Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bill Bryson "In a Sunburned Country"

Bill Bryson must be one of the best people you could travel with:  easily amused, witty, with a curiousity that makes him seek out the world's largest (fiberglass) lobster just as avidly as any highbrow museum. 

I have read four of his books, all on different locations, and each time I crack up about the observations he makes about people and their cultures.  Right now I'm finishing In a Sunburned Country about his travels around Australia.  Ever the smart ass, he makes you want to get off the beaten path and really see things rather than hit the most tourist destinations in one short trip.  I wish I had the luxury of travelling as widely and as lingering as he does.  Someday! 

I've read Paul Theroux who writes travel in a similar way, but he's not nearly as much fun.  He does discuss more facts and details about the locations, while Bryson seems to fixate on humans and their silliness (along with the more outrageous facts, as in how many ways nature wants to kill you in Australia).  I'm starting Notes on a Small Island (about the UK) soon, but I got myself off track on an Australia tangent thanks to all-things-Tim Winton.  I have The Fatal Shore (more history) and The Long Green Shore (fiction related to WWII with Japan and Australia) next in line before I go back to Great Britain.  I did finish The Kingdom of the Sea last week, Theroux's UK adventures, and all this travel is making me crazy.

I have a small local trip next week, and I'm more worried about what books to take than what to wear.  Sort of a sad, silly life in a way, but damn if I don't love it!

September 30, 2009

Today was the kind to make up for lots of bad days throughout the year.  It was gorgeous and peaceful and clean.  For one thing, the light has changed.  Fall arrived last week but today was the first I could see of the change in the sunlight outside.  Somehow it was crisper and clearer.  The weather was warm but with a crisp, cool wind that couldn't decide whether to blow from the south or the east.  Then it would quit completely for a few minutes and then resume.

I had an afternoon outside in the cool light, with a good book and a cup of coffee and the view to enjoy.  I watched as the dogs seemed edgy and nervous at the wind, while the cats didn't give a damn either way.  A doe and her fawn were in the khaki colored field across from me on the other hill, nonchalantly working their way towards the lake.  They were hidden in the grass but the dusty green oak tree behind them gave away their location.  On the road below a line of eight green tractors went by, while a wildfire plane rumbled overhead back and forth,  likely dealing with the fire in Lompoc. 

I watched one of the homes down below, where a man in a bright pink shirt was puttering around in his yard, kicking a soccer ball to his kids and looking up at the sky.  I imagine he felt as wonderous as I did, looking at the light and feeling blessed.  Even the dog collar on my father's border collie sounded musical, as she wandered around the yard, pausing to remember things as she stared into the eastern sky.

Having the time to read is essential;  have the time to read in such a setting is luxury.  I can't imagine things much better than this!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today, September 26 is....

National Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Day!

photo by Lilypink123 on Flickr....lovely mustang!

Read about the BLM's disasterous policy....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Linked on Nathan's blog, very cool if you have the time!

Another Cloud Reel... from Delrious on Vimeo.

It's not a cat, window, or book...

Milk train arriving in New Delhi
Manan Vatsyayana / AFP/ Getty Images / September 24, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fascinating Site--What are your Dreams?

This is a journey through the US with 4 1/2 minute interviews with random people about their lives: their hopes, dreams, and thoughts. Up close and personal. No script, no moral-of-the-story presentation; just an intriguing look at people through their eyes. We are all so much deeper than we appear.

For the Record

Just for today, I have some requests:

I don't want to discuss the economic theory of George Soros vs. William Buffett
or whether Steve Jobs is smarter than Bill Gates.
I don't want to debate about ACORN, HMO's, the NRA, the VMA's, my VISA or that damn FOX.
I don't want to relate to Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, or Balthazar Gracian.
I don't want to hear the names Rushbaugh, Beck or Hannity.

I don't want to think hard thoughts.

I want to spend my idle time trying to distinguish between the five hummingbirds
waging war in the yard.
And then name them.
Last year we had Zipper, Harley, and Marlin.
I want to focus on how the dog is lying down in the frog pose
and the cat looks like a snail.

I want to figure out which plants need watering
and then give them a drink.
I'd like to figure out why that new little oak tree
is taking root in the juniper.
So I can encourage him and his acorn friends to stay
and multiply.

I want to watch the clouds that are scattered
like sand dune shapes.
I want to watch the dogs sniffing the ground
searching for a lost tennis ball.
I want to watch the towheaded baby squat
to peer at the lady bugs.

I don't want to think about what needs to be done
or what I should be doing.
I don't want to have to furrow my brow
or squint in deep thought.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Small Moth by Sarah Lindsay


She's slicing ripe white peaches
into the Tony the Tiger bowl
and dropping slivers for the dog
poised vibrating by her foot to stop their fall
when she spots it, camouflaged,
a glimmer and then full on-
happiness, plashing blunt soft wings
inside her as if it wants
to escape again.

From Twigs and Knucklebones, Copper Canyon Press

No, "plashing" wasn't a typo....need a word? Make one up! It fits.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rumblings and Rants

Whine time! I've tried not to complain, but some things are getting to me!

Netflix: Hate it. The pressure! You have to pick a title, then it comes and everyone gives you the evil eye until you've watched "your" movie so that it can be sent back for the next one in line that they are waiting for. And you never know which ones are coming in what order so if yours comes you must drop everything or face said 'evil eye'. Argh.

Food Network: I've come to realize how wicked these shows are. For one thing, you are immediately hungry for whatever they are making as nothing looks bad on them. So, instant diet wrecker. Then, whoever is watching them gets very cranky because nothing that is available to eat at home is remotely desirable compared to what they've just seen. Major cranky.

Lady Gaga: I know it's all self promotion, her way of getting attention. And that by simply complaining about her is giving her some of my attention, therefore she is getting more than her 15 minutes and the circle continues. At what point will this stop? Do people consider her a talent or a sideshow? I don't get it. And on the VMA awards ( I had to watch as my teen sons commandeered the living room), what's with Madonna's tribute to Michael Jackson that was somehow all about her?

The phrase "a slippery slope." It used to be Law & Order had the franchise on this term, but I'm hearing it everywhere. It's annoying me in the way that "a paradigm shift" and "at the end of the day" used to.

Today the guys are watching an old (1995!) western, The Quick and The Dead. Respectable cast (Hackman, DiCaprio, Crowe, Sinise) except for Sharon Stone. I'm sorry but I'm not a fan. She utters the line "I'm gonna kill you if I have to ride all the way to hell to do it" with a straight face, and then "the Law's come back to town". Worst dialogue ever. Lame. It did make me ponder, on all the scenes of gunfights that happened throughout the movie, did the townsfolk really come out to watch? You see it in all the Westerns, everyone gathers to watch the duel. Me, I'm too chicken. I'd be hiding out at home under my bed. Or conveniently out of town. Why go watch? Was that historically likely? Same with hangings...did people really go watch? WHY?

Lastly, I must gloat. Got a TON of books this week. A huge box from Perceval Press (14 books!!!! Woo hoo!), I have it stashed for the perfect quiet moment to sort through and escape. One of the books is a Scott Wannberg book of poetry Strange Movie Full of Death: can't wait to open it! If there's anything like "Agony River" I'll be in heaven. Then from Alibris, where I had to buy some textbooks for middle child, I got two old out of print Tim Winton books (Minimum of Two and Blueback) as well as The Long Green Shore (about Australia in WWII? I think?). They were cheap, it was just shipping that killed it but since I had to get the textbooks anyways (that's how I justify it, don't knock it!).

Finally, YAY to Jon and Stephen being back after hiatus. They can't ever complain about not having material! And YAY to Kanye West for inspiring so many great internet parodies. And YAY to my parents: today is their 54th anniversary. Wow.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

I loved the book Mystic River, so much so I reread it once I finished it. I refused to see the movie because I didn't want to be disappointed. Time has passed, so I gave in and watched it recently. I didn't love it but damn, Sean Penn did exactly personify the main character as I imagined. Wow. Gave me chills.

I picked up Shutter Island recently by the same author, Dennis Lehane, and didn't realize it was being made into a movie (apparently coming out soon) until I'd started it. Bugged me a little, as I like to picture my own characters and since the movie trailer showed Leo Dicaprio and Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley Jr., well, I was stuck picturing them. But, whether it is visualizing them or not, SHEESH this is a good book. I can't turn the pages fast enough. It is a super fast read too, not as complex as Mystic River but still deep.

It's so Hitchcock-y in the suspense...I literally had the hair on my neck stand up at one point. This would be a perfect beach read if summer weren't winding down. I'll have it finished today, and am actually putting it off because then it will be over. Will I see the movie? Hmmm.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Too many bedtime stories!

Okay, so my 2 1/2 year old adores stories. I have books and music for him at bedtime, but lately he wants to hear me tell stories rather than read them. We've covered all of the exciting details of his birth, strange and funny family anecdotes, etc. The other night I was so tired I had no inspiration for a creative bedtime story.

However, I had just watched A History of Violence (edited, but sheesh! Mega violent). So, I retold him the story in a toddler friendly bedtime story way. I've included it below. It made me think how cool it would be to have a series of books (I know, copyrights and permissions would make it virtually impossible to get permission) based on Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, etc. Just simplified and cleaned up, but still enough for the parent to enjoy.

Without further ado, here is the cleaned up, sanitized version of A History of Violence; may the actual writer forgive me. Spoilers alert!

Once upon a time, out in a small town, there lived a nice man named Tom. Tom had a nice family. He had a diner that people liked to eat at. He made good coffee and everyone loved the pie.

One day some bad men came in to the diner. They wanted to steal the money. Tom said no and told them to go away. They were very bad and he had to put them in time out. Everyone in town was happy because the bad men went away.

But on another day more bad men came to town. They came into the diner and said “Hi Joey” to Tom.
“My name is Tom”, he said.
“No, you are Joey” they said.
“I’m sorry but my name is Tom”.
“Oh no, silly! We know you are Joey!”
Tom was very mad at the bad men, for coming to his nice town and calling him the wrong name.

One day the bad men came to his house to talk to him, and they told him to get in their car. Tom knew that you are never supposed to get into a stranger’s car so he said “No!”. The bad men didn’t like that and everybody ended up with a boo boo and these bad guys had to go to time out too. Tom got an owwie.

Then Tom told his wife that his real name was Joey. She got mad. He told her he used to be a bad guy but now he’s a good man but she was still mad.

He went to go visit his big brother Richie, who was still a bad man who lived far away. His brother was not nice to him at all, and bossed him around. They played hide and seek for awhile until Richie had to lie down and Tom went home. The bad men were all gone.

His family was happy he was home and he was back to being Tom.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Robert Heinlein quote

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” – Robert Heinlein
Quote from the blog "Bane of Your Resistance"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lewis B. Smedes on memories

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future."

Bridge on the Rio

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sherman Alexie "War Dances"

Sherman Alexie makes you laugh out loud. Then think. On The Colbert Report he had Stephen Colbert speechless with a joke about smallpox blankets and "Indian Giving". The short story "War Dances" published in New Yorker has his amazing insights and some killer metaphors....I read this and laughed but when it was all done the tears lasted a little while longer. Alexie's writing does that to you.

a too-thin blanket is "more like the world's biggest coffee filter."

a coffee house, "a spotless place called Dirty Joe's"

the hospital hallway is "like a beehive with colony-collapse disorder."

"no one ever wants to read the word "malignant" unless you're reading a Charles Dickens novel about an evil landlord, but "benign" and "majority" are two words that go well together."

"...right now temporary is enough."

Lines like "Vodka straight up or with a nostalgia chaser?"

"I remember how my dad spent a lot of time in MRI tubes near the end of his life. So I was wondering what kind of music he chose. I mean, he couldn't hear...he still must have chosen something. And I wanted to choose the same thing he chose."

All his work resonants with insights from his Native American heritage (he says he's an Indian), but this story managed to capture his biting humor and irony while discussing a dying parent, cancer, MRI's, Trader Joe's, and a visit to the Vatican ("plant an eagle feather and claim that you just discovered Italy").

Excerpts from the August 10, 2009 New Yorker magazine: Sherman Alexie's fictional short "War Dances".

Kay Ryan poetry

Fool's Errands

A thing cannot be delivered enough times:
this is the rule of dogs for whom there are no fool's errands.
To loop out and come back is good all alone.
It's gravy to carry a ball or a bone.

Kay Ryan (featured in New Yorker magazine)