Archive for the 'General' Category

Behind on Book Reviews

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Am I behind on blogging, or do I just READ TOO MUCH?

“Dune” by Frank Herbert

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

dune2

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot about the banter between my husband G. Grod and me over book recommendations.

Lo and behold, when I went to search my blog whether I’d already written about Dune, I found this post from 2007 about recommended books.

Ha! Seven years ago! That was even before he started bugging me about Cloud Atlas.

I met G. Grod at a bar in 1995. I’m pretty sure that’s how long he’s been recommending Dune to me. We got married in 1998. He joked that he was marrying me even though I hadn’t yet read Dune. Finally in 2014 I got around to reading Dune because I chose it for the book group I lead so I’d have to read it. I tore through it, and had no trouble at all admitting he’d been right, that I’d really liked it.

Dune is the giant science fiction masterpiece about a messiah figure on a desert planet with sand worms. It’s also about dozens of more things. The reason it endures, deservedly I think, as a classic is that it’s got so much going on, including but not limited to religion, philosophy, class structure, and this all on top of it being a ripping yarn.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Further, it continues to be timely because of its ecological focus, while Herbert cannily got around becoming dated by not putting that much actual science into it. Arrakis is a stand in for Iraq, which is still a point of world contention for its oil, which is allegorized in Dune as the spice that rich people come to depend on.

A few things bugged me a lot about Dune. One, the villain Baron Vlad Harkonnen, is fat and homosexual (and to boot in the Lynch movie, a redhead and with boils). Since no one else is fat or homosexual those become the markers of evil. Unacceptable.

Women’s roles in the world were somewhat troubling, too. One the one hand, characters like Jessica were powerful, and Fremen women fought alongside the men. On the other hand, all female characters were attached in some way to a male character. None of them acted freely without male authority or direction.

Finally, the world shown does not transcend a feudal structure. Yes, Paul becomes the leader and messiah but not only because of his greatness, but also because he’s the duke, and women aren’t shown in positions of power, other than in the Bene Gesserit, where they’d constantly called witches, an implication of fear of their sexual power.

If an author is going to imagine “A World Where…” then s/he can damn well imagine a world where violence against women isn’t accepted, men and women are equal, ancient boundaries of money and class break down, women aren’t called whores, and appearance and sexuality aren’t markers of character.

My husband and I watched the David Lynch film, which we found initially interesting, but eventually boring. We tried to watch the more recent mini series, but couldn’t manage, though we did watch some of the extras, which were worthwhile. If you’re going to read Dune, perhaps a better movie to watch after is Lawrence of Arabia. Paul Atreides shares a lot of similarities with that portrayal.

“The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Cope

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Little did I know when I picked up Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing in April what a rabbit hole it would send me down. I’ve since read two more of her books and two by Stephen Cope, whose books she mentions.

Cope is a director at the Kripalu Institute in western Massachusetts. He writes about yoga and the ancient text the Bhagavad Gita. In The Great Work of your Life, he details part of the Gita about dharma, or one’s work in life, and gives examples both of people throughout history who demonstrated the tenets, as well as case studies in real life.

This is a book about dharma,–about vocations and cllings. It contains many stories of illustrious lives—true stories of lives that many of us already know and admire. It also contains stories of what I have called “ordinary lives”–lives that are in many ways jut like yours and mine.

I found this book similar, but more accessible than, the previous book by him I’d read, The Wisdom of Yoga, which delved more deeply into the esoterica of the Gita. Yet both have galvanized me to take a hard look at my life, what I’m doing (or not) with it, and what deserves my attention, and what should go.

Near the end of the book, Cope quotes Thomas Merton:

We cannot master everything, taste everything, understand everything, drain every experience to its last dregs. But if we have the courage to let almost everything else go, we will probably be able to retrain the one thing necessary for us–whatever it may be. If we are too eager to have everything, we will almost certainly miss even the one thing we need.

I was so moved by the quote I’m going to read the original, so my literary journey, begun with Shapiro’s Still Writing, goes on.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

I counted–there are indeed four ch’s in Bowie’s song.

SO, faithful Girl Detective readers, change is coming. I’m working with Tech Support, aka my husband, to figure out what it’s gonna be, but was thinking that I’d get a new site, with my actual name, so I could have one page for a blog, and another for one of my book groups

But then, what happens to all this? I’ve been blogging for almost 12 years, first at www.girldetective.blogspot.com and www.mamaduck.blogspot.com, and then here at www.girldetective.net!

Importing all the info is prohibitive, as is paying to keep this site alive beyond what we’re already paid for. We can archive the info at home so at least I have it, but seems a shame that it would go “poof” in a year or so. Anyone who has changed sites/blogs/etc., your input would be appreciated.

Comments

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

So, I have been slammed with spam and do not feel like wading through 423 comments right now, and have changed one setting, which means you have to sign in to comment. Sorry for the inconvenience, but 423 50-line spams has outdone me. If this works, great, if not, I may have to shut down comments.

Pondering

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Just waded through 223 entries of spam, all of which were huge and this took forever, and I didn’t find one actual comment from an actual person.

So this has me thinking. Heads up, dear readers. I think change is on its way…

“Take Me I’m Yours” by Squeeze

Friday, April 26th, 2013

I listen to the Current radio station, and my favorite of their DJs is Mary Lucia. Yesterday, she played Squeeze’s first hit single, Take Me I’m Yours, which I knew from their collection Squeeze Singles 45’s and Under. It jolted me back:

18 years old, I’m new to a stickshift, grinding the gears and riding the clutch of a cheap, noisy car. 7:45 in the morning, running late on the way to school, my best friend is in the passenger seat. Between my knees a cold Diet Coke. (This was in the days before cupholders.) In my left hand, a Marlboro Light. Squeeze Singles blaring from the tape player. We laughed. We stalled out. We cursed. And somehow we got to school.

The “Pink Moon” Story

Monday, April 8th, 2013

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It took me a little while to finally meet Nick Drake’s song “Pink Moon” properly. Our relationship started with a case of mistaken identity.

Many years ago, there was a Volkswagen commercial that had a song I really liked. The next time I was CD shopping (something my husband and I used to do, in those Double Income No Kid days) I saw a CD with a starry blue cover and a sticker that said it contained music featured in a Volkswagen commercial.

I listened to the CD on the ride home, but was disappointed. Nothing on this new Hooverphonic CD sounded as good as the song I remembered. Maybe I just need to listen to it more, I thought. Listening more made things worse. The discrepancy between the haunting melody in my memory and that album only grew. What a whiny, boring album, I thought. Alas, my husband really liked it, and played it often. To this day the opening moans of that album send me lunging for the off button.

Some months later, knocked up with my first child and browsing my comic shop, I heard the strains of THAT song. The original song. The song I wanted. The song I thought I’d found in Hooverphonic, but had not. I rushed to the counter.

“Who sings this song?” I demanded.

My friend the Big Brain looked at me as if he were sorry that I did not know the answer. He looked at me a lot like that back then because I didn’t know much about music or film. He had good recommendations for me in both areas that were the building blocks of some of my favorites today. Interestingly, though, he was less helpful with comics advice. Except for Hicksville. And Goodbye Chunky Rice.

“It’s Nick Drake. He’s dead.”

“Can I borrow it?”

Not only did he let me borrow it, he let me borrow the other CDs that came in the really cool limited set he had. I took them home and listened to them over and over. Unlike with Hooverphonic, repeat listening only endeared them to me more. Months later, as I was packing my pregnancy bag for the hospital, those CDs were one of the first things in the bag. I imagined giving birth listening to the calming strains of poor-dead Nick Drake’s voice. And then I put a whole bunch more stupid sh1t in the bag, like the video of Pride and Prejudice, about twenty other CDs, makeup, makeup remover that I’d made a special trip to the store to buy a travel size of, and a pretty nightgown.

Out of all that, the only useful item was the Pink Moon cd. Nothing went according to how I imagined it. The classes said that water breaking first was a dramatic fib perpetuated by Hollywood. My water broke first. At midnight. After I’d just fallen asleep after an exhausting day. I spent the next twelve hours having irregular contractions that made me throw up anything I put in my mouth. Even melted ice cubes came back up. Finally the hospital grudgingly agreed it was time for me to come in. I was still leaking a little, so we put a black trashbag over the back seat of the car. I got in, but had a hard time sitting upright. My husband knew that Pink Moon made me feel better, so he put that in. After the song finished he asked if I wanted to listen to something else.

“Pink Moon!” I called out, desperate, like it was a life raft I was hanging onto. “Pink Moon!”

The bat$hit crazy edge to my voice was in direct contrast to the soothing sound of the song. My husband wisely snatched his hand away from the controls, letting the CD play on.

Long story short: long labor with healthy baby boy. Gave up playing music after the first couple Nick Drake ones. Figured out it was ridiculous to think that I’d be in labor and up for a video, as if I were home, sick in bed. Never wore the nightgown. If I was going to gush messily all over the place, I was happy to do it in hospital supply. Touched neither the makeup or the remover and was suitably embarrassed for having thought I might.

Those Nick Drake cds, especially Pink Moon, were about the only useful thing I took to the hospital. Every time I hear Pink Moon on the radio, I hear my own voice in my head, screech-moaning, “Pink Moon! Pink Moon!” in a violent tone that does not match the song at all. It’s not a bad memory, though, in fact it makes me laugh.

Overwhelmption

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Overwhelmption: noun. The state of being overwhelmed, inundated or otherwise paralyzed by a situation (e.g. approaching holidays) or mess that’s “so big. And so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!” (The Cat in the Hat)

See also: Tharn:

Describes the act of a person or animal being frozen in terror, e.g. a deer caught in the headlights.

Perhaps originally found in Richard Adams’s novel ‘Watership Down,’ the term was also adopted by Stephen King for use in his novel ‘The Stand.’
Michael stood tharn while the grizzly bear bore down on him.

A Little More Catching Up

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Really, dear readers, I’m not sure why you put up with me. When I went to check how many photos I haven’t posted and DVDs I haven’t talked about, I was abashed. And what about all those clever vignettes and stories I meant to write about regularly? Yeah, not so much. Sigh.

On an upside, I’ve been on some nice bike rides lately, with and without the boys. In my recent post on milestones, I forgot to mention my bike milestones.

In June, I celebrated five years as a bicyclist! I got my first bicycle as an adult when my younger son was about one year old, and have been gradually riding more ever since.

In April, I’d been riding my current bike, Pepper, for a year. I traded in my adorable but unwieldy cruiser for a sleeker, simpler single speed, which I have now pimped out to my satisfaction (this photo isn’t even current; I got a tan saddle to match the handlebar tape). I feel like it was after I got Pepper, once Guppy started full-day kindergarten, that I got serious as a cyclist, and worked up from five miles each way to round trips in the 20- and 30-mile range. Also, this past winter was so mild that whenever G. Grod put the bikes away in the basement, I found myself hauling Pepper back upstairs, in January, February, and March.

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For upcoming posts, I’ve got a few more book stacks (went a little nuts over the holiday weekend at Half Price Books 20% off sales), and a slew of DVDs to catch up on. Good thing I’ve been reading a long book, Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, so at least I’m not behind in book reviews. My goodness, there were a lot of those this summer.

Now that both boys are back in school, Guppy in 1st, Drake in 3rd, I have all sorts of grand ideas about what I’ll do with all my time: write more, bike more, volunteer, get a part-time job, etc. I’ll wait to see what the gap between idealism and reality looks like this year.

Back in the Saddle

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Greetings and Salutations, friends! I was in central Ohio visiting family last week, where there was no wifi because of power outages due to a series of v. bad storms.

Back home with connectivity, and will be returning to the Shelf Discovery writing/comment approving today!

Lists are Lame

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

But sometimes, it’s all I’ve got. Here’s what I would be blogging if I could be blogging.

(My book group is due tonight, so I have to clean bathrooms.)

A review of Party Down Season 1 (mini: awesome)

A review of The Best American Comics 2011 that we’ll be discussing at tonight’s book group (middling, of course, which is what all these silly collections are. some good, some ok, some hateful.)

a review of Julian Barnes Sense of an Ending (mini: impressive. mesmerizing.)

a review of Pawnee by Leslie Knope, but if you’re not watching Parks and Rec, you don’t know the glory that is the best character on tv right now, Ron Swanson. (mini: hilarious)

a picture of the giant pile of books I bought today.

Yes, I do have a problem. I LOVE BOOKS TOO MUCH. (and coffee. and pastries.) As you can see, I found many of the Tournament of Book titles I wasn’t able to get at the library or through other methods.

booksmarch

Level of anxiety: medium high and rising. Rising.

Also, does the photo look weird and compressed to you? Sigh.

All right; that’s all the non-blogging I can manage.

Shirley Temple: Vile Temptress, Creative Muse?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

From Blog of a Bookslut, to this, to this story at the Independent about how a creepy review by Graham Greene of a Shirley Temple movie got him sued for libel, which spurred him to flee to Mexico, where he wrote The Power and the Glory. Wow. Just, wow.

Technical Difficulties

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Good thing my mom and step-dad-in-law notified us the blog was messed up. The rest of you are slacking!

Just kidding.

Anyway, I think the coffee chick with pink plaid and yellow roses may be beyond repair, so I’ll work with tech support (ahem, my husband) to come up with a new look. And maybe update the stuff on the side, which is at least a year old. Sigh.

In the meantime, enjoy this super-clean theme, and please let me know if you have any other blog-related snafus.

How We Met, Part 2

Monday, November 7th, 2011

(The end of October marked 16 years from when I met the man who is my husband, G. We join the story, already in progress.)

So, there we were, G and me, picking out songs on the jukebox and hitting it off. We talked with my friend A, who’d encouraged me to introduce myself to G. Another friend of mine, C, joined the conversation for a bit*, then moved on. I found out G was: 23, living with his parents, had recently given up on grad school, was selling insurance for a company with a cult-ish sounding name. He found out I: recently started grad school, was 27, was leaving in the morning to visit my sister who lived in Nashville, had a tough week of papers coming up in school. The night wore on and he had a 45 minute drive ahead of him. He asked for my phone number; I gave it to him. He tried to say his goodbyes, but my friend A, fearing he’d leave without being suitably impressed by me, offered to buy him a beer. We reassured her he’d gotten my number, so she allowed him to leave. I returned to my apartment that night and stayed up for another hour emailing my sister about the cute guy I’d met that night even though I’d be seeing her in mere hours, and thus arrived in Nashville a few hours later, cross-eyed from lack of sleep.

*G told me later he’d been flirting with C and me. What I knew at the time that he didn’t was that C preferred tall African-American women. He had no chance with her, so it was good he thought I was cute, too.

How We Met, part 1

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Last Week was the 16 year anniversary of the day I met G Grod, who is now my husband. When I’m asked how we met, I usually respond, flippantly, that I picked him up in a bar. While this is technically true, and I fancy it amusing, it is not the whole picture, which I find makes for a pretty good origin story.

In the fall of 1995, I was recently single and unemployed, both of these by choice. After several years, I’d left a job in educational services to study religion. I’d also broken up with the man I’d been living with and engaged to. I was heartbroken, terribly lonely and overwhelmed by the rigors of grad school. Former co-workers invited me to a party at the 16th Street Bar and Grill in downtown Philadelphia. They promised to invite a good-looking pre-med student and set us up. I put on my favorite sweater and a slick of hopeful lip gloss.

At the bar, my friend had bad news. “He can’t make it,” she said, of the cute doctor-to-be. “He said he’d try to stop by later.” I’m sure my face fell. Then she gestured to the guy sitting next to her at the bar. “But this is G., and when you walked in he said ‘Who’s that?’ You should talk to him.”

I checked him out. Thick black hair. Big brown eyes. T-shirt, jeans and Chucks. Cute. I gathered up the shreds of my self-esteem, went up to him and asked if he had any quarters for the jukebox.

Pop Quiz

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Who said “he who is not with me is against me”?

a. Jesus
b. Hamlet
c. King Arthur in Excalibur
d. Hillary Clinton
e. Patrick Swayze in Road House

Silver Medal Syndrome

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Over at this year’s Morning News Tournament of Books, there was much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands when Jennifer Egan’s Visit from the Goon Squad (one of my favorite books of last year) defeated Skippy Dies in the first round. In the comments of the previous day’s bout, a reader noted something called “silver medal syndrome,” in which the gold medal winner was a compromise that people could agree upon, where the silver winner was one that some loved passionately and others argued against. Thus the passion-inspiring runner-up is usually a better bet for greatness. I thought this made a lot of sense, and reminded me of the descriptions from this article on the history of choosing the Booker prize winner. I was reminded again when I read Chris Nashawatny’s piece in Entertainment Weekly on “The Most Overrated Best Picture Winners Ever,” which is not available online.

Here were some of the upsets: High Noon was edged out by The Greatest Show on Earth. (I recently watched High Noon, and can attest to its quality.) Giant was passed by for Around the World in 80 Days. Oliver! won in a year that 2001 and Rosemary’s Baby weren’t even nominated. Ordinary People trumped Raging Bull and Scorcese got burned again when Dances with Wolves won against Goodfellas. Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction. English Patient trounced Fargo. American Beauty won in 1999, a year packed with great films like Being John Malkovich, The Matrix, Magnolia, Boys Don’t Cry and Election. Crash beat Brokeback. I’d add that Hurt Locker beat Inglourious Basterds and this year The King’s Speech won out over Inception and The Social Network.

I’m sure Nashawatny’s critiques rubbed some people the wrong way, but there’s not an example here of a winner I’d rather see than any of the “losers”. In several cases, I think the loser has showed its merit by becoming a classic (e.g., High Noon) while the winner has faded into (deserved?) obscurity. What this means, though? So many more books and movies to check out, like Skippy Dies. I’d groan, but it’s a lovely problem to have.

“The Finkler Question” by Howard Jacobson

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question is also one of the selections for this year’s Morning News Tournament of Books. What I remember most about the announcement of it’s winning the MB prize was that both the author and many others seemed surprised that it won. After reading this expose, “Tears, Tiffs and Triumphs“, about the judging process of the Booker over the years, I figure the judging is just slightly more than random, but usually a MB prize winner doesn’t suck. And The Finkler Question doesn’t.

The back of the book describes it as “a funny, furious, unflinching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. The first adjective is “funny” and many of the blurbs praised its humor, wit and satire, yet the book is much more concerned with the endless complications of anti-Semitism and Israeli/Palestinian violence. There really is nothing funny about the latter, but Jacobson often does find humor in the former, as in the main character Julian Treslove’s weird fixation on the Judaism of his friends:

Before he met Finkler, Treslove had never met a Jew. Not knowingly at least. He supposed a Jew would be like the word Jew–small and dark and beetling. A secret person. But Finkler was almost orange in colour and spilled out of his clothes. He had extravagant features, a prominent jaw, long arms and big feet for which he had trouble finding wide enough shoes, even at fifteen. (Treslove noticed feet; his were dainty like a dancer’s.) What is more–and everything was more on Finkler–he had a towering manner that made him look taller than he actually was, and delivered verdicts on people and events with such assurance that he almost spat them out of his mouth. “Say it, don’t spray it,” other boys sometimes said to him, though they took their lives in their hands when they did. If this was what all Jews looked like, Treslove thought, then Finkler, which sounded like Sprinkler, was a better name for them than Jew. So that was what he called them privately–Finklers.(17)

A subtitle for the book might well have been: “Jewish Identity: It’s Complicated.” Jacobson does an exemplary job of showing, not just telling, how absurdly complicated it is, as well as reminding the reader that racism should never be tolerated, even as it’s so prevalent and ingrained that many wish to dismiss it as benign. This book might have been helpful for me 17 years ago, as I considered converting to Judaism, based largely on the simplistic portrait painted by the rabbi I was studying with. Once I learned that Judaism could be just as silly, awful, complicated and misguided as the religion I was raised in, converting didn’t have nearly the allure it once did. It’s a good book, in that it provoked me to think about the continuing insidious influence of racism. But enjoyable it wasn’t. I have a hard time thinking of anyone I’d recommend this book to.

Next: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

A Week’s Worth of Menus

Monday, October 11th, 2010

October is National Co-op Month. In this month’s Eastside Food Coop newsletter (which you can pick up for free when you visit!) I wrote about feeding a family of four for a week on a budget of $150. For those not in the area, I’m reprinting the menu below, and here are links to a meal plan, shopping list, recipes, and the receipt for the shopping trip to show I did keep it under $150.

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This menu has three nights of cooking, two nights of takeout, one leftover night, and one breakfast-for-dinner night.

Every day has at least one gluten-free meal; the others can be adapted.

Except for the roast chicken, it’s a meatless menu. Vegetarians can substitute another takeout meal, and omnivores can substitute salmon or trout for the tofu in the sushi bowl, add leftover chicken to the pad thai, or supplement breakfasts with bacon. Keep in mind a little meat provides a lot of flavor. Treat the dish as the main item, and the meat or fish as a side with a protein punch.

Disclaimer: I’m a writer, not a nutritionist. For a scientifically balanced meal plan, or for special-diet restrictions, consult a professional or check out reputable sites like that of The Mayo Clinic.

Day one
Breakfast: Steel-cut oats and raisins
Lunch: Greek salad in pita, apple slices, cookies
Snack: Salsa and corn chips
Dinner: Tofu sushi bowl, edamame

Day two
Breakfast: whole-grain pancakes, apple slices
Lunch: cottage cheese, sunflower seeds and pear slices
Snack: Guacamole and corn chips
Dinner: Roast chicken, cous cous, frozen peas, brownie

Day three
Breakfast: Eggs, toasted multi-grain bread with butter and jam
Lunch: ALT: Avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich in a whole-grain tortilla, apple slices
Snack: Trail mix
Dinner: Chickpea, Potato and Tomato stew, pita bread, brownie

Day four
Breakfast: Cereal with milk and raisins
Lunch: PBB & H: Peanut butter, banana and honey on whole-grain bread, pear slices, cookies
Snack: Cheese quesadilla
Dinner: Pad Thai, mango smoothie

Day five
Breakfast: Yogurt, granola, grated apple and sunflower seeds
Lunch: Hummos, grated carrot, sliced cucumber and olive in a tortilla
Snack: Sliced apples, honey-graham sticks and peanut-butter yogurt dip
Dinner: Take-and-Bake pizza, salad, brownie

Day six
Breakfast: Cereal with milk and raisins
Lunch: Peanut butter and jam on whole grain bread, sliced pear
Snack: Dried apricots and cheddar slices
Dinner: Leftovers, brownie

Day seven
Breakfast: Whole-grain toast with peanut butter, milk
Lunch: Leftovers, apple slices, cookies
Snack: Kefir, popcorn with butter
Dinner: Whole-grain pancakes, peanut butter and banana smoothie