Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
By Rebecca Wells
I'm probably the last person on Earth to read this book and what more can be said that hasn't already been written? My own personal response is probably the only thing, and I'm certain that it echoes many who have gone before me. I was ready for this book. I needed to cry, and I had needed to cry for some time it would seem. And, there's nothing better to cry over than reconciliation, both with God and with Loved ones. This wasn't a “Woman Overcomes Adversity” kind of novel. If there was adversity, they succumbed to it and drank about it later. And for the most part they didn't apologize for it.
It was a little awkward that the other day I simply couldn't wait to finish the book and so during work I went to lunch at a cafe and read the last 2 chapters. I don't recommend this. Food kept getting stuck in my throat because I was trying not to weep in public, and the lump that developed in my throat made it difficult to swallow food..
So, if you want to read a fabulously Southern novel that makes you feel good in spite of everything else, I recommend this book. Don't tell me you watched the movie. I'm certain that the movie was wonderful, but reading a book and watching a movie are two different experiences.
e A r n i e
Saturday, September 7, 2013
I read Agatha Christie's Autobiography. It was kind of interesting the way she described when she was a teenager hearing and reading that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated and nobody thought much of it. Days passed and they read about the development, still without too much concern. It took precisely one month for WWI to begin - from the Archduke's assassination on June 28 to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.
Here we sit as the Powers discuss chemical weapons use in Syria.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Gift from a dear friend:
Herbs for Cooking
Oregano(Garlic and Jalapeño are dried – everything is dried. Even the Rosemary is dried and must be pulverized somewhat because it's not sticks like I would have thought.) My friend went to the trouble to gather these herbs individually at a store that sells them in bulk. She put them together in a small, flat tin and hand-wrote on the top of it the spices that she included.
Choice of pasta: Fettuccini. I felt that the flat surface of the pasta would hold the sauce and herbs better than a tiny spaghetti.
Boil the fettuccini according to directions on the package. While it's cooking, put some butter and a turn 'round the pan of extra virgin olive oil. Put about a couple of teaspoons of the herbs into the oil mixture and stir. You don't want the oil so hot that the herbs sizzle, just enough to melt the butter and keep everything warm and kind of working.
When the pasta has finished cooking strain it, keeping some of the pasta water. (Don't worry about straining it too completely, the extra starchy water will help.) Pour the pasta into the pan with the butter and a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta water (or more, if the spirit moves you. I've heard that the starchy water that the pasta cooked in will help thicken everything, like flour or cornstarch.) Grate some parmesan or romano cheese on top. (I happen to have romano and not parmesan on hand.) At this point I also added a dash of salt – because I like salt – and some fresh ground pepper. Fresh ground in this case if you have it. The oils won't be cooked away and you'll be able to tell the difference. Toss it around to cover all of the fettuccini and get everything mixed and thickened. Not too long, we don't want fried fettuccini. Pour into a pasta bowl and enjoy with a lovely white wine
If I had a better camera I would have taken a picture for you. As it is you'll have to imagine the light sauce and dark little specks of herbs on the fettuccini, all piled haphazardly in a hand-thrown greenish ceramic pasta bowl (courtesy of Michael Obranovich).
Thank you, dear friend, for the wonderful gift. I'm enjoying it tremendously.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
March 23, 2013,
Coffee in the morning. It seems so natural, so right. This morning, in particular, it felt good. It's been a long week, a lot going on. So, last night I tried to go to bed early (it didn't work) and this morning when my internal alarm clock woke me up at 7 o'clock I went ahead and got up. My cat was bugging me for her moist food, anyway. I got dressed and went to corporate coffee shop.
A little over ten years ago I had done a Very Stupid Thing and I was having to work a lot to make up for it. I had a day job, Monday through Friday 8 to 5, then I had an evening job delivering pizzas. Pizza delivery was evenings during the week and on Sunday. It was mid-shift on Saturdays. I was off from that job on Mondays, but I didn't have an actual day off. I was at one job or the other, or both. It might seem like I would sleep a lot on Sunday just because I could. But, there was something delicious about getting up early on Sunday mornings, going to a coffee shop, still a little tired mentally and physically, and drinking coffee among other people. I mean, if I had been asleep I wouldn't be conscious of those precious hours to myself. I needed to be awake. And being around other people was particularly nice. Not necessarily people I knew – almost pointedly not people I knew. I could sit and read and watch people go about their happy lives and think about a day when things would be better for me. It was a good time (in my life) to be introspective and heal from the inside out. If I hadn't had those problems, then I wouldn't have had those Sunday mornings by myself – I wouldn't have appreciated them like I did, anyway. It's like a story my father used to tell me about a ranch hand who, every morning, put a rock in his shoe. When asked why, he said that the only joy he had in his life was taking that shoe off in the evenings.
So early this morning I got up and went to a coffee shop. It wasn't exactly the same – things are much better for me now in general. But, I have been working a lot these last few weeks and the stress level has been rather higher. So, I enjoyed, I savored sitting by myself in a coffee shop full of people, reading and watching people interact. Being alone, but around other people. Reading. Being awake and conscious of the fact that I wasn't at work and didn't have to be. Nursing inner bruises. I'm glad I can appreciate these moments still.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
March 13, 2013
There are things that I like taking for granted. Thumbs for instance. I like just going to bed so secure in the existence of an opposable thumb that I don't even have to think about it. There is an issue called De Quervain syndrome that I suffered from several years ago. The tendons that work the thumb are wrapped in a sheath. That sheath becomes inflamed and then the thumb doesn't work and it hurts. When I had it, I literally could not lift my thumb. (I could if I lifted it with the other hand, but that doesn't help in any practical way.)
Every once in a while it will flair up a little bit again. I take Advil and rub Icy/Hot on it and it usually goes away. This time it's taking longer. Don't get me wrong, I can still use my thumb (mostly) and if I hold my thumb and pull my wrist down, it doesn't hurt my wrist or forearm. But, the area that was affected before is sore and it twitches. Having gone through a period of weeks in which I couldn't grasp anything or use my thumb for the space bar on the keyboard I'm a little sensitive to the issue. (You try writing one sentence using the thumb of your left hand on the space bar rather than the right.)
I suppose that I should use this as an opportunity to grow spiritually and learn to appreciate my most preaxial digit. But, I don't want to. I want to not have to think about it. Does that make me a bad person?
Monday, March 11, 2013
March 11, 2013
Page 131. The end is approaching and I'm not emotionally prepared for this. Out of 166 pages, 9 of them are about the author, related products, etc. So, there are a total of 157 pages of novel. And I'm on page 131. I've gone from the early interbella period through the 70's and now I'm approaching the end. In 1920 Agatha Christie published The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel and the first Hercule Poirot mystery. Admittedly, I'm less fond of Poirot as I am of Miss Marple, but even she was born of a side character (not of the same name) in an early Poirot novel.
Thirty-three novels spanning from 1920 to 1972. And, I'm at the penultimate, which is probably the last of the Poirot novels I care to read. I read all of the Miss Marple novels first, but there are only 12 of those. I wrote about them here. I began to read the Poirot mysteries almost begrudgingly. "If I can't have the character I want I'll go ahead and read these." That was more or less my mindset. I've taken issue with him on occasion, but good lord, with that many novels not every one of them can please everybody. But, I've grown accustomed to him. I look forward to weekends with a light novel and a nap on the sofa. The Miss Marple novels helped me keep my sanity when I lived in a small town 20 miles from Austin (I ramble about that here) and Poirot has become a part of what I enjoy about my apartment; part of what makes this little place feel like home.
And now I'm on page 131.
The last novel is called Curtain and I'm almost certain that Poirot dies in it. It was written during WWII and set to be published postmortem. Actually, it was published just before she passed away, but after she had realized that she would not be able to write another novel. I'm not certain I want to read about him dying. It would be like watching the Last M∙A∙S∙H, knowing that Hawkeye was going to die. (He doesn't.) Miss Marple also had a final novel written at the same time and it was published after Christie passed away. I read it in the order it was written in, not published, so it fit in. (I think that Christie adjusted Curtain to fit in at the end of the series, but didn't get a chance to do so with Sleeping Murder.)
There's always Tommy and Tuppence, but, I'm not excited about them. Maybe I'll give them a whirl. There aren't that many of their novels. They could at least tide me over until I find the next thing that I want to read.
And, this is a remarkably long series. I really have nothing to complain about. When I started it, and I found an official reading order, I felt comfortable that I'd be set for a while. I guess I was. But, now it's coming to an end. I'm on page 131 and this is likely the last one I'll read and I'm sad, and not just a little anxious. How will I fill my Saturday afternoons? Cleaning? Pffft! I'm going to go to bed now and read. It's likely that I will be finished with the book before I fall asleep. And then tomorrow will come along and somehow I'll go on. Maybe I'll cry.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
I've been reading the Bible lately. This is less an act of faith as it is simple interest. I can't even remember what the reference was that started the whole thing. But, I read something that was a reference to something in the Bible and I began to get curious about the things that I didn't know. I've read Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus before. I petered out in Numbers – it's rather tedious. So, when whatever it was piqued my curiosity, I began with a perusal of Deuteronomy, which is more or less a summary of the first 4 books from what I've read. But, I wanted to know about the things that people talk about. I wanted to read the books of Kings and read about David and about Daniel and understand the context. But, I didn't want to miss anything so I kept going further and further back. Finally, I settled at the end of the Pentateuch.
I wanted to begin with the story part, and not so much with the laws. The laws are tedious and make me think that it was the world's first attempt at socialism. I mean, settle accounts every 7 years and every 7th 7-year span all property reverts back to its original owner. So, I sell you some land; in 49 years it comes back to me or my family. What I get from that is that this would prevent a situation in which most of the property/money rested in the hands of a few powerful families. And the size and shape and decorations of the Arc of the Covenant are only interesting for the first five times you read them. After that they lose some of their flair.
So, I read the end of Deuteronomy and made my way through Joshua. It was interesting – from a historic perspective if nothing else. The Israelites never got along; they were bickering from the get-go. "Why do I have to be on this side of the Jordan? Why does he get to be on that side? Why can't I have my own altar? Why do I have to go use HIS?" Also, the seemingly arbitrary commands that were given. March seven times around the city; don't attack or shout. It recalls their days in the desert. Gather only enough manna for one day; don't try to save for future days. It all seems like God is trying to teach them to be 100% dependent on him. When I feed my dog I make him sit and stay while I put the food down. Then I say, "Release" and he can eat. He has to learn that he's completely dependent on me for food, so that he learns that I am dominant; I am the alpha. Is this what God was doing in the desert? (Is this question sacrilege?)
This is not to say that it isn't interesting. At least I have a better understanding what people are talking about and referring to. And, the bible that I have has notes; it explains the different sources, from the North, from the South and their different perspectives and how those perspectives come into play when putting the stories down on papyrus. (Actually, having read First and Second Kings gives me more insight into that background information as well. But, more on that later.)
I'll close for the moment. I've risked a bolt of lightening enough for one day. I'll write more questions and observations later.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
February 21, 2013
The art of the album seems to be lost. I don't know if the advent of electronic music downloads caused it, or if maybe it was more special to begin with. Celebrated albums like The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon are few, which would be why they're celebrated. All throughout my music-listening career buying an LP/CD/Cassette tape has always been kind of a crap shoot There might be a song you hear on the radio and so you buy the album and there is precisely one song on it that's worth listening to. Or, your favorite singer/band comes out with a new album and you rush to buy it, and you slowly come to the realization that you're not as impressed as you had expected to be. Then, you might just decide that you're completely disappointed.
But, in this day and age of instant and total gratification (one could have written the same opening phrase 20 years ago; it's just more-so now than it was then) does anybody even care about albums as a complete art any more? It's a lot more convenient for me to be able to buy just the songs that I like, and though I could be missing something wonderful, I'm saving a lot of money in the process.
There is one album, though, that I'd like to bring your attention to: the self-titled album by The Autumns. I downloaded one song from a site I had a subscription to (totally legal – they were promoting indie bands). The song was Slumberdoll, which is a very nice song by itself. I let a friend of mine at work listen to it and she emailed me asking for the name of the band... then she emailed me threatening to choke the life out of me if I didn't tell her the name of that band right now. (I might be exaggerating.) It's got a sound that is not like anything I've heard before and I'm at a loss to describe it. The instrumentals are... I don't know. I truly have nothing to compare them to so you'll have to listen to samples here:
I've read mixed reviews. I recently was at Goodwill – a favorite Sunday afternoon activity of mine – and I came across an earlier work of theirs, In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour. That CD is from 2000; the predecessor of The Autumns, which is dated 2004. The style is absolutely the same, but I like The Autumns much better. I felt they were more developed and more sure of themselves. I read, though, a review that compared the 2nd rather unfavorably to the first, so I suppose it's a matter of taste. (Judging from the language of said review, I'd say that he/she is more used to writing reviews of music than I and perhaps a better source, but I still hold firmly to the opinion that The Autumns is far superior to In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour.)
Taken by itself the song Slumberdoll is wonderful. But, in the context of the complete album it makes more sense; it has a home. The music is not hard rock; it's more like Muse. It makes good listening in the morning when I first get to work. Or, in the evening when I get home. The lead singer's tenor voice slipping in and out of falsetto, the melancholy feeling that the instruments inspire, the smooth, confident way they play make me happy. The Moon Softly Weeps a Lullaby is purely instrumental and it's dark, slow and soft. On the whole, it puts me in a different place mentally, and the first few chords prepare my brain to be taken there. But, you gotta hear the whole CD to get the effect.
Please give these songs a listen. I haven't come across anything like them before. (I'm not likely to again, it would seem. They had one other CD in 2007 and then seem to have fallen out of the world.) This album is a work of art, but more so if taken as a whole rather than each song standing alone. It's the kind of thing that can sit on a shelf for years, and then be played again and the chords immediately sooth the soul again... and alert the senses to a imminent ride that you're about to be taken on, like the feeling you get when you first start rolling in a roller coaster ride that you're familiar with.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
January 6, 2013
If you are considering reading all of the Hercule Poirot novels from beginning to end, may I suggest that you skip Hickory Dickory Dock, AKA Hickory Dickory Death. This is not Agatha Christie's greatest achievement in literature.
First of all, there are just a lot of characters. I was tired from trying to keep them all straight. I do give Christie credit, because I was, indeed, able to keep them straight... beginning about a third of the way into the book. And I'm very inclined to not pay attention to names and get lost. And, I don't want to call her a racist, because I don't believe she was, but some of the characters – the majority of whom are foreign and some from Africa and India – were not very developed and the result was that she seemed to rest on racist stereotypes. In her repertoire, Christie doesn't have a lot of characters of color. I just felt a little uncomfortable with her treatment of them in this book. Not all of them, but enough to make me uncomfortable.
The book does have some redeeming qualities, though. There's the issue of Communism. The book actually does a good job of recording the mindset of the time. Written in 1955, it is post-WWII, the beginnings of that long ideological conflict known as the Cold War, and after McCarthy's famous declaration of his list of names. Though the word McCarthyism is not used, the word Communist is thrown around frequently, especially by frustrated men who have nothing more substantial to accuse the foreigners of, so they default to the inquisition-style of accusation. Interestingly, she doesn't seem to make the issue of Communism a sinister threat, just an epithet used by men who should probably mind their own business.
It's also amusing the way Christie pokes fun at Poirot – square crumpets and symmetrical sandwiches. He likes square rooms and furniture rather than round. He almost seems like a precursor to Monk, the OCD detective of television.
But, the plot includes smuggling and blackmail and Christie doesn't seem at her best with those subjects. In reading different reviews, I've come across more than one complaint about the convoluted plot, and it is almost comical in its twists. It was virtually impossible for me to suspend disbelief, and I'm a very forgiving reader. I think, though, that the overly twisted plot had more to do with her being in unfamiliar territory than just being unable to come up with a workable story line.
And God bless that Ariadne Oliver. She makes an appearance in the very next novel, Dead Man's Folly. In it she says, "It's never difficult to think of things. The trouble is that you think of too many, and then it all becomes too complicated, so you have to relinquish some of them and that is rather agony."
Some people who reviewed the book wrote that all in all it was worth the read because it was entertaining. Honestly, I had never thought of it that way, and I've been reading books for over thirty years. Possibly I've felt the same way before, but really, what an idea: a bad book is okay because one enjoyed oneself while reading it. I'll have to think about that a while. However, in this case I disagree. I don't think I enjoyed myself enough to justify having spent time reading it. Square crumpets can only take you so far.
Thank you for reading.
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