Friday, January 31, 2014

BOOK REVIEWS. Sort Of.

I am going to try and make a habit of including at least one little quote from each book I read this year. I stole the Idea from Lu. You won't tell, will you?
[Edited to add some missing links]


The List of Seven (audiobook) - Mark Frost  

"All the devil requires is acquiescence ... not struggle, not conflict. 
Acquiescence." 

The first in a new series, this is a unique handling of the Holmes stories, which paints them as based upon experiences of Doyle, himself.

I might also add, quite well done.


The Invisible Man (audiobook) - H.G. Wells

“The Anglo-Saxon genius for parliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal of talk and no decisive action.”

This is a reread and I had forgotten the power of the story. The pain of being an outsider, alone and misunderstood, is palpable - as is the edge of sociopathy.




It Can't Happen Here (audiobook) - Sinclair Lewis

“He loved the people just as much as he feared and detested persons.”

This quote reminded me of the last election, or at least 47% of it.

This book has to be more terrifying than any horror story that ever troubled my sleep. Why?

Because sometimes it seems that it is actually close to happening.

Brain Bugs (audiobook) - Dean Buonomano  

"So, for the most part, we remain ignorantly blissful of the extent to which our lives are governed by the brain's bugs."

It's strangely comforting to know that my struggles with mathematics, and relative ease with language, is a direct result of the way the brain is wired. (You hear that, mom?)

This is basically a book about how important it is to pay attention to our thought processes - how and why we think the things we do. In college we called this metacognition.

Monkey Mind (audiobook) - Daniel B. Smith  

"Anxiety ... Everyone has it. Everyone must deal with it."

With humor, Mr. Smith tells us that this is not a memoir of recovery. But it did help me to realize that my issues are not nearly as bad as I thought.

That's recovery of a sort, no?



How to Read Literature Like a Professor (audiobook) - Thomas C. Foster

“So what did you think the devil would look like? If he were red with a tail, horns, and cloven hooves, any fool could say no.”

This is my favorite quote from the book, and the one least directly addressing the subject at hand.

This book brought me back to my university days and refreshed my memory. However, as an aging poetry lover, these these days I am much more apt to discuss the things a poem made me feel than how it did it. (Now you know why my reviews are so short!)

Son of Holmes (ebook) - John Lescroart  

"It was embarrassing, but with a war going on, embarrassment was a luxury I couldn't permit myself."

This is the first book in the Auguste Lupa series, mixing murder mystery with historical and political intrigue, and Mr. Lescroart provides yet another fresh take on the Holmes saga.

Or does he?

Is Auguste Lupa actually the son of Sherlock Holmes? Or is he really the young Nero Wolfe? Or is Nero Wolfe in actual fact the son of . . .

Reiki Meditations for Self-Healing (audiobook) - Bronwen Stiene

I must confess that I had a bit of difficulty with this audiobook.

I'm okay with meditation on my own, but guided meditation invariably puts me to sleep.

So . . . not good for meditation; excellent for getting rest.



The Picture of Dorian Gray (audiobook) - Oscar Wilde

"It is the spectator, not life, that art really mirrors."

I first read this novel when I was 12, and I can't believe how much I missed. I think I needed a bit more life experience than 12 years allows, to catch a lot of the subtext.

Maybe I need to reread everything I read when I was young.

As I recall, I shuddered at the ending the first time too. Sorry, is that a spoiler?

"W" is For Wasted - Sue Grafton     

 “Maybe it was time to at least pretend to be a nicer person than I knew I was.”

There is a sense of continuity and a sort of stability afforded by the slow passage of time in this series, that I like.  I don't know of any other series this long that has moved this slowly. Do you?

Have you ever noticed that private detectives meet an awful lot of irritating people.

Stories of Hope (audiobook) - Chronic Pain Anonymous    

{Review Link Here}








Syndrome E (audiobook) - Franck Thilliez    

"That really gave me the willies, seeing them playing with your head like that."
"Just routine. It's like sitting under the dryer at the hair dresser's for a perm."

Intricate and intriguing, with a plot that combines fears that come from the old cold war days as well as today's headlines. I'm looking forward to further translations of Mr. Thilliez's work.

One issue. Our lead character, Detective Franck Sharko, is said to have schizophrenia, but then it seems to have been the result of extreme trauma. Was it caused by or only exacerbated by the trauma? And did it go away or is it just resting? I'm just a bit confused on this point.

At any rate, he seems to cope and bring a unique perspective that aids him in his investigations.

29 Gifts (audiobook) - Cami Walker   

{Review Link Here}







The Healing Garden - Sue Minter  

{Review Link Here}









Accessible Gardening for People With Disabilities - Janeen R. Adil  

{Review Link Here}









Accessible Gardening - Joann Woy   

{Review Link Here}








Get Fit Through Gardening - Jeffrey P. Restuccio

{Review Link Here}








Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness - Bunny Guinness & Jacqueline Knox  

{Review Link Here}








New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith - Stevie Smith        

Think "Shel Silverstein for adults."

The Past

People who are always praising the past
And especially the times of faith as best
Ought to go and live in the middle ages
And be burnt at the stake as witches and sages.


The Englishwoman

The Englishwoman is so refined
She has no bosom and no behind.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Quote of the Day


If the system turns away from the abuses inflicted on the guilty,
then who can be next but the innocents?

- Michael Connelly

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Goodnite Pete, You Have Earned Your Rest . . .


My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.
- Pete Seeger, Rest in Peace.


Quote of the Day


In other words, "Your whole structure must be changed."  A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.

What I’m saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"

And so, I conclude by saying today that we have a task, and let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction.

Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.

Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied.

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol will be housed by a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy, and who will walk humbly with his God.

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.

Let us be dissatisfied, and men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The Epidemics of Desire

- Tarfia Faizullah

Through leaves curling into delicate
fists, I walk before dawn across Franklin,

past doorways where the dark scent
of urine rises stronger than coffee brewing

behind the counters of this Lebanese diner
where I twist warm and worn forks and knives

into batons of flimsy cotton. Across town,
you are doing the same, I know—and soon

we will be hefting in our hands trays
filled with bowls of soup, neat wedges

of sandwich you will slide across tables
to customers, smile with blue eyes. They

will not ask you where you are from, or
how long you have been in this country

these mornings I tie back my black hair,
line as usual my eyes with black kohl. How

like those boys of my youth you look:
unmarked, smooth as the pressed white shirts

they wore days they knelt at the classroom
altar, offered up again their bright tongues.

I line the fork and knife up with each edge
of paper napkin and twist, begin again, trying

to get this work of the hands right, recalling
your stories of summers spent carting boxes

of cold beer from bar to bar, satisfied
with the day only if not a single bottle broke

as they do here each night, glittering shards
knotting sidewalks where men lean against

brick walls, their eyes and skin as dark as mine.
This morning, too, they called out to me as they

do, though I said nothing, unsure whether it is
affection or aggression that volleys the air

between us. Already the tables are filling up,
so I wipe them down, empty ashtrays, and smile

at men in business suits asking me to "say
something in Arabic." I think of the man

on Monument you told me tripped and fell
from a ladder, how another man stumbled into step

beside you, exclaimed, Look at that
nigger!
What did you wish you had said,

or done? Easy enough to forgive the man
his assumptions, but I have always wondered

what it is like to move through the world
in a skin like yours, bearing a face that women

adore, and men trust—its blue eyes framed
by a shock of blond hair, golden as the Turkish

tea I pour for customers as light startles
each wide window. Perhaps you wanted

to say, I hate that word, or, Shut up, or perhaps
you were thinking again of the poem you had

been carrying with you for weeks, whether
to exchange the drift of sparrows rising

from a sycamore
for a flare of starlings
startled from a pine by a freight train.
But

I imagine, unfairly, your silence: a moment
only you knew as shock ushering in the day

and its faint beginnings, the light just flaring
out onto rings of grass circling Stonewall Jackson

on his horse, gazing always northward.
Al-Jazeerah blares from the small TV

in the back room, and I continue to fill round,
white cups, listening for the train that will lumber

past pale bellies I imagine rising and falling,
warm in their beds. In that same poem, you asked,

Are bodies nothing more than epidemics
of desire?
Here is what I know of desire: these

men who gaze at me as I walk past them
as though I might be the one to turn their cups

stained with dregs of coffee over, read
to them their fortunes. The eyes of the man

that night outside a gas station in Vidor, TX
when he warned me, You may not be a nigger,

but you sure could pass for one.
How blue
they were, fevered with both lust and fear—

not unlike the blue of that afternoon you once
described as a sky buttoned to the neck. I want

to ask you why, when I stumbled towards
my car door, the man moved towards me, more

as if to offer an arm as he would his mother
than to wound. But I do not want to be this

strange, foreign shade asking you what it means
to be a white man moving through this world,

or why the man in Vidor let me go. In the end,
neither of us know whether he would have

twisted fistfuls of my hair in those bruised
and tattooed fingers, or whether we will always

wipe curls of straw wrappers off tables
in the settling silences of these emptying

restaurants. I do know that there are men
like you desiring to become men. That there

are still men like those who once menaced
these streets in white hoods, carried crosses,

transformed their god into crimson, amber,
gold spines of light. A body, epidemic, perhaps,

but flesh also—flesh that fills, as you
wrote, the ever widening spaces we are made

strangers to.
Flesh: beaten, burned, pierced
through its sides, stroked into flame, this weary

pinfold of skin I button into a heavy coat
after untying from its waist another stained

and wrinkled apron. In winter, the sun
descends at 4:30, so I walk my way home

through the dark past street lamps flickering
on, knowing that when I get there, I will unlock

the door, and, fully clothed, push myself
under the unmade covers of my bed, stay there.

No reason not to.

Originally Published in Copper Nickel

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult.


Quote of the Day


In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.
 - Mark Twain

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Can Fly . . .


Photographer


Amazing! It takes so much patience to capture these beautiful photos.

Why should I support my Local Library?




The New York Public Library puts it succinctly with a statement that applies to all public libraries:

The Library is a hub of knowledge, culture, and communication. Without your loyalty and support, this free and accessible public service simply would not survive.

Federal funding covers only a fraction of our expenses. The ongoing support of patrons like you determines what the Library is today and what it will be in years to come.



Whatever you geek, the public library supports you. 

Join Geek the Library in spreading awareness about the value of libraries and the critical funding issues they face.



 
 

Bradbury ... was an avid supporter of public libraries. In a 2010 interview with the Paris Review, he said that he’s "completely library educated." 

Indeed, much like the current DIY learning movement, Bradbury eschewed formal higher education, particularly for writers, in favor of a self-directed process of unbiased, library-centered discovery.



The Declaration for the Right to Libraries is the cornerstone document of ALA President Barbara Stripling’s presidential initiative, Libraries Change Lives, which is designed to build the public will and sustained support for America’s right to libraries of all types – academic, special, school, and public.
In the next year, libraries of all types will hold signing ceremonies, during which community members can visibly declare their right to have vibrant libraries in their community.  The signing ceremony is intended to serve as the launching point for continued and vibrant community engagement to:
  • Increase public and media awareness about the critical role of libraries in communities around the  country
  • Inspire ongoing conversations about the role of the library in the community
  • Cultivate a network of community allies and advocates for the library
  • Position the library as a trusted convener to help in the response to community issues

 


99 WAYS TO VOLUNTEER AT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY

If any of these sound interesting or if you have other talents to offer, please give your local library a call.
  1. Internet docents will assist library users with connecting to the Internet, basic operations of the graphical browser used by the library (often Netscape), help locate specific sites/URLs that the user wants to visit, make suggestions for those curious about the net. Some basic computer maintenance may be involved as well.
  2. Repair books to extend the lives of the libraries’ resources.
  3. Shelving books is pretty much self explanatory.
  4. Delivering books to seniors and housebound persons. Operation Homebound and similar projects need volunteers to help with the delivery of books, magazines, large print, and tapes to persons of all ages who are ill or physically disabled or who cannot get to the library. This work may include the matching of appropriate books for the homebound person and getting to know that person.
  5. Shelf Reading where someone adopts a shelf section and basically keeps it in order. Choose your favorite subject.
  6. Video Tape checker/rewinder – someone has to do it!
  7. Storyteller for the children’s section of most all libraries.
  8. Bookwasher is what they call those, armed with paper towel and squirt bottle, who clean off the covers of books.
  9. Friends of the Library is an organization always looking for help with booksales and planning special events.
  10. Artists are always in demand to create posters for special events, sign and graphics for the library.
  11. Clerical work may not be glamorous but its necessary.
  12. Flash! Sue Rebro of the Moline (Illinois) Public Library doubled our list with the following additions:
  13. Index the obituaries from your local paper.
  14. Cut out items for story hours.
  15. Clean up and weed the area around the library.
  16. Help inventory the library collection.
  17. Assemble new library card packets.
  18. Offer to organize a book discussion group.
  19. Keep the tax forms in order at tax time.
  20. Send for the free material available from each state’s travel bureau.
  21. Set up a drive to encourage travelers to bring back phone books (not stolen) from their travels.
  22. Dust the computer screens and keyboards.
  23. Help with mailing, writing, collating, and stamping the newsletter.
  24. Call your local librarian for the remaining 77 ways you can help your library.



GIVE YOUR LIBRARY SOME LOVE


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Farmer's Market - I've Got Worms!



Created by Heather at Capricious Reader, and now hosted by Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on.





No. No. 
Not me personally.






 


You remember that terrarium I've been nurturing for most of the last year, sorting out plant choices and moisture levels, etc?
















For several months I've noticed swirly tracks in the condensation each morning, and I've been trying to identify what pest was causing them and how to deal with it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a very young, but definitely recognizable earthworm, crawling up the side of the tank.
(Please forgive the picture quality.)























So now, on top of trying to track down plants that will thrive in a closed terrarium, I need to figure out how to balance the plant needs with the needs of my new tenants. Don't get me wrong. As a gardener I love the little gold spinners, but this is a terrarium not a compost bin. Doesn't that change the priorities?

My thought is that what ever I've done so far has made them happy, so as long as I don't deviate too much from that, they should be okay. Right? I hope anyway.

I can't find anyone even remotely local who knows about dealing with a large closed terrarium that is not also a vivarium, just some vague information on the internet. And now, with my new guests, there is even less information.

I seem to be pretty much on my own here. I have my gardening experience, of course. Then there is common sense coupled with trial and error. I need to find more appropriate plants and I fail as much or more than I succeed, but the terrarium seem to be stable so far.

By all means, if you have any ideas, feel free to offer.

How are things going for the rest of you? You all had some beautiful house plants and some very creative ideas this past year. I hope everyone is staying warm and well.

And the adventure continues . . .


Coping Skills Are Important



Friday, January 24, 2014

Gold in the Black Forest . . .


Image credits:


His photography is beautiful & breath taking. Please take a moment to check it out. 
You won't be sorry.

In the Mood for a Repost . . .


Nothing Gold Can Stay
- Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

from: The Poetry of Robert Frost. Copyright 1942.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quote of the Day


Poetry might be described as the clear expression of mixed feelings.
- W. H. Auden

Questions, Anyone?



Monday, January 20, 2014

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult.


Happy Birthday Dr. King.



We may have all come on different ships, 
but we're in the same boat now.





Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today's Lesson . . .



I Have Students Who Would Love for These to Take the Place of Their Assigned Readings.

Found on bookriot,

1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare: Just make up your mind already, dude.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke: As they say in the Lion King, it’s the circle of life, people.

11. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: Sucks to be a bug.

24. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: Society cramps your style, but it’s so damn convenient when it accepts you.

28. Anything by e. e. cummings:
capital
letters
are for
losers.

30. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Check out the rest of these masterpieces at bookriot.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

One At a Time, They are Breathtaking . . .



When they pile up . . .


Surprise! Surprise!


In the desert
- Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend,”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

from: The Black Riders.
 
I found this powerful piece on, Everything Distils Into Reading, the blog of Gautami Tripathy, and I just needed to know more about its author, Stephen Crane.

Yes, I know I said that I was going to focus on new poets this year ... But I can throw in some extras. No?

On looking him him up, I got quite a surprise. Not only had I heard of him before, I had already read some of his work, but I hadn't made the connection.

Perhaps you've heard of a little novel called Red Badge of Courage. (Gutenberg) Yup. It's his.

As I read on I found that he is actually considered a very innovative and influential writer.

Crane's writing is filled with vivid intensity and irony, and he captures distinctive dialects with ease.


For more information about Steven Crane and his writing, try: here, here, here, here, here, & here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

But Wait! There's More!



Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan,
 this one pierces my (English/Reading teacher's) heart.

The Times Magazine, although it has tried to add modern details, still seems old fashioned, page after page of type. It needs to be read and that seems, I believe to almost everybody, exhausting,” – Michael Wolff.

Reading: who needs that shit any more?


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cowt Herding

Returning readers have already met 'Benicio del Gatto,' our black and white tom cat. He is quite a unique character.

Though solid and muscular, he started out long and lean. And although he is black and white like a cow, we suspect that he is part Siamese.

He is affectionate but doesn't like to cuddle, and he is also quite vocal. I have actually carried on entire conversations with him. (wondering what we were talking about the entire time)
 






As I've mentioned before, he also has a talent for opening doors. He can open nearly any door, and can unlock some. We have to be sure to double lock the front and back doors to keep him from letting the dogs out. I'm actually quite sure he knows how the dead bolt works, it's just too stiff for him to turn. (We have hidden the WD40)



As smart as he is, he can't sleep anywhere without falling off - repeatedly. Not on the window sill, or the counter, or the computer desk, or even the dining room table. But he's used to it. He just climbs right back up and returns to dreamland.

One day while I was working in the garden, I looked up to see a black and white cat down the road and figured Benny got out without my knowing. He does that sometimes, because the grass calls out to him. (a call familiar to some people I know)

I called out and started toward him, and he came running, calling back to me. When I got close I realized that it was not my strapping boy cow, but a tiny kitten cow. She purred and kissed and seemed quite happy to see me.

I fed her and introduced her to our other cats, and needless to say, she has become a part of the family.

Her name is now 'Our Little Joon-Bug.' She and and Benny hit it off right away. They chase and wrestle and play, and have become wonderful friends.

In other words, we now have a pair of cow cats (cowts?) named 'Benny & Joon.' And where can we find a poem to celebrate our tiny herd?

Why in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, of course . . .

The Song of the Jellicles
- T.S. Eliot

Jellicle Cats come out to-night
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright -
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.


Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.
Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.


Jellicle Cats develop slowly,
Jellicle Cats are not too big;
Jellicle Cats are roly-poly,
They know how to dance a gavotte and a jig.
Until the Jellicle Moon appears
They make their toilette and take their repose:
Jellicle Cats wash behind their ears,
Jellicle dry between their toes.


Jellicle Cats are white and black,
Jellicle Cats are of moderate size;
Jellicle Cats jump like a jumping-jack,
Jellicle Cats have moonlit eyes.
They're quitet enough in the morning hours,
They're quitet enough in the afternoon,
Reserving their terpsichorean powers
To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon.


Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats (as I said) are small;
If it happends to be a stormy night
They will practise a caper or two in the hall.
If it happens the sun is shining bright
You would say they had nothing to do at all:
They are resting and saving themselves to be right
For the Jellicle Moon and the Jellicle Ball