cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

A Bit of Book Botherment


As much I proclaim to be a Book Bookster, I fear I’m not a proper one, for if I was,  wouldn’t I be scandalously boring about reminding everyone that September was National Get a Library Month (“get carded at your local library”) or that October was National Book Month? I’m not fully living up to my potential. I’m hoping it’s okay that I just read and blog about what I’m reading. Guilt does overtake me now and then that I should be organizing parties and perpetuating cute little cookies in the shapes of books or something. Perhaps I need one of those calendars that they tend to pin on the wall in the staff bathroom that spouts when it’s national Eat a Chili Pepper Day or National Hug Your Bank Teller Day. There must be a calendar app just for bibliophiles.

However-

In an attempt to make amends for not noticing October was National Book Month, I will reprint an article about books that have influenced a batch of Ted Educators. We do like our Ted Talkers.

If I were a Ted Educator and someone did ask me about a book which had influenced me, I would wholeheartedly reply: To Kill a Mockingbird for the reason that having read it I keep passing on my passion for it on to my students. It’s not just required reading. It’s required to read to understand our US country’s history better and how Jim Crow laws affect who we are today, and how walking around in someone else’s shoes should be a lifestyle commitment not just the answer to the question on the test of “name a famous Atticus quote.” I know the book makes a difference in my students’ lives because when they return to me three years later as seniors that unequivocally agree that TKAM  is “such a great book.”

As to the idea of books making a difference or creating an impact in live I provide for your entertainment and enlightenment John Green’s list of books he appreciates.

 

So, by the by–which book has changed your life? Or is there a book you want everyone to go and read right now?

Wouldn’t You Know–A Reflection on Desks


Where writers write is almost as fascinating as how they write. Personally, I become rather discouraged rather than encouraged to read about authors with routines that involve getting up at 4:30 am, doing yoga first, downing their wheatgrass shake, writing away until noon with no breaks because they are of the “plant butt in chair” answer to the obsequious “how to be a writing success?” Quora question.

I am more interested if it’s a wouldn’t desk or not. That’s no typo.

A “wouldn’t” desk is different than a wooden one. A wouldn’t desk involves an alter ego, as in “You wouldn’t believe that when the laundry is off this couch, this is where I work on my cow joke book.” Or “You wouldn’t think that writing in bed would be comfortable or even productive.”

Both couches and beds have served as my desks. Apparently I’m in good company because Mark Twain is famous for writing in his bed. He kept a pool table in his bedroom for when he needed a break from  writing. That’s one big bedroom.

I have yet to find an author who wrote or writes on a couch, that is, a purple one. I purchased mine as my muse and placed it next to my bed. A lovely shade of deep eggplant, it’s  in patterned plush, reminding me of the old movie theatre seats in the Rialto of my childhood years. It has since disappeared into the guest room where it lives an unfilled life as a laundry sorting station.

I ditched desks a long time ago due to two factors:

1. Space

2. Clutter

Desks take up a lot of space. Plus they are so imperiously demanding. Desks can’t go anywhere and require sitting at them. My creativity is shackled somewhat to planting my hindness in that chair. Realizing sitting at a desk feels too much like being a student expected to produce something worthy of a grade, I have since ditched the desk.

Another factor for being deskless is guilt. I could not bear allocating one of the bedrooms as my office. Kids do better not being piled up like Twinkies in a box  in terms of sharing rooms. So, my desk found itself in the living room or our bedroom which led to problem #2:

Clutter is ineviable when a flat horizontal surface beckons. Bills, library books, toys, plates, cups, laundry (which finds a place no matter in the house) all land on my desk. Like Rodney Dangerfield, my desk got no respect. Hence the switch to the couch. Which is a horizontal surface, wouldn’t you know. I ditched desks, couches, beds as writing stations when I switched to a laptop from a desktop computer. My desk is now an IKEA chair. Foot rest is option. It has yet to serve as a laundry station.

Now that I am an empty nester, I have commandeered an abandoned bedroom (after 18, unless they pay into the mortgage,a progeny’s bedroom is absorbed into the household) and have a bed, a couch, a rocking chair, and an IKEA chair as muse choices. No pool table at present, but I do have my son’s lava lamp, which is pretty good entertainment.

So–about your desk?

image: Wikipedia The secret is in Twain’s plumpy pillows

Bond vs Solo: challenge post


Eli over at Coach Daddy asked me to write a comparison of two well-known heroes: James Bond and Han Solo.

Hmm, is what I said at first and thought it would make for a good post. He said he would match my post. Okay, challenge on.

First of all, I have grown up watching James Bond. As a kid I remember waiting for the clean version on television because there wasn’t any way my parents would have taken me to the theatre to see Sean Connery in all his bomb and bombshell glory. For me, Sean Connery remains the definitive Bond: suave, swagger, skilled, gentleman, although a bit chauvinistic, but hey, it was the 60s. Two years ago I had more to say on the Bond Birthday post, when Bond turned 50. Check it out.

Switch over to my college years and we have Star Wars on the screen. That I did get to see on my own. And I did so several times. Stars Wars was amazing! My dad loved westerns, especially John Wayne, and I immediately recognized that Han Solo was a bit of John Wayne in space. He played the rogue hero, the one who knew everyone, had a bit of reputation, knew how to get in trouble and get out of it. And he gets the girl. It was no surprise that Harrison Ford became the BIG star after his gig as Han Solo.

But to compare them, Eli? Seriously? Bond to Solo? That’s apples and oranges. I think they are best left to stand on their own merits. Spy Wars and Star Wars are two different categories. Although it is interesting that Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford became allies in that mash-up genre movie Cowboys and Aliens. Bond and Han made a pretty good team, come to think of it. I couldn’t see Connery slugging aliens, but he did play the Green Knight early in his career, and that’s pretty close to being an alien.

The real problem with this comparison is that there have been so many Bonds, and only one Han Solo. Each Bond played the role differently (again note past post). Han is Han: braggart, lovable rogue, a bit of a McGyver (Harrison even rocked a mullet in the 80s trilogy), a mercenary with a golden heart. Even with his mullet gone gray in the latest Star Wars movie, Harrison is still Han.

So–I’m not seeing much to compare. An apple is an apple next to an orange. I like both, but when it came to choosing which movie to watch in the theatre, I instinctively plunked my ticket down for Bond. Why? Craig has honed his Bond down to perfection, at least Skyfall impressed me. I’m not all that eager to see an aged Han Solo. Dude, who wants to see a hero age?
update: I did see the new Star Wars and was not impressed. I remain a purist. And it’s funny that Daniel Craig managed to get a cameo role. 

Okay, Eli. Your turn. Are Bond and Hans comparable, or are they stand alones?

Bond in space? image: 8bitnerds.com

Why We Say #22:Junk to Jeeps


Getting into the J zone of sayings with junk, jalopy, jazz, and jeep…

Jalopy: when a car goes south, south of the border

Archie probably didn’t buy his car from Mexico, although if he did, he might have bought it in the town of Jalopa. Since there was a shortage of cars in Mexico around the 1900s, many old automobiles would come to the country by way of USA cast offs. A car bought in Jalopa meant buying a worn out ride, sometimes a junky one. Eventually a jalopy car is what these were known to be called.

Junky Jewelry: be forewarned of Forney

Remember, those vendors are probably selling phoney Coach purses. Don’t buy one. Same goes for the watches. Stick to touristy stuff as souvenirs.

Well, we all know that some market vendors aren’t totally on the up and up when it comes to the authenticity of their wares. Purses, watches, clothing–consumer be wary. Forney, a manufacturer of cheap jewelry, may have started the knock-off industry, junk merchandise. Spotting a “Forney ring” became a buyer habit. The name changed to “phoney” and today we are still on the lookout for poorly made merchandise claiming to be the real deal.

 

watch out for those phoney phones

Jazz: mixing up the beat

There are many different thoughts to the origin of Jazz. Why We Say claims the word is derived from the Louisiana French verb “jasper” which means to speed up, chatter, or make fun. As we know, “it don’t mean a thing, it it don’t got that swing.” doowop doowop doowop

Jeep: initially an Army ride

When the US Army designed their “General Purpose Car” they probably didn’t know that the “G.P.” would eventually been shortened to jeep.

GP=jeep

morguefile image: click

one last minute “j”: jumping the gun

This one is easy. About 35 years ago, racers started off at the bang of run firing off a blank cartridge. Anticipation was undoubtedly high, so it wasn’t unusual for a runner to start off before the bang, which became known as jumping the gun.

POM: January Thoughts


January is that in between month. The newness of winter’s snow has moved into icy gray lumps at the side of the driveway. In order to not lose myself in thinking I’m stuck into a Narnian winterland, I try to see winter from different perspectives. I appreciate the idea of stubbornly clinging on to the past season of leafy trees and, of course, Whitman always has a new view to consider. There is also William Carlos Williams and his take on the first month of the year.

Winter Leafage by Edith Matilda Thomas

Each year I mark one lone outstanding tree,
Clad in its robings of the summer past,
Dry, wan, and shivering in the wintry blast.
It will not pay the season’s rightful fee,—
It will not set its frost-burnt leafage free;
But like some palsied miser all aghast,
Who hoards his sordid treasure to the last,

image: morguefile

It sighs, it moans, it sings in eldritch glee.
A foolish tree, to dote on summers gone;
A faithless tree, that never feels how spring
Creeps up the world to make a leafy dawn,
And recompense for all despoilment bring!
Oh, let me not, heyday and youth withdrawn,
With failing hands to their vain semblance cling!

Sounds of the Winter by Walt Whitman

Sounds of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains—many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train—from nearer field, barn, house
The whispering air—even the mute crops, garner’d apples, corn,
Children’s and women’s tones—rhythm of many a farmer and of flail,
And old man’s garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out
yet,
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt

January by William Carlos Williams

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

Juggling a Couple of Goals


I have adopted June’s line from Knight and Day as my own: “She has skills.” I don’t have June’s skills for punching, shooting, and recklessly driving, although I’m not sure I actually want those skills. I am working on acquiring skills that might actually be more useful, you know, like juggling and playing the harmonica. Excuse me, was that a snicker in the back row?

Whilst in college I would earn extra summer money as a camp counselor. Great gigs, by the way–room and board paid for, new friends, all sorts of fun activities, and it’s a bonus that it’s working with kids. One year I signed up for counseling at the Marrowstone Music Festival, which is the music camp for very talented young musicians who hope to audition for a spot in the Seattle Youth Symphony, or are working on improving their virtuoso. At this camp were twin brothers and could they juggle. I think playing music was their second talent. In between music classes they gave demonstrations and workshops. I wholeheartedly jumped in line to learn how to juggle. After several attempts, they came to this conclusion: there are a few people in this world who are juggle-challenged and I am one of them. Disheartened, I did not give up and continued my desire to learn how to juggle.

We all know that wishes remain wishes unless action is attached.

About six years ago I purchased a beginner’s juggling set at Target (love their dollar section).

Mine are red, blue, and yellow

morguefile image: pennywise

On December 31st, yes of 2015, I finally got around to trying them out. It’s not easy getting over the label of being juggling challenged.

The book from the library was no real help, as pictures don’t really express the proper cadence and motion of keeping it all up in the air and forming patterns. It did, however,  have a fascinating section on the history of juggling:

  •  Juggling dates back 4,000 years
  • Greek art and Egyptian paintings show “juggers”
  • Beginning of the 19th century saw juggling being part of the entertainment circuit
  • One popular juggler, Enrico Rastelli, died in 1931 from a infected cut caused by his mouth stick, and thousands of people attended his funeral
  • W.C. Fields juggled early in his career, being known as the “Eccentric Tramp Juggler”
  • The Flying Karamzov Brothers, known as talented jugglers, sometimes toured with The Grateful Dead
  • Juggling now incorporates dance and a variety of props and techniques that has it elevated as a respectable art form

I’m still figuring out balls–rings?

morguefile image: sideshowmom

As of this post, I have yet to perfect my three ball cascade, but I do have my two ball catch fairly smooth. TIP of the Day: practice over a bed–less chasing of props…

Another Year of Interesting Words


Keeping track of words learned is becoming as much of a habit as keeping track of books read. Learning words definitely is result of reading books. I wonder if there is a cousin Good Reads tracker app for Good Words yet. No doubt there is. Or maybe the next dot com app millionaire is in the wings. There is a untapped market for word nerds.

My method is fairly Neanderthal. I’m basically in hunter gatherer mode as I set forth daily upon the plains of learning. That is a bit much, isn’t it? Actually, it’s more or less serendipity. When reading, and I come across words of interest, I type them into my phone in my notes under the file Vocabulary. And like the Guardians of the Galaxy Collector, I keep them there so I can view them.  Some are prettier than others, while some are rare and exotic, and some I take out of my collection and begin implementing, realizing their worth increases with continuous use.

Here are some live captures. For interest, I state where I captured the lexical little beastie.

 The Year of Lear by James Shapiro

  • recusant: a person who refuses to submit to an authority or to comply with a regulation. [Lots of Catholic/Protestant tussling going on in England around 1606]

The Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion, and Technology by Sarah A. Chrisman

  • quotidian: of, or occurring every day; daily [a 21st century woman choosing a 19th century lifestyle would get used to the daily routine of repetive tasks such bread making]

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. NOTE: as long as keep teaching the novel I keep rereading it, and yet I still find new words. Fascinating.

  • deglutition: process of swallowing
  • celerity: swiftness of movement

Emma (The Austen Project #3) by Alexander McCall Smith

  • impedimenta: equipment for an activity or expedition, especially when considered as bulky or an encumbrance [this one I’m willing to trot out and air as in addressing my students, “Excuse me, your impedimenta is blocking the aisle.”]
  • canard: unproven rumor or story

This next batch mainly derive their existence and capture from the books of D.E. Stevenson. It is an on-going project to read her legacy of 40 novels (give or take a couple of Mrs. Tim’s). She’s primarily writing about Scottish and English life pre-WWII to 1975. It’s been interesting to see which words she favors and which words were in vogue during the span of her long career. She did favor the sprinkling of French.

  • ructions: a disturbance or quarrel [“ruckus” a relative?]
  • pourboire: a gratuity or tip
  • cavil: make petty or unnecessary objections
  • muckle: to cover inanimate objects in glitter in a vain attempt to make them appealing enough to buy [Mike Allegra dislikes muckley Christmas cards]
  • gaucherie: a tactless or awkward act
  • vaunted: highly praised
  • pied-a-terre: a temporary or second residence [very handy for the dismal months of winter glum]
  • arriviste: a social climber, a blunder

Do you collect words while reading? 

A Good Year for Reading


January is a month of reflection. This is probably due to January being the default month since it is between Christmas past and Valentine’s Day to be. While working off Christmas treats in order to succumb to anticipated chocolate hearts I have decided to give my 2015 year of reading a closer examination. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have done much more than said “Cool. I met and surpassed my Goodreads Reading Challenge.” Since they took the time and trouble to send me such an attractive report, I shall share the highlights with you all. If the pontification of accomplishments is not within your scheduled viewing, I am absolutely not offended if you drift off to the next blog in your reader. However, I am hoping you will stick around.

First Off:
Books Read: 91
I set my Reading Challenge at 50 books, thinking “Hmm, that’s about one per week–that’s doable.” With so many great recommendations from so many dedicated Book Boosters like Heather and The Paperback Princess, I kept adding to my “To-Read” list and kept reading. I still have about 73 books on my TBR list. *Sigh* I have need to read issues.

Secondly:
The Short and Long of It
Shortest book: 96 pages

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin

Reading books to kids at bedtime is a lovely routine, a cozy bonding time, and a way to pass on the joy of words to children. I anticipated this sort of connection when I requested Ehrlin’s The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep and was sorely disappointed when I discovered the text to be a form a hypnosis-inducing sleep tool. The purposely scripted story is almost a little scary in its intent. Instead of waving a golden watch and chanting, “You are growing sleepy” a fuzzy bunny becomes the stuff dreams are made of.

While some may like a lab technique to put kids asleep, I’ll go for the classic lullaby of cuddle and lulling words.

                                                             LONGEST BOOK
                                                                  624 pages
                                                                   Jane Eyre
                                                         by Charlotte Brontë

Average Page Length: 305 pages

Most Popular Book:

4,019,963

people also read

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I decided to reread the entire series in one dedicated weekend as a preparation for the last installment of the film adaptation. I do think JLaw IS Katniss.

Least Read Book:

2

people also read

Sky Blue Pink
by Pam Lippi 
This is a self-published fictional memoir and it is a fun little read about two seventeen year old girls who travel around Europe after graduating from high school. This was back in the days of the seventies when bell-bottoms and adventures were part of the culture.

Benediction:

Completed square

You read 86 out of 50 books. [I actually snuck in 5 more after this]
172%
Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too!
Not a bad year for my Goodreads [a litotes, if there ever was]
Okay–your turn…
How was your 2015 year of reading?
Favorite book?
Definitely won’t be recommending?

Well, I Never…


There are so many lists out there dealing with resolutions of sorts these days: Buckets, Blessings, Brags, and I toss out my own B.I.G. (“Before I Get–too old, too lazy, too nervous…)

I think I’m on to a new kind of list. Instead of a wish list or a hopeful list or even a done it list, I’m starting a “Well, I Never and Glad of It List.”

Truthfully, aren’t there some things you’ve never done, and you are glad you haven’t?

Here are a couple of starters for me:

  1. I have never had a cup of coffee.
  2. I have never read or watched Harry Potter.
  3. I have never Twittered or Instagrammed.
  4. I have never been inked.

The first admission is usually met with surprise or doubt and sometimes an offer to buy me a cup of java.

The second one is met with shock, and once with outrage. Devotees can be so sensitive.

The third often involves a knowing nod and camaraderie, or a puzzled concern, as if the person is in the company of a technological dinosaur. 

The fourth is tricky as it involves which age group I’m talking to, since tattoos are seen differently by different generations.

Of course there are some “Well, I nevers” I shall never contemplate:

  1. Swimming with sharks.
  2. Spelunking
  3. Staying in an ice hotel.

    travelchannel.com

    So–do you have a couple of “Well, I nevers” to share?

Why We Say #21: In the Know


As the year wraps up it’s time for one more round of Why We Say sayings. Since being in the know is a valued asset, we shall dive into the in and outs of “in”:

In the Bag
A: “Have you got the test figured out?”
B: “Yeah man–it’s in the bag?”

This exchange indicates speaker B has oodles of confidence about his upcoming test, that he can count on scoring well upon it. He may not realize his confidence harkens back to days when they traipsed off to the woods to collect their game. Much could be said about the one that got away, so what was already in the game bag is what really counted

In God We Trust
Glancing at American currency a person will find the motto “In God We Trust.” This is the result of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase acting upon the many requests of people who wanted some expression of faith upon the country’s currency. Beginning in 1864, a bronze two-cent piece had the stamped “In God We Trust.” [Maybe this is where we get the expression of getting our two-cents in]

In the Groove
Though it might be difficult to find an LP to play upon a stereo system these days, back then, the needle had to be aligned with the phonograph groove in order to be played. Getting things lined up just right does allow for being “in the groove”–feeling groovy?

 

In Hot Water
Why is it being in trouble means “you are in hot water?” Soaking in a hot bath, or hot tub is actually preferred to cold ones. Then again 21st century thinking needs to be set aside for the time being to understand that if one needed to protect the castle in the 16th century, boiling water would be poured down on invaders. Thus, being in hot water means you are no doubt up to no good or about to get in trouble by getting into trouble.

In a Jam
No, this is not a reference to Winnie-the-Pooh and his penchant for getting noses and paws stuck in sweet pots. This is more like a Paul Bunyan reference of sending logs down the river to the mill and having them bulk up in a tangle and needing to straighten things out before they can get going again. All I know is we have named the office copier Bob Marley because it’s always jammin’–and that is not so sweet.

In the Nick of Time
“Has the meeting started yet?”
“Not quite–you’re in the nick of time.”

Being late to meetings is not the best way to make an impression. If you could travel in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine you might earn yourself a notch or a nick in a piece of wood by showing up to the town meeting. Contrary to urban rumor St. Nick is not the patron saint of habitual tardy meeting attenders.

And so ends the 2015 collection of “Why We Say.” I leave you with one for the karaoke fans out there…

In the Limelight
No limes were hurt in the process of this blog. However, once long ago, a ball of lime helped whiten the spotlight while performers stood center stage. While I’m not sure about the technical process of lime and spotlight whitening, I do know that if someone is in the limelight they have all the attention for that time being.

 

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