25 May 2012

Stuff to look at (or Stuff at which to look)

I have been really bad about blogging lately. And I don't really have time for a post today, so I thought I would leave you with some stuff to look at. A bit of a mixed bag, so hopefully there is something for everyone.

Lovely yellow rose next to our front door.

John just took these two photos this morning.

Back in February Lucy decided she was a cheetah and found a high point for looking for prey.

Sniffing the breeze.

Delicious devilled eggs that my friend Ron made on Easter.

Books in our old apartment.

A delicious winery stop in Sonoma in 2006.

Our friends first newborn goat was named after yours truly.

On our way over the Great Barrier Reef to Lizard Island in 2006.

Sunset from Lizard Island.

This April my parents were with us when they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Here they are opening a
picture of a street sign at an intersection in St. Paul where a street with our last name intersects with a
street with my mom's maiden name.

John set a lovely table.

He did the flowers as well.

I made the food.

Rub my tummy...please.

I'm still waiting.

I'm not sure they wanted their tummies rubbed. Somewhere south of Big Sur, California.

Doesn't get much more peaceful than a lake in the Adirondacks.

14 May 2012

When marketers target list makers

The other day I was buying a stack of books at a charity bookshop when I spied a book with a picture of books on the cover. Always a sucker for pretty pictures of books (like the one to the right which has the added bonus of having a real phone in it), I had to find out what it was. Turns out it was a book club journal. You know, one of those pretty, but probably useless journals that stationers/publishers like to dangle in front of people who like journals (more likely people who like the thought of journaling), or people who like lists. Don't get me wrong, I love a list, but I think that a good list doesn't need special formatting or pretty pictures. Especially when the journals are produced especially for the keeping of such list. Like once I saw a little spiral bound journal that was strictly for keeping track of wine consumed, where you were when you drank it, and who helped you. That might be interesting information to keep track of, but there is something kind of cheesy about these single purpose journals. I know what it is, they seem like journals for poseurs. Anyone with a real desire to list things just needs a blank sheet of paper or a spreadsheet. Granted those blank sheets of paper could be in a bound journal, but they don't need to be adorned with helpful little hints. In the case of the book club journal, it has a headings like "Conclusions Reached".  Gimme a break.

BUT, the book club journal was only $1 and it included lists of suggestions for book club books broken down by category. I don't belong to a book club so I don't need the helpful suggestions, but I can never pass up a book list. Especially if I can cross off (or usually for me, highlight) the books I have read. It always makes me feel so smug, both about the ones I have read as well as the ones I haven't read (no doubt I have really good reasons for not following the crowd...)

What surprised me about these particular lists was not so much what was included and what wasn't included, but the fact that the list that had the most titles that I have read was a category of fiction that I really don't read much of. I know it is more coincidence than anything, it just so happened that these are the titles they included, but who'd a thunk that I would have read more SF/Horror/Future than some of these other categories?  You guys know me well enough to be surprised as well.

And for you listophiles, here you go...

Who ever would have thought that this would be my most
read list with 9 of 20 books read. The only one other one I
am certain I will read is Fahrenheit 451.

Between the page above, and the one below I have read 12 of the
titles listed in Contemporary Fiction, but that is with twice
as many to choose from, so on a percentage basis, I didn't do as well.
I will definitely read the Mitford and the Amis.

I read a chapter or two of the Barnes back in 1995, otherwise there isn't
much on this list I am drawn to.

I might feel bad about my poor showing in this category if I hadn't
read plenty of others that aren't here. I loved Colette's the Ripening Seed
but have been stand offish about her since I saw that horrible
film version of Cheri.

This is a category I should have done better in, but their
list just isn't very good.

I think this is the list I am most interested in exploring more.  I definitely don't like formulaic mysteries.
I want to like them but I just don't. I will definitely read The Moonstone, but otherwise I don't know
if this is a good list or not. What do you think? If I want to expand my reading in this category
what should I try that is, or isn't on this list?

My worst showing of all. The only one that is on my TBR radar is the Graves.

Ah, the classics. I feel like I should get credit for reading three other Lawrences so I
don't have to read this one.  I see myself getting to the Alcott, Eliot, Austen,
Hawthorne, Gaskell, and maybe the Hardy, Fielding, and Thackeray.

13 May 2012

Book Review: Look at Me by Anita Brookner

I haven't read any Anita Brookner since last year's rather successful International Anita Brookner Day. Having finished all of Brookner's 24 novels, my intention is to re-read all of them in chronological order. Last year for IABD, I knocked off her first two novels The Debut (A Start in Life) and Providence. As much as I have liked all of Brookner's novels on the first go, I found last year when I re-read those first two, that I liked them even more on a second read. Now with her third novel, Look at Me, I find myself of the same disposition. In fact, I think that Brookner's novels which can seem superficially similar, have a depth that really makes them worth a second read--and frankly, I can imagine going back to them again and again for the rest of my life. This is especially comforting since, the once prolific Brookner (at one point a novel a year for about 20 years) seems to have slowed down considerably.

Frances Hinton, who hates being called Fanny, is always called Fanny. She works in a medical research library and like many other Brookner heroines, is miserably comfortable with her routine. That is until Dr. Nick Fraser and his wife Alix decide to make her a part of their social life.
If I moved in with them I would be delivered from the silence of Sundays, and all those terrible public holidays - Christmas, Easter - when I could never, ever, find an adequate means of using up all the available time.
Unlike many other Brookner heroines, Fanny comes to life as a result of this friendship and even starts seeing a doctor, James, who makes her happy.
Although I am naturally pale, I could feel the blood warm in my cheeks. I drew no conclusion from this, and my instinct was correct. I was not falling in love. Nor was there any likelihood that I might. But I was being protected, and that was something that I had not experienced for as long as I could remember. I was coming first with someone, as I had not done for some sad months past, and in my heart of hearts for longer, much longer.
Fanny's benign desire for someone to finally pay attention to her is ultimately overtaken by Alix's much less benign, somewhat pathological need to have everyone looking at her instead. Alix uses Fanny for her own amusement and doesn't seem to mind the results. Fanny reflects on her relationship with Alix:
I was an audience and an admirer; I relieved some of her frustration; I shared her esteem for her own superiority; and I was loyal and well-behaved and totally uncritical. Yet she found me dull, intrinsically dull, simply because I was loyal and well-behaved and uncritical.
And it is Alix's need to be at the center of attention that makes her more of a taker than a giver. Alix may have introduced Fanny to James, and enjoyed watching their relationship develop. But when she thinks she is being denied all the details of the results of her matchmaking, or worse, when she realizes that Fanny isn't letting the relationship with James go where Alix thinks it should go, she begins to drive a wedge between Fanny and James. In many ways there is nothing unusual about this story, I think we have all been subjected to the cruel selfishness of so-called friends, and we have all been jilted in romantic relationships. But for Fanny the situation is life changing in a way that she struggles against. She sees her life going in a direction that seems inevitable despite her efforts to alter course.
I could have been different, I think. Once I had great confidence, great cheerfulness; I did not question my purpose or the purpose of others. All that had gone, and I had done my best to replace it. I had become diligent instead of spontaneous; I had become an observer when I saw that I was not allowed to participate. I had refused to be pitiable. I had never once said, Look at me. Now, it seemed I must make one more effort, one more attempt to prove myself viable. And if I succeeded, I might be granted one more opportunity to do it all over again. I did not dare to think what would happen if I failed.
Does she fail? If you have every read Brookner, you probably know the answer to that.

10 May 2012


This was taken at Christmas, but I just came across it on a flash drive and couldn't resist...

02 May 2012

Overplayed "songs" I wish I never had to hear again

Mozart trying to write something that will make everyone forget about Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
(Tom Hulce playing Mozart in the brilliant film Amadeus.)
Too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing. The following is my list of music that I think has been overplayed and/or overmarketed to the point of being painful to me. It doesn't mean they are bad, it just means I never want to hear them again.

  • "Respect", "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman", "Chain of Fools" and almost every hit by Aretha Franklin. I will keep listening to her gospel album however.
  • Anything by the Beatles. Full stop.
  • "At Last" by Etta James
  • "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
  • Beethoven's 9th Symphony. I love Beethoven's other 8 symphonies and his opera Fidelio is one of my favorite operas, but I really have learned to loathe the 9th.
  • Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
  • The "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah by Handel.  I can listen to Messiah a lot, but the HC I can live without.
  • Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Actually, when it comes to the classical music, if I can suspend my aversion, I can still appreciate them, especially if they are performed well. Except for Eine Kleine, that one I just plain hate.

What's on your list?