31 August 2006

Poetry before 7 am

A few days ago I wrote here about a quote from Rilke regarding experience and emotion in poetry. This morning, I read the following poem by Donne. Another way, it seems to me, to express the same idea. I've been rereading Donne, having not read him for many years. I had forgotten how beautiful and concise his poetry was. Perhaps Donne's poetry is better understood by someone middle-aged. It takes a few years to realize one is a fool, and many more to understand the fool's wisdom.

The Triple Fool
John Donne
I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry ;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny ?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increased by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

(I really am frustrated by not knowing how to ident lines in Blogger without messing with the CSS template. Obviously, I didn't get it right here. Any suggestions?)

And here is a poem I stumbled across unexpectedly this morning--sometimes it pays to read those email ads from the big box bookstore. Hadn't read this one in a while. Wow! Two cool poems before 7am!

Fame is a bee.
It has a song --
It has a sting --
Ah, too, it has a wing.

--Emily Dickinson

And, because it's Thursday, which means it's Poetry Thursday, here is a page with lots of links to on-line literary magazines, some of them exclusively poetry. Thanks to Susannah at Ink on My Fingers for leading me to this page.

29 August 2006

A brief reflection on a quote by Rilke

"For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences."
—Rainer Maria Rilke

I came upon this quote yesterday while clicking through links on some blogs (I wish I had made note of where I found this....) Poetry Thursday's writing prompt this week is to reflect on one poem. Instead I think I'll reflect on this quote.

I like that it states that poems are "not...simply emotions". It doesn't reject the emotional, but reflects on the depth of those emotions. It's easy to think of experiences as being the superficial, with the emotion of that experience what comprises the memory of it. But, with a poem, in capturing the essential feeling of the experience, the poet captures the emotion and creates a new experience.

And then, that experience of the poem -- or the memory, the emotion, of it -- becomes the reader's own experience, her own emotion, yet another new 'creation'. I like the iterative nature of that, like the painter painting himself into the landscape with a painter painting the landscape....

27 August 2006

Other Things: Not Books, But Movies

Mostly in this blog, I write about reading and writing or things of a literary nature. But sometimes I write about other things. Today is an "other things" posting.

I see a lot of movies, usually about one a week. But I don't write about movies often, because I'm not sure that I have the vocabulary to do so. While I have the experience, by education, of reading critically, I don't have that same kind of critical knowledge when it comes to movies. I just know what I like. And, more importantly, what I don't like.

When I read a book, I can react to it on many levels -- emotionally and critically. But, when I watch a movie, usually it is just an emotional reaction. Often, I'm not sure what to say, once I get past a thumbs up/thumbs down recommendation. So, the three posts that follow are an attempt to do more than just 'yeah' or 'nay' a movie.

Back to books soon.

Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine is achingly real, quietly farcical, bitingly sarcastic, intelligently written and absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. It might be the best movie I've seen all year -- and I've seen a lot of them.

You know from the opening shots of the angry teen doing pushups in his room decorated with posters of Friedrich Nietzche (you find out later he's taken a Nietzchian vow of silence), the frazzled mom lying about smoking to her husband, an abysmal failure of a motivational speaker, and the hospital release of the just-failed at suicide Proust scholar brother-in-law, that this is NOT a healthy family. Add to that a smack-addicted grandfather with no stopping distance between brain and tongue and a pudgy, but enthusiastic little girl who is the most unlikely beauty pageant contestant you've ever met and you know you have the makings of what is going to be an unusual road trip. This is a family so dysfunctional that they barely make it through dinner without a meltdown, much less a 800 mile trip to make little Olive believe in herself by being in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.

Sure, some of the events along the road are predictable. But this movie is not about jokes about sex, porn, drugs, the elderly, cops or broken down vehicles. It is about how this unlikely but gut-wrenchingly real family responds to them. In the end, they function despite their individual narcissistic idiosyncrasies and, however dysfunctional they are in expressing it, their love for each other.

Alan Arkin is perfectly cast as the cranky, drug-addict grandfather. Greg Kinnear plays the part of the about-to-explode motivational speaker. Steve Carrell, in an unusual display of understatement, gets laughs as the jilted gay Proust scholar suicidal about the loss of his partner to his chief professional rival. Toni Collette is the frumpy, frazzled mom uncertain how to handle her failing marriage or her unreachable, unspeaking teenage son, played by Paul Dano. Dano nearly carries the film with only his angst-filled expressions of contempt for his family, giving a portrayal of teen suffering that is never seen in Hollywood but likely exists around the corner in your neighborhood. And Abigail Breslin steals the audience's heart, not because she is the cute beauty pageant queen untouched by the glamour of the pageant, but because she is so innocently outside of its glitzy trappings, and because, while she does not realize fully the problems of her family, she knows about them and accepts them anyway.

I don't want to tell too much and deprive you of some of the funniest scenes on the screen this year. Just go see this movie!

Movie Review: The Great New Wonderful

The Great New Wonderful is a montage of five story lines with nothing in common other than the central characters being New Yorkers. The trailer and other advertising tells you that these are people one year after the WTC terrorist attacks, trying to piece their lives together again. But there is nothing in this movie that connects most of the characters to 9-11, nothing that shows any pain, any sign of a life-altering event related to terrorism. Rather it just shows 5 vignettes of people, with ordinary lives, each unique in the circumstances of the pain in their lives, pain that could be present any time, any place.

I'm not a New Yorker and I can't say what it was like to look at the NYC skyline and see a smoldering hole on the near horizon, or to smell the putrid stench that permeated the city, or to understand a palpable difference in the way in which people behave in New York. But, I've had New Yorkers tell me that people are different since the attacks, more polite, kinder to strangers. And with a different degree of understanding of the attacks. I can't prove that; I can only take it as their experience.

But, if this movie is suppose to evoke the trauma and pain and the changes people in New York have gone through, it either falls short or I just don't get it. The pain present in each of the story lines is believably real. As short stories, they make a point, individually: the career couple only focused on the next 'win', the couple struggling with their emotionally disturbed child, two immigrants trying to make a living in America without losing something of their own culture, the aging woman who resents the routine of her life. Only the story of the psychiatrist talking to a survivor of the attacks has any connection to 9-11 (and I didn't understand at first that this character was at the WTC, although it seems that other reviewers have placed him there. I thought at one point the shrink says something about 5 months passing, yet it is September 2002. I must have missed something.)

None of the characters seem to be shell-shocked, traumatized, or changed because of 9-11 and little is said to connect to the events of Sept 11th until the ending of the movie when a date is displayed over a shot of a single plane flying overhead in a clear sky. Few of the characters are even likeable. I wanted to hiss 'bitch' at Maggie Gyllenhall's character a few times, and scratched my head that the film seemed to praise her uncalled-for verbal attack in firing an employee. I wanted to shake the parents of the disturbed child and yell 'Get. Him. Some. Help. Now!'. I wanted to ask the man talking to the psychiatrist why he didn't leave if the session was voluntary and then report the unorthodox treatment that bordered on abusive. The only story that I liked, that I thought had any grasp of the real, was the story of Avi and Satish, the two Indian security guards. Their story clearly expressed the strong bond of friendship between the two and showed a gentle forgiveness and acceptance of each other.

All of these stories could have been fleshed out more and possibly been the basis of a film. But, as an example of life after 9-11 in NYC? Instead of portraying that clearly--the connection to the traumatizing events of 9-11-01 so subtle that it is simply tenuous--the film fails. Rather than being the unifying element, it just seems like a cheap attempt to tie together five unrelated stories into one film like something that a marketing department thought needed to be added in order to sell tickets. Because of that, I felt cheated by this movie.

Movie Review: Scoop

It was with some reluctance that I went to see Woody Allen's new movie Scoop, having been so disappointed at seeing Match Point last winter. In fact, I'm not sure that I've enjoyed any of the movies Allen has made for about 7 or 8 years. Yet, still I go to the theatre thinking that Woody Allen -- the director that made me at age 19 fall in love with movies by making me laugh, and cry, and think with his wit, charm and lovingly real portrayals of people with all their wonderful foibles -- cannot continue to disappoint. But, I haven't been 19 for sometime.

Scoop, Allen's second "London" movie and second film to star Scarlett Johansson, was supposed to be a comedy, something light to follow the cynical Match Point. But Scoop has something else in common with MatchPoint besides Ms. Johansson and London, which sadly is hardly the backdrop the city is in MatchPoint. (That at least gave us some gorgeous shots of the Thames and the Swiss Re 'Gerkin' building.) That common element is a tired re-working of a previous Allen film. Where MatchPoint was an updating of Crimes and Misdemeanors, Scoop is more or less a re-working of Manhattan Murder Mystery with a less believable set-up, worse acting, and too many jokes stolen from other Allen movies. And, except for a few quick scenes of Royal Albert Hall, it could have been filmed anywhere. London is not Woody Allen's new New York; it is neither a character in this film, nor a backdrop. It's just where he calls home these days and shoots his movies. Might as well be Liverpool or Atlanta. Or Portland or Des Moines (although the Brit jokes would have to change slightly).

Scoop is a slapstick, crime and ghost story, with plenty of jokes about differences between English and American, young and old, Jew and Gentile, with a few angst-filled jokes about life, aging and death. The premise: that The Great Splendini (Allen) accidentally conjured up the ghost of a journalist who convinces naive Journalism student, Sondra Pransky (Johansson) to grab the story of a lifetime. While tracking down the non-existent clues (that's part of the joke), Sondra falls in love with her chief suspect Peter Lyman, played by X-Man hunk Hugh Jackman. This, I suppose, is to provide the 'conflict' in the story. It seems as improbably as the ghost. Of course, Sondra and Splendini are able to ingratiate themselves to upper-crust British society and solve the murder. And, of course, while a happy ending for one of them, there is a price to be paid. Yawn. It's boredom for the audience.

I'm tired of hearing the same Allen jokes. I found them funny when I was younger. Now I just find them boringly predictable. Allen used to be original, but re-working the same old same old isn't original. It's just the same old same old you can see on late night cable re-runs. Save your money and watch Hannah and Her Sisters, or Manhattan or Annie Hall on late-night. Maybe even Crimes and Misdemeanors. Just don't expect to see something even close to that good in Scoop.

25 August 2006

Physics for Scientists and Poets

Place: The 12th annual Back-to-School night (for this parent at least):
Setting: 2nd year AP Physics Class
Timing: Mid-way through the teacher's 7 minute speech


"The text is this book. (Holds up book for viewing) It's the best text there is. Physics for Scientists and Engineers"

"Named so because it's for, well, scientists. And engineers".

(Long pause to allow teacher to do a reality check, assessing the following:
a. Parents who are not listening;
b. Those who take this W-A-Y too seriously;
c. Anyone with a dry sense of humor.

Teacher continuing....)

"As opposed to the Physics for Poets and Lovers, which is a much easier text. Too easy for your kids."

But probably better written! I think. I was the only one who laughed out loud.

Earlier in the day, I had read Jim's wonderful poem "Contemplating God in the 11th Dimension / String Theory / Mottled Ducks". In response, I was inspired to write the following poem (now slightly revised) in the comments section.

Jim, maybe one of us should write that Physics for Poets and Lovers book. What do you think?

Twisting Physics Makes a Poem
I thought about writing a poem
about a mobius strip
--or a Klein bottle
for added dimension--
No direction to start,
so I jumped right in
along the thin edge,
around and around,
until I came back to me,
twice as long again
at the beginning
and the end.

If you haven't visited Jim's site before, click on over to I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small. He's a wonderful poet.

Here's a neat idea! Audio Book Club Podcast

Oh, I like this idea. Renee at Renee's Book of the Day is seeking contributions for a new book review podcast. Her podcast, Renee's Audio Book Club will feature reader reviews and she promises to credit you if you leave your name. Call the number to review the work; read a passage; give your reaction.

The first book is Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. There isn't a set deadline yet, as she is working through some technical details. I hope there is a regular schedule for submissions and air dates once she has this up & running.

Check out the link for more information.

24 August 2006

There Are Some Things You Come to take for granted... the planets revolving around the sun. All 9 of them!

Reuters posted this story a few hours ago.

Two weeks ago we all knew what we had learned in 2nd grade: That there were 9 planets in our solar system. Then last week, they proposed adding 3 more. Now we have 8? I think Pluto deserves to be grandfathered in. Don't you?

And, as for the old mnemonic, what will we do without My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas? (Or Pickles as those of us babyboomers, who grew up before Pizza Hut & Dominos were regular meal options, learned it...)

Maybe this: My Very Egocentric Mother Just Served Us Nothing???? Cynical, but with a very contemporary feel of victimization to it. Maybe someone will come up with something better...

23 August 2006

Poetry Thursday

This week's Poetry Thursday prompt was to write about time. I had been thinking about time as a distance earlier this week when I drove by what I used to think was just a shallow, man-made retention pond nearby my home. Earlier this summer, a car slid into the pond and I was amazed when I heard on the news that the pond was 80 feet deep. I wish that I could look at this pond and only be joyful for the young boy who was rescued from the sinking car; but instead, knowing how deep it is, I shudder now at how what looks like such an innocous pond, its shoreline receded during times of drought, is treacherously deep.


The ducks paddle carelessly,
not knowing what stirs
beneath in algal water,
murky and still.
Innocent, pastoral, and calm,
until the SUV rolls back
across the parking lot,
clearing the low rail
like a lumbering elephant.
Unfathomable screams ripple across the surface
stealing air from a mother's lungs,
freezing her heart with dankness
as, across time in slo-mo,
all of his life falls out of the sky
towards the bottom.

No feet put on solid ground,
only wrinkles in glass;
air bubbles surfacing.
13 fathoms measured in seconds,
ticking off the lost years
of childhoods yet to be,
the comfort not to be had
if he reached for the far bottom too soon.
80 feet too close towards the future,
feet measured in seconds and breath,
until the earth stops spinning
and he stops falling, rising to the top,
with a splash kick of air and fire,
to see the light of day
in his mother's fearful smile.

Now as I travel nearby,
I wonder how many seconds separate us,
how many feet exceed our tiny grasp?
I am not a strong swimmer
and let murky time slip through
my chilled fingers like melting snowcaps.
How many times do we set out on
journeys with arcs unmeasurable:
the curve of the horizon
much farther than the blazed trail;
the valleys of the heart much deeper
than we can imagine?
How many times does the earth,
having swallowed a life whole,
spit it out to fall
into the bright blue sky?

22 August 2006

What I'm Reading Now

Too much might seem a likely answer, but I don't think that you can ever read too much. I am over-committed on my reading though. To wit:

1) For my Book Group: Ivanhoe. Meets 9/7. Choice made when I was on vacation and I just obtained the book. Yikes! > 500 pages. What happened to our Less Than 400 rule? I am NOT looking forward to reading this.

2) Have an ARC of book I committed to reviewing by 8/31. Have read 3 out of 300 pages.

3) The University lecture circuit is starting up again. Zadie Smith will be giving a lecture at Butler University on 9/11. I'm thinking I'd like to have read something by her beforehand. I bought White Teeth a few months ago, but haven't started it yet.

And EO Wilson will be speaking at DePauw Univ in November. When I read this article, I had to add his soon-to-be published book The Creation: A Meeting of Science and Religion to my list. From the article linked:
In his "usual eloquence," Wilson "pleads for the salvation of biodiversity, arguing that both secular humanists like himself and believers in God acknowledge the glory of nature and can work together to save it," opines Publisher's Weekly. "Wilson passionately leads us by the hand into an amazing and abundantly diverse natural order, singing its wonders and its beauty and captivating our hearts and imaginations with nature's mysterious ways." The review refers to E.O. Wilson as "our modern-day Thoreau."

I hope the lecture is worth driving an hour to hear.

4) Am considering participating in a discussion on N.T. Wright's book, Simply Christian, also on Sept 11. From reading the reviews on Amazon, I know that my perspective on faith and religion is quite different from any of the reviewers, but they give me no clues as to whether I will have any interest in this book once I get a copy. Wright, an Anglican bishop, has written extensively, but I am unfamiliar with his writing. Although not the only issue in question, I'm curious where he stands on the Gene Robinson ordination debate and the Episcopal Church's possible break with the Anglican Communion.

5) I have a 600 page textbook to skim through before taking a certification test. I think the deadline is this week. :-(

6) I'm busy reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels. Having just returned from Venice, I like that I have vivid images of the streets he describes and wish that I had found the time to read this before I traveled. The last chapter I read (about halfway through the book) centered on Henry James and Ezra Pound and their lives in Venice. Mentioned frequently are James' The Wings of the Dove and The Aspern Papers. I'm familiar with The Wings of the Dove from seeing the movie, although I've never read the book. The Aspern Papers, however, is a work I wasn't aware of at all. Interestingly, Berendt draws parrallels between the fictional work Aspern, loosely based on struggles with Byron's estate, and the real-life drama that unfolded when some tried to gain control of Pound's papers as his aging lover, Olga Rudge, slipped into senility. Add The Aspern Papers to the TBR list.

7) And then there are the on-line discussion groups I should probably just give up on. I'm such a slacker. a) Reading....War and Peace. I'm so far behind that I'll never catch up. I didn't like the translation that I had, so I bought a copy of the new translation by Briggs when I was in the UK a few weeks ago, since it isn't available in paperback in the States yet. The hardback version violated my book weight requirements. Yes, I have such requirements! I want books to exercise my brain, not my biceps. b) The Slaves of Golconda: Need to read The Island of Dr.Moreau by 8/31. Sadly, this probably won't happen. c) A Curious Singularity, the short story discussion group. I re-read Chekohv's "The Lady with the Lapdog", a story that I really like and to which I had a much different reaction after reading this time. But, I never posted anything on it. Interesting posts on the site. Check them out if you haven't read them yet. Maybe I'll be able to join the discussion for the next round.

8) As if I didn't have enough to read, when I went to the bookstore to get a copy of Ivanhoe and the Wright book, I bought the following titles: John Banville, The Sea; Julian Barnes A Brief History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters; Francine Prose Reading Like A Writer. And I have the books I bought while on vacation: 2 books of poetry; 1 work about a poet's writing process; Ruskin's Venice: The Stones Revisted, combining excerpts from John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice with photography of the buildings he describes; and Leonardo's Machines, bought at a special exhibit on DaVinci's mechanical inventions. And I'll have to read the two cookbooks I bought, too.

9) And, as if this list wasn't daunting by it's sheer volume, there are stacks of books in my house yet to be read. See the sidebar lists. How I've failed miserably on my Summer Reading Challenge goal!

And, isn't it funny that I've had a book on my 'Reading Now' list for months titled Getting Things Done? Obviously, I haven't picked up or applied any tips from this book to my growing reading list!

Old Oak Hill

Yesterday, I mentioned taking pictures of the trees budding in the Spring, and changing colors in the Fall. Some of the pictures can be seen here. It isn't a complete progression through the seasons. Mostly Spring, with some Winter and Summer pics. I'll have to add the Fall pictures to the photo set later. All of these were taken of a very old oak tree on the hill behind my house. It has a trunk circumference of about 12 feet and is tall enough to be seen above the other trees from 1/2 mile away.

20 August 2006

The Hobglobin's Working Meme

When I saw The Hobgoblin's (aka BikeProf) Working meme, I wondered if doing this wouldn't lead to getting dooced. But, since I worked until 5am this morning (I'm not complaining; work for the last several weeks has been planned around this event) and now my sleep cycle is totally screwed up, this somehow seemed an appropriate exercise in the middle of the night. Most of the jobs described here were jobs I had 10 or 20 years ago. (The first job was more like 30 years in round numbers, but we're not counting, right?) Nothing in this post is about my current job, but I could tell stories.... Couldn't we all about any job we've had? But those stories are always more fun to tell when there is distance.

Emily at Telecommuter Talk has referred to this as the Resumé meme. I think I would call it the non-Resumé meme as most of these would not appear any resumé I would give to a prospective employer!

1. What is the first job you ever had? I worked in a children's portrait studio at a department store. Originally hired just to sell portraits and frames, I begged my boss to teach me to operate the camera. I thought this job was so COOL and I loved getting little kids to smile for the camera. While all of my other friends were making minimum wage, which had just recently been raised to a whooping $1.65, I was making $3.55/hr. I was 16 and thought I had hit the BIG TIME with all of that cash. At 18, they gave me a company car(!) and I traveled throughout a 3-state area taking pictures. It was a job that taught me so much about working and corporate life. I worked for this company on & off for close to 10 years. At the time, I never would have dreamed that it would be decades before I would again earn something even comparable to most of my peers, but the journey hasn't been about how much money I earn.

2. What is the weirdest job you have ever had? I've worked in the restaurant industry before and this type of work, whether it's washing dishes, working the grill, serving food, or bartending, is pretty ordinary. But, one of my endeavors in food service gave me by far the weirdest job title I ever had: 'The Jello Girl'.

Yes, this was unofficial, but since the entire part-time staff had the title of 'student cafeteria worker', the supervisor of the dorm food service made up her own titles and the fulltime workers used them to refer to us. In fact, she wouldn't learn anyone's name, so you were only known by your position-related moniker. Odder still, since I didn't live in the dorm, all of the other students, while calling their friends by name, also called me The Jello Girl.

Why Jello Girl? Because I did salad & sandwich prep and was mostly responsible for making trays of Jello every morning before breakfast. Making industrial-sized servings of Jello is weird. (Did you ever see Soylent Green? We'd joke that's what we were making. Gross!) These were huge trays of Jello, left to set in the walk-in refridgerator because the trays wouldn't fit the regular industrial sized fridge. My instructions were to make it go further by diluting it with 30% more water.

After lunch, in addition to cubing the semi-congealed jello, I would take the leftover (unserved, thank goodness!) grilled cheese sandwiches and, after toasting them again, would cube them to make croutons for the salads. My evening duties? I would show up at the cafeteria at 4pm to serve juicy steaks, real mashed potatoes, and luscious, cooked to perfection vegetables to the football team in their private dining room. Of course they called me by the only name the heard -- "jello".

Then, following my nightly humiliating servitude to the football team, for 45 minutes, I was responsible for replenishing the salad & jello bar in the main dining room before being relieved of those duties by the "Senior Salad Girl". Carrying those trays out to the dining room was always a challenge because the jello would slosh so in the pan, the cubes having both melted and congealed into a more or less semi-solid state. And, despite the grotesqueness of the nearly liquid jello, it was usually one of the more popular items served. (See grilled cheese croutons above if you wonder why!)

After 2 quarters of this, my biology professor offered me a job cleaning iquana cages, autoclaving pipettes and flasks, and making the lab version of jello: agar. Better hours, no hassles from football players, and neither the professor or the iguanas ever called me 'jello girl'!

3. What is the shortest length of time you have had a job? 9 days. One summer while in college, I was a paid political canvasser for a lobbying organization, canvassing rural neighborhoods in the Midwest, seeking signatures for ballot initiatives, and, of course, monetary donations. You'd meet all kinds of people doing this. More than one person answered the door wearing only a towel. One woman told me she 'Wasn't interesting'. (What?) A man told me to move to California where the other crazy commies who loved Nixon and Carter lived. (What? What?) Another woman told me she'd have to check with her husband before signing anything and I should come back after he returned from the Klan meeting! (WTF? This was the Midwest in the late 70's, but ...WTF?) I've thought many times of using this as a tactic to get rid of insistent sales people at my front door, but I just can't.

I probably would have collected many more antidotes if I had stayed the entire summer. But, on Day 9, our little ragtag group of canvassers was dropped off in a very small, Norman Rockwell-like town, about 3 hours from where I lived, while the main group of canvassers went to a town in the next county. Having just returned from spending the semester abroad, I felt sort of like Kirk and Spock when they had beamed down to some primitive planet where their phasers didn't work and everyone noticed they were wearing doubleknit jumpsuits. We were greeted by the sheriff who informed us that they had a law prohibiting door-to-door sales, which he considered the same as asking for donations to some wacky (sort of), tree-hugging (not really), left-leaning (a little, but in a traditional, red-state/blue-state sort of way), political lobbying group. The manager said that this could be a legal test case and that someone would post bail for us before the weekend was over. We all decided that it was better to sit in the small town park while waiting for our ride and drink warm beer (which apparently wasn't illegal in this town) than to spend the night in jail. Any radical, "let's-fight-the-establishment, wish-I-could-have-protested -in-the-'60's" feeling vanished when thinking of the very real possibility of sitting in jail for the weekend with Barney Fife or, more likely, Boss Hogg, as my jailer. Since we didn't collect any money, we didn't get paid. I never went back, but I did continue to drink beer that summer -- cold beer!

4. What is the longest you have had a job? 3 years, 4 months. Then company was sold to another & I worked for the new company for 3 yrs, 3.5 months. So, together or separate, it's still the longest I've worked at one place. However, there was little that remained the same, except for the drab cubicles, during those 6.5 years. When I left, it didn't feel like the same place as when I started.

5. Have you ever worked more than one job at a time? Although I haven't for the last several years, for awhile it was rare when I didn't work at least 2 jobs. Most jobs worked concurrently was 6: (1) newspaper route planner, (2) researcher and typist for headhunter, (3) copyediting, proofreading, and page layout for a manufacturing company, (4) taught classes in how to use software at a business school, (5) adjunct writing instructor at a community college, and (6) publicist/marketer for a chiropractic practice. All allowed me the freedom to set my own hours and work at home so I didn't need to use costly day-care. During this same time, I edited a newsletter for a non-profit on a volunteer basis, which was more fun than all the other jobs combined. Working so many different jobs seemed like a good idea at the time, but I am skeptical of women who say that they can work at home and watch their kids at the same time. I think my life would have been less chaotic and my work more effective if I worked one full-time job. Still, I did get to be there for some wonderful moments with a toddler, such as watching in wonder the red ant/black ant battles on the patio. The work was, well, just work.

6. Have you ever been fired? Never fired or laid off until 2005. And then I was laid off from 2 different jobs within 6 months! The good part: the first lay-off was in the Spring and I took pictures every day of the trees sprouting leaves; the second was in the fall, so I could chronicle the leaves turning as well. There was a certain sort of comforting symmetry in that. One of these days I will do something with those pictures other than just store them on disk.

7. Have you ever walked out or quit a job? I had a job several years ago where tensions had been high for months. Everybody in the office was under enormous stress. Let me set the scene: I had scoped a project that should take 6 months with 3 professional resources but my boss told me I had one temporary employee, no additional funds and 6 weeks to complete. His boss (good cop/bad cop?) told me to ignore the timeline and see how far we could get in 6 months. After about 4 months of working 80-90+ hrs/week, I was leading a review meeting when the boss walks in 1/2 hr late, demanding to know what was going on with the project. Every time I started to explain the current progress, roadblocks and proposed solutions, he interrupted, demanding to know why I wouldn't answer his question. Then, before most of the organization's senior-level managers, he berated me for being so incompetent that I couldn't get the project done on time. I took a deep breath and made a split-second decision. I quietly told him that it if he didn't have any confidence in my abilities, he needed to find someone else to do the work. I handed him my project notebook, stood up, walked out of the conference room trying not to shake, went back to my desk and called the director saying I would be resigning. To this day, I've heard that this man claims that he fired me. Yet, I've been told that they were still trying to complete the project 2 years later, and I still have 'ok to rehire' in my personnel file at that company. This happened the day before the school year ended. I spent the summer having fun with my son, making up for those ridiculous hours where my son would sleep in a sleeping bag in my office so I could work. (Yes, that was totally whacked!) I started a new job the day he started school in the fall. It probably wasn't the best way to leave a job, and because I was single at the time, it was scary wondering how I would pay the bills, but I had a wonderful summer! I wish I could take a summer sabbatical every few years.

8. What was your most interesting or unusual job? As I think back on all of the jobs I've had, sadly, nothing stands out as that interesting or unusual. What I do just isn't that interesting, and is often viewed by others as part of some mysterious world with limited access, something that one must be really smart and/or really nerdy to be allowed entry into some sort of geek brotherhood. What has been interesting is that I've been able to work with people in a variety of fields and, purely by chance, not design, I've worked for several companies that involve science as part of their core business. Having studied literature and the arts, this has given me amazing exposure to an entire realm of thinking and knowledge that I would not have otherwise known about except in the most peripheral way. That said, the most interesting and usual things related to any job I've had -- whether it was working in a bar or in a Fortune 500 company -- have been the people. I don't think I could work for long in solitude.

And while it seems so cliche, the most interesting and challenging 'job' I've had has been parenting. As an acquaintance of mine, who like me was by choice a solitary parent, said not long ago, parenting leaves you so much poorer financially, but so much richer in every other way.

9. What is your ideal job? When I was a teen, I thought it would be so cool to have a talk show, where one could get paid to have interesting, intelligent conversations with people about books, films, art, and ideas. I wanted to be the younger, hipper, female Dick Cavett. The way talk shows are today in our celebrity-obsessed culture, I think this would be drudgery.

So an ideal job? One where I didn't need to work for money for food and rent, that involved interactions with other people, and somehow had a component that allowed me not only to 'teach' (probably in an non-traditional way), but also to learn. Several months ago, I inquired about being a docent at a museum. It isn't a paying job, but one that I think would be a blast! I was disappointed that they won't be taking applicants until 2007, which doesn't seem that far in the future now.

If you've made it this far, you're tagged.

17 August 2006

Old Sol's Planets are not fixed marks?

All you clever wordsmiths: check out this contest: create a new planetary mnemonic for our expanding universe -- well, uh, solar system. The prize, apparently, is galactic recognition.

Check out the comments section for link above for already submitted suggestions.

This article, explains the sequence (MVEMCJSUNPCX). If you're too lazy or pressed for time to follow the link, 'C', 'X', and 'C' stand for Ceres, the largest asteroid, the body dubbed Xena, Charon (once considered Pluto's moon). I am surprised that as of this morning, nobody has suggested an alternate spelling for xenophile, xenophobia, etc. Wouldn't Xenaphile be more appropriate, because, yes, Xena is named after the goddess with her own television program. Why stick with those old myths?

15 August 2006

LitLove's Meme

I started to create my own meme last Sunday, but then I saw LitLove's meme, which is so much better. I'll keep mine for another time, to be posted after much revision.

1. First book to leave a lasting impression? A Wrinkle in Time was the first book that I remember wanting to re-read as soon as I reached the last page. The Witch of Blackbird Pond was the first book that got me in trouble -- first with my parents for reading it by flashlight after being told to go to bed, and then by the teacher for not returning it promptly to the school library. I don't know if I ever finished it, nor do I recall any details about the book, but I remember the experience of reading it.

2. Which author would you most like to be? I'd like to be any author who makes her living from writing and is under no pressure to write anything on deadline. Such a person probably doesn't exist!

3. Name the book that has most made you want to visit a place? Just about every book has made me want to 'visit' the place, real or imaginary, at least until I've finished reading the book. As a young teen, I wanted to go to Middle-Earth. 30 years later seeing Peter Jackson's LOTR, I thought "Is that it? Yes, that's it! Just like I imagined it, except darker in parts, but it's perfect." So I guess I have been as close as one possibly can to visiting.

Visiting a place has added at least one work to my TBR list: on a brief visit to Morocco, the guide mentioned Bowles' The Sheltering Sky. While nobody on the tour had heard of it, I tucked that title into the memory banks for a future read. Since starting to read litblogs several months ago, I have read repeatedly strong recommendations for this book.

4. Which contemporary author will still be read in 100 years time? Novelist: Garcia-Marquez and Updike, Poet: Pablo Neruda, WS Merwin, Dramatist: maybe Kushner, August Wilson.

5. Which book would you recommend to a teenager reluctant to try ‘literature’? Depending on the kid (and assuming that he/she isn't opposed to reading but hasn't had much experience with literature): Cat's Cradle for the older teen who might already be reading pulp sci-fi, The Lord of the Rings for one who is into gaming, The Once and Future King for a precocious pre-teen who wouldn't be discouraged by it's length because it has it all -- romance, magic, war, animals, pains of growing up, parental loss, etc. For a younger kid, especially boys, who haven't realized the joy of reading a full-length book, Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain is a wonderful choice. I could go on and on. Certainly you didn't mean only one book, LitLove?

6. Name your best recent literary discovery? Last spring, after a long day at work and following the child's last track meet, and then after fighting cross-town traffic and being misdirected to the wrong building, I managed to catch the last part of a reading by Chris Abani. I'm glad that I didn't give up on the idea of attending when I discovered I would have to run (in heels!) across campus. I was blown away by his poetry, the passages he read from his novella Becoming Abigail, his commentary during the reading and his personal demeanor at the book-signing. Daphne's Lot is a wonderful, epic poem. Graceland is still calling to me from near the top of the TBR pile to be finished.

7. Which author’s fictional world would you most like to live in? I can't think of any fictional world I'd want to live in -- only reasons why I wouldn't want to. Maybe Karen Blixen's Africa: "If I know a song of Africa, of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers, does Africa know a song of me?" The lyrical, beautiful Africa she writes about, populated by graceful animals and interesting people. But, the Africa without the pain of her unhappy marriage, before the death of Finch-Hatten, without the pretenses, racism, and exploitation of colonialism, before her coffee plantation went bankrupt....See, I can't think of a world. And this one isn't fictional!

8. Name your favourite poet? They'd have to arm-wrestle for title of most favorite: Shakespeare or John Donne.

9. What’s the best non-fiction title you’ve read this year? Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. I laughed my way through it, which is an odd thing to say about a book about Presidential assassinations. But, Vowell's mixture of irreverence and historical facts was a pleasure to read. However, I'm in the process of reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels, so this may soon be toppled from it's 'best non-fiction read' perch.

10. Which author do you think is much better than his/her reputation? As a recovering Literary Snob -- aka former student of 'serious lit-er-a-ture' -- I don't want to answer this question. One should read what one likes and forget about the 'reputation' or established canons. Sadly, such reputations are what keeps new writers from being published and encourages some established writers to phone in their next work.

Art is Everywhere

I love this quote. Or is the banner a work of art? Either way:

When found in a place like in the photo (Academia Bridge, Grand Canal, Venice, photo taken standing at the Guggenheim), it's easy to equate beauty with art and to see beauty all around.

When listening to the morning news, it's too easy to focus on what is not beauty, grace, art.

Look around in your world today....and be grateful. In gratitude, find joy.

I don't know anything about the artist, Patrick Mimran. Here is a link to his website.