cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Classic Movie Nights


Daytime in the summer is mainly working on my writing projects, wslking, yard work, and of course, reading, reading, and more reading.

Around seven o’clock the hubs looks at me and asks: “So what do you want to do tonight?”

There aren’t many options in a town of 6,000. It usually comes down to watching a movie. 

Our smalltown boasts one theater. It’s not fancy. It’s not AMC. The seats tip back because the springs are stressed. The floors are s bit sticky. The rows are offside instead of center screen. We have to really, really want to see a movie and not be willing to drive an hour away to the mega-complex to go.

There is also the fact if we wait a couple of months the movie comes out on DVD. Then we rent it for a buck fifty at the grocery store instead of paying box office prices. We start the movie when we want, pause it, subtitle it, enjoy it in our kickback loungers. We even sleep through the boring parts. I can catch up on my phone stuff. Or play another level of Candy Mania.

Why wouldn’t we choose to watch movies at home? 

Another option is that our local library has a HUGE movie section complete with TV series. I’m ever so patiently waiting for The Hollow Crown. We aren’t hooked up to commercial channels. The TV is basically a movie screen. That’s a whole  different post.

Being Baby Boomers, the hubs and I are partial to films where actors versus CGI is the primary billing.This means we tend to watch a lot of  classics. It’s like visiting with old, favorite friends when  we settle in to watch Cary Grant, Hepburns Audrey/Katherine, John Wayne and the rest of the screen star crew.

Some favorites this summer we’ve revisted:

Now and then a new movie comes along that’s based on an old classic. From some reason, we were won over by: 


mainly because we grew up with:

Guy Ritchie got it right. The light-hearted, comically serious tone, the Bondian flavor, the sixties style. Henry totally got Robert Vaughn and Hammer did his own Ilya. How come the critics didn’t get it? Then again, if I paid attention to the critics I wouldn’t watch movies at all. They either love something I don’t get or, like above, they pan what I deem brillaint. And that’s another post as well.

So–a couple of questions, if I may:

1. Do you prefer classics to new?

2. Do you prefer DVD to big screen?

3. Any new  films  you think might become classics?

Poem of the Month: of Roads, Readers, and such


A recent post discussed how David Orr points out how America has misread Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which I now have stuck in my brain as being titled “Two Roads.” Another discussion could be voting for which should be the real title.

As I add to my Poem of the Day PPT for my students, I came across a Carl Sandburg poem that resonated with Frost’s poem about experience. This led to an article about revisiting poems that have created the cringe factor due to overuse since being introduced to them in elementary school and this led to another poem about connecting with readers. I enjoy this particular poem’s title since it harkens to Bronte’s use of addressing her audience as “Dear Reader,” something we as writers unconsciously do as we include others as we write.

Enjoy this excerpt and follow the link for the entire poem

Dear Reader by Amy Gerstler

Through what precinct of life’s forest are you hiking at this
moment?
Are you kicking up leaf litter or stabbed by brambles?
Of what stuff are you made? Gossamer or chain mail?
Are you, as reputed, marvelously empty? Or invisibly ever-
present,
even as this missive is typed? Have you been to Easter Island?
Yes?
Then I’m jealous. Do you use a tongue depressor as bookmark?

I wonder if Charlotte would have used a tongue depressor as a bookmark?

image: http://www.thefamouspeople.com

A Frosty Choice


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

And I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Frost’s famous lines that celebrate and embrace individualism. The encouragement to go against the grain, to strive beyond mediocrity, to go where few have bothered to travel. It’s the stuff of graduation speeches, self-help tomes, greeting cards, posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and it even helps to sell cars.
According to David Orr in his literary/biography/analysis, The Road Not Taken, we have got it all wrong. The subtitle clues us in: Finding America in the Poem Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong. 

Surprise Reading*

In Orr’s introduction he asserts and emphasizes that the roads are equally traveled, that the two roads are interchangeable. The speaker admits the other road “just as fair” and “the passing there/Had worn them really about the same…” The speaker further notes: “And both that morning equally lay/In leaves no step had trodden black.”

To me it’s all saying: “Hey, which way should I go? I have no idea. They look both the same.”

David Orr would tell us this is perhaps right, then again maybe not. After all, poetry is a matter of perspective. He states that the poem “is a literary oddity and a philosophical puzzle, but more than anything else it’s a way of framing the paradoxical and massively influential culture in which it both begins and ends.”

Maybe Orr is the only one who does get it right because after reading his illuminating, worthwhile, and fascinating treatise on Frost’s poem, I still think it’s all about making choices and living out the decisions we’ve made–no regrets.

Then again, Frost might be having the last laugh. Apparently the poem is his gentle poke at how his good friend, Edward Thomas, a British poet, had considerable difficulties selecting which way to go when he and Frost would ramble around the English countryside together. Thomas would lament how the other direction had just as many lovely sights to see. In other words, they were both good choices, yet Thomas always felt a bit of regret for not having gone the other way. It seems Frost’s poem gently chides his friend to be happy with the choice made, to be satisfied.

Frost’s poem is perhaps not so much a celebration of marching boldly through the tangled bracken of life, tripping over logs of distraction and despair, rather it’s a quiet reflection of accepting the road that is taken, and not lamenting over the one that was not taken.

Overall, for such a slim volume (weighing in less than 200 pages), it is filled with solid bits of reflective insights:

  • Frost originally titled the poem “Two Roads”–that changes things, a bit.
  • He specifically used roads, not paths and emphatically noted the difference upon hearing someone begin a recitation replacing “paths” for “roads.”
  • This is very much an American poem, written by an American poet extolling the ponderation of choice, something Americans have historically and culturally embraced, yet the poem is based upon a time when Frost resided in England.
  • Frost admitted that he did not always consciously make  decisions: “I never know what is going to happen next because I don’t dare to let myself formulate a foolish hope.”
  • I learned about “confabulation”–the concept about artful lying (my interpretation).
  • The big question Orr asks is this: if we don’t know why we made the decision, is the choice made a meaningful one?
  • Frost liked being a bit of a mystery to his public and biographers, which is reflected in his poetry.
  • The poem might also have its foundation upon an actual incident where Frost was walking upon a road and met a man coming in the other diection. Frost felt this man to be his mirror image and should they converge and intersect he would grow stronger in his last part of his journey home.
  • The poem, its twenty or so lines, is considered one of the most popular pieces of literature written by an American–Google search stats tells us so.

It’s said that while William Wordsworth desired his poetry to be of a man speaking to men, wanting to speak lyrically from experience, from the heart, Robert Frost, asserts Orr, wanted to speak with men. Frost included the reader in his metered musings by having a conversation with us. I think Frost wanted to assert a warmth in poems by including us into his writing, which he achieved with his casual conversational tone and second person pronoun usage. His writings remain popular because they are so relatable. He includes us, wanting us to share in his experience.

If allowed, I would like to celebrate and propose this thought: combine two of Fost’s popular poems. Take  the individualism “The Road Not Taken” inspires and the idea of sharing the decision of choice with the reader, and add in the joy of  discovery found in “The Pasture,” so that the universality of realizing we are all on a journey together is made more readily apparent.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

And I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference–you come, too.

 

*BtW: am I the only one who realizes YouTube videos can’t be uploaded unless I upgrade my plan?  Huh? When did that happen?

Hold it, Hold it


My idea of vacation is a quiet condo equipped with a comfy couch and a sunlit balcony–and being within walking distance of a library.

Fortunately, I got all that at a great price–free! Yup, I’m staying at my mom’s place for a couple of weeks while she is traveling. Perfect set up. It’s my old neighborhood, just down from my high school and I’m here for about two weeks.

No yard to tend. No tv to distract. No tempting pantry beckoning me. So no weeding, channel zoning, or needless snacking. Just reading. And yeah, I’m here to focus on my writing too.

image: roanoke.com
Upon unpacking I immediately trotted next door to the library, the one I grew up with from fifth grade through part of college, and scoured the shelves and ordered books not readily available. I’m thinking they would come in a bit at a time, kind of staggered in their return to the shelves.

Nope.

They all popped in within two days and I am reading, reading, reading.

Life should be so complicated, right?

I am now at 53% towards my reading challenge of 101 books. Ooh, I do so like having a batch of books at my fingertips. *sigh*

So far I’ve read:

Anna and the Swallow Man

The Wednesday Wars

Reduced Shakespeare

Blackberry Wine

Courtyard of Dreams

After Hamelin

As well as having thumbed through a couple of fun books:

Amazing Cows

Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

William Shakespeare: Scenes from the Life of the World’s Greatest Writer

Dante’s Divine Comedy: a graphic novel

How is your summer reading going?

Rocking Out on Being Stoned


Nope. This is no expose on Mick Jagger. We’re looking into semantics today.
Did you know when you are picking up souvenir rocks at the beach you are actually picking up stones? Truly.

Rocks from morguefile
We may only think that “rock” and “stone” are interchangeable. They technically aren’t, yet like most of our language, we throw actuality out the window and go for ease of saying.

Stones by morguefile
Here are the distinguishing facts:

Rock: Usually large, immovable natural material made up of one or more minerals that is hard or soft in composition.

Stone: Most often a harder, smaller, moveable mineral matter. 
More clarifications:

A rock is comparatively larger.

A stone is comparatively small.

A rock is not usually moved, being it is part of the earth as in The Rock of Gibraltar. 

A stone can be picked up as in gemstones.

A rock can be hard or soft in material composition.

A stone is hard.

Now–how does that transfer into everyday expressions?

We say, “He’s solid. He’s a rock of strength. He’s immovable, and can’t be swayed.” And right about here is where the Rock of Gibraltar is bandied about.

Looking over the checklist of facts, it looks pretty good, metaphorically speaking.

Let’s move on…

“She’s got a heart of stone.” This is not a compliment. To be solid as a rock is considered a positive attribute; however, your heart should not be hard and it should be movable. Wait, stones are movable. Wouldn’t that mean that person could change her outlook?

Or doesn’t it follow that a rock solid person would have a heart of stone because the heart is a part of the body and is smaller and can be moved more easily?

Bookmark that thought. 

Think about:

A. We collect rocks along the shoreline to perhaps add them to our rock garden.

B. A diamond is a precious gemstone and set in a ring it’s touted as “quite a rock.” [right for gemstone, wrong for rock]

C. Loud electronic music  is considered “rock” and some will enhance the listening experience by being “stoned.” [not sure]

Now that you know the difference, be sure you don’t get caught between a rock and a hard place in your terms.
 

Ka-Powell’s


For years I’ve heard about Portland’s Powell’s Bookstore. And people were amazed I hadn’t been or even knew of it’s existence. 

I can now say I’ve been Ka-Powelled after today. Ka-pow like being knocked out. Being booked up takes on new meaning. 

Doing my Pacific Northwest summer tour usually includes a dabble into Portland, but not too deeply since I am long out of practice of navigating city blocks and rush hour traffic.

Today I jumped in, with Siri’s help, and found my way into the heart of Portland. With my bag of books I and a three block walk, because city parking is a grab-it-when-you -see-a-spot, I wandered into the used book line.

And waited. There were four buyers, with seven sellers ahead of me (one guy had SIX boxes on a handtruck!?!), and more lining up behind me. Who says people don’t read anymore? 

After obtaining my store credit voucher I went shopping. The store was amazingly flush with customers. This place is like a Disneyland for bibliophiles. If you have yet to visit or are perhaps wondering–here are some Powell’s facts courtesy of Wikipedia (as with image):

  • Considered to be the world’s largest independent bookstore
  •  Buys around 3,000 used books a day
  • The building takes up a full city block.
  • The business started with a Powell and is still under ownership of a Powell.
  • Founded in 1971.
  • Five locations in Oregon.
  • Two million book inventory.
  • Employer of 530+ people.
  • Considered to be one of Portland’s top attractions.

Okay–reality factor. How many cities  can name a bookstore as a tourist attraction?

Feeling rather overwhelmed with all the choices, people,and sheer amazingness of it all, I finally    managed to use most of my store credit and stagger out an hour and a half later with five books in hand. I barely explored the offerings since there was too much to see. My brain froze at the totality of it all. Books, books, books. It was ever so lovely.

Anyone else been Powelled? 

The Art of Nap


I believe in naps. One of my dream projects is to create a coffee table photo fact luxury edition of the history, cultural significance, and medical conclusion of The Nap.

Dagwood would be the centerfold feature. Clothed, of course. Nude napping is not discussed on this family friendly site.

I have long held the belief that napping is a necessity and should not be deemed as a guilty pleasure. 


However, naps get a bad rap. Just ask any toddler. The stigma starts at four when naps are viewed with derision instead of anticipation. Fast forward to high school and napping is once again embraced. I could devote an entire post to napping styles among my students.

Seriously, napping is important. It’s so important that The New York Times ran an article about the need for the twenty minute sleep.

Damien Léger, a French doctor who runs the sleep-research center, believes the following:

  • 20 minutes is rejuvenating, anything longer causes grogginess
  • every worker should be given a nap period in the afternoon–it should replace the coffee break
  • napping is healthy, both physically and mentally 
  • the best naps should be in a safe spot, should be noise and light free–they don’t have to be lying down, but a pillow is recommended 
  • there is no shame in admitting to needing a nap 

   In Europe, actually most non-USA countries, recognize the need to nap. Then again we Americans get a lot done while we are awake. Was it Thomas Jefferson who coined the phrase, “You won’t catch me napping.” I would have said Benjamin Franklin, but he strikes me as a napper. After all, he did spend a long time among the French.

So I say we get a petition going and get corporate to install quiet rooms for workers. Take out the coffee lounge and just lounge. 

“Get Down With Napping.” Hmm, I’ll keep working on a rallying motto.

From Super-size to Bite-size


With summer vacation officially starting for me I decided to attack my office and tidy up the mounds of paper that has been accumulating through the year. This is both a needed chore and also serves as a means of procrastination. I know I should be sitting down and actually getting back to those writing projects. Like that cow joke book…

Cows can wait momentarily, for I found treasures to share.


[Zits points out that literature, and I will extend this to quotes, is a matter of perspective] 

Every year in September I attend the local SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference. My main goal is have a manuscript professionally critiqued by an editor or agent (who will be so delighted with my writing that I am offered a contract on the spot). Another goal is network and source gather. Both are conducive to bettering my writerly skills.

One workshop handout proved too fun to toss.The idea is to take a well-known quote and make it more relatable to teens by translating into more YAish language. Here is their example:

“When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.” Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Here’s their translation: “Some days it’s hard to see the point of it all, so you have to wait for tomorrow and hope by then there’ll be something worth waking up for.”

I don’t know about you, but I can see this opening up a YA book that will be full of angst, humor, a touch of romance, and maybe even a bit of defiance.

YA is one genre that I would like to get out there into the hands of readers. There must be room for another John Green. I’m working on getting my YA voice down, and that’s the point of this exercise. Tell you what, rate me on whether I’m even close.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Time
“We believe that we can change the things around us in accordance with our desires–we believe it because otherwise we can see no favourable outcome.”

C.Muse translation:
“If I can’t see the silver lining, I’m still gonna carry an umbrella.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.”

C.Muse translation:
“The world wants to suck your joy, just like vampires, and vampires aren’t exactly EMTs.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

C.Muse translation:
“Life is too short to be hanging on to bruises–get over it and go have a bagel.”

Quotes of great possibility I didn’t get to:

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It was actually pretty entertaining to listen to everyone’s interpretation. As I recollect my vampire translation received a few polite guffaws. Does that mean it was perceived as a home runner or just a bummer?

I do have a couple of YA manuscripts I plan on revisiting and sending out on their “please-publish-me” tour.

Blue Skies and hope your summer is also off to a spiffy start.

 

 

Reader Round Up


As I prime for lots of unfettered summer reading I’ve been able to start my freed-from-grading daze with a few truly amazing books, an eclectic mix of non-fiction and novels.


First up is an Audrey book. I’m not much for reading full-blown biographies because they often reveal aspects of the person which might change my comfortable opinion. So when I spied this petite photo biography about Audrey Hepburn and her style relationship with Givenchy, how could I refuse when it practically hopped into my library book bag? If you are an Audrey fan, this is a must read.


This title was circled as a “want to read” selection in my Book Page circular. Be Frank with Me almost falls into “seen this before” trope of precocious kid, odd famous parent, and the Mary Poppins who is hired to bring order to chaos. Surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying this fast read. One reason is it has that forties comedy film feel to it with its madcap, impossible hijinks, situations, and characters. I simply accepted the break in versimilitude and let the show roll.


Yet another DE Stevenson. My list of her forty or so published titles is rapidly approaching completed unless her granddaughter finds more manuscripts in the attic. This one is post-war Britain and has Young Mrs Savage dealing with widowhood and four children all under the age of eight, and she’s not even thirty yet. There’s mystery, a variety of suitors, and delightful Scottish pluck and scenery. There is even a snarky set of villianesses to boo at.  I also adore the old school cover art.


Another non-fiction involved a flashback to my past, all the way to 1962 and the Seattle World’s Fair. Being a young thing then, the memories are a bit sketchy, so I definitely added this coffee-table photo historical to my checkouts.I reveled in forgotten exhibits, vendors, and magic moments of the fair. There is also that behind-the-scenes info the feeds my  craving for trivia snacking. Seattle remains a top fave for favorite cities, in case anyone is doing a poll. It’s such a unique, iconic landmark and I have some of the best family memories involving that futuristic trademark of the Emerald City. 

As of Monday afternoon I shall be released from the classroom and will gladly kick into summer vacation mode. Woo hoo!

Any other teachers out there ready to get their summer on?

Soon, Moon, June, Tune


Soon school will be out

With that info let me shout:

“I’m over the moon with relief”

June 10th ushers in vacation–no more grading grief

I shall once again be in tune with my inner reader.

Lying in bed reflecting upon this last week of school that has finally arrived, I can say with conviction that I survived the year with more energy that I thought I would have. I woulc provide the gory details through a post highlighting my moments of frustration but why would I want to end on a note of downerism? 

Instead, here are the upsides of my second year of teaching all seniors the joys of British/World Literature:

  1. They understand better why Shakespeare remains a presence in our world. Through Taming of the Shrew, Othello, and Hamlet, they learned that human interactions and issues haven’t changed much in 400 years. 
  2.  The discovered all kinds of heroes exist, not just ones romping around in Spandex on the screen. 
  3. The realization that a popular movie franchise such as as Pirates of the Caribbean is based on an old poem called The Rime of the Ancient Mariner truly surprised them.
  4. They learned the cool and influential factor of queens Elizabeth and Victoria upon culture.
  5. And though it be a truth universally acknowledged, they now know more than they did before they first walked in my classroom door.

Yes, soon and moon and June and tune–school is almost out.


[Looking forward to more uninterrupted reading time–grading really cramps my Reading Challenge goal of 101 books by December as I’m only at 40% progress]

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