26.4.05

How very cool!

BBC to broadcast the Quaker sound of silence.

I attend Meeting (irregularly these days) and I think this is a very neat idea. So many people ask me what it's like to worship in virtual silence; my only worry with this is that people might assume it's "dead air" and change the station.

Kudos to the BBC for the effort. Wonder if it'll make the BBC World feed?

24.4.05

Cheated

I've just finished a disappointing book (no, I'm not going to name names here). It was by one of my favorite authors, one of the earlier books he wrote. Usually I read his stuff with delight, but this one just confused me all the way through. Luckily, the next book I'm reading is also one of his, and it's more up to the quality level I expect.

I know there are actors out there (Michael Caine, famously) that take jobs because of the money. Bruce Willis has admitted that some of his choices are made so that he can take a lesser paying role in a film he feels passionately about (Nobody's Fool, for example). But an author?

Ok, the Barbara Cartland's of this world churn out their stuff at an incredible rate and who cares about the ultimate quality. And the genre writers can get a bit tired of the series and not give it their best effort. I understand that. But there are some, this one in particular, that have a certain reputation and have consistently delivered a certain quality.

This one book leaves me feeling cheated of both time and effort, not to mention the money I spent to purchase it (only available in England, for some odd copyright reason). Very annoying, isn't it?

22.4.05

NOW they tell me

The fish we love to hate: "Actually, it's not necessary: Gefilte fish has no symbolic significance whatsoever on the Seder plate."

All that misery could have been avoided had my grandmother and mother known! (รพ: Alice)

19.4.05

Is it just me?

I've been accused of having a strange sense of humour before, but to me, there's something really funny about a book entitled "Ireland" written by a woman named Erinn!

16.4.05

Guilty as charged

Sarah Weinman wrote about her new bad habit - being overly critical of books as she's reading, and the book she's writing. At the end, she asks
Since I think this particular affliction affects those who write, either for a living or for a hoped living, did this sort of "sea change" happen to you, and when? How do you approach reading fiction when there's the distinct possibility that your time will be spent analyzing and deconstructing? And does the brain ever switch back, so you're "just a reader" once more?
I have to confess, I'm guilty of the analyzing and deconstructing, as well as wincing over bad grammar and typos. I'm one of those obnoxious people that threatens to red pencil a take-out Chinese menu or an incorrect ad in the subway. I scream at the telly when the newsanchor says "For Steve, Chris and Judy, I'm Susie..." instead of "On behalf of...". I'm sure it's very annoying for the people around me, but those that love me understand.

When I read a book, small errors can bother me (I read a mystery set at a major university library, with the books cataloged in Dewey not LC - and I couldn't finish the book). Large errors, like poor plotting or books that were rushed into print to take advantage of an emerging trend, bother me even more.

However, and this may contradict all I've written above, I can watch a badly acted show with few problems. On the other hand, I do the MST3K thing when I'm watching, so perhaps I am irredeemable after all?

15.4.05

Whine whine whine

Language Log takes a nice look at Pledge break psycholinguistics. Confession time: I haven't given to my local NPR or PBS stations in years. Yes, I enjoy their programming but I hate whine week to such an extent that when Channel 13 stopped their "we won't whine if you donate $X by this date" campaign, I gave up.

Also, why donate during the umpteenth viewing of Suze Orman or Visions of [Country] instead of Masterpiece Theatre or Mystery or Frontline, programs I actually will watch? Those "specials" are as annoying as the interminable pledge "break"! If anyone with any influence on the program managers reads this, suggest a Mystery-a-thon or a rerun of, oh, The Pallisers. I'd pay good money for those.

12.4.05

Private, Public and Personal

Yesterday, Camillofan disagreed with my comments about the personal taking over the public spaces in which we expect privacy.
It's just that none of the places you named (buses, streets, hallways, etc.) seem to me to qualify as "private space."
She's right: these aren't traditionally thought of as "private space."

Perhaps what I'm objecting to is the sense that there seems to be almost no behaviour that isn't considered public any more, and those are spaces into which the intensely personal has intruded. I don't mind a general conversation in the hallway - but a personal conversation about one's health or love life doesn't belong there. I don't mind people writing or reading on the subway, but putting on their make-up or clipping their toenails doesn't belong there.

My sister worries that her children are growing up in a world in which we're "on" all the time - always reachable by cell phone or IM or Blackberry or whatever new cool tool comes along - and in which we cannot distinguish between the personal and the public. Despite Will R's railing against the use of the word "blogging" to mean anything but thoughtful contributions to what he calls the read/write/think web, the fact is that blogging means using various tools (Moveable Type, WordPress, Blogger, Live Journal, Xanga, etc.) to write and publish publicly about anything the writer chooses to write about. Some blogs are very personal, detailing the writers struggle against illness or problems atwork or chronicling their sex lives.

I'm of two minds about that type of blog. Blame the way I was raised, but I'd hesitate to write in such a public forum about something that personal. Write or call a few friends? Certainly. That's what friends are for, after all. But even in this forum, with the minimal readership I get, talking about the intensely personal, my daily struggles to cope with my life and the on-going changes therein, seems wrong somehow. I've done it in the past and I've felt uncomfortable with it (heck, I feel uncomfortable reading about these things on friends blogs!). So I'm going to stop. That's not an indictment of others that do make that choice, it's simply stating that for me, in this medium, in this forum, it's not the way to go.

11.4.05

Exploring the dark side

No, I'm not going to write about The Revenge of the Sith (which will - thankfully - be the last of the Star Wars movies). Unless you think that all things dark are part of the Sith/Jedi continuum, and you're welcome to do so.

The past few weeks I've been seeing movies and reading books that are dark in tone. Sin City, for example, takes noir to a new level. First, there's the language. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a deliberate choice to use the clipped Spillane-ish language, that it was hewing to the reality created in the graphic novels. Still, it grated on my ears (I have sensitive ears for that sort of thing). The blatant objectification of women wasn't a problem for me, because I walked in knowing that this was what the genre was about. Ditto the lack of character development and the repetitive nature of the stories. I was even amazed and pleased at the creation of the "world", the cleanness of the transfer from the graphic novel to film. But it is a dark world that gets explored.

De-Lovely shouldn't be a dark film, but it is. The relationship between Cole and Linda was deeply disturbing. The power struggle, the love she has for him that is twisted (to say the least), the unhappiness they both had were moving. One could almost see a parallel to what we imagine the Clinton's relationship being: she's with him for the power it brings, despite the constant pain she's in thanks to his actions. I could name many in my circle of friends and acquaintances that also fall into that love/hate/need/despise relationship, including myself, which is probably why I found this the more problematic of the films.

Then there are the mysteries. By their nature, mysteries explore the ugly and the dark - a murder here... a theft there... intent and retribution all swirled into a nice package for the reader. Some mysteries, however, are darker than others. I usually stay away from the hard core and the procedurals, but the cozies are losing their charm for me. Years ago I read Judas Child and became enamoured of Carol O'Connell's writings, which started me reading her Kathleen Mallory series. Mallory (no one dare call her Kathy) is a unique creation, I think. She's a sociopath and a cop, adhering to her own moral code. The coldest, most disturbing of the series is Stone Angel, and I highly recommend it. The newest, Winter House, is not at that level - images from it have not inserted themselves into my head the way Stone Angel did. But... the story of Nedda "Red" Winter is chilling in its own way.

Wrapping up my dark exploration is With No One as Witness, Elizabeth George's latest. The story itself isn't bad, but the ending, with the casual violence of today's society wrecking havoc on the major characters, is the part that will stay with me.

Perhaps it says something about the place I am in my life right now - the things I'm finding important or are occupying my mind seem to be tinged darkly. Perhaps I'm seeing more darkness than is there, or than is intended. Yet given the recent events that have so captivated the news and the chattering classes, perhaps the darkness is out there reaching in more and more.

Just say NO

I read this post on Language Log with interest. Yesterday, during a 6 hour train ride, I was "treated" to the conversations of a young Hispanic lady seated three rows behind me (I mention her ethnicity because a few of her conversations were in Spanish). By the end of the ride, I could repeat the stories she told, including:
  • her recent college visit
  • she doesn't like the cafeteria not allowing her to eat what she wanted when she wanted
  • her friend Dave
  • her conversation with a girl that thought there was far more going on between Dave and her (this other girl) than there apparently is
  • that "old school" hip hop from "back in the day" is undanceable and should be banned
  • a dance floor in a bar that is the size of her living room is reason enough not to go to this college 
Each conversation ended with "I'll call you right back", but I don't think she did given the repitition of the stories. Every other sentence started with "Yo" (I'm assuming she wasn't using it as the Spanish first person singular pronoun). 

 Why do I mention this? Because I was a trapped, unhappy audience. It wasn't the single-sided nature of the conversation I minded, it was the conversation. Period. People on cell phones do not use their "inside" voices, they raise their voice so that everyone can hear. I resent this intrusion into my private space. 

If airlines go the way of busses, trains, streets, classrooms, hallways, elevators, etc., we'll not have anywhere available to get away from these unwanted, annoying disruptions. If you're ever asked, just say NO. Then use these cards to spread the quiet

The Great American Novel

Maud reminds me that yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Great Gatsby. When I think about the Great American Novel, this is the one that I think fits that description most.

Why? Because it's the classic story of reinvention, of money and glamour, and failure: the things that epitomize the American experience. Yes, there's Moby Dick, which plays to our obsessive nature and the ruggedness that built the country. There are probably others that could contend for the title, but The Great Gatsby is It. So there.

1.4.05

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

New and cataloged this past quarter (note - these are mostly Chidren's/YA lit):

The Rise of the House of McNally, Philip Ardagh
The Book Without Words, Avi
Soul Stealer, Martin Booth
Diary of a Fairy Godmother, Esme Raji Codell
Shrimp, Rachel Cohn
The Legend of Spud Murphy ,Eoin Colfer
The Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of 5th Grade, Kenneth Derby
The Old Country, Mordicai Gerstein
Blood Red Horse, K.M. Grant
The Princess Academy, Shannon Hale
Stealing with Style, Emyl Jenkins
The Shamer"s Daughter, Lene Kaaberbol
Escape Across the Wide Sea, Katherine Kirkpatrick
Jake, Reinvented, Gordon Korman
Word Spy, Paul McFedries
Take It Off, J. Minter
Winter House, Carol O'Connell
Stealing Princes, Tyne O'Connell
Sixth-Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me, Lisa Papademetriou
Hunting Unicorns, Bella Pollen
Going Postal, Terry Pratchett
The Carpet People, Terry Pratchett
Still There, Clare, Yvonne Prinz
The Color of Fire, Ann Rinaldi
The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love, Rosie Rushton
Hide and Seek, Clare Sambrook
Bras & Broomsticks, Sarah Mlynowski
Project Mulberry, Linda Sue Park
Fourth World, Kate Thompson
Click Here, Denise Vega
Dragon Keeper, Carole Wilkinson
Adam Canfield Of The Slash, Michael Winerip