cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Aloha Ahas


Hawaii. The esteemed destination vacation. Until recently there has always been something to prevent going: budget, weather, budget (that did deter us a couple of times), timing. YET–the hubs turned 70, the 35th anniversary arrived, and I turned 60. No excuses allowed with this triple celebration.

After some research we went with a very reasonable Costco package (seriously, check out their travel options. They offer more than a good deal on Baby Bells.)

Since we were limited to date blocks we grabbed the June package, which meant I barely submitted my grades before we hopped aboard the six-hour flight to the Garden Island: Kauai. The best part? We flew out on my birthday. Cool, huh?

Here are some revelations:

  • Previously a Southwest devotee, I might be switching over to Alaska. Free charging stations, reasonably priced food menu, free Mai Tais (the leis weren’t available?) , $10 movie tablets (which was an unexpected birthday perk) efficient crew. Very nice.
  • Kauai is truly the garden island. Lush verdant plants with flowers so brightly hued they practically glow. Everywhere there are bizarrely beautiful plants that seem primordial. Giant fragrant blossoms. The air is tinged with briny sweetness–ocean and blossoms.

   

   

  • Being 20 steps from the ocean is pinch worthy. I would wake up, open the sliding door and in a moment I was on the beach. This is not your pretty calendar white sand beach, this is an almost frantic roller wave beach that has buckskin-colored sand full of riptide branches. It’s not a posted swimming beach due to the coral reef and undertow. This meant it was fairly desolate. Quite peaceful, almost like having a private beach. The locals were the main visitors. They would come down in the morning to fish. We watched a twenty-something dude spear dive and bring up an octopus. I liked how our resort’s frontage was not a swimming beach but one the locals come and enjoy. This made the dxperience even better.
  • Humidity is a way of life. Hair does odd things in this weather. A person is either sticky from the misty rain or the moist, clingy heat. Any clothing that is 100% cotton remains 100% damp. I should have gone with the polyester shirts.
  • In June there are peekaboo sunny days mixed with muggy grey skies. But you know what? It’s Hawaii. I will take grey skies in Hawaii any day–even grey days are amazing.
  • Casual. Shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits are the mainstay of dress. I felt overdressed with the one dress I brought. Forget capris–too hot. Shorts. Next time more shorts and tank tops. But not cotton.
  • Time is irrelevant. We gained three hours flying to the island and they were a bonus. Everyone lives in a relaxed attitude, even the K-Mart clerk. No hurry. No worry. Island time.
  • I always check out libraries wherever I vacation, and Princeville’s was jaw-dropping gorgeous with its amenities of open layout, pristine equipment. I grabbed a mystery off of the free rack. Gotta have a beach read when at the beach.
  • While the island itself is mesmerizing in beauty, the architecture is bland. Most buildings are block-shaped and are tan . No noted embellishments of design. Some houses sit on 12 foot high (or higher) stilts of concrete block (flooding?). 
  • There are so many places to see and so many things to do. Those days of hanging out by the pool working on the tan as I orignally planned got ditched once we saw how much there was to see. I sat out one day and I felt silly.
  •  Yet the one day I sat out I scorched. Not evenly, mind you. In blotches–because I sat under the shade tree. Whereever the sun peeked through I scorched. Yes, I was wearing sun block.
  • No one has perfect bodies. There were a couple of people under thirty who qualified, but most people at the resort were over forty and were far from svelte. This encouraged me to ditch the tankini and drag out the bikini. I scorched. There is a lesson in this.

 

Discoveries not in the guide book:

  1. There are feral chickens all over the place. Apparently the 1992 hurricane released chicken coops and their contents. The island has not been the same since. There are flocks of these wiry little cluckers all over the hotel compound. They have no shame. They will flap right up on the table if not watched with diligence. They wander into the open air restaurant. The sparrows are even cheekier. A trio of them perched on the opposite chair and didn’t flinch even with hand shooing and water flicking. Sheesh. Chickens are, in fact, all over the island. We traveled up to the top of the mountain for the canyon view (fabulous!) and chickens were wandering in the parking lot. Did they hitchhike a ride up?!?
  2. The snails are fantastic. Not to eat, mind you. Although these guys might serve up well as escargot they are so huge! Their shells are colorful spirals, the type a beachcomber yipes up and down in delighted discovery. As a gardener I abhor snails, yet I’ve grown fond of these guys. Every morning there is a commute of about a dozen roaming all over the hedge and ground outside on our miniscule patio. There is a huge cache of empty shells under the hedge to the point it looks like a used parking lot.
  3. One of my favorite beaches was actually an industrisl dump way back when. Located in Port Allen, Glass Beach is the site where empty bottles were dumped. Over time the ocean wore down the glass into bits and pieces. The beach is now a mix of glass pebbles and black volcanic sand.   

   

  While there are many islands to visit, it would be difficult to explore beyond Kauai. We are already saving to go back.

Poem of the Month: “Summer Silence”


Summer Silence
by e.e. cummings

Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial hills;
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
Limply down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence fills
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver, where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars

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I do relish a summer storm. The darkened, rumbly clouds. The sudden whoosh of wind with purpose bestirring the trees. The muggy air that heightens until there is either the release of rain, thunder, complemented with staccato flashes of lighting.

Yup–e.e. cummings got it spot on.

Crisis Chronicles Cyber Litmag (2008-2014)

cummings


by E.E. Cummings

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Why We Say #30: torture, tickling, and toeing the line


 

“This is my lucky day!”

Finding some extra cash, just when a bill is due. Getting that perfect parking spot when running late. Hearing that number called out, the one that matches your ticket stub–these and more examples make someone shout out: “This is my lucky day!”

Surprisingly enough, Napoleon started this expression. He isn’t generally known for his luck. After his defeat, it was discovered he owned a book listing lucky and unlucky days for starting battles. Maybe he got his days mixed up for Waterloo, which has its own expression: “I met my Waterloo,” meaning I met my undoing.

 

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image: Wikipedia

Through Fire and Water

“I’m telling the truth–so help me, I am. I’d go through fire and water to prove it.” Heard those words before?

Lying can definitely have its consequences. Telling lies back in Olde England had mortal consequences. If thought to be untruthful, a person could be given two tests. The first involved walking over nine red-hot plowshares. If there still remained some doubt after hot-footing it, then a person would be bound up and dumped in the river. If the person survived the drowning by untying all the binding then he or she had to be telling the truth, since surviving fire and water has to be through Providence.

Tickled to Death

“Well, I’d be tickled to death to house sit your place for a week and take care of your plants and three dogs.” This particular expression alludes to being so pleased that it’s an absolute delight. And be delighted to the point of laughter is pleasant. Who doesn’t want to laugh? Laughing is great fun, right? Then again sometimes what makes us laugh can also be painful.

Tickling, that paradox of pain that makes us laugh, was once considered a form of Chinese torture. The victim would be tickled without mercy. That’s right, dying from laughter. When a person says he or she is tickled to death, maybe second thoughts of what they are really saying should be under consideration.

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image: Etsy

Toeing the Line

This might be a regional expression or one that is outright too old-fashioned to mention, but I do say it or hear it from time to time. Letting someone know he or she needs to get things just right and not go beyond expected boundaries makes sense when applying this saying as it derives from when boxers had to step up to a designated mark on the floor as they faced up before fighting each other. Not that I expect to knock anyone out, but I do appreciate everyone that know where things stand. Hmm, is that like drawing a line in the sand? Gotta look that one up.

Reading Round Up: May


I’m still seven books behind my Goodreads goal. Drat and double drat. I had hopes of finding an engaging series and get involved in some serie-ous reading. My hopes were dashed *sniffle*.

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Feeling a bit snookered after investing some time in the first two Mary Russell books by Laurie King. After avoiding The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for several years,(Sherlock mentors a teenage girl?!?) I relented and read it and begrudgingly liked it. Moving on to book two, the title should have warned me off.
What a disappointment. Hardly any Holmes, Mary is some kind of savant who is six feet tall, can best Sherlock at chess (not often), solve mysteries, and is an heiress attending Oxford for theological studies yet is a burgeoning feminist in the days of Victoria. She wears pants and has has martial arts skills. This girl is busy. Oh, she does wear glasses–I guess she is a sort of Wonder Woman/Clark Kent,

While the first book held my attention when Mary was merely Sherlock’s protegee, I lost interest through major parts of book two as she came into her own at 21. Way too much speech making about feminism–it was monstrous, indeed. The ending nearly had me throwing the book across the room. Sherlockian purists be warned.

I would definitely appreciate a series that is Sherlock and not schlock. A mystery-solving detective not focused on blood, broads, and bad language. Or is that too tall an order? Open to suggestions…

 

187977An overlooked book that combines several genres: fantasy, science, adventure, maybe even a smudge of magic. A group of genius teens are awarded the privilege of spending their summer at a science camp with an esteemed scientist. They discover his true reason for selecting them is they each possess a talent that will help unravel the mystery of lost mammoths.
Lots of adventure contained in a well-crafted book, published by Perceval Press. The reader audience is difficult to suggest as it’s sporadically illustrated, something elementary students like, yet the vocabulary tends toward YA; however, the plot is so engaging I didn’t feel like I was reading a kid’s book.

BtW–Perceval Press was founded by Viggo Mortensen, who is said to oversee each of the twelve books that the company publishes each year. The book I read had been donated to our high school by Viggo. In fact, it’s one of two books that were given to the graduating class of 2006. Here’s the why:

One day, in a small barbershop, in a small town, Viggo Mortensen struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to him, who didn’t have a clue who he was talking to. The guy was the outgoing high school principal. Interested, Viggo asked him what he thought was the biggest problem facing the school. The principal said, “reading.”
It’s not clear what aspect of reading the principal thought to be the problem, but out of that conversation the principal received a phone call from Walter Mortensen, who represented Perceval Press. He said Viggo wanted to donate two books to each of the 350 graduating seniors. Each senior received two books written by Mike Davis: Land of the Mammoths and Pirates, Bats and Dragons. In addition, they received two bookmarks and a handwritten copy of a note from Viggo wishing the students well.

One of those seniors was my son, and I thought it time to read at least one of those books.

Some day I’ll relate the part two of the story, in which my sons met Viggo at one of his art shows and discussed books, if only briefly.

 

Of Purple Cows and Ending of School Year


Monday is the last week of school. My seniors are already done with their finals and have vamoosed. There is an empty spot in my schedule, and in my teacher’s heart. I so enjoy my AP Lit classes. I hope they remember the stuff I taught them or attempted to teach them when they are sitting in their university lecture halls.

This week the sophomores take their finals. They will be tested on their knowledge of Julius Caesar, the last unit of their tenth grade English. For the most part they enjoyed learning about this important Rome leader. They still have misconceptions about him though–such as him being the inventor of s salad. They were amazed July is named after him.

Some complained about how much history goes with English literature. One influences the other, is what I tell them. They still grumble.

My one another AP class, my AP Language, affectionately known as Langsters, will be presenting their Senior Project Starters this week as their final. Most will be moving on to AP Lit, so not too much sadness, although they did make my first year of teaching AP Language quite enjoyable. Juniors are done with underclassmen drama, aren’t infected with Senioritis, and realized that with a wee bit more effort it’s possible to get great SAT scores which can open doors to desired colleges.

After June 12th I’m free to get back to “me” pursuits, such as reading books, instead of essays. I also hope to finish up a YA novel I started (about five years ago). It’s tough finding time to write as a teacher.

Surprisingly enough, I’m on the short list to teach creative writing second semester. It’s been about four years, so I’m brushing off some of my lesson plans. One them involves parody writing. Tell me what you think:

Parody Poems

“Imitation is the best form of compliment” or so they say. A Parody Poem emulates or copies a known style of poet. Special attention is paid to tone, diction, rhythm, meter—basically getting the poet’s style so that it is recognizable.

Here are some parody poems using the famous “Purple Cow” poem:

 A Purple Cow  (reading by Stuart S.)
by Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.

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And here are the parodies:

Edgar Allen Poe
Parody by Susan and David Hollander

One lonely, gloomy, windswept eve
A mournful sound did I perceive.
I cast my eyes beyond the pane
And to my horror down the lane
Came a sight; I froze inside
A spectral cow with purple hide.
Emily Dickinson
Parody by Susan and David Hollander

On far off hills
And distant rills,
Sounds a distant moo.
A purple spot
I think I caught,
Yes! I see it, too!
In Bovine majesty she stands,
Her purple tail she swings,
The amethyst cow,
To my heart somehow,
Perfect joy she brings.
And yet the thought of being
Of that race of royal hue,
Though glowing like the violet sweet,
It really would not do

My contributions…

Dr Seuss
by C. Muse

Hey Sam–
Who cares about greens eggs and ham?

I like cows.
I like cows here and now.
I like cows and their moo.
Do you like cows?
You like them, too?

I like cows brown or black and white.
A purple cow?
I think not.
That can’t be right.

Shakespeare
SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art so lovely, as thou eats hay.

Gentle creature, thou shows its color true,
Of thy hide of which you are adorned
A rich amethyst, a most unexpected hue.
Some may give shriek and others scorn
Yet, it matters not, thou still dost moo.

So long as all can breathe and see,
So all appreciate the purple cow that is thee.

Why We Say #29: taking and talking


Taking a back seat can just take the cake sometimes, especially when talking turkey about telling a gag.

Taking a Back Seat
In England’s Parliament, members of power get the front seats, kind of a ringside view of the political show, while those members who are in the minority power must contend with the seats in the back, and probably don’t get to contribute in the same manner.   So when we tell someone to “take a back seat” we are basically letting him or her know that they don’t have the main say. Although back seat drivers are known for having quite a bit to say. Here are some back seat quotes to consider:

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Take the Cake
Remember once upon a time when there were school carnivals with all those wonderful games, including the cake walk? Moving around the circle hoping your number was called after the music stopped so you could pick your favorite cake from the selections was a definite high point of the evening. After the surprise of getting your number called you got to take the cake home–that’s pretty special, winning a cake. And so it goes with the expression: it’s pretty special, even amazing, when someone or something “takes the cake.”

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Moving on from taking to talking…

Talking Turkey
Early American settlers trading with Native Americans were not always interested in bargaining for anything offered but turkey. Turkey was a new type of meat, and many a settler had developed a taste for the bird. Getting right to the talk of trading for turkey, without having to sift through other trading talk, meant “talking turkey,” getting right down to the facts, the serious business. Some may not quite understand that talking turkey is serious stuff….

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northstonerealestate.com

Which leads us to telling a gag
Telling a joke, a “gag,” stems from the days when performers would save the situation when one partner would forget his or her lines by filling in the moment with a quick joke. This quick save avoided an otherwise awkward silence and helped the stricken partner regain the forgotten lines. The filler joke was referred as a gag, since gags were used as silencers. There are some great entertainers who knew all about great jokes:

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Certain as a Jertain


By way of a Quora question request I found perhaps the most beautiful article in the NYTimes mobile about reading.

As a parent, who is a writer/librarian/teacher, I value reading and getting books into the hands of kids, especially mine when they were little.

I remember being the only librarian on staff who had pre-schoolers which meant I had the privilege of taking home a stack of picture books before they hit the shelves.


I would gather my brood around me on our eastern king bed with the dark blue velour blanket and read and read and read. 

“You are the first children to ever read this book,” I would intone before commencing. The books would crisply creak when I opened them, they were so fresh off the press. I’m a closet dramatic and reading books in character voices is how they heard George and Martha and their pb compatriots.

My daughter (now in her thirties) tells me: “It felt like we were floating on a soft, blue ocean while you read to us.”

Reading out loud to children is important. I read out loud to my granddaughter when we are together. I introduced her to Narnia. I read to my high school students, or have a book tape read to them. They are not grown up enough to stop reveling in the joy of being read to out loud.

And so, this is my Mother’s Day post celebrating the joy of having read to my own children. We didn’t have a Streak, but we did create some memories together.

Reading Round Up: April


I am woefully behind schedule in my Good Read’s challenge, being at a paltry 29%. I am five books behind!

 Who knew taking on teaching another Advanced Placement class would zap my energy for even my go-to-unwind activity of reading? Preparing students for their AP exams has left me so tired I have to take a nap so I can get enough energy to go to the gym. And I can’t skip the gym because I tend to binge on chocolate when stressed. 

Wednesday was the last exam. Life is looking a little less frazzling going into the weekend, especially since I’m taking a couple of personal days and extending my weekend into Tuesday. Reading books and relaxing are premier on my agenda list after Friday.

Not having read much last month, here are my two spotlights:

The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne


In the tradition of old tales of yesteryear such Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is found The Coral Island. Shipwrecked, three young men make their island their home. They have their share of adventures providing readers an enriching story that heartily entertains. 

An interesting aside is that The Coral Island was once read by a lad named William Golding. He would later write his own shipwreck tale called Lord of the Flies. His main characters are also called Jack and Ralph. Hmmmm

Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob


The Crayola bright color combined with the enticement of Me and Shakespeare prompted me to stack Herman Gollob’s memoir on top of my other reads. Gollob’s title attracted me for the reason of how personal it sounded, as if he and the Bard had gone on a road trip together.

In actuality, this is a Journey tale. Gollob’s skillful weaving of his extensive experience as a book editor and his discovery of Shakespeare creates a fine and enjoyable read. Sometimes Gollob became a bit pedantic and negative, yet overall he added insights to my own Shakespeare interests.

Reading Round Up: April


I am woefully behind schedule in my Good Read’s challenge, being at at paltry 29%. I am five books behind schedule. Who knew taking on another Advanced Placement class would zap my energy for even my go-to-unwind activity of reading? Preparing students for their AP exams left me enough so tired I had to take a nap so I could get enough energy to get to the gym. And I can skip the gym because I tend to binge on chocolate when stressed. Wednesday is the last exam. Life is looking a little less frazzling going into the weekend, especially since I’m taking a couple of personal days and extending it. Reading books and relaxing are premier on my agenda list after Friday.

Not having read much last month, here are my two spotlights:

The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne


In the tradition of old tales of yesteryear such Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is found The Coral Island. Shipwrecked, three young men make their island their home. They have their share of adventures providing readers an enriching story that heartily entertains. 

An interesting aside is that The Coral Island was once read by a lad named William Golding. He would later write his own shipwreck tale called Lord of the Flies. His main characters are also called Jack and Ralph. Hmmmm

Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob


The Crayola bright color combined with the enticement of Me and Shakespeare prompted me to stack Herman Gollob’s memoir on top of my other reads. Gollob’s title attracted me for the reason of how personal it sounded, as if he and the Bard had gone on a road trip together.

In actuality, this is a Journey tale. Gollob’s skillful weaving of his extensive experience as a book editor and his discovery of Shakespeare creates a fine and enjoyable read. Sometimes Gollob became a bit pedantic and negative, yet overall he added insights to my own Shakespeare interests.

A Bit of Bard–maybe a bit late


Depending on where you are located, it’s April 23rd and William Shakespeare’s birthday. Today he is an amazing 453 years old! Last year the world celebrated the 400 years since he passed from immediate view–going out on his birthday in 1616. I believe Mark Twain is another writer who did the same, except being Twain he did so with more flourish by coming in with Halley’s comet and leaving the day it returned.

As for William, his influence is ageless. I’m currently undertaking the starting of a Shakespeare club on campus: Students for Shakespeare. I actually inherited the title of the club. A few years back a group of students who wanted to put on Macbeth at the local theater and by doing so, made enough from ticket sales to create a little nest egg for future ventures. Their tidy profit helped in bringing Shakespeare to our school. With some tight management of funds, I manage to bring in annually Shakesperience, a team of actors who travel around the state performing at schools for a small fee. For some students, this will be their first and only exposure to a live performance of Shakespeare.

In the classroom I no doubt wear out my students with my enthusiasm for Shakespeare. I have his poster up on the wall and once a month I create crazy iMovies that are played on the morning announcements that promote the Students for Shakespeare Club. And four is the number of students I commandeered to be in the yearbook photo since no one has actually showed up for our monthly meetings yet. I shall once more to the breach…

April also happens to be National Poetry Month. I usually provide a poem a day as tribute to the month. I save them up all year. This year spring break happened the first week of April, I succumbed to getting a cold, then became dizzyfied by SAT testing, followed by reviewing for AP exams, became distracted by class registration–well, let’s just say Eliot wasn’t kidding when he said April is the cruelest month. Maybe not cruel. Daffodils are blooming. I get happy when the flowers return. It is a busy month though.

So–my poetry plans fell through, but I shall, as Puck says, try to make amends. Here is a link that is definitely worth watching, especially if you relish really amazing acting. This is Sir Ian in his prime (around 43), performing a one man show of Shakespeare. And this fulfills my poetry and Shakespeare efforts for April since Sir Ian performs both sonnets and play excerpts. Enjoy!

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