Monday, December 31, 2012

As the World Turns...

One last spin for 2012.  We are back up at the Last House after too long away for a very modest New Year's Eve celebration.  It will feature Italian Sparkling Wine Product at midnight.  Wooo hooo! The Infanta is off at her own New Year's Eve celebration, a sleep over with friends (one last first for 2012).  So it is just Whusband, Shackleton, Maisy and I.  No complaints though. The snow is fluffy and knee deep here and the world is all pewter and white.  A standing rib roast is in the oven, Maisy is under my feet (in the gap between the wing chair and the footstool).  A fine farewell to 2012 and best wishes to all for the year ahead.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

"The Weary Time Between Dinner and Dark"

Hi all (three of you).  Sorry for the inactivity here.  The dust lies deep and crisp and even.  But I am back! And with a little bit of thrillingly well-composed English prose for you.  (Not mine, as if!).

I have posted a few of my favorite passages from classic books here, very occasionally, and I am back with one more today.  I have been re-reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, which I have not read since high school.  Hardy became one of my enthusiasms way back then, and re-reading him now I find more (great insight into the human condition) and less (plot device overreaching) to admire about him.  He was a poet as well as a novelist and it shows.  I bookmarked many passages as read, but this one was so wonderful I felt it my duty to share.  Here he is describing the losers of Casterbridge, the distinctions between them and the distinctions between town bridges to which they repair in their bad moments:

There was a marked difference of quality between the personages who haunted the near bridge of brick and the personages who haunted the far one of stone.  Those of lowest character preferred the former, adjoining the town; they did not mind the glare of the public eye. [...]

The miserables who would pause on the remoter bridge were of a politer stamp.  They included bankrupts, hypochondriacs, persons who were what is called "out of a situation" from fault or lucklessness, the inefficient of the professional class--shabby-genteel men, who did not know how to get rid of the weary time between breakfast and dinner, and the yet more weary time between dinner and dark. The eye of this species were mostly directed over the parapet upon the running water below.  A man seen there looking thus fixedly into the river was pretty sure to be one whom the world did not treat kindly for some reason or other.  While one in straits on the townward bridge did not mind who saw him so, and kept his back to the parapet to survey the passers-by, one in straits on this never faced the road, never turned his head at coming footsteps, but, sensitive to his own condition, watched the current whenever a stranger approached, as if some strange fish interested him, though every finned thing had been poached out of the river years before.

I am not much of a joiner, but if there were a society for the defense of well-written novels, I would join.  I know they are still out there, but the huge successes of E.L. James and her ilk has me depressed.  Happily, I do find lots of gems are there to be discovered, often in books now in the public domain.  Since no one has a financial interest in promoting them anymore, it seems they go largely unnoticed and aren't read unless under compulsion of an English teacher.  The good news is that they are often FREE on Kindle or on the internet if you have an interest.

I am always looking for recommendations.  I prefer works of staggering genius.  Contemporary writers are welcome but no mediocrities please.  Best wishes for the week ahead...

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Letter From Robertson Davies

I know at least one thing that Robertson Davies did on June 9, 1987.  He wrote (well, probably dictated) a letter to me.   

I have been moving pictures around these last months and this letter, in the cheap plastic box frame in which it has been housed for 25 years, just came up for rotation.  I re-read it yesterday and got quite choked up.  Davies once said: "A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight."   Likewise, a great letter.  

I was thrilled at 22 to have a little notice from the great man.  At 47 I am touched by the kindness he showed to an earnest and rather ridiculous 22-year-old.

I can't remember just what I wrote but his response refreshes my recollection. I finished my B.A. at old McGill in the Spring of 1987.  My "Honours" essay (the scare quotes are for the English/Canadian spelling and for what I imagine was the quality of the essay) was about the way Davies' sets up his characters for their punishments or rewards in his famous Deptford Trilogy.  (Goodness and badness are complicated matters there - much to do with spiritual courage and psychological honesty rather than any outward do-goodism).   I felt deep sympathy for Davies' worldview (and still do). When I finished the paper, I was compelled to write to him about it and to tell him how much his books had meant to me.  Good, kind, wise man that he was - I found this in my Schenectady mail box a few weeks later.  

He is responding in the first paragraph to what I said to him about my feeling for McGill.  I went there following a freshman year at the State University of New York at Binghamton.  I loved McGill - an English Colonial dream of a university - from the moment I set foot on the campus.  Binghamton was an important experience too, but a (foolishly) romantic girl who thought college = Brideshead Revisted could not find a lot to love in the Rockefellerish prevent-a-student-riot aesthetic of the buildings and the pragmatic good-value-seeking student body.  Not a clock tower or a grey stone in sight and no one who would have wanted to pay for one even if available.  (Many very bright people were there, though, and I know that is really more important but, as noted, I was a little deluded).

Robertson Davies died in 1995 and it seems to me that he is fading (unjustly) into obscurity.  I re-read his best and most famous book, Fifth Business, this summer.  His observation about the benefit of a lifelong involvement with a good book was wholly borne out.  
After I re-read the letter yesterday, this relic from a the pre-internet age, it seemed to me almost a duty to share it.  I hope you will like it too.

As a few of your regular-stoppers-by know, I have been engaged for years in writing a book of my own.  (Coming January 2013-Watch this space!).  A central character is my own Professor Davies - Morgan Davies, that is, a time traveler with a biography wholly different from R. Davies, but very much inspired by his example - and looking just like him.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Most Useful Information on Twitter So Far

One of the people I follow on Twitter informed us today that "not my problem" translates into the Polish idiom "Nie moj cyrk nie moje malpy."  Literally:  "Not my circus.  Not my Monkey."

Thank you Poland.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Learn to Love Me, Assemble the Ways

    Sooo.  Saw Morrissey tonight in Burlington.  A few post concert observations before bed: a lot of it was assaultive, but in a good way (mostly).  There was some sonic activity that I can't quite explain or make sense of; a lot of film clips of bad TV variety acts of the 60s and early 70s with horrible audio - a group called "The Sparks" sang (in their 1974 pants) about not turning your back on your mother while Dutch subtitles explained something about the Sparks' career ups and downs (I could puzzle out just that much, though it may not have been Dutch...).  A long-bangs-60s-girl-singer rode through  Leicester Square? Picadilly Circus? apparently on the top of a bus or van and mouthed the words to a banal 60s song.  An extremely low tone was blasted through the house at one point and made me fear for the building's structural integrity.  Pity the poor non-Morrissey fan who may have stumbled in... esp. for the slaughterhouse sequence that played on the screen during a protracted red-lit version of Meat is Murder.  But I was ready for him, and I mostly just loved it.

One big thing is that Morrissey can sing.  His voice is right there where it was when I was shouting over it in bars on Saturday nights in the 1980s.  Also, there is something terribly authentic about him.  I sense that other (bigger) stars, like Dave Matthews or Jack Johnson, would probably be a little afraid of him or feel intimidated.  Still, I am guessing he must really need money to be doing such a tour and he's not above putting his face on $30 T shirts (yes, I bought one).  How does he do it?  Be the artist apart and shill like this?

Also, he actually looked great - that vegetarian diet begins to really work its magic when one hits one's mid 50s.  And the crowd was full of (young) fans (bolstered, one suspects, by recreational pharmaceuticals) who kept leaping on stage to try and hug this charming man.  

The show was very disciplined and professional.  Plenty of money had been spent on excellent musicians.  Morrissey was working (and sweating) out there.  As much as I liked the music I also liked pondering the man himself.  I kept thinking, as the show progressed, of (bear with me) Stewie Griffin from Family Guy.  I could imagine Morrissey coming to consciousness as a child (a la Stewie) realizing that life means death and lots of suffering before death and being extremely pissed and unresolved to any such system.  "You mean I'm going to die and everyone and everything I ever loved will die too?  Whose crappy idea was that? I'm not having that. It sucks and I'll never stop saying so."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Head Cases We Love...

Morrissey sang the soundtrack of my life from the mid 80s to the mid 90s so when I heard he was coming to Burlington, VT of all places, I immediately bought tickets.  I figured it would sell out in a minute.  Well, the show's tomorrow and I just checked.  Seats still available.  His Radio City show was sold out a couple of nights ago so I'm a little embarrassed for Vermont but, fact is, we really aren't that edgy or miserable around here (present company excepted).  I'm going with my old boss.  She has no idea who he is but I'm happy she wanted to go.  My usual-suspect concert friends were not interested.  ??  Check back for a little review.  Meanwhile, here's Morrissey looking miserable on Colbert - like he would jump out of his skin if he could and it didn't violate his vegetarian principles.  Also for your viewing pleasure, sounding great (and looking a bit like late-stage Elvis) on Jimmy Fallon.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Do Not Finger the Ornaments"

I have never actually dived into a dumpster, but I have leaned.

 This week I reached waaaay into the enormous reinforced cardboard box at the town dump that is the last stop for books before they hit the print equivalent of the glue factory. Admittedly, my motives were less Panda rescue and more "hmmm maybe-something-for-ebay." (My first fishing expedition in that box resulted in a a first edition hippie lit classic that I sold for $250).
No valuables this time but I did come up with a couple of things that made my life this week better. One was The Essential Handbook of Victorian Entertaining "adapted by" Autumn Stephens (Bluewood Books 2005). It had tea cups on its ironic (practically new) cover so, I thought that ought to be good.

The other called to me, "I'm Old! And I think you know me!" I had a thing for Edna St. Vincent Millay as a teenager.  When I was a high school senior, my good Dad and I took a mini road trip to Austerlitz, NY in search of her home, which had been converted into a writer's colony. (That was the kind of fun 18-year-old that I was). I had plenty of Edna's poetry on my particle board bookshelves all through college and still have it somewhere. This dumpster copy was unmarked, having lost the label on its spine, but sure enough it was 1921's Second April. More on that in a minute.

 Etiquette books of the past are always fun. In college I picked up an Emily Post from the 1930s from another box of discards. I wish I had kept it. I laughed myself hoarse at the time. Victorian times guaranteed charmingly obsolete advice. Here are few of my favorites from my dumpster find:

  Never sit gazing curiously around the room during a visit as if taking a mental inventory of the furniture. 

Do not finger the ornaments.

  To be especially avoided by gentleman callers: Do not use a classical quotation in front of the ladies without apologizing for, or translating it. Do not leave your hat and riding whip in the hall, but take both into the drawing room. To do otherwise would be to make yourself too much at home.

  Young ladies seldom drink more than three glasses of wine at dinner: but married ladies who are engaged in a profession, such as authors and teachers, and those accustomed to society and the habits of affluence, will habitually take five or even six...

 I was taken aback by how much good common sense and, actual excellent manners were commended. "If you have more than one guest in your house, those of the humblest condition are to receive as much attention as the rest." "Do not parade the fact that you traveled in foreign countries." "Do not boast that you are acquainted with distinguished or wealthy people."  Of course, not fingering the ornaments is also sound advice today.

 After all this I'm embarrassed to admit that I have found this book to be perfect bathroom reading.

 Moving onto Edna St. V. M.: I got around to reading a few of the poems this afternoon (home with a cold, seeking a nap) and found a lot to (still) love. How has history judged Edna Millay? A minor major poet? Vice versa? Say what you will, she is from the poetic school of poetry and I like that one. Anyone who could compose:

 Red with heat was every wall,
 Rough with heat was every wire.

 Is going to get my admiration. (from "The Blue Flag in the Bog"). And, girls, how about this:


 I know what my heart is like 
Since your love died: 
It is like a hollow ledge 
Holding a little pool 
Left there by the tide, 
A little tepid pool, 
Drying inward from the edge.

 The book smells like someone dropped it under a shed and covered it with a plank sometime around Pearl Harbor Day - but that sort of adds to its charm for me. It's old and old fashioned. It's printed so that you can see the impression of the type on the thick deckle-edged paper. As per the bookplate, it came out of the library (at some point) of  Sylvia who once attended Colby Junior College for Women. Doesn't it seem criminal for Edna and Sylvia to let this be pulped?  Hmmm. Maybe Panda rescue after all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Nominations Are Open! Riff Raff Capital of America

I'm thinking of states, but I suppose there are cities and regions that can also compete. There are a few that are blindingly obvious gold medal contenders and frankly no place in the upper Mid-West, the top edge, or the upper corners of the country (on either coast) need apply. I wouldn't want people to think that I have pre-judged this thing, but I will tell you that my sister has a new neighbor. She lives in a gated community and the faux-Spanish mansions there still cost about a million apiece, despite the real estate slough (which has been notably disastrous in this state, which - just one more clue - is shaped like a penis). One of these little duke-doms has just been bought by the owner of a local casino. (Pause). The casino owner's five-year-old son was apparently tearing around the development on his four-wheeler yesterday and when the 80-something yearold lady who lives across the street noted that this was unsafe, illegal, and bad for property values, the casino owner threatened her. What have you got?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wait For It...

Just sitting here *not editing*  but paralyzed, again, by a Kate Bush song.

I have been thinking about KB lately and how, most of the time, I don't really like a lot of her music the first time through.  I buy every record.  I listen to it.  I like some of it and other parts not so much.  I mean, we are not in radio hit territory here.  And yet, thousands at her bidding would speed, and post o're land without rest, if she were ever to give a concert.  I am one of those.  She's a magician.  And those songs that bounce off me at first have a way of wending themselves into my DNA and often later become my favorites.  It has happened time and again.

It pleases me that in this time, where all popular entertainment seems to be required to hook its audience like a hit of crack that KB succeeds in the way that she does.  So much of value is not capable of snap judgment or even instant appreciation.  Point taken.

So, here's a video for the song "Snowflake" from last year's 50 Words For Snow.  It features her son, Bertie, (who is just the same age as the Infanta so I feel a certain connection).  KB's voice, as she sings the chorus, "The world is so loud, keep falling, I'll find you"  coming just behind his choir boy's voice, gets me right between the ribs every time.  Also, the piano in this song is gorgeous.  I am not sure it jumped out at me from the record right away but it has me now, a year or so later.

You may have to listen to it a few times before you get all that out of it.  I hope you will.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Shorty

I was mowing the lawn today and it occurred to me that it would have been cool to be born into a family called "Tiplady" (I saw someone with this name on TV recently) or maybe "Scrimshander."  No luck there I'm afraid.  I do wonder how that first Tiplady got his name?  I mean, it's hardly "Townsend" or "Johnson" or "Weaver" or something with a boringly obvious derivation.  There's got to be a great story back there somewhere.
Also, as I was listening to my lawn mowing musical accompaniment, I got thinking about how I am probably the only 40-something Yankee in the country who has "Lula Walls" on my iTunes exercise mix.  (No comments, please, on the efficacy of my exercise regime).  It always gives me a lift.  Here's a video (pretty much minus any video content) but with the great music.  Maybe do a few stretches while you listen!


P.S.  I decided I had to look into this "Tiplady" thing and our friend the Internet, as ever, didn't let me down.  Here's a fascinating little look at the possibilities for how this old Yorkshire name was derived.  If you don't have time, the author's best guess is that it referenced a lady bar keeper.

Friday, September 07, 2012

My Little Margie!

Sorry to bore you if you are not down with music from the 1920s, but here's another favorite from my new old play list.  I have a lovely aunt called "Margie" and now a little niece with the same name so this irrepressible little number already had a place in my heart before it embedded itself in my brain.

Press play if you want to hear the Ben Selvin Orchestra play "Margie."  If you leave the player going after the song ends, MySpace will tag on  some other stuff - I don't know what.  You've been warned.  (Is that a xylophone in there?  The guy must be playing it at light speed).


Monday, September 03, 2012

Greatest Hits of Prohibition

Hey all.  I have been listening to lots of music from the 1920s lately.  They just don't write paeans to drinking the way they used to.  The video isn't much on the one below, but the song is genius.  I got it at iTunes on a compilation of 20s hits and didn't know til I watched the video that words and music were by Irving Berlin. ("Where dark-eyed Stellas light their fellas panatellas...") I was singing it at dinner tonight, to the delight of the Infanta and Shack (not).

Here's a link to another song about leaving the country in order drink.  It's the Jazz Pilots (another great name) singing "Hello Montreal." I have a special fondness for this one because Montreal is the drinking city of my heart.  No pictures, but the music is worth your while.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

It's Been Really Nice Here Lately

A recent sunrise at the Last House

The weather has been so nice - you'd think we were in California or something.  This long weekend has seen me taking to the woods twice - once, briefly, with Shack
Behind the school in Stowe

and then this morning for a longer,much rockier hike with the faithful Maisy.

Note the ruined cellar hole.

 I only ever have my crumby cell phone camera with me but here are a couple of snaps just FYI.

In reading news, I am continuing on my tear through the works of W. Somerset Maugham.  I seem to be bookmarking every other page - he writes such wonderful sentences.  It's a wonder of our world today that you can download Maugham's best works for free on your Kindle or other e-reader.  Happy Labor Day.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Made Ya Look!

Just stopping by the old blog to wave at you.  Hello.  Also, I found this lovely picture of the Infanta (today's banner) when she was a genuine infant and felt like sharing.

Since you were good enough to stop round and admire her, here's a little something for YOU!  One of those rare Gertrude Stein jokes that every one covets.
(Actually, a good one if you are the kind of person who knows at least three things about Gertrude Stein).
Click on through. See you around the interwebs!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Quick! Don Your Platform Boots, Doctor!

 Went with lovely English visitors to the sedate and civilized Shelburne Museum this week.  We had three kids along, aged 6 to 11.  After a long walk through the grounds we made our way into the Robots, Time Machines and Steam Punk exhibition where they were showing a Flash Gordon film (among all kinds of other steamy punky stuff).

The film was a revelation in its way.  Apparently, the Hollywood designers of Saturday morning serials back in the 1930s and 40s had a fondness for fetish wear.  (It all adds up, doesn't it?) 

Note above Dr. Zarkov's scientist shorty shorts and the boots that would probably be over-the-top for Elton John.  Each kid burst out laughing when the Roman/Martian bad guys appeared (showing lots of leg) and when the "space ships" battled from the end of their strings.

There was other fun stuff too, such as:


Back to school in less than a week. I think I am as sorry about it as the kids are. Sigh.

I see that Netflix has made these Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials available to subscribers.  Today's top tip, check one out if you don't blush easily and if your ribs are in good shape.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Looking Backward

Doing a little research tonight and came across this bit from the British Film Institute. Looking at lovely London today - hard to believe it was once, not so long ago, right there on the brink.

I'm not sure when America got a look at this effective little film - it must have been just as the U.S. was getting in officially in December 1941. It had me at the opening title ("The Ministry of Information Presents!") It does make you think what might have been if Britain hadn't hung in as it did...

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Let Me Show You a Trick With a Dollar...

Shackleton said at dinner last night.

Do you have a dollar?

In my purse.

OK. Put your hands on the table.

Like this?

No the other way.

Palms down?

Yeah. Hold on.

[Shack comes back with two coffee mugs filled with water]

Now put the dollar on the table between your hands.


Make your hands as flat as you can.


[He balances the coffee mugs on my hands, very precariously, grabs the dollar and runs away].

It Has Come to This...

Some comedians asked the Internet to write a fake book - no one even read it in it's entirety before it was published as an e-book. Only requirement: lots of sex and characters with trendy jobs.

It is now number four on the ebook best seller list. Numbers one, two and three are Fifty Shades of Grey.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shackleton Speaks Encore

So, we were river swimming the other day, Shackleton and I. We had a big long stretch of Cotton Brook to ourselves and I was giving him a gentle push downstream in our inner tube when I noticed a mother duck crossing into the river ahead of us with eight ducklings behind her.

"Shack look at the ducks!"


"Do you see them?"



"They might attack."

I'm not making that up and he actually was worried about a duck attack, analogizing from the mother bear situation.


I was reminded about that episode when he just announced that, for today, he is not going to use his hands for anything.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Since Not Enough Has Been Said About Fifty Shades...

I read once that the whole world over, romance stories are for the ladies and the porn is for the gents. I guess E.L. James should, maybe, get a little credit for the mash-up in her Fifty Shades of Grey tsunami. Apparently, she gave the people, the lady people at least, what they want.

But isn't that appalling? Not the mash-up or the porn so much as that this 10th-grade-girl-fantasist illiteracy is what the reading public wants, or will accept?

I finally downloaded the free sample of the first book on my Kindle. I was pretty sure I would hate it, and that really doesn't quite cover it. Granted, I didn't read the whole series. (Wild horses, wild horses hopped up on meth, could not have dragged me through that). I saw enough in the first few chapters to know that I was in for cardboard characters and every weary romance cliche ever typed: steel gray eyes, breathlessness, bodices (or their 21st century equivalent) shredded. Granted, I didn't get to the sex. I lost interest way before that.

I see in the Wikipedia article about this phenomenon (linked above) that some people who should know better have said (I am paraphrasing) that it is at least a breezy page turner. It is not. It's just bad writing, the way porno is bad film. "Did you call a plumber ma'am?" "Oh yes, I did. As you can see I didn't quite finish my shower." Barf.

It looks like what criticism there has been has come from feminists disturbed by "Anastasia Steele's" (that name is red flag number one) willingness to be sexually dominated. Oh, please. The real horror is how awful the writing is and that no one seems too much bothered by that.

People Who Know have been saying for a while now, at least since the middle of the Harry Potter series (which got sloppier as it went), that it doesn't matter how badly expressed a story may be: only the story matters. Here's proof. And it makes me sick at heart.

Not everything has to be Shakespeare, of course, but even when we're out for a good time, we ought to hold the purveyors of that good time to high standards. I mean, give me Maeve Binchy or Colleen McCullough - give me something. Can't we, and shouldn't we, demand story AND at least moderately skillful conveyance thereof?

I know I am lining myself up with those nose in the air types that Cole Porter once so brilliantly mocked:

Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes.

But the fact that this crap - which should never have found its way off E.L. James' pillow - is at the top of all the best seller lists is truly depressing to me.

Sigh. I know. Why should I be surprised? I've been on this earth and among my fellow creatures for 47 years. I wonder if Anastasia Steele and Christian Gray attend lawnmower races?

Thank you for listening. I am lowering my nose, taking my wet hankie, and leaving the heath. If someone tries to sell me a copy of Fifty Shades on the way down, though, I'm going to give him or her what for.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guerilla Mouse Attack Survival Story, And Another Tip

I paid $4.95 at 10 last night to watch The Artist on pay per view. (That's the silent film about the affair between two actors on opposite sides of the talkies divide that won the best picture Oscar this year). At around 11, as I was trying to catch my breath, so full of admiration was I, Maisy hopped up and started barking at the curtain. I knew this meant she had seen a mouse. The new house has a mouse issue. It's a regular Tom and Jerry situation. In my little office there, I found a pile of dog food neatly piled beneath a corner of a bookcase, not twelve inches from my chair. I opened the door to the porch one night and a mouse ran away from the front door. That is a bold mouse. I mean, yes, he ran away, but he was obviously planning on coming through the front door.

All right - I did't actually see the mouse that interrupted The Artist or I might not have survived to write about it here. It was more a psychological attack, as far as it went. But since it was late and I couldn't risk being physically attacked by the mouse, as the mother of school-aged children, I fled to bed with a plan to get the DVD from Netflix or something eventually. I am sure you will be cheered to know that this frightening tale has a happy ending. When I turned the TV on this AM, incredibly, The Artist was still on and it at exactly the point in the movie where I had retreated to my bedroom. LOVED it. What fetching stars! What beautiful photography! The cars! A terrier! We were late for Shack's guitar lesson but he and I were transfixed. See it if you can.

Notes from Twitter

I figured out yesterday how to do a "hastag" topic on Twitter. My proposal was for "#cutofftitles"
E.g., "The Davinci Cod, The Sound and the Fur, The Good Ear, Papa's Got a Bra" You get the idea. In doesn't seem to have caught on - the theory is anybody can jump in on these topics. I am still hoping for a few more contributors so if you have a good cut off title, please share. Bon weekend!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What Happened to Saturday Night?

I got wondering about that as I sat down here (after dinner on Saturday) with nothing better to tell than that I have been reading Paradise Lost aloud to myself in stolen moments all weekend and that I am looking forward to another hit of Milton at bedtime. That would be 10 PM. If I make it that far. Also, Milton will be my only company...

Ooo la la!

I wonder what my 23-year-old self would make of my current existence?

I got a little consolation from Yeats. (Better and better isn't it?) Not for me these days those "dying generations at their song." I'm off for "monuments of unaging intellect": e.g. Milton.

Really, it could be worse.

Yeats tonight also helped a little with my continuing literary rejections. See: "Against Unworthy Praise."

It starts like this:

O HEART, be at peace, because
Nor knave nor dolt can break
What's not for their applause,

Even Yeats wanted applause! He felt shabby about it and manages in this poem to talk himself around. Luckily for him, and the English-reading world, he had a muse who got booed offstage and didn't apparently care.

[...] what her dreaming gave
Earned slander, ingratitude,
From self-same dolt and knave;
Aye, and worse wrong than these.
Yet she, singing upon her road,
Half lion, half child, is at peace.

You tell 'em Bill!

Not that I think of literary agents who have had said "no thanks" to me as dolts and knaves. (Well, maybe the ones who include helpful tips on how to write in their canned responses). I'll leave that to the judgment of future generations.

Wink wink.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Sore Backs, Sunrise, Sunset

We have dragged the washer and dryer (the ones that sat in the barn of the Last House for twelve years) up three flights of stairs here at the new house, plugged them in (this was harder than it sounds since a new standard in dryer plugs came into being during these 12 years); we have just fetched the Understudy's new mattress and box spring from the lowest-end of big box stores (tied to the top of the van, natch) and hauled them up the same three flights. And that is that. No more. Next time I move it is going to be feet first and in a box that someone else is carrying.

In other news, we attended two graduations this week. Shack finished fifth grade and elementary school (yes, there is a ceremony for that these days). The Understudy finished eighth grade and will be starting high school next year. Cue ceremony. This is a once in a lifetime congruence in our little family, with both kids moving on to the next level at school. Sigh. They will be participating in a neighborhood production of Fiddler on the Roof next week. Everytime I hear "Sunrise, Sunset" I burst into tears.

On a lighter note, school, the learning part of it at least, has basically been over for a week. Today, the Understudy and her class took a bus to an amusement park two hours away. She returned home at 7:30 PM sun burnt and cranky. Shack and his classmates had a picnic and then swam the afternoon away at the local indoor swimming pool. My favorite moment of the day came when I picked him up from the elementary school, for the last time ever.

Me: How was swimming?

Shack: It was great! I invented a new game, "handcuffed swimming,"

Sometimes I wish he would never change.

If you have kids and haven't cried about it lately, here's one for you.

Bon weekend.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Twittering Away

Whew. Well I am glad I got that (see the last post) off my chest. The world seems not to have noticed, as usual. Hardly surprising, given this weenie little platform I'm on but, in the immortal worlds of Jessie J., around here, we just want to make the world dance. Well. Whatever.

I have made a few happy discoveries on Twitter, as previously noted, and this being a lazy sort of Sunday (more furniture moving in store tomorrow, never fear) I wanted to share a few Twitter riches.

One of the guys I follow - a Vermonter whom I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting - introduced me to a the "#terriblesequels" space on Twitter. Here are a few of my favorites:

Tapeworms of Dune

To Stuff a Mockingbird

I contributed (or attempted to contribute - I am not sure if they showed up):

The Child Support Order of J. Alfred Prufrock, Megabus from Byzantium and
The Son of the Bridges of Madison County (I didn't like that book - that's the joke). If you don't like one that I also tried, Abbott and Costello at the Bridges of Madison County, Mothra v. The Bridges of Madison County and on like that for awhile. It was fun.

Another funny thread got going this morning. It was called #bloombergmovietitles and my Twitter friend suggested "The Wizard of No More than 16 Ozs" which I thought was pretty funny. There was other good stuff to. Unfortunately I am learning the hard way that some tweets are ephemeral. The thread is now, apparently, gone. I found this while searching for it though, "Mayor Bloomberg will be the first man to go down in history in favor of smaller cup sizes."

So, the internet isn't all bad after all. Hope you all had a nice weekend.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Philistines on Their Platforms

In my college Latin class I was once called on to translate a phrase which I rendered (literally) as, "The names of the stupid we see written on the walls." Better understood and less literal as, "stupid people advertise."

The quip was made by some Roman wit who was, of course, talking about the graffiti of his day (not the artsy/protest Banksy stuff but the "Lucius Septimus was here" type). I have forgotten my Latin words but I not the idea, and it has been recurring to me often lately as I consider the uses now being made of social media and the internet by the tumbling and roiling publishing industry.

Even if you have not been making a special study of what's going on with publishing, as I have recently had to do, no one who reads could avoid some sense of how it's all different now. What you may not have realized is that it goes beyond the shake-up of e-books. Those seem to everybody - at least everybody not invested in the old model - to be a great development. Beyond e-books, however, there are many different models for self-publishing - print on demand, hybrid deals where a literary agency and a writer team up and share the risks and rewards and other schemes for publishing that are popping up like mushrooms.

I think all of this is really great for the writing and the reading public. Let a thousand flowers bloom, and all of that. There is, however, at least one appalling consequence: the requirement that writers will build and maintain "a platform" from which they will promote their "brand" at every opportunity.

Like so much marketing, you may not even have realized that it is being done to you, but it is and it seems that all writers, even the best known, are being required to develop a commoditized version of themselves for the internet. It's like a command has gone forth, one especially hard on all those who can publish a book on their own but who who are also left to market it alone: leave no social network un-infiltrated.

I am not talking here about the connections that people have been making for years now based on common interests, or about those with an honest penchant for twittering or blogging. You know who you are - you write because you have something to say or someone you want to talk to and you don't expect to get paid. I am also not talking about websites created for fans who want a place to to read more about a book or to contact its writer or even order something. That's simply good service and a natural outgrowth of the admiration of readers. I am talking about calculated, venal, self-promotion, that turns the almost every kind of contact made possible by the internet into one with an agenda that's more tawdry than secret.

Full Disclosure

Of course I have been considering all this because I have a manuscript on offer. I sent it around to 15 or 20 agents this spring and got "no thanks" or silence from all of them. I would have preferred a different result, of course, but I was prepared for a lot of rejection and it was useful by way of education. I am going to revise, then I'll send it out for another round. If it doesn't get picked up by an agent and go the way of a traditional book, I will self-publish it one day. (More on that below). It was also useful because it was in this process that I learned about what's happening in the publishing business today - including this notion of "platform."

Babe in the woods that I was, the first mention I heard of it was in this video of an interview by a literary agent with a best-selling author and "lifecoach" about the author's great and successful platform building. (Don't watch it now - it's long, but I hope you will watch it later and let me know what you thought). The agent, who has a nice website and made a lot of sense generally (or so I thought at the time), urged hopeful authors to emulate the lifecoach by building up as large an internet following as possible. I recognized the author as a tacky huckster but the agent was clearly bright and it sounded like good advice. So, (and this feels like a confession) I went out immediately and started a twitter account - the beginning of my own platform.(This little blog hardly counts for what are probably obvious reasons). (Also, full disclosure - this agent subsequently rejected my book).

After two months on Twitter, my platform is no more than a spar from a broken oar and I won't be making any directed efforts to build it up. There is good in Twitter. It has been fun to follow some of my favorite writers, (Neil Gaiman is a good Twitterer) and other interesting or amusing people. The sad part is all the grasping for attention that underlies so much of what goes on there. The followers I have picked up are a few friends and a handful of voracious platform builders. One of my followers (whom I dutifully followed) tweets again and again about his "five-star reviews" on Amazon for his self-published e-memoir. (Of course, I wouldn't touch that with a barge pole, which gives you an idea of how effective this kind of marketing effort is). My heart went out to him recently though, when he admitted that promoting his book had turned out to be more work than writing it had been. Poor thing.

When authors were vetted and cared for by agents and publishing houses in those pre-internet days, a writer could maintain a gentlemanly distance from the smear of commerce. No more. Even the famous seem expected to pitch in and sell books. For the self-published, their every public internet move is often calculated to promote themselves and their products. They are like awful guests at a cocktail party pursuing the rest of us with their business cards, slipping them into pockets and comment boxes ("here's a link to my YA mystery thriller") at every opportunity.

I get it that book publishing has ever been a commercial enterprise and someone has always had to shill for books if anyone (including the writer) was going to make a living. I can practically hear the agents and editors, "It's a marketplace. I have a mortgage to pay. If you don't like that you can go sit on your pile of unsold books under your tree and read The Atlantic.

But a platform is a crass sort of place to occupy at best and a soul destroying one at worst. When I read about a writer talking about herself as a "brand," and being celebrated for it, I feel like we must be nearing the end of days. (I found these links via Twitter BTW).

I read the other day that John Milton made a total of ten pounds for the publication of Paradise Lost. How many pounds would it have taken to get him to write his name on the walls or to go out on a marketing platform?

See you around the Internet. I promise not to try to sell you anything. Well, not to try very hard at least.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Which Character Would You Be In the WIzard of Oz?

Shackleton's fifth grade class presented it last night. When I found out they were putting it on I told him he ought to be a flying monkey." He said, "Why does everybody say that?"

Actually, he was eventually cast as the coroner. You remember: (sing it in your best Munchkin voice!) "As coroner I must aver I thoroughly examined her, and she's not merely dead, she's really quite sincerely dead."

Shack had curlicue sideburns and wore a hat with a wide brim and a long brown coat. It was too dark in the theater to take pictures - we actually got to use the town theater (which had upholstered chairs and air conditioning, more than making up for the poor photo situation). Here he is having a post-performance creemee:

I think he stole the show, but that's just me, and his teacher, and his former teacher and, like, ten other people talking.

There's actually a web page of memorable quotations from the Wizard of Oz. (Oh, internet, you have anticipated my every musing!). My favorite:

Auntie Em: Now you go feed those hogs before they worry themselves into anemia!

I am afraid there would only be one role for me in the show and you've probably guessed it..

Definitely, Glinda.

That's my motto! (We've got another blog post coming with helpful tips on how to tell good people from bad people in movies and stories, stay tuned!)
How about you? Where would the casting director put you?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hummingbird Hijinks! World's Dullest Wildlife Video Right Here!

Not only dull, but also inept. If you endure it you'll find that it ends when I saw I am only pausing, but don't worry, you didn't miss anything. Maisy appears offstage with her (really annoying) narration.

Sooo, it is a beautiful day here in Vermont. I was administering mildew killers of various sorts to the deck in the early hours and have many other outdoor tasks to do, but I just had to stop and take in all this hummingbird action. It was almost scary. They were practically strafing me. OK, so they weigh as much as a penny but close up they are disconcertingly bee-like.

On that note, I must extract Shack from the basement where he has been playing Skyrim on XBox since it arrived three days ago. I dragged him up long enough to eat a peanut butter sandwich a few minutes ago and he was bouncing off the walls because he had achieved "so much iron." Apparently that's an achievement in Skyrim. It was a little chilling. (Remember what happened to Gollum?)

If you decide to brave the video, keep your eyes open for the clever method I employed to fasten the bird feeder hanger to the deck post.

Bon weekend, tout le monde!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just Hello, And Another Tip

Hey All -

A day at home and another "to do" list left undone. I have, however, accomplished scanning a photo that I found last night of the Understudy at age three. (Today's banner - had to share).

And, since I showed up here I feel obliged to make myself just a bit useful. So I am sharing the video for a song that made it's way into my iTunes library as part of an David Gray album purchase a year or so ago. (Album = Draw the Line). It was a deep track, not one I was looking for or knew anything about but it caught my ear and recently I investigated it a little and learned that the other voice (it's a duet) was none other than Annie Lennox. No wonder the song floated to the top.

The album is great and this song is a highlight. I and at least one friend from high school will be at David Gray's concert in Vermont in July and I am nurturing a secret hope that Annie L. will decide to vacation here just then and will join him on stage for this. Are you listening Annie and David? In any case, I hope you will listen and that it will improve your world a little. Off to do laundry.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lucky Bird

Yesterday I went out early in the morning to buy groceries. Can you believe that just a minute into my drive a black cat - coal black, mind you - no white paws or forehead blaze to drain off some of its bad luck, raced across the road right in front of me? No damage to the cat, but I was the first car through after she passed. There was no intercessory person to pass before me, to bear the brunt. I had seen the self-same cat the day before and had been relieved when it dodged right as I approached, thus not crossing my path. But no such luck yesterday. So, there I was, was facing an entire day - Mother's Day, no less - marked by black cat crossing right around the time the sun came up.

All right. The Understudy brought me cinnamon rolls when I woke up from the morning nap I had to take as a result of getting up so early. That was good. The Polaroid pictures that the kids and I took, however, at three dollars a piece, were almost a total loss - and I thought about that cat. (My favorite is the banner today). I worried a little all day. To wit: as I was mowing the lawn at the new house last night for the first time - a "lawn" that consists of a cliff joined to an incongruously rocky swamp - I worried that I might cut my foot off trying to wrestle our ancient push mower. (Maybe the bad luck is that 15 years after graduating from law school I still have to wrangle lawn mowers up hills?)

Today, however, a little red-breasted bird flashed by the front of the car as I was driving the kids to school. It made a nice acrobatic little flourish as it skirted my grill. In my own susceptible mind, I decided this must presage good luck. It is a day off (I work part time, which is why I can't afford to have someone else cut the grass on the cliff and in the swamp). When I got back to the house with a list in my head of a million things to do, I sat down in front of the TV to gulp a bowl of cereal before I started on the list. Driven from the morning news show by a man who was vacuuming a cat (I am not making that up - the cat was fat and not black), I landed on our free trial of HBO. Woody Allen's 2010 movie "Midnight in Paris" was just starting - as in, opening montage of Paris scenes.

Thank you red-breasted bird.

I had seen the reviews, which were good and which had made me want to see it, et voila! It stars Owen Wilson who is always so winning, and also Paris. Didn't Tina Fey say it best? "I want to go to there."

Even better for me is that the movie is about (partly) the 1920s. Allen's sketches of Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Dali, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, are made with very broad strokes - of necessity I expect, given that most Americans can't find the U.S. on a world map that isn't labled, much less do they have any idea about Dali and T.S. Eliot, but I was grateful to see them at all. As a few of you know I wrote a book (which is laying around in a great lump at the moment) which features time travel and life in England in the 1920s. So I was just thrumming along with the Wilson character. His dilemma is whether he should remain in Paris in the 20s - a time to which he is magically transported by the most gorgeous 1920s automobile I have ever seen. And of course Woody Allen always photographs his beloved cities so beautifully.

So, there you have it. A black cat undone and the promise of a red-breasted bird fulfilled. I guess today is the day to hang some pictures and set up the heating oil and propane contract for the new house. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Metaphysical Proof of Divine Love

Sunday morning on the farm.

Rolled out of bed to this:

Purple martins have actually chosen to renew their lease at our crappy purple martin house, (despite the fact that the sparrows who squatted in it in past years left it a mess and though it is listing in what must be a disconcerting fashion for the chicks). Purple martins flitted around me, Snow White fashion, while I took this picture. (OK. They were probably doing this because they were annoyed and wished I would back off, but I am in a Snow White frame of mind so I am going with that interpretation).

Whusband's flowering plum trees - also listing and not very healthy looking during most of the year - are now actually flowering.


I opened this bag of LaVazza, fresh from the Italian grocery store in Montreal. The smell of beautifully roasted beautiful coffee beans was almost enough to bring tears to my eyes. Then I ground some of them and made coffee. Transports.

Happy first Sunday in May to you all.

Friday, May 04, 2012

And While We're On the Subject

I saw this guy, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, for the first time ever on the Grammys back in February. He was tall and balding and wearing a brown wrinkled suit and he thanked the people of Eau Claire, Wisconsin for his Grammy. It was love at first sight.

So, I checked out his music, belatedly, at last.

I now have an iTunes playlist called "Arty" featuring this and several other Bon Iver songs. When this one comes on, it stops me, whatever I am doing. I don't know what "Holocene" means and I can't understand the lyrics other than "I was not magnificent" but this music goes right through me.

Let me know what you think.

Friday Night Family Fun

All of us together back at the Last House for the first time in a couple of weeks. Shackleton just came down stairs and asked for $10 for a Minecraft upgrade. Whusband, sensing a teachable moment, offers cash if Shack will read three Aesop's fables aloud. Much groaning from Shack.

Whusband administers high culture like an innoculation and it is generally received that way by the kids. The Understudy says classical music will always remind her of being cold and hungry because Whusband plays it for hours while I'm at work. He also refuses to turn up the heat and the kids hardly ever like the food he has on offer. (As soon as I walk in the door, crank up the thermostat and boil spaghetti).

The first fable on the programme tonight involves a "soldier out collecting faggots." I bite my tongue. Shack laughs. Whusband tells him that he is being vulgar. The next features "a vain girl wearing dimity at a carnival." (I kind of missed the instructive kicker on both of them and missed the third one altogether.) I am pretty sure the morals of the stories were wasted on Shack too, but he was still snickering about the soldier when he asked me how much money I have in my Paypal account.

I am going to look up "dimity." It rings a bell from some long-ago read Thomas Hardy novel. Mayor of Casterbridge? Maybe time to read that again. Then I will get Shack his Minecraft upgrade.

A dimity bustle, 1881

So you don't die of curiosity: "Dimity is a lightweight, sheer cotton fabric having at least two warp threads thrown into relief to form fine cords. It is a cloth commonly employed for bed upholstery and curtains, and usually white, though sometimes a pattern is printed on it in colors. It is stout in texture, and woven in raised patterns. Originally dimity was made of silk or wool, but since the 18th century it has been woven almost exclusively of cotton.")

Things could be worse. I don't have to wear dimity or a bustle for starters and we're going to the indoor water park tomorrow.

Bon weekend tout le monde!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Checking In

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Can't stop long. The ibuprofen and the caffeine are just kicking in and MY GOD! The furniture and boxes that remain to be dealt with! How does this happen? For you faithful few, you know how we have been renting an apartment in Stowe for the last few years, so that I could be closer to work? (The Last House is more than an hour and a half from my office). Well, now we have gone and bought a house in Stowe as well. (The Last House remains on the books as well, God help us). I am supposed to be out of this apartment this week. In keeping with the family tradition of never paying anyone for things we are at least notionally capable of doing ourselves, I am moving van load by van load across town. Whusband's wrecked truck and various deadlines are keeping him away just now. Hmmm. Well, how hard could it be? Awful. (See above). The new house is actually new. If it were a kid it would be starting first grade about now. Admittedly, this is a kind of "pinch me" situation. I have never owned a house built before World War II. It's been years since I have lived in a place with one of them dishwashers and such like. I hope I can adjust. All the electrical outlets and smoke alarms make my head spin. And the place has an "air exchanger" that isn't just drafty windows. I was supposed the paint the whole interior before we moved stuff in but I gave up after the main rooms. If you would like to see the place, there's a hick little tour below, featuring yours truly with the hay still in my hair. More later if I live.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


You know how I have been going on and on about this band, Alabama Shakes? Well, I went with some friends to see them tonight at Higher Ground, a venue in Burlington not much larger than a church basement. I was sick (sore throat, fever, coughing, sneezing blah blah) and, are you sitting down? I don't go out to see a lot of rock bands.

Making matters worse, Higher Ground has no seats - this was an SRO situation. We got there about a half an hour after the doors opened. The opening band didn't appear for another hour. I had to flee to the Ladies partway through their set for a break from the noise a little sit down (I won't say "wee sit down" - oops). (Did I mention I don't go out to a lot of rock shows?) Then, when the opener cleared off, it was another long wait for the Shakes. As we shifted on our tired legs, I assured my friend that we could move back from the spot near the front we had cadged if it was too loud or people pressed in too close.

Well, from the moment the band strummed the first chord and dropped the first drum beat, I was theirs. Brittany Howard is the singer and it is not too much to say that she is touched by fire. She's the star, but the band is more than just her and more than the sum of its parts. And. Whoa. After hours on my fevered middle-aged-broad feet, I would have stood for hours more to hear them sing.

Here they are blowing David Letterman's mind earlier this week. See them live if you can.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter on the Edge

"I saw your ham in the road," the trooper said. "I was worried it was something else... When I saw your truck..."

The EMTs continued to swab blood off Whusband's hands. The inside of an ambulance at night is very bright. This makes sense, of course, but I have never been inside an ambulance before and had never stopped to think about what they are like.

"Oh really?" Whusband said with a strange joviality born of being the cause of so much trouble, and of being tended to by uniformed strangers.

"Do you have proof of insurance" The trooper asks. He is of young and of rather slight stature, but he has the hat and all. This inquiry is not a bad sign, I think in my lawyerly way. If the injuries had been worse, this kind of thing would have had to wait - but it's only a few cuts from that shattered windshield. Amazing when you see the truck.

The swabbing stops while Whusband peels apart wallet-worn bits of paper with his bloody fingers. The best he can do is an insurance card from 2007. (He has current insurance, but no card). This is a ticketable offense, the trooper notes, although, perhaps because of the ham (and all it signifies) he is disposed to let this go, if a copy can be faxed to the barracks ASAP. This is arranged.

Neither of the kids could be enticed to accompany Whusband to go to the grocery store last night and no one else was on the road as he caromed across the lanes and over the guardrail. Thank God - and that feels like it doesn't cover it. The Four Runner, our "good car" is totaled but no one was hurt, except for WHusband whose injuries were limited to the band-aidable variety.

After the ambulance men and the trooper were done, and the smashed car hauled away on the wrecker, we walked down through the country darkness to the lay-by where I left the ancient Camry. On the way, I picked up a grape fruit that had rolled from the Four Runner's cargo area about a quarter mile down the hill which Whushand had driven down a thousand times but last night failed to navigate. Did a tire come off? We're still not sure what happened.

I know this, though: that unlikely grapefruit is sitting in the fruit bowl in the kitchen and Whusband and the Understudy are sitting at the dining room table looking at the pictures the Understudy just took of him with her iPad. Incarnation. Ex-carnation. I am gladder than I can say we didn't have to confront the latter too terribly directly this Easter. Amen and Amen.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

If Ever I Would Buy You

It would have to be in springtime...

A bike for Easter if ever there was one.

I would be sorely tempted to acquire this conveyance if I knew where in North America one could buy one... It is manufactured by a Dutch company called "Beg." (As in "sit up and beg" the cyclist posture of dignity, despite the sobriquet). Oh, and I'd need a spare thousand dollars or so. Still, it would make a bright spot in my collection of vintage English 3-speeds and single speeds which are, of course, all black.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Top Tips 3.0

A couple of things:

Doesn't this look like fun?:

I am adding this bike tour to my bucket list. Well, I am starting a bucket list today and putting this on it, near the top.

In other news, I have commenced tweeting. Je tweet donc je suis. Doesn't it seem like that's how it is these days? I resisted that whole thing for a long time but having stepped over the threshhold I find Twitter an interesting place.

My other new favorite thing, about which I have tweeted you'll be pleased to know, is the Ronna and Beverly podcast. I guess this won't be for everyone - but I think it's gorgeous and I'm addicted. Because there are one or two nice people who come by here, people who in their guilelessness don't expect to be fooled by the internet, I'll forwarn you that Ronna and Beverly are actually actresses. They are so good I thought they were as represented and then felt very silly. I hope you will love them too.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Stand and Deliver

Wah Wah, Your Money or Your Life!

= Adam and the Ants, 1981

I think about this all the time - standing and delivering, that is. It occurs to me every time life throws some challenge up at me - so, more or less daily. Never without hearing Adam Ant. I'm that age.

This particular imperative didn't begin with him, or end with the movie of the same name about the calculus teacher in the bad Los Angeles neighborhood. It was originally associated with highwaymen - back when crime had a little elan: flint lock pistols, silk kerchiefs - dukes shaken down for guineas and gold watches that sort of thing - no vaulting the counter between the scratch-offs and the dog treats and making a grab for the cash drawer - but I digress. (Adam Ant did look particularly fetching in his highwayman outift, q.v.)

When Shackleton was in kindergarten his class put on "The GingerBread Man". One little girl came to the front to say her line and crumpled. I know how she felt. We all do, but withering at your kindergarten debut bodes ill. The standing and delivering has only just begun. Poor thing.

I have been thinking of this lately - how our lives are defined (largely) by our accumulated responses to these stand and deliver events. I wonder what my personal statistics are. 50-50? Probably not so good. I got through childbirth twice so that's something - if ever there was a stand and deliver - well, lay down and get an epidural - event, that's it. But I have quailed too often. You know that line from Crosby, Stills and Nash "We never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do"? It always goes right through me. But of course, CSN didn't always fail. ("Our House" anyone?). (I suppose David Crosby has some special experience that informs that line...) There's an important follow up here - summed up in from a line in another line, what song? "Take it easy on yourself."

Chapter two to this little Sunday meditation will have to wait. I think it's to do with grace.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Hi! And Can I Share a Paragraph?

If anybody's still out there, and I am not sure why you would be, here I am again to say hello and to share a paragraph. Not one of mine, you may be grateful to hear. I picked up Edith Wharton's famous book, The Age of Innocence at a library sale a year or so ago and just got around to it the other day. I read this passage last night before bed and it got me wondering where in our house we might have room for a little shrine to Edith Wharton.

It is a description of the elderly doyenne of 1870's New York society: Mrs. Manson Mingott:

The immense accretion of flesh which had descended on her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city had changed her from a plump active little woman with a neatly-turned foot and ankle into something as vast and august as a natural phenomenon. She had accepted this submergence as philosophically as all her other trials, and now, in extreme old age, was rewarded by presenting to her mirror an almost unwrinkled expanse of firm pink and white flesh, in the center of which the traces of a small face survived as if awaiting excavation. A flight of smooth double chins led down to the dizzy depths of a still-snowy bosom veiled in snowy muslins that were held in place by a miniature portrait of the late Mr. Mingott; and around and below, wave after wave of black silk surged away over the edges of a capacious armchair, with two tiny white hands poised like gulls on the surface of the billows.

I wish I could do that.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shack, Again

Shackleton asked me to get him some cereal the other day (I think at nearly 11 he's getting a little old to be treating me as the waitress around here - note to self). Anyway, as per my instinct to serve him food on demand, I asked where the cereal might be found.

Shack: "It's in the Lazy Betty."

Me: "You mean, "'Lazy Susan.'"

Shack: "Susan, Betty, whatever. They're all lazy."

Saturday, February 04, 2012

February Is Better Than January

At least today. We had some fresh snow - just a dusting to cover the ice and the icy snow, and then some sun. Winter's perfect combination. The sun is different now, gathering a little strength. I dragged Shackleton out to the hill behind the farm house for a little flexible flying. Here's the most epic run yet - all the way from the back of the barn to the bottom of the field where the stream runs!

In other (utterly unrelated) news, I rented "The Haunting" from Netflix a week or two ago and sat down to watch it last night. I remembered seeing it as a teenager, and it made an impression. As I was racking my brain at my Netflix queue one day it popped back into my mind. No wonder I remembered it. It was directed by Robert Wise from a story by Shirley Jackson (none of this would have registered on me at 16). As the opening credits rolled I caught one that noted "Claire Bloom's Wardrobe by Mary Quant."

What a promising start, I thought. It is a fun movie - despite the frantic performance by Julie Harris, but she had a hard part to play - all coming apart at the seams and frustrated spinster and all.

Claire looked really cool in a black turtle neck, gold necklace, pegged pants and heels:

The creepy statue was a weak point. It looked like papier mache. The scary house was otherwise pretty effective - at least as photographed by Wise.

You can see why I tagged this post as "nothing really." Thanks for stopping by, though.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Dead Yet...

In case you were wondering. Still upright and breathing if not blogging or reading blogs much. There's that pesky big project still dogging me! I wanted to stop in today just to wiggle my toes at anybody who dared (or chanced) in here to lift the sheet. It's not pretty but no putrefaction yet...

For the kind souls who held up their hands as potential book critics, I am revising away. Since it will cost about $50 for each copy of the manuscript I'm only going to print a few and maybe try to circulate them to more than one reader.

January is doing its thing around here. Today's banner is not, alas, a recent picture. We have had a few blue sky days but nothing as good as this lately. Lots of freezing rain and up and down temperatures that have turned all the snow that got compacted in driveways and parking lots into smooth ice... More treacherous as one ages.

Here's one little Shackletonism that I have been meaning to record. (A reward, I hope, for those who got this far). We were driving to the town dump when Adele's new release, "Set Fire to the Rain" came on the radio. You know I'm a fan, so I turned it up. Shack shouted from the back.

"You couldn't set fire to the rain unless it had some gas or something in it! And do you know how many people you would kill if you did set fire to the rain? Including yourself? Do you know how much property damage you would cause?"

(Well, it was funny at the time).

A few days earlier the song from the new Twilight movie came on - the chorus is "I Will Love You for A Thousand Years" (That might be the title too. Whatever). Anyway, Shack shouted out after a time or two through the chorus.

"A thousand years and that's it. Then we are through. It's a thousand years and not one minute more!"