is such a polyglot language—sometimes welcomingly and sometimes hesitantly or even actively resisted—developed from multiple sources and languages and is therefore so vocabulary rich that it is (arguably) unrivaled in its ability to say the same thing in multiple ways and as in my previous post, to say something different with the same words.

According to the book, the OED lists 500,000 words and there are almost a million technical and scientific specific words uncatalogued, with new words being developed every day. And this book dates from the 80’s. As science continues to expand the number is probably higher now.

In contrast, the estimates for German are 185,000 words, and for French, 100,000 including borrowings from English. The French have, of cou…

Nuances of meaning

This previous post is one of my favorite David Sylvian songs and I was thinking about it's meaning. There are such subtle shadings in English, for example:

His world is suffering
Her world is suffering

Our world is suffering

They can all mean that THE world is suffering, mother earth physically suffering, but it can also mean that all he or she knows is suffering, that all of the world means suffering.

Likewise, in The Cure song, "The End of the World" Robert Smith sings:
‘I couldn't ever love you more’

Meaning I could not love you more than I do. It is impossible for me to love you more.

Later, he sings:
‘It’s not my fault, you couldn’t love me more’

Meaning isn’t it sad that you couldn’t love me more. You were incapable of loving me more, or as much as was needed. Of course, it is possible that she couldn’t love him more because it was impossible for her to love him more.

Also, in The Barenaked Ladies song, “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel” Steven Page sings:

‘…

When in doubt, David Sylvian

World Citizen


World Citizen
(Words by David Sylvian)

There goes one baby's life
It's such a small amount
She's un-American
I guess it doesn't count

Six thousand children's lives
Were simply thrown away
Lost without medicine
Inside of thirty days

In the New York harbour
Where the stock's withheld
It was the price we paid
For a safer world

World is suffering
World is suffering
World is suffering
World citizen

In Madhya Pradesh
Where they're building dams
They're displacing native people
From their homes and lands

So they hunger strike
Cos they believe they count
To lose a single life
Is such a small amount

In the name of progress
And democracy
The concepts represented in name only

His world is suffering
Her world is suffering
Their world is suffering
World citizen

World citizen

And the buildings fall
In a cloud of dust
And we ask ourselves
How could they hate us?
Well, when we live in ignorance and luxury
While our super powers practice
Puppet mastery

We raise the men
Who run the fascist states
And…

King Jesus

Robert Graves' King Jesus is a dense, sometimes difficult, thought-provoking and ultimately frustrating novel. Written as a history by one Agabus some 50 years after Jesus' death, it posits several controversial ideas about the life and death of Jesus.

First he discards the virgin birth (let alone the Catholic addition of the Immaculate Conception), suggesting instead that Jesus was the product of a secret marriage between Mary, a temple Ward, (whose own parentage owed more to ancient pagan sexual rites, than to Jewish custom) and a son of Herod, and therefore had the earthly right to be called the King of the Jews. But the historian also makes the argument that Jesus was the Messiah based on many writings of the Jewish prophets. Interestingly, while he dismisses the virgin birth as too mystical, comparing it to Greek and Roman mythology--making Jesus no more than Perseus, fathered by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold (I don't think there's a 21st century meaning the…

Personal stuff again

It has been a good two days. Although it's still crisp/cold for me, the sun is shining and it's still light when I drive home (even better with Daylight Savings coming). I was productive at home and feel energetic about projects for the first time in ages.

But here's the dilemma--I have been here (that sense of a real space again) before. Where I clean and begin projects and feel good and optimistic and the real problems I have seem smaller and beyond my control so I worry less.

And it always ends. Am I mildly bi-polar? Is it possible to be mildly bi-polar? Bi-polar seems so much the diagnosis of the moment that I am wary of using it.

And each time I think, how can I cling to this and make it last and is that even under my control.

Life during Peace

Watched Before Night Falls, always wanted to see it, partially because it garnered so much praise, and partially because I had heard about Johnny Depp's daring performance in it, and I wanted to see that.

But it is Javier Bardem's movie--every second, from the young student with high hopes for Castro's revolution who is quickly disillusioned by the brutal crack downs (just as in Persepolis) for both his writing and his homosexuality. Are all revolutions doomed to betray themselves?

It is a harrowing and beautiful film with Bardem reading Arenas own words in the original language. I cannot now remember how much of the film was in Spanish and how much in English, it flowed so beautifully together.

It made me want to read the writer--what more can a film do for a writer?

Times of War

I recently watched Persepolis, The Reader, and Hotel Rwanda, each in their own way about living through war and the things we do to survive. How much would you do, what would you do, most importantly, what would you do to survive.

Persepolis is the story of a girl/young woman, growing up in the aftermath of the fall of the Shah. At the beginning her liberal parents are full of hope for the new regime, but it is soon clear that the western freedoms enjoyed under the Shah are gone. They fear for their daughter's outspoken protest, and yet, it is at their knee that she has learned to speak up. Our heroine is packed off to Vienna where she gets into the kind of troubles that a young woman alone in a strange city might be prone to--fights with landlords, as she puts them, banal love affairs. Hers is an easy war, even when she returns, until one of her friends is killed running from a mixed (illegal) party. The war is a background to them until it collides with them and they live as if i…

Spoiled

I am so used to coming into a warm house because of our timers, I had to get under the covers when I came home in the middle of the day.

How I wish for spring/summer.

Succeeding in Social Media

To succeed in Social Media be pithy.

Often.

It is not, as the reoccurring joke goes about writing about feeding the cat, it is finding something interesting to say, not unlike a social gathering, like a party, only you don't really have to face people.

This is not particularly pithy, or original and will be swallowed by the great sound of other things.

But at least I'm here again.

Absent, not Dead.