Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald

The Rejection Letter that Should Have Been!
Dear F. Scott,

I'm giving up. I know you are a classic. Gatsby and all that. But truly, this novel is obnoxious. I dislike each and every character, and I hope they all end up in the Seine. I don't care enough to hate them. They are trivial, dull, and flat. The dialogue is unreal. Nobody talks that way.

Everyone is rich and has all that vacation time? Nobody takes taxis like that. Even the wealthy walk, sometimes.

And names? Dick Divers? Seriously? I'm just saying...

I can't finish your book. Maybe something revelatory will happen, but I'll miss it. I'll try to live without it. Maybe if I didn't keep hearing Jackson Browne singing everytime I see the title I would be more positive. "The benediction of the neon lights?"


Paralysis by Analysis

I'd love to credit that title to its proper author but I have no idea where I heard it.

It describes me perfectly. When I was actively designing, I'd find myself straightening my desk, aligning my icons, sharpening pencils, just generally putting it all off. Even though I was interested in the project, I had this immense hesitation. Too many times the actual work too far less time than I had projected: I had wasted so much worry and procrastinated so long that I could have been done and moving on to the next project. I knew that, but did it anyway, project after project.

Sometimes the time drain was more sneaky: I'd decide I needed more research on a period style, or even locate the specifications on an oddball item, just to be "thorough". That was just an excuse though, to delay the actual design work. Strangely enough, I do the same thing when I need to balance my checkbook: I'd decide I need to straighten the bills, organize them in labelled file folders, log them into Excel (you get the picture). Everything but actually balancing the checkbook.

So now, my current paralysis is on research. I'm working on a novel.

(Pausing here so you can chuckle to yourself. Go on. I know. Feel free.)


I want my novel to be accurate. It takes place in the U.S. but mostly in the U.K. Some actual historic events are referred to, and then there's the action of my characters. Problem is, I find myself digging into the research too much and writing too little. I purchased books on, no joke, the wildlife of Northern England (my setting), birds of the British Isles, plants and grasses of England, "Brit-speak", medieval warfare, walks of the Lake District, hiking paths of Northern England, actual road maps, Icelandic history, Reykjavik scenery, the history of the Long-Bow, etc etc etc. Add to that the books I've purchased on learning to write, and so far Amazon is the only one getting anywhere with this.

So how much is actually necessary? Do I need real street names to make it seem authentic? Does the reader really need to know (or care) about all those little things? I have no idea. I know in my own reading I love all the little details (you know me and my Winton!). Does detailed equal boring? How do I get past this?

I need to go balance the checkbook.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Sun Also Rises-Hemingway

This is considered one of the 100 greatest novels of all time, yet I missed it in my years of book lust. I once tried to read it last year, but got bogged down and gave up. This time I dug in and tried to focus. My impetus was reading another blog that asked 'what book setting would you love to live in?' and this book was the overwhelming favorite.

Keyword: alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. Wine, beer, pernod, absinthe, martinis, more wine. These people drank ALL the time, from noon till midnight. Copious amounts of everything. It made me wonder if a bottle of wine was smaller in the 1920's than now, simply because I can't imagine two people putting away four bottles of wine at lunch and still being able to stand.

The story is of the 'lost generation' of expatriots living in Paris in the 20's, and several of them were WWI vets. There seemed to be no purpose to their life other than to eat, drink, and be merry. Money didn't seem to be a factor, these people were living large and leisurely. I could see why some thought Hemingway was anti-Semitic; his description of one character, Robert Cohn, implied a personal prejudice by Hemingway. But perhaps that was more indicative of that time period? Not sure.

Anyway, Jacob Barnes has a war injury that makes him unable to consummate his feelings toward Lady Brett Ashley. She passes on a relationship with him for that reason, despite her clear affection for him. So he's left to be a bystander while she flirts and sleeps around with all of his friends. In the end, they are simply left with each other, as friends. Sad, and empty. Like much of their lives.

I had to laugh at one aside that Hemingway makes: he spent pages describing the road to one town, and while the character visits a bookie, the author remarks on his bookmaking and says "but that's not part of the story". I had to laugh out loud, as so much was in this that seemed irrelevant, pages and pages of descriptions of dust and roads and people, and yet he mentioned that one piece of information as inconsequential.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Byrd and Melanie Billings

Today I am in such a funk over the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings of Florida. Somehow this injustice and horror seemed to reach me more than others, as desensitized as many of us are who see this violence all the time streaming on CNN.
For me, the sheer shock of a home invasion simply makes no sense. Why them?

I actually feel pain for all the children they took in, mostly special needs children who had been institutionalized or lost in the system due to their disabilities, who found a loving home with this couple who opened their hearts to them. In some cases, it was the only 'home' they knew, the only one on one human contact they'd experienced in their short lives. This couple was wealthy, and rather than send checks to their charity of choice, they put that wealth to taking in and giving these children the best they could offer. Can you imagine how it felt for these kids to have someone look them in the eye, hug them, talk to them, and be interested in them? Even if it was just the quality of human touch, what an incredible gift to have given.
My heart hurts. One saving note, the children were not hurt (physically).

Uighur woman

Barely out of her childhood, this young woman ventures out in Uighur, Xinjiang Province, in China where unrest has been heavy this week.
I don't know why this photo speaks to me, something about that little hand reaching towards her face, with his cheek to hers. It's obvious she's concerned and protecting her baby, and I'm wondering what made her venture out into the danger.
BTW, the LA Times has a feature called "The Day in Pictures" where I found this, and it's really a neat grouping to look at each day, some happy, some sad, some scary.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Frightening News: It Could Happen to You!

Woman Goes Completely Insane from Allergy to Home and Family

(AP) NIPOMO, CA Authorities in California have confirmed that a long time Nipomo resident has gone completely out of her mind due to prolonged exposure to her own residence and to members of her immediate family. Their investigation is ongoing. Here is what is known:

The insanity began when a number of illnesses invaded the home: chicken pox and a virus to one child, as well as a viral flu to her husband and a case of shingles to her father. One dog had fleas and one cat had a nasty cough. Apparently, close proximity to these individuals and dutiful cleaning up of vomit, snot, hairballs, and other disgusting things led to the slow but certain demise of the victim, age 40 going on 70.

Her symptoms became manifest after family members noticed that the spices were alphabetized, the house was clean, and no cobwebs hung from the chandelier, clearly a sign of an impending breakdown. She apparently began speaking randomly of royalty, specifically a “King Julian” and started referring to family members as Skipper, Rico, Private and Kowalski. She banged her head against the wall and yelled “I am an otter failure”.

She was checking her email obsessively, apparently hungry, because she kept repeating “I’d even take some Spam”. She was also heard having long, involved conversations with her cat regarding his unethical and inhumane practice of catching birds.

Oscar nominated actor Viggo Mortensen confirmed the diagnosis when he visited, with the intention of stealing her away. “I promised to take her out of her sad, Cinderella life, and offered her my undying love. See, I have a thing for flabby arms and double chins,” he admitted. She offered a number of reasons she couldn’t possibly leave with him, most disturbingly her quote “I just want to walk around Target for an hour!”

Neighbors report her being especially interested in conversation with them, inquiring about their day, their health, their pet’s health, the health of their pet’s ancestors, even asking one neighbor to name all the dogs he’s ever had. Another neighbor, borrowing a cup of sugar, was held hostage for hours by said crazy woman, who riddled her with questions regarding whether or not the 101 freeway still went both directions, if McDonald’s still made French fries, and if there was any news in the world besides the death of Michael Jackson.

When the police checked in on her, she mentioned that she knew much of “the force” by listing the names of various officers in Fresno, Dallas, Miami, and Las Vegas due to her diligent watching of COPS. Lack of reading material had taken a toll on her, as she informed officers that if you read a back issue of Time backwards, it becomes People magazine.

Authorities are unclear at this point how to handle the situation. One local doctor suggested a forced visit to a major mall that featured a Starbucks, a movie theatre, a bookstore and a Nordstrom’s could in fact reverse her symptoms. We will keep you updated as developments occur.

Oriole Family!

The picture doesn't do this handsome guy justice, but it gives you a glimpse of Daddy Oriole who is living in my oak tree. Yes, he's taken, Mrs. Oriole is often sharing the feeder with him. Best of all, they have at least one baby, a little fluff of yellow that has made his way to the feeder twice. They are enjoying the hummingbird juice as well as some Valencia oranges. Their yellow is neon and gorgeous!
I saw him posing dramatically on the pergola rafters, thinking him vain, but now I realize he was probably keeping an eye out for predators. Obviously, I'm not getting out much but with this wildlife I don't mind.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

But this time, it's NOT me!

Everyone has had one of those days where everything goes wrong, when all wires are crossed and nothing works. Usually when it happens to me, after endless headbanging and frustration, I realize that maybe it's me. Maybe all the things going wrong go back to me and my attitude, bad mood, lack of sleep. When everyone is annoying me, including the cat, it really is me. Sad.

But yesterday, I was in a fantastic mood! Great mood. All was well in my world. So while I fought with Pacificare, tried to communicate with Geico and Allstate, as well as pay bills and balance my checking account I kept that in mind while it all went horribly wrong. Because I knew, this time, it wasn't me. It was THEM. I had a gorgeous sunny day outside with a great night's sleep. No excuse to let Geico, Pacificare and Allstate off the hook for their behavior.

Why can't I call and speak to a human? Why do I have to log every conversation with them because they WILL screw it up? I have to have a confirmation number for everything, as well as the person I spoke with, because I know that it's just a matter of time before I have to do it all over again. And why is it that when you want to speak to a person they keep directing you to the website? My own insurance agent directed me to Allstate's website to fix the problem myself, to which I could barely resist asking 'so what do I have you for?" Why are some businesses so incompetent that I wish I could just reach through the phone and do the transaction myself?

Child 1 had the same problem with Fandango, trying to buy movie tickets. The automated line wouldn't work, so he finally said at one of the auto prompts, 'get me a damn person!' and then was promptly hung up on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Harvest time

My favorite tree in the yard: canning this week!

Friday, July 3, 2009

More Chihuly....gorgeous

Chihuly.com, go to "glass" and then to "seaforms"...this is from the loop 1 section. Wow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gorgeous Glass

Dale Chihuly blown glass


The site has amazing works...

Tasmania Window

Skilled workers and artisans needed!

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford.

This book was just released in May and it's fascinating. It espouses the return to good ol' manual labor! The author's conjecture: he likes to work on motorcycles and feels good when he does. But he takes that further and shows new studies regarding work that are surprising, especially considering what mainstream beliefs have been regarding blue collar work.

He finds in his own work, as well as informal study and in tremendous research that hands-on workers, such as plumbers, painters, mechanics, and builders report more job satisfaction than a white collar, 'stuck in front of a computer monitor' executive. And, even more interesting is that in most cases, these workers end up making more money too, and their jobs are less fragile in a bad economic downturn. Common sense really, as we will get our toilets fixed and our cars running even if we are broke!

The author has nothing against higher education, but he points out that most guidance counselors push students into colleges with loftier hopes than are generally realized; and in fact often sneer at students that take more humble ROP or trade classes. And he backs it all up with data that supports his belief.

He then dips even further into the mind set of a manual worker: the joy from hard work, and the ability to see a project progress right in front of them, start to finish. To start a project and finish it within a few days and realize his goals on a tactile, personal level. The ability to make decisions that directly impact his work space and work goals by being more in charge of his time and resources. He also shows that the typical "ideal" employee graph would show a worker starting at an entry level position (hands on) and then working into management and further up, yet the rate of job satisfaction decreases the higher up they rise! So the "ideal" promoted by schools and colleges needs to change.

He's not suggesting that an employee have no ambition or drive, but rather to excel in what they do and take pride in it, and not be pressed to promote himself at the expense of his craft. Even specialization, often looked upon as a negative, actually makes their work more valuable. He suggests that mechanics or other tradespeople develop within their skills even more specialized skills and focus on excellence rather than self promotion.

All in all, a fabulous read. Sort of along the lines of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but it actually discusses more about motorcycle maintenance and about the world of a mechanics shop (camaraderie, dirty jokes and all!).