Friday, January 30, 2009

Rain Taxi reading

Tonight I went to a reading by Dan Beachy-Quick sponsored by Rain Taxi at Open Book.

It was an interesting experience. There were about 50 people in attendance and I actually knew three people. Which is quite a lot, considering.

Beachy-Quick's book is about Moby Dick. Sort of. And it was interesting, despite my reluctance to follow poetry.

Honestly, I don't understand a lot of this fascination with dead literature and poets. But hanging out at a place that honors printing and typography is nice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch

I Just finished reading this book last week. I've only read one other book by Murdoch, The Bell, which I enjoyed quite a lot. This is an early novel, Murdoch's second, and it's damned funny. Quite a combination of characters, all connected to each other in ways that are hard to figure out in the beginning. Each character is bounced from one event to the other, seemingly unaware and out of control most of the time. Which is kind of like life.

The part that had me laughing, long-time activist I am, is the meeting of the old ladies to discuss the sale of "The Artemis", a magazine they founded in the radicalism of youth, maintain "shares" in but haven't bothered to read or consider for years. Now, however, there is a proposal to sell the publication and, of course, everyone has an opinion and feels honor bound to expound upon it. Except for one woman with a hearing aid who can understand nothing and keeps lamenting the fact loudly. Unfortunately, with my bad hearing, that seems to be my role these days.

"Order, order!" said Mrs. Carrington-Morris.

"Oh, get on with it!" sazid Mrs. Wingfiled.

"Look here," said the lady in the mantilla, "do I rightly understand that it is proposed that the Artemis be sold?"

"That is the proposal," said Hunter.

"I don't think we can allow that, you know," said the woman with the grey fringe who had the air of one who believed herself to be the only person present who really understood what was going on.

.....A veiled lady who had not spoken so far leaned forward, rumbling like a clock before she gave utterance. "Mmmm - do I understand you to say that it is proposed to sell the Artemis to - a man?"

Hunter gestured hopelessly. "I've been running the thing for two years now," he said, "and after all I'm a man!"

A stiff silence followed this shameless declaration.

Yup. Familiar. Heh.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

1,000 books?

You've got to be kidding me. 1,000 books? You MUST read?

OK. Confession time. Way back when I was a struggling English major at the University of Minnesota, I stumbled upon a book called something like "Books for the college bound" and I decided I had to collect them all. I haunted used bookstores and many of the local ones, most notably Biermaiers Books, made quite a lot of money off my efforts to collect all of the listed books. I read and I read and I tried to become a self-taught literature snob. I wrote long hand-written reviews in the college-ruled notebooks I favored at the time.

Rather than savoring the reading, I racked up the reading like points on a basketball scoreboard. So I missed quite a lot, of course.

And still, the lure of the "XXX best books" list still has its appeal. I want to be one of those cultured people who has read the books and understands the cultural references. Also, I want the pleasure of a damn good book.

But these lists, they are so arbitrary. This latest one by the Guardian newspaper in the UK is beyond ridiculous. How many of us have the time to read 1,000 books? Isn't that cheating? Shouldn't we demand the list be chopped down to 10 or thereabouts?

Because, seriously, just read Beloved a few hundred times and you will have learned more than you could possibly know about life and the power of words.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Matrix cat

At the mercy of Agent Smiths

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Protest Deployment

A flyer I did for an upcoming protest:

National Guard antiwar protest flyer - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Author Visit at Mayday Books

Another flyer I did for the bookstore:

Arnove Mayday Books flyer - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Family Member

I present to you the marvelous, beautiful Jinx! Adopted from the St. Paul Animal Humane Society on Saturday, January 10, 2009.

Jinx the cat again - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Jinx the cat - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Monday, January 05, 2009

Update of leaflet

Had to update the leaflet. When it was handed out, people thought it had to do with a rally, not an author visit. LOL! So now the event is a bit clearer. Duh!

The case for withdrawal from Iraq - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Lumpy Cat is at the vet

Sox is a 16-year-old calico shorthair by youngest daughter picked out from a rescue group. She's a talkative cat, always wanting to say hello and good morning and pet me now.

Thursday, I noticed she had a small bump underneath her skin behind her right ear. It was about the size of a pea. In addition, she was going through one of her periodic bouts of being able to pass food. Painful constipation, basically.

My last two cats died from cancerous tumors on the heads, so this lump is ominous. Yes, I do live in one of the most densely populated area for SuperFund Cleanup. Why do you ask?

Took Sox to the vet this morning and the doctor's initial prognosis was cyst or protein. A glance under the microscope indicated nothing suspicious. For full test results, I'll have to wait a week or so. Sox had vacated her urinary tract before arriving at the vet, so I had to leave her there while they pumped fluids into her until they got a sample. Silly cat doesn't understand she needs to hold it until the blood and urine test. Hell, I can even do that.

So wish my old lady cat good health and give your own cat a hug from me, Raven, the worried human owned by her cat.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rails & Ties

Watched this movie, Rails & Ties on cable today. It's about a woman who drives her car onto the railroad tracks to commit suicide with her adolescent son in the passenger seat. He survives, she does not. But what sets this film apart is that we get swept up into the world of the train engineer, played by Kevin Bacon, who has to decide whether to hit the emergency brake, thus endangering his passengers, or to slow, but keep going, thus killing the people in the car.

So, right, bummer of a movie concept. Tear-jerker, no doubt.

But what surprised me is that the engineer, a working-class man who is proud of his skills, becomes a focus of this story.

When does this happen in pop culture? When does a working person become integral to the plot? When does his life become important, valuable and respected?

Although the movie is implausible and tugs at the heart-strings, there is some honest portrayal of people who love, but are hurting. There is honesty in the pretense of family when none actually exists, followed by the true sense of family that doesn't follow modern stereotypes.

I know some people will not like this movie. I think the opportunity to see loving people trying, and sometimes failing, to show their love for one another is fascinating and worth seeing.

Run by Ann Patchett

I read the novel Run by Ann Patchett last week and cried relentlessly at the happy ending. Patchett has an awesome way with words in which nothing is wasted. The pages fly by and I kept wanting to learn more, know more, find out the secrets, get to know the characters more.

I first encountered Patchett when I read Bel Canto a few years ago. That was an awesome experience. I loved so much about it and my book group passed the novel among us, each enjoying it for different reasons.

Run takes place in Boston and centers around a political family not unlike the Kennedys. Bernard Doyle, the former mayor of Boston, white an Catholic, dreams that one of his three sons will follow in his footsteps. Unsurprisingly, none of the boys are headed on that path. The oldest son, Sullivan, is the outcast, having caused a scandal that brought his father's political career to an end. The two younger sons, African-American boys adopted a year apart, have other career goals. Tip is fascinated by fish and studies ichthyology, Teddy considers the seminary.

The book begins with a car crash. The younger boys have reluctantly joined their father at a speech by Jesse Jackson. As they argue about whether to attend a reception, Tip turns away in anger and is saved from being hit by a car by a complete stranger, an African American woman, who pushes him out of the way and takes the full blow of the oncoming truck.

It turns out that the "stranger" is, in fact, the birth mother of Teddy and Tip and the rest of the book takes up the unraveling of secret upon secret.

I highly recommend this book. Being part of an adoptive family, I'm sure I reacted to this book more strongly than most people. Like I said. Cried. Uncontrollably. For a good while.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Went to see this movie yesterday. It was probably worth it to see the cool spherical objects on the movie screen. But the movie really fell flat for reasons I cannot explain. I left the theater feeling that everything was too "clean" and I don't even know what I mean by that.

There is one lovely scene in which Jennifer Connelly's character tells the alien that he hasn't spoken to the planet's "real" leaders. Instead of taking him to a politician, she takes him to meet a nobel-prize winning scientist. Played by John Cleeze. Too cute for words.

Something is way off about this film. Or too simple. Or entirely predictable and therefore boring.

Good thing we got in for free. :)