Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Picoult Rules

I confess to Jodi Picoult burnout. It lasted a year. I read a slew of her books, was up on her every hot topic in the news, and then my brain exploded. I did this for awhile with Oprah - dvr'd her show, read her magazine, and then said, "I'm choosing slothdom."

However, I currently have Oprah's April magazine issue featuring poetry sitting open on the kitchen table. And Jodi Picoult's House Rules jumped into my arms at the library. Guess I'm an addict and there's no cure.

Picoult is an excellent writer. Her characters are flawed but likeable. Her storytelling style - various viewpoints - keeps your interest and heightens pace and tension. It's obvious she's done research on her topic - in this case, autism. All in all, House Rules, has Picoult in fine form and I'm hooked once again.

Jacob Hunt, high schooler, is autistic. Theo, the younger teen brother, is resentful and yet, looks out for Jacob. Emma, the mother, constantly runs interference on Jacob's life. As a reader, you will gain a huge appreciation for what a mother of an autistic child goes through each day. It's exhausting. Jessica (college student) is Jacob's social worker and has helped him immensely. Unfortunately, Jessica is found murdered and the key suspect is Jacob. Oliver, a new lawyer, takes on the case and the trials and tribulations of Jacob, who deals in black and white, no shades of gray. Oliver has to convince the judge and jury that Jacob is innocent, but is he?

P. 7 Emma discusses Jacob: If you talk to him, you'll have to be the one to start the conversation. He won't look you in the eye. And if you pause to speak to someone else, for a brief moment, you might turn back to find that Jacob's left the room.

p. 12 Theo's view: I'm no saint. There are times I'll do things to drive Jacob crazy, because it's just so darn easy.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult is a worthy read. She's smart and definitely raises awareness on autism issues through solid fiction. I recommend this, but then step away from the "P" aisle in the library for awhile. You don't want Picoult burnout.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Surprises & Filler Until the Next Post

All gardening is landscape painting - Alexander Pope Life, like art, should be the celebration of a vision - Michael Larsen This has been a weekend of projects. With eighty degree weather, it's time to fertilize, trim, rake, and shape the bounty that is our yard. We have plenty of work to do. Thus I'm featuring pictures from the Dallas Arboretum - their hard work is constant year round and it shows. I'll rest on their laurels for this post.
Last weekend, we attended Ranger spring training in Surprise, AZ. I liked this sign outside the stadium.
In between workouts, players are mobbed by fans. Here, pitcher Colby Lewis was nice enough to stop and scrawl his autograph. It has to be a strange life. Everything the players do is scrutinized.

Fame is a bee

It has a song -

It has a sting -

Ah, too, it has a wing

Emily Dickinson

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring in Surprise

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball - Jacques Barzon. Surprise, AZ - home of the Texas Rangers baseball team spring training camp. They are part of the Cactus League and the 2010 American League champions. Thus, they are drawing huge crowds to pre-season. (10,000 people were in the stands on Saturday 3/19/11).The boys of summer are working on their craft and, from what I observed, doing a lot of fart around. Sports writing heaven - sunshine, blue sky, and sunflower seeds to spit.
You can observe a lot by watchin' - Yogi Berra. Sunday 3/20/11 - seats in the kill zone (i.e. bats can fly), but man you can hear, see, and experience the sheer joy of timeless baseball from these seats. Batter chatter.

Most ball games are lost, not won - Casey Stengel.
Yeah, but until the first pitch of 2011, the Texas Rangers are the American League champions. We reveled in the glory in Surprise, AZ.

Batting practice. Up close and personal with Ian Kinsler. Of course there's a reason why they keep the fans behind fencing. It's a weird career - baseball. Folks think they know how to play. We've all swung a bat at one time or another in our grade school lives. Thus, we are entitled to opinions. We get to go to work with these fellows, watch them practice, analyze their every move, and then deliver a verdict. Winners or losers.

Spring in Surprise proved pleasant - an escape from reality. Baseball is timeless. First Ranger pitch - April 1st 2011. Goal - October and the World Series.
Play ball.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Frenzy - More Flowers

I wanted to take off my shoes at the arboretum and wriggle my toes in this grass. No weeds. Perfection. A blank slate, so to speak. Spring inspiration. I've been jotting words, phrases, and half-assed haiku. Then again, let's just enjoy the absolute clarity of green grass.
Nature is always serious - does not jest with us. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part;Do thou but thine - John Milton/Paradise Lost
Believe me, the arboretum has done its part to make nature shine

Nature's above art - Shakespeare/ King Lear

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Earth laughs in flowers - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature - Gerard de Nerval

'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes - William Wordsworth

The Amen! of Nature is always a flower - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
and dances with the daffodils - William Wordsworth

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creativity - The Three C's

I enjoy creativity in all forms. Rather than look at writing today, let's explore three very different outlets.

Charlotte Dellal designs shoes. Inspired by the 1940s, she works up ideas by engaging in various activities such as gardening. Her All About Eve summer collection had a shoe made of green leather and leaf shapes. "I love the 40s era, rich in accessories." She also likes to evoke the feel of an Agatha Christie murder mystery with an elegant heroine. "It's a fluid process. I start out with one thing and then it evolves into another."

Her favorite film is Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth. Apparently she keeps a huge scrapbook of magazine cutouts, old theater tickets, and movie posters. A collection of childhood toys and vintage shoes round out the muse. And her creativity does circle back to writing. Charlotte Dellal's spider web logo was inspired by an early edition of E.B.White's childhood classic Charlotte's Web.

source - Wall Street Journal - 2/12-13 p. C11

Cristeta Comerford is the White House Executive Chef. She is Phillipine born, French trained, and married to a chef of Irish descent. How did she create a "quintessentially American state dinner" for the Chinese President? Apparently known for her Asian spices, colors, and extra garlic, Comerford's creative process occurred in her hour long commute to work. Her mind sifted through recipes, available ingredients, colors, and a vision of the plating.

Highlights: goat cheese/D'anjou pear appetizer, then orange glazed carrots/black trumpet mushrooms/poached Maine lobster heralded the main course. Like a baseball coach, she instructs with hand signals. "The team worked in near silence, rehearsed movements akin to a ballet," said the chef. "Advance preparation and practice is key."

Her hard work paid off. The state dinner was deemed a success.

Guess I'll put away the Mac 'n Cheese and contemplate a plating for tonight. However, Ray's not keen on carrots. Will Cheetos (they are orange) suffice?

source: Wall Street Journal 2/26-27 p. C11

Conor Oberst, folk singer from Omaha, confesses "he's a thief, stealing phrases I hear and turning them into a chorus or theme." He carries a small digital recorder to capture "snatches of potential inspiration." Everyday dialogue and sound outtakes like a giggle fill his larder with musical paintings.Whether strumming a guitar or gliding across a keyboard, Oberst sings of life through "dreamy imagery, alien references, and spare melancholy."

source: Wall Street Journal 2/5-6 p. C11

The creative process takes its own course. If it did otherwise, it would not be creative.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Follow the Wave

Anyone caught in undertow feels powerless. Anyone knocked over by a strong wave appreciates safety on dry land. The rough and tumble spinning confusion of where's up? and where's down? is scary.
The Wave by Susan Casey thoroughly researches rogue waves, gargantuan freaks of nature that arise from seemingly nowhere. From the research vessel RRS Discovery, trapped in the North Atlantic, to surfer experiences with Laird Hamilton in Hawaii, Casey explores shipwreck cases, talks with scientists, and witnesses firsthand the power of the ocean. Tsunamis can threaten the global shipping system, and there's so much yet to learn.
p. 7 The force of waves is hard to overstate. An eighteen-inch wave can topple a wall built to withstand 125 mile-per-hour winds. Imagine surviving a hundred foot wave.
p.14 Describing the giant wave Pe'ahi aka Jaws: The white feathering as the wave begins to crest, the spectrum of blues from rich lapis to pale turquoise, the roundness of the barrel, the billowing fields of whitewater when it comes crashing down ...
p.44 Discussing tow surfing: There was so much fury in this wave, a meat-grinder-cement-truck-wrath-of-God fury, that even now to watch it on video is a sobering experience.
The Wave is well written in layman's terms. The book gives a thorough overview of various hotspots in the world for rogue waves, and explains how researchers work on prediction models. The various characters - well respected scientists and surfers - make for an odd yet intriguing pairing of knowledge. Susan Casey's respect and wonder for her subject shines through.
As someone who has come up sputtering from teensy waves, I enjoyed this book and found it fascinating.
H.L.Mencken: Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops. (p.63)