Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oh Canada

 I say farewell for a long weekend and in blog world, maybe a week.  Friday, I head to Quebec City Canada to meet up with friends from PA. I've known two since junior high, one high school, and two from college.  We started a tradition of taking a trip every five years. This year we all turn 55 and we shall celebrate en francais so to speak.

I hope I get there. Air travel these days is a horrific challenge. I booked my trip back in October 2012 and got a great price. Since I leave Friday, I checked my itinerary on Monday only to find that United had dropped a few legs and neglected to tell me. After an hour on the phone, I think I'll get to Quebec City via Toronto on Friday. My return trip on Tuesday 7/2 is a tad precarious. We'll see if I get back across the border. Breathe deep, must stay calm.

It's obnoxious because I know I'm fortunate to get to go on vacation. But trying to prepare at work has been annoying. Trying to coordinate my flights has been annoying. It just should not be so stressful to leave.
Arrggh. Deep breaths.
But hopefully, Friday evening this shall be my new home - Hotel Chateau Frontenac - fabulousness along the St.Lawrence River.

I shall bore you with details once I'm back. Until then, au revoir -  I'm footloose and fancy free. C'est bon!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Dear Life by Alice Munro

From the cover blurb: Alice Munro's peerless ability to give us the essence of a life in often brief but always spacious and timeless stories is once again everywhere apparent in this brilliant new collection.

Indeed, chance encounters, twists of fate, small town gossip vs. big city anonymity, accidents, dangers, departures, and beginnings - all paint a radiant, indelible portrait of how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.

I enjoyed this collection, Dear Life, and Munro is so graceful in her writing. It seems effortless, but at age 81 she's had quite a lot of practice. Her descriptions, settings, and characters are just so good. Why am I even commenting? I am not worthy. Truly - just not worthy. But I'm delighted to be a reader of her work.

Here are a few samples of her prose:

P. 10  Here nobody was safe. Judgement might be passed behind backs, even on the known and published. An air of cleverness or nerves obtained, no matter who you were.

P. 176  Jumping off the train was supposed to be a cancellation. You roused your body, readied your knees, to enter a different block of air. You looked forward to emptiness.

P. 319  We say of some things that they can't be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do - we do it all the time.

For those who admire the short story, read Alice Munro's Dear Life and shake your head in awe of great writing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Slide into Summer

Slide into Summer by Joanne Faries

Wax paper, please?

Mom always had extra rolls

tore sheets for neighborhood kids

everyone chose a section

tall kids covered the top

little kids crowded the end

we rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed wax paper

covering every square inch

backyard metal sliding board

slick and shiny

glint hurt our eyes

Took turns sliding















until sheen diminshed
then we rubbed and rubbed and rubbed wax paper again and again

burnished gleam beckoned

we sailed down and popped off airborne

tumbling into sandpit

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Armchair Travel

Summertime - Been hanging poolside after work. Dip in and out, read, dip some more. I read a lot in the summer - hence more book reviews. I also peruse magazines and Travel & Leisure has been a new treat. Ray had some kind of points rewards program and told me to use points on a magazine. Okay. Let's travel.

The newly arrived issue (July 2013) of Travel and Leisure is a gem. I enjoyed this writer's style and laughed out loud.

p. 12  Devin Friedman   The biggest difference between Italian and American beach culture is that Italians really know how to do nothing. We Americans are not quite as good at it   (I can believe that, though I can ooze into sloth pretty quick)

p. 40 Vocabulary lesson : Vanity Flair  The creative display of toiletries - a mosaic of toothpaste, lotion, soaps on your hotel bathroom counter, artfully arranged by housekeeping while you were out
Darn creative wordplay.

p. 68 Devin Friedman  But anyone who knows anything about Italy knows they have figured out lifestyle.  Lunch. Naps. Working hours. 

National psychology - Hey guys, no one is ever going to get their act together on a societal level, so let's go small bore and construct our daily lives as perfectly as possible. Let's make sure we have good coffee, never eat a tasteless tomato and throw ourselves with extreme prejudicein the pursuit of vacation. Let's suck out all the marrow of life.

Anyone else packing bags for Italy?  Someday....someday.   
Until then - Ciao, baby.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: The Burgess Boys

P. 8     But after Susan Burgess' son did what he did - after the story about him had been in the newspapers, even in The New York Times, and on television too - I said on the phone to my mother, "I think I'm going to write the story of the Burgess kids."
"It's a good one," she agreed.
"People will say it's not nice to write about people I know."
My mother was tired that night. She yawned. "Well, you don't know them," she said. "Nobody ever knows anyone."

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout is a well written, very human portrayal of deeply flawed characters.  A freak accident killed their father when they were children. Ultimately, Jim and Bob Burgess left Maine and ended up successful in New York City. Jim's a corporate lawyer. Bob's a legal aid attorney. They were well thought of back home, with almost a glowing mythology. Susan, the loner sister, stayed behind and now her son Zach, a teen, is in trouble. Big trouble - with political and religious ramifications.

The Burgess boys head home, but to what? Are they able to "fix" the situation? Do long buried tensions surface? Life just isn't beautiful and perfect and neatly tied up in a bow.

Indeed, do we ever know anyone? In The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout explores family relationships and digs deep into sibling love/hate/failure/redemption/and life.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

 George Crowther    b.July 15, 1931
 Juanita Shutters married George Crowther
 Here I am with my sister Lori and our dad in New York City. Headed to a show
2011 - Asheville, NC.  Dad with my brother David. We all celebrated Dad turning 81.

And Dad's still blowing and going - to the gym, out to lunch with friends, mowing his yard, and zapping his microwave meals - all in the house he's lived in since 1960.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Browse a Book Store

Yes, Amazon is convenient. Barnes & Noble still has brick buildings. But what's more fun than stumbling upon a "creaky-floored bookstore"? If you are headed to New York City, here are stores to visit that aren't named Macy's or Bloomingdales. All info courtesy of the Wall Street Journal contributed by John Lee

The Strand   opened in 1927, it's slogan is 18 miles of books. Sounds like a dream world to me. Apparently, besides books there are cool literary t-shirts and souvenirs.

McNally Jackson Books   Lee describes this place as cheery. Fiction is organized by region based on author nationality - "makes for adventurous hunting. "

BookBook   located in Greenwich Village (already cool quotient is high) browsing turns into bargain buying. Save room in your suitcase.

St.Mark's Bookshop   Lee describes this store as a "serious-minded indie bookstore".  Lots of design and architecture books, plus an array of journals and poetry publications.

I never get tired of New York City and now I have new reasons to plan a trip.

Do you have a favorite indie bookstore in your hometown or found in travels?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Shoo, Fly

To photograph is to confer importance - Susan Sontag On Photography 1977
I was given permission to use this fabulous photograph by Terry Fischer. Pat Maples, creator of the Little Paper of San Saba (I am the movie critic), has forwarded some of Terry's work - birds, honey bees, etc, but this one caught my eye and I had to use it on the blog. So, thank you Terry for your keen lens.

Calliphoridae, aka bluebottles, greenbottles, and blow flies. The first known association of the word "blow" with "flies" is in Shakespeare's plays The Tempest, Antony & Cleopatra, and Love's Labour's Lost (info courtesty of Wikipedia).

Flies, literature - this blog has it all.

A divine power is at work in the sensation of the meanest insect as well as in the brain of a Newton - Voltaire  1764

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bustin' June

 Enjoyed a stroll Saturday at the Dallas Arboretum. It's glorious there. I always go for the spring tulips (around Easter) and the fall pumpkins, but I had not been in June.  Well, silly me. The purples are popping.

June is bustin' out all over - Oscar Hammerstein for the musical Carousel

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek - Into Darkness

Star Trek:Into Darkness gets an A+ for special effects and sound. You need to see this on the big screen in a dark theater and immerse yourself in warp speed. J.J.Abrams, the director, has raised the bar on this franchise. Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Dr.Spock are buddies, teammates, and loyal to the Enterprise. When it appears that a former Starfleet man has gone rogue and is blowing up key installations, it's time for the guys to improvise.

I won't blow the surprise on the villain, but it's a familiar name in Star Trek history. Benedict Cumberbatch is great in his role. He's a superhuman strain and can outfight, outwit, and out terrorize anybody in his path. Equally as evil is Captain Marcus (Peter Weller) and he's on "our" side. Explosions in space cripple the Enterprise as it sits on the outer edges of darkness the world of Klingon. That's not where you want to be trapped and fighting evil.

It's fun to watch Scotty be a hero, Bones grumble at lack of respect, Zoe Saldana is a strong female character, and Zulu fits as acting captain at times. All in all this space morality play is a fine film, and we can only hope that Starfleet continues to save our Earth in crisis. Star Trek: Into Darkness sheds new film light and fun.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lean In to Sheryl Sandberg's book

Lean In - Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is a call to action for women and a blueprint for growth. As the COO of Facebook, Sandberg has broken glass ceilings and also cut herself on the glass at times. She's a mother of two who recognizes that women can't do it all. She argues that women are not heard equally and she analyzes why that occurs. In discussing some of her career choices and giving personal examples of do's and don'ts, Sandberg demonstrates how she's achieved her goals while maintaining a successful marriage.

The concept of Lean In is that women should help other women. That women should plan further ahead than they do, and still factor in family and childrearing - that should not be a deterrent to having a job a woman enjoys. Often the key is choosing a partner who will bear the load of housework, child rearing, transportation, and the mundane aspects of life. She quotes Debora Spar, president of Barnard, "Feminism wasn't supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competition over who is raising children better, or getting less sleep. It was supposed to make us free - to give us not only choices but the ability to makes these choices without constantly feeling that we'd somehow gotten it wrong."

P. 169. The goal is to work toward a world where certain social norms don't exist. Like moms OR dads can pick up after school. Moms OR dads can make school lunches. Work standards are still fairly inflexible and penalize women with children.

She discusses how often women don't raise their hands. Women often don't speak out or are confident in their decisions. Men tend to overrate their performance, where women tend to underrate. Too often women drop out of the workforce or stay below their ability just at their prime. They achieve higher education, get into the door, and then falter.

P. 172 In regards to her son and daughter - "I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be. And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in - all the way."

Good advice for everybody. Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In is accessible, interesting, and worthy of a read and discussion.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Guilty Pleasure Movie Review

Fast & Furious 6 still has the zoom power. Crazy, over-the-top stunts fill this adrenaline rush of a great summer movie flick. Plot is loosey goosey, but c'mon you are watching for the hot guys, hot girls, fights, firepower, and stunt driving like no other. Dom (Vin Diesel - with the best motor growl of all - his voice) is drawn back into what he does best - assemble a team and get the bad guys. This time he's helping Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson (FBI) chase a terrorist seeking a final computer chip that could wreak havoc.

The team - Paul Walker bats his baby blues, Ludacris can hack computer systems like crazy, Tyrese flashes that smile and banters, and the rest bring brains and brawn. Part of the incentive is that Dom's (we think she's dead) girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is pictured alive and working for the terrorist, Shaw. Sure enough, she has amnesia and no clue who the guys are. She fights tooth and nail with Gina Carano (FBI), with Dom, etc but slowly is pulled to their side. Dom isn't going to lose her again.

Vin Diesel is the "lunkhead heart of this film" (EW 6/7/13). "Check your brain at the door and fasten your seatbelt". EW has it right. The Fast & Furious franchise is big, dumb, and smart all at the same time. Summer movie season kicked into NOZ overdrive. Don't spill your popcorn and drink.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior displays deft writing once again from Barbara Kingsolver. She combines everyday life in Appalachia with science, faith, and general human frailities.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife, who became pregnant too young, lost the baby, stayed married, and is now the mother of two. She's just going through life, sure there has to be more out there. In a morning of escape, she enters the usual valley and it's alit from within. Turns out monarch butterflies, hundreds of thousands, have gone off kilter and taken up existance far from their normal path.

Now journalists, tourists, and scientists invade this rural neck of the woods and turn life as Dellarobia knows it upside down. Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a versatile empathy, Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world. (cover blurb).

Ever since The Poisonwood Bible, I've been a fan of Barbara Kingsolver's writing. She brings characters alive in real situations, and can handle complex issues without too much preaching. I did find myself skimming a bit at the end, but was still satisfied with the conclusion of the story. Dellarobia is rich in humor and smart with common sense. The opening line of this book will draw you in - A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.

Join Dellarobia as she keeps trying to flee her life, and yet has to stay grounded too. Flight Behavior is more than butterflies, it's human too.