You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.

Nothing like forgetting to set your alarm to start the day off with a jolt of adrenaline.  I woke up this morning, lazily glanced at the clock to see how much time I had left, and shot out of bed after seeing it was 8:33.  I left the apartment at 8:43 and got to work only 10 minutes late, but somehow that’s just enough to set the whole morning on edge.

Nasty Monday mornings aside, things have been going more smoothly of late.  The weekend was immensely productive and a lot of fun to boot.  I trekked off to the Langdon farm to shuck corn, shell peas, watch The Twilight Zone, and shoot their new rifle, a 1936 Mosin Nagant.  Pretty excellent day, and the company couldn’t be beat.

I had a BLAST on Tuesday for the Star Trek: TNG screening.  I went with a couple of friends, one of whom was also dressed in costume as Troi (season three to my season one), and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in spite of some glitches with the streaming.  The feature didn’t start until almost half an hour late; at one point when the show looked like it was finally going to start and then crushed our hopes by diving into the looped commercials again, some guy in the back yelled, “KHAAAAAN!”  Everyone was really nice about the delay, and we had a good time eavesdropping on all of the geeky conversations around us.  The episodes themselves looked great, once we finally got to see them.  The crew had obviously put a tremendous amount of effort into restoring them, and the result was beautiful.  I understand why they chose Where No Man Has Gone Before and Datalore to show: both demonstrated the visual effects nicely.  Not the best episodes of season one, though.  Going in costume turned out to be so much fun, though I did have to lower the seat in my car to accommodate my ‘doFaith (my fellow Troi) and I got lots of compliments, and I don’t think I’ve ever had so many thumbs-up from middle-aged guys before.  As we were leaving after the showing, some guy ran after us asking to get a picture taken with us, which led to an entire scifi club asking for photos.  That’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like a celebrity. : )

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I read Troubleshooter and The Riders of High Rock, both Hopalong Cassidy novels by Louis L’Amour.  This is the last of L’Amour for a while, I promise you.  In general I prefer L’Amour’s original characters; Hopalong Cassidy was created by another writer, Clarence Mulford, in 1904.  He wrote a slew of short stories and 28 novels about Hopalong, and Hollywood made 66 movies featuring the character.  L’Amour wrote four Hopalong books under the pen name Tex Burns, but denied that he had done so until his death.  Evidently he wrote them for the money (the publisher wanted to cash in on the fame of the character), and he bitterly regretted it and didn’t view the books as being truly his.  His son made the decision to publish the books under his father’s name after reading one and deciding it wasn’t half bad.  Wonder how L.L. would’ve felt about that.  These two books were enjoyable more because of my life at the moment than because of any literary genius they possess.  When you’re dealing with a lot of complicated, angst-ridden issues in reality, reading about straight-forward problems you can solve with a six-shooter suddenly becomes terribly appealing.  And L’Amour does have some good one-liners.

I’ve never read any Marcel Proust, which is sort of the English major equivalent of a hipster not having heard The Smiths, so I decided to give Swann’s Way (part one of Remembrance of Things Past) a shot.  I don’t often give up on books I’ve started.  There are probably half a dozen books I’ve abandoned unfinished in the past ten years.  Swann’s Way is now firmly on that list.  It wasn’t horribly written or full of heinous immorality; it was just astoundingly dull.  I only made it through maybe 60 pages, and nothing whatsoever had occurred by that point.  The protagonist (can I call a character that if they never act?) regales the reader with an interminable and disjointed string of maudlin memories and angst-ridden reflections.  The narrator is manipulative, wildly emotional, passive, and introspective to the point of paralysis; I freely admit that my own dislike for these qualities in an individual probably color my interpretation and opinion of the work. There may well be something of literary merit buried somewhere in this book, but I haven’t the inclination to shovel aside all of the mush to find it.

On a much more enjoyable note, I’m re-reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which we are going to discuss in our philosophy group.  It’s not exactly philosophy per se (I guess I was thinking more of Many Waters in terms of L’Engle’s Hebrew scholarship), but it is awfully enjoyable.  I’ll probably reread the rest of the series one of these days soon.  So many of L’Engle’s ideas stick in the brain like burrs: they’re such tremendous visuals.

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Man.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  Half of my friends are going through some kind of crisis or other, and work has been hideous lately.  Next week better behave itself by comparison or I’m kicking it in the shins.

On to happier topics.  I completely forgot to post pictures from last week’s festivities!  Me with the Singin’ in the Rain poster, posing awkwardly (“What does a flapper sit like?”), and with a group of other costumed movie attendees.  Also, here’s me working on my 1920s cow for Cow Appreciation Day with friends.

I’ve decided that I’ll dress up for the Star Trek screening if a friend or two ends up going with me.  I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go alone in costume.  Come on, you guys, you don’t have to dress up, just come along to laugh and point at me.

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On Monday we’re discussing the second half of Pilgrim’s Regress, which I enjoyed reading and admired even more than the first.  I found Superbia to be the most genuinely disturbing character in the book; that’s quite a visual, there (and one which I will not spoil for those of you who haven’t read it).  A lot of Lewis’s points make me squirm; he holds a mirror up to me and makes me look at myself more honestly.  He’s enjoyable medicine, though, and I love reading his works.

I just finished Valley of the Sun by Louis L’Amour, yet another short story collection.  I promise, I only have a couple more to go after this and then I’ll be done talking about westerns for a good long while.  More of the same, quintessential L’Amour stories, but none of them particularly knocked my socks off.  All of those lean-jawed hombres with tied-down guns and names like Rye Taylor, Ward McQueen, and Red Clanahan are starting to blend together; I need to take a break pretty soon here. : P

Last week was a combination of excellent excursions in the evenings and nasty experiences during the workdays, but overall I think I came out ahead.  Among other festivities, on Thursday Sam and I went to see Singin’ in the Rain on the big screen, and we had a fantastic time.  I had never seen the movie all the way through, so I was glad to have that experience.  We got a lot of compliments on our costumes, and we ran into some other folks who were also dressed up and corralled them into a group picture.  Afterwards we promenaded through Target for no good reason and enjoyed some double-takes.

Friday was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A, which means that the restaurant will give you a free meal if you dress up as a cow.  We had a blast participating last year, and this year Sam and I decided our black and white 1920s dresses would work admirably for flapper cow costumes.  We stuck on some spots and some ears and enjoyed our free chicken.  Free food and an excuse to wear a costume?  I’m there.

Speaking of which, the Star Trek: Next Generation screening is next Monday.  I’m of two minds about dressing up.  One the one hand, I don’t have a costume per se, which is obviously problematic, and I’m not sure that even I am ready for the level of geekdom required to go to a Star Trek screening in a Star Trek costume.  On the other hand, it would probably be a lot of fun.  We’ll see. I can always at least do one of Troi’s wacky hairstyles and enrage the movie-goers who have to sit behind me and my pile of hair.

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I had only vaguely heard of the Great Eastern before reading The Great Iron Ship by James Dugan.  It was probably a quick blip in a history book that I read.  I’m very glad I had a chance to get to know more about her!  This book was highly entertaining, and I got the feeling that the author had done so much research on the topic that he had to restrain himself from adding too much detail and run the risk of boring his audience.  The book was full of unrelated bits of information: one section mentioned a gentleman named Henry Cole in passing, and a footnote informed us that, “This man invented the Christmas card.”

The Great Eastern, for those who don’t know, was a massive ship launched in 1858.  She was almost 700 feet long and could hold 4,000 passengers, though she never actually did.  She was also a disaster from the get-go.  She was so huge, she couldn’t even be launched properly.  It took months and several tries just to get her in the water.  She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (What a name, yeah?), who was famous for his big plans and boundless energy.  That’s all very inspiring in theory, but in practice the ship was just too honkin’ huge for her time.  She would pull into port and accidentally crush the wharf, other ships, and anything else that got in her way.  Logistically, fitting her out properly was a nightmare, and the ship turned out to be a black hole sucking up money and human lives.  Finally they gave up on the whole posh passenger liner idea and converted her to help lay transatlantic telegraph cable, so at least she made herself useful.  In her final days, depressingly, she was a giant floating billboard for a department store in England.  Still, in her day thousands of people came to see her (she was a big site-seeing attraction), and Jules Verne sailed on her while he was writing 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

I stayed up into the wee hours to finish Death Is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury, which is first in the first in a set of three semi-autobiographical mysteries.  I didn’t realize this at first and was pleasantly surprised to meet several characters from A Graveyard for Lunatics, the second book in the set.  Both novels are more fragmented and surreal than the usual Bradbury—but then, I suppose memory often is fragmented and surreal, and Bradbury was drawing heavily on memories of his own life for these.  I haven’t found a copy of the third novel in the set, Let’s All Kill Constance, but I’m hoping to read that one soon.  Bradbury’s life was a beautiful one.  I don’t know if the circumstances were that unusual and magical, or if he just made them so, but I suspect the latter.  He has the knack for making the commonplace new, fresh, and enchanting…and somehow he also excels at making the new and enchanting feel familiar and nostalgic.

We’re reading Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis this week for our philosophy group.  I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress, of course, but wasn’t terribly impressed; I know it’s a classic, but something about that book just rubs me the wrong way.  I was baffled by the passage in Little Women where the girls talk about loving to read it because it was such an adventure story.  I wondered if maybe I was reading the wrong book, since Pilgrim’s Progress invariably puts me into a coma, and this coming from the girl who usually enjoys some pretty dry reading.  I’m not a tremendous fan of allegory, which is part of the problem, but I also found it unhelpful in terms of Christian instruction.  Pilgrim’s Regress, on the other hand, is both fascinating and useful so far—unsurprisingly, since it’s Lewis.  The story is allegorical and told in much the same way as Pilgrim’s Progress, but it is a generalized account of Lewis’s own progress in Christianity.  His preface to my edition apologizes for the individualized journey, which he thought was more typical of other Christians’ struggles.  He says that he realized much later that his was an unusual process, but to me it still seems extremely relatable.  More on this later, I suspect.

All sorts of good times with friends lately!  We had a birthday party for Sam which included a viewing of The Artist, which was brilliantly done and thoroughly entertaining.  We also got together for 1920s hairstyling, in preparation for the showing of Singin’ in the Rain on the big screen in Cary this Thursday.  Sam and I will be in costume, naturally, though we’ll probably be the only ones. : )  Yesterday we were at the Langdon farm for a massive get-together to see friends we hadn’t seen in ages, and everyone had a glorious time.  I saw fireworks with friends on both July 3rd and 4th, heard the NC Symphony play on the 4th, and have generally been having more fun than is probably permitted for any one person.

Loki from Thor is playing Prince Hal/Henry V in a miniseries based on Shakespeare’s four plays, Richard III, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.  Blows the mind a bit, doesn’t it?  What also blows the mind is how people continually label scenes from Henry V as being from Henry IV.

People are pretty cool:

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All the King’s Men turned out to be very well-done.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; it did win a Pulitzer, after all.  I think I was sort of in the wrong mood for reading it because I felt very detached from the story, even though it was being told in a way I recognized as being one I would normally be very involved in.  The main impression I carried away from the book was, “Ah, very skillful,” even though I knew I was meant to be moved by the drama, not focusing on the writer’s skill: I just didn’t feel moved, and it wasn’t through any fault of the author.  Warren’s poetry is some of the most emotionally moving that I’ve read.  I think I just need to go back and reread this in a few years, because I really did like it very much, and I think I would love it if I read it at the right time.

I finished Monument Rock, a collection of short stories by Louis L’Amour.  Yep, I’m still working my way through all of his books that I snagged at the library sale, and I had seen the author’s name on this one and threw it in my box without looking at it too closely.  Turns out this edition is large-print, and reading it made me feel very grandmotherly.  It was kind of a nice break, though; my copy of All the King’s Men had the teensy tiniest of print.  Most of the recently published L’Amour short story collections are pulled from his early days of publication in the pulp magazines, and the stories themselves aren’t (for the most part) literary gold mines, but they’re still very enjoyable.

My philosophy discussion group is tackling the Bhagavad Gita this week, about which I knew very little until a few days ago.  I did know the famous quote that Oppenheimer was reminded of when seeing the first nuclear explosion test: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”  Turns out another translation (and the one favored by the Gutenberg Project translation I was reading) is “I am Time, the destroyer of all things.”  Certainly puts a different spin on it.  The religious texts of other cultures intrigue me (I’ve always meant to read the Q’uran), and the Gita was no exception.  I foresee some lively discussion tomorrow.

I am somewhat saddened that my recent homemade salsa attempts have been rather bland, relatively speaking.  Food Lion’s selection of peppers leaves much to be desired, which I didn’t realize until it dawned on me that I was pouring tons of peppers in and the salsa wasn’t getting any hotter.  Oh well, cilantro covers a multitude of sins.

Lake Johnson is gorgeous, as I discovered when I went exploring the other day.  I had not fully comprehended this until moving to our new place, which is practically next door to the park.  I predict I will be spending hours and hours out there…though perhaps not until fall, much as I would like to embrace Emerson’s quote.  Summer has made its sweltering, unwelcome appearance with a vengeance, which means I’ll be hiding in air-conditioned locations as much as possible for the next several months.  When the heat gets bad enough to buckle the pavement on I-440, you know you shouldn’t be outside.  We already had one night of misery when the AC in the apartment died, but fortunately they got it more or less fixed quickly.

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I just finished Nautilus 90 North by William Anderson, which a friend found on the free shelf at the library and gave to me.  Anderson captained the nuclear submarine Nautilus during its 1958 voyage from Seattle to England…by traveling underneath the north pole.  Doesn’t get much cooler than that, literally or figuratively.  A major reason for this little jaunt underneath the polar ice cap?  Just to see if they could do it.  The captain mentions something about scientific research and possible military advantages (they pop up through a hole in the ice at one point, and he muses to himself that it would be a good location from which to launch guided missiles at Russia), but it all sounds suspiciously like a cloak for exploratory glee, which makes me very happy.  The book is quite light-hearted, and makes it sound like life on the Nautilus was pretty darn nice.  Come on, guys, let’s go steal a nuclear sub and go fishing.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is another book I wish we had read in Southern American Lit.  I’ve read a lot of Warren’s poetry, but before this none of his prose, and so far I really enjoy it.  One can still tell that he’s a poet at heart: the novel is a bit meandering (so far, at least), with a few digressions into poetic turns of phrase.

My Latin group, which is no longer a Latin group anymore, is now picking different literary excerpts to discuss weekly.  Jealous, aren’t you?  Last week we read John Galt’s speech from Atlas Shrugged.  Reading Ayn Rand is kind of like childbirth, I imagine (not having experienced childbirth).  It’s a long, drawn-out, painful ordeal, and you forget just how painful once it’s all over because you have such a thrill of accomplishment upon completing it.  The speech was even longer than I remembered, but we had a good time talking about it.  She’s crazy, but she’s a very logical kind of crazy, and her work always makes for good discussion.  I admit that I did feel terribly pretentious walking into a coffee shop with a massive copy of Atlas Shrugged under my arm; I might as well have been wearing a sign on my forehead saying, “Pompous jerk.”

In a whiplash-inducing change of material (which is a good thing), this week we read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  I just read it recently, but one can never have too much Lewis.  There was no comparing Rand and Lewis when it came to group discussion.  Talking about Rand was mildly interesting; talking about Lewis was intensely personal, insightful, and touching.  The amount of meaning and insight Lewis was able to pack into roughly the same number of pages as Ayn Rand was almost shocking.  Next up, the group is going to tackle Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de St. Exupery, so that should make for some grand talks as well.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

my read shelf:
Stephanie Ricker's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

A Storytelling

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