Thursday, August 17, 2017

Stay Awake

Today I return to my report on my summer reading, here Stay Awake, a book of short stories by Dan Chaon. But I have to say I am preoccupied by current events, heartsick and sad about the violence in Virginia and now in Spain. Though perpetrated by different people, for different surface reasons, it seems to come from the same scared, angry place--little men, probably off balance, seeking meaning or purpose in the only way they can find, by hurting or killing others to make their lonely, alone, senseless "statement." The violence here in my own country does mean that we, its citizens and residents, must stay awake! Realize how deep goes the anger and hatred and displacement and lack of logic or empathy on the part of those doing the violence. They don't really know what they are doing, do they? If they did, they'd have to stop. They act in a terrible ignorance of their relationship with others, with the rest of us.

Dan Chaon's stories here are ghost stories. Or stories with a mystical or supernatural component or possibility. But all of them ring true at the psychological level, too, as just a state of mind, or a state of sleep, or a dreaming state....

I did not know his wife had died of cancer. Now I want to read her stories, too. Here is his loving account of her.

Monday, August 7, 2017

We Live in Seattle Now

It feels like we live in Seattle now, it's so cool and rainy. Meanwhile, Portland has turned tropical. That's all I'll say, today, about extreme weather and global warming. But I think I implied that I would tell you about my summer reading---specifically, my Michigan reading. Well, while in Michigan, though nowhere near Kalamazoo, Bonnie Jo Campbell's hometown, I read Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, a good book of short stories about strong, hard-working, not always entirely admirable women, but you can't help admire them, anyway, looking closely at their circumstances. I read like a daughter wanting to know everything. There were serious, long, and tender stories, short shorts, and a funny one called "My Dog Roscoe," about a woman who is convinced that a lost dog she adopts is her dead ex-lover reincarnated. Even that one gets poignant* by the end, all the more poignant for me, as I once knew a dog named Roscoe. In Michigan.

*New York Times reviewer agrees with me on the poignancy!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Swimming with Frogs

I have been back home and at work for a week and a half since an annual family wamily vacation in Michigan. We swam in pool and lake, some of us in inflatable kayaks. We read books (me), played golf and volleyball (others), did yoga (my sister), played games, and had great conversations. A time of togetherness. Here is a picture of most of us, this particular year. My son, who took the picture, is also in it, thanks to a timer. My sister's son, who was with us most of the week, is not in it, thanks to his life in the Nashville Ballet.

It has turned to August. How quickly summer slips by...

In Michigan one morning after a big rainstorm, there were tiny frogs in the pool. I swam with them, others fished them out. Back in Normal, during Early Bird Lap Swim, we early birds swam with a big frog, who stayed in two lanes, mainly, then jumped on deck, then escaped a big white bucket wielded by the lifeguard, then didn't. She carried him safely away from the chlorine pool.

Since my return, I have been attending rehearsals for The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, going up at Heartland Theatre in September. I am Lady Bracknell, no doubt closer to the Dame Judi Dench type than the Dame Edith Evans type, or the David Suchet type. (She has often been played by a man.) When I saw the costume renderings, I noticed the pearl-drop earrings and realized I have the exact pair, thanks to my mother-in-law.

Lady Bracknell is a bit of a toad.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hand Me Ups

Once again, I thought I had made up an excellent term only to discover it is already out there. "Hand me ups" are items of older (slower) technology handed up a generation or two by young people who have upgraded to faster, better technology. A second definition at Urban Dictionary is the one I intended, when younger people, such as siblings, hand their clothing up to older siblings. In my case, I wanted to mention that I am now wearing some of my daughter's clothes, since she has moved away and left a bunch of things in the closet and in various bags I have not yet given away. I found this strapless dress in the closet and wore it to the Sugar Creek Arts Festival yesterday and found a picture of myself in it on Facebook. That's my husband and me looking at art. (I got some.)

The other day I wore a lacy yellow top over another yellow top, the exact same yellow, a perfect find in a bag of hand-me-ups. Hand Me Ups is also a thrift shop in Omaha and a consignment store in Anchorage. I am clearly unoriginal.

I just relived the 1980s (and learned a lot about videogames) by reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. So I will have read the book before I see the movie, which is supposed to come out next year. Now I am reading Cline's The Importance of Being Ernest, a book of slam poems--because he is (Ernest) and titles are not copyrighted! I was delighted to see that a book he loves is I Love Science! by Shanny Jean Maney, also a book I love! Both these poetry books are published by Write Bloody Publishing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

10,000 Hours

Happy first day of summer! I walked to work and back, just missing a midday sprinkle of rain. Here's what's blooming: Prairie Blue Eyes (lavender lilies), big yellow daisies, purple coneflower, the last of the white anemone, the beginning of the white hosta, the end of the blue & purple spiderwort, and a jillion orange day lilies. I've eaten a few early raspberries. There's work to be done (and hedgehogs to be folded), but I thought I'd fill you in on my recent reading.

I'm participating in the Adult Summer Reading program at the library, which asks us to read around in various genres. I'm reading a novel now, but I've already read my biography and nonfiction. I read The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage, by Daniel Mark Epstein, who also wrote the charming Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington, about the near-miss, across-the-street relationship of the President and the Poet who loved him.

I also read The Death of Expertise, by Tom Nichols, a 5-time Jeopardy champion, as it turns out! My mom will be impressed. (She'd also be impressed by India Cooper, another 5-time champion and an actor I knew in Chicago!!) In The Death of Expertise, Nichols lays out the sad situation in straightforward language and with a common sense approach that also reveals that he's en expert. He sees a great loss of critical thinking among people today, including the college-educated, in part because college has become a consumer product rather than a place to acquire knowledge and learn how to think. This goes side by side with contempt for intellectuals and the "elite," which Nichols tracks for us in popular culture and politics. This book 1) made me sad 2) articulated what I have also observed in America today. Nichols warns that American democracy is in grave danger, reminding us that our democracy is a republic, one in which we elect representatives who should be, er, experts!

Reading the book reminded me of the concept of getting better and better at something by doing it a lot, specifically for 10,000 hours. I realized I am old enough to have developed some expertise in more than one area. I have done 10,000 hours of acting (in a 10+ year "career") and more than 10,000 hours of writing & editing, not to mention reading. I hope I don't spending 10,000 hours making book hedgehogs. (By the way, here is an instruction sheet on how to make the folds for a book hedgehog.)