Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26: Friday! End o' Brutal Week. . .

I am solo in the house, and I think I'm fighting a cold. We have little food for dinner, but I did make Melissa Clark's "Sexy, Spicy Broccoli Salad," which is chilling in the fridge. My plans for the weekend include making a yoga mat bag, reading, and getting out into the sunshine (possibly to write some scholarship recommendations, possibly to read). I have MANY books to catch up on in Goodreads/here, and I have many more to read, period.

Currently I am loving my twin Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue. Wow. The man can write. And the reader can read!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20: De-'Netting

Wow. I have to admit that way too much of my time yesterday (Friday) was spent glued to the internet, following the manhunt for the second Boston Bomber. I did some poetry paper correcting, wrote thank you notes, and went for a long walk, but I have to admit that I was mostly checking the Boston Globe site, the Bangor Daily site, and Facebook.

Amidst the sense that the perpetrators were truly evil, however, I began to feel deep sadness for a 19 year old boy who lost his moral compass, who was hidden, bloody and desperate, in a plastic-covered boat in a family's backyard as a city shut down and hunted for him. His crimes are terrible--I do not diminish that in the least--but the bleakness that stretches before him for the rest of his young life is terrible as well. Lyle is 19, too. While my heart breaks for the victims, my heart breaks for Dzhokhar too. What can he have been thinking, to have done such a thing? What can he be thinking now? What a waste. What a crime. What a tragedy, on all levels.

** A later addition: thanks to an AP poetry paper, encountered Theodore Roethke's "The Waking," and what a lovely poem it is. Enjoy.

The Waking
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18: "Twas the 18th of April, In '75. . ."

Home from an amazingly interesting, fun, and helpful three college/multi-family trip with Nate and Andy--marred only by the tragic and terrible Boston bombing at the Marathon. Thursday, today, is my "vacation for real and do only what you want to do" day, so

*have made vet appt's for Katniss and Zeus;
*have made app't for the windshield people to come replace the Camry's cracked windshield;
*have made an exhaustive grocery list for some nice, healthy, new, delicious meals in the next few days;
*have organized my various stipends and shares of the tax refunds for deposit into my mad money account;
*have totalled up Nate's driving hours to date (up to 29.5, so we're getting close to Test Time!);
*have generally bummed around the house in my jammies enough so I'm ready for a walk Zeus/small run (Yoga tonight so that will be a surely holy amount of exercise), shower, then downtown trip featuring getting Julie a card; checking out running shoes at Reny's; browsing at TJ Maxx; picking up a reserve book at the Library, and then doing all that lovely grocery shopping at Hannaford's!

Yes. Even when it's routine, vacation is lovely.

Here are a few (?) pics of the family at Skidmore, with Lyle. . . .

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12: Snow, Sleet, and VACATION!

Amazingly enough, it's sleeting and snowing hard on the Friday that kicks off April vacation! We may get up to 2" tonight, though it's due to change to rain by the time we leave tomorrow to head off for a nice five day college/family tour:
one night in Greenfield just to get us mostly to Saratoga Springs, where we'll have brunch with Lyle and his friend Josh and Josh's parents;
then one night in Troy, only 30 mins. from Skidmore, so Nate can visit Rensselaer (!!) Polytechnic Institute;
then two luxurious nights in Marblehead with Andy's wonderful aunt and uncle, so Nate can visit MIT and we can see Andy's brother and his wife;
then we'll head up to Lewiston, Maine, for a tour of Bates College (alma mater of both my parents and place where my dad was a professor for forty years) and lunch with my dad!
We are borrowing Mom's car (it's a 2010 Corolla automatic, which means N can get in some good driving practice for his test and it has an ipod jack, so our audiobook fixation is secure!), so we'll see her, too.

And we'll be home on Wednesday late afternoonish. Whew!

I don't have a huge list of gotta dos for this vacation: have to get the animals to the vet for various shots, and I want to get the end of the school year planned out and some big papers corrected, but mostly I can relax. I hope to finish one sock (Retro rib socks for Andy in green yarn he chose) and start another, but I also might plan to read some papers in the back seat. Hmmmmm. Such options!  Am bringing my work, my knitting, and my running stuff--we'll see what unfolds!

**Have just started listening to Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. His writing is amazing.

But I just finished listening to:

Baking Cakes in Kigali
This book, purchased through my Audible account, presented a little bit of a challenge as an audiobook, since I had no context: was it supposed to be serious? Humorous? Sociological? Was it written by a Rwandan? How long was it? 

Right off, I was struck by its "wanna be No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" flavor and its slightly awkward style, but before long I had gotten over those characteristics, and I began to enjoy the story and the interesting perspective that Parkin gave on life in Rwanda after the genocide in the 90's: this is not an "Africa in Peril" story, I am happy to say, but it gives the reader (listener) a sense of what it's like to live in a country that has undergone such a slaughter; where AIDS is rampant; where a cutting ceremony for a young girl might be a reality. While I do think there is a strong debt to Mma Ramotswe and Alexander McCall Smith here, this novel (and, possibly, series? Though this was published in 2010 and I haven't seen any others) digs more deeply into the social issues in Rwanda than Smith's books do while at the same time showing what daily, middle class life in Rwanda is like (though the Tungarazas, the main characters, are from Tanzania). 

The book is a pleasant and interesting read; while Parkin's writing can be a tad awkward in places, she's at her best when she tells less and shows more: for example, when she makes the off-handed comment that the name written on the christening cake for a baby girl is not, in fact, "Good Enough," as the parents originally wanted, but, instead, "Perfect." Go, Angel Tungaraza!

AND I had forgotten. . . . Beowulf, A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney; read by George Guidall

Beowulf by Unknown

Read this as an audiobook to "power read" it before teaching it to my sophomores. Audible. com version, read by George Guidall--not sure why Goodreads doesn't have that listed, as it is TERRIFIC! What a great way to review (or meet!) Beowulf! Heaney's translation is fantastic, and while I'd love to hear a Irishman, a Dane, or a Scotsman read it, Guidall is skilled if neutral. The inclusion of the introduction at the end is surprising (why not include it at the start?) but fantastic, and helps enrich the whole experience. I've read and taught Beowulf before, but I never really enjoyed its story fully until I listened to it. HIGHLY recommended. Yup, even the middle section while they're all boasting and trading loot. Listen to this and skip the terrible cartoony version with Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mom!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6: Saturday Night Catch Up!

Beautiful Lies Beautiful Lies, by Clare Cook

Well. My overall impression is that it is a carefully written book with a heavily historical "feel", but one that ultimately lacks a powerful plot or final impression at all. I expected that the story would revolve around the terrible newspaperman's threat to reveal Maribel's background OR something about Maribel getting involved in spiritualism, but it didn't. I'm not 100% sure WHAT it revolved around: Maribel's discovery of photography as a medium? Her husband's battle for human rights in England? Her realization that her memory of her family was not shared by the rest of her family? Many interesting characters and bits surface--even Oscar Wilde gets mentioned several times!--but ultimately, the book ends up feeling disjointed and uneven. And. . . what IS it with Clark and cigarettes? Nicotine and its effects and the smell, appearance, rituals, etc., of smoking are practically characters in the story. Clark mentions in the post script that the historical character that inspired the novel was known to smoke, but her fictional version really does nothing else but, it seems!

So: B-, I'd say. Lots going on but doesn't live up to its full potential, unfortunately.


The Enchanted AprilI've read Enchanted April at least twice and seen the film a number of times--actually saw the film first. Amazingly, our library has a large print edition of EA and when my book club decided to read it for April 27, I went right after it. 

What a light and pleasant book with great descriptions and a surprisingly important message about love and relationships! Von Arnim takes a lots of risks in this novel, and chief among them is making her main character, Lottie Wilkins, a ditz who delivers embarrassingly honest observations in neo-Flower Child language at the drop of a hat. The risk, however, pays off--Lottie's annoying qualities fit perfectly with her role in the plot and in the novel as  whole: her message about the need for people (women, particularly, but people over all) to make themselves happy in order to be good, loving individuals is naive but important, and her determination to announce it repeatedly forces us to confront that fact. Rose Arbuthnot is nearly as annoying in her self sacrifice, and, once again, von Armin uses her tiresome determination to reveal its own shortcomings as the story progresses. The weakest plot line is the one involving the lovely Lady Caroline, which is resolved neatly in the movie--a deft editing choice that I wish someone had suggested to von Armin!

However, it's a good novel for a February or March day when it's sneezing sleet outside and life feels depressing. It's more than just a travelogue, touching on some real truths about human nature and relationships, and I recommend it highly!

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

I think it's time for a different rating system: I keep running into books that aren't "I really liked" but are memorable and well-written. . . Well, maybe that's why we write the reviews! Anyway: Telling the Bees is a carefully crafted, well written, devastatingly sad book. I read it VERY fast, skipping a lot of the details of philosophy and bee lore to get to the heart of the story and to realize that yes, it is very sad: two families end, essentially, in the course of it. There are no pretty little resolutions. But the bees go on. 

Once again, as Elisabeth Von Armin did in Enchanted April, which I just reviewed, Hesketh takes a risk by having a challenging narrator: he's Albert Honig, an old bachelor who talks and thinks like a 17th century scholar--people are always telling him to keep to the point, to answer just their questions, and I felt exactly the same way, but since I could skip or skim, I did. As an audiobook, Telling the Bees might have enchanted me by its deliberate pace, or it might've driven me around the bend. As a "real book," it was haunting, memorable, informative, and very sad. I wish Hesketh could've seen her way towards changing the story's arc--but even though she didn't, she wrote a powerful book.


Well, I have walked to the high school and back twice, walked Z, walked to the Y for a 2000 yd swim, and I am tired! Nate's show choir went well, and they made night finals, so are either state champs or runners-up; his jazz choir came in 3rd, which is great. I also saw MDIHS's "Salaam Bombay" show, which brought down the house. It's amazing--and if they don't win their division of states, I'll be amazed. It's been nice to have Mom here, and to ignore my fairly bulging end of term 3 correcting bag, but tomorrow I'll be back at it. 
Bed first, though! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

April 5, Friday: End of Term 3!

Hard to believe. Am cast down on the couch after school/correcting/helping kids/meeting/making chili/having Mom come visit/eating Thai take out for dinner/whew!

Nice to have my weekend feature: getting up, making raised waffles, going to see N in show choir and to deliver my chili, then doing some more correcting for the end of the marking period.

I have two books to blog and more to read, but I am betting I will be sleeping before long.

The Enchanted April and Beautiful Lies. Will blog them . . . tomorrow? After show choir? We'll see.

It was warmer and wonderfully sunny today. A good sign.

Sorry so boring!