Thursday, July 31, 2008
sound of rubber hitting asphalt
dogs barking in dark corners
cats jumping out of gutters and slinking across the street
headlights shining in my eyes
skipping over potholes, speed bumps
turn corner onto e. ponce
whizzing past the post office
sweat dripping off arms onto hands onto pavement
cars passing to the left
bass pumping out of windows at the stop light
whizzing past taco mac, ruby tuesday
couples snuggling into each other behind windows
sharing food, conversation, lips
laptops open to powerpoint presentation on tables
sipping coffee, reading paper
whizzing past starbucks
man playing saxaphone on bench
lovely jazzy sound almost want to stop and lie in the grass
couples drinking and talking not 100 yards from jazz music
coming up to church street
man walking toward me with two huge incense sticks burning
saying something i can't understand
sure do like the smell of the musky incense
woman walking, looking all around, .. phone
workers taking out trash from tai me up
tired and ready to crawl into bed after feeding decatur
continue on toward avondale station
dark, dark, dark
people walking on other side of street
men sitting on wall laughing and talking
figuring out how to solve the world's problems
on a wall in downtown decatur with the faint sound of jazz music and the faint smell of incense in the air
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
My son was teasing me this past weekend while I was enjoying David Sedaris' book Me Talk Pretty One Day. He said, "There goes Mom again... giggling while she reads a book!" But there is no other way to describe this book other than a collection of funny yet simple essays about the life and times of David Sedaris as told by David Sedaris. The first section (one) recounts stories of Sedaris in the United States and the second section (deux) recounts stories of Sedaris in France. He covers many different topics during different times in his life, often times expressing or explaining the difficulties he has had in understanding people, things, and language. My favorite selections include Genetic Engineering, The Learning Curve, Today's Special, Nutcracker.com, The Tapeworm Is In, Make That A Double, and Smart Guy.
As a child I'd always harbored a sneaking suspicion that I might be a genius. The theory was completely my own, corroborated by no one, but so what? Being misunderstood was all part of the package. My father occasionally referred to me as "Smart Guy," but eventually I realized that when saying it, he usually meant just the opposite. (p. 241)
Me Talk Pretty One Day is a smart read, lots of fun, and a good introduction to David Sedaris, which is why it was recommended to me in the first place. I really enjoyed this book and pass along the recommendation to others.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
1. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed - Alan Alda
2. Running With Scissors - Augustus Burrows
4. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson
5. A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah
6. Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azzar Nafisi
7. Maus I and II - Art Spiegelman
9. Brainiac - Ken Jennings
10. Persepolis 1 and 2 - Marjane Satrapi
ETA: July 20, 2008: And that makes 8 books I've read, so I am finished this challenge. Yay me! A few got added after I started, and there are more I'd still like to read, but it's been great. Thanks for hosting Vasilly.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The six sisters collectively known as the Mitford Girls were not only very different and interesting characters of themselves, living in an interesting time in history, but the way their lives turned out, makes them even more fascinating.
So let me briefly introduce them. The oldest, Nancy, was born in 1904 and became a very successful writer, getting much of her inspiration from her own surroundings. Then there was Pam, one of the quieter, lesser known sisters. The two younger sisters Diana and Unity more than made up for that. Diana falls in love with and later marries Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Fascist Party, and becomes an ardent supporter of Fascism and Nazism. Unity gets acquainted with and becomes a personal friend of Adolf Hitler. In fact, Diana may have been one of the very few if not the only person who counted both Hitler and Winston Churchill (he married into the family when he married a cousin of the girls' father) among her personal friends. Decca's political preferences go in an entirely different direction: she becomes a communist, in the late 30s she runs off to the civil war against Franco in Spain and eventually ends up in the US. The youngest sister, Debo, was born in 1920. Like Pam, she is one of the "quieter" of the sisters, though in her own way she makes something remarkable of her life, becoming a business woman and successfully leading and expanding her husband's estate, making it one of the few profitable estates in the country. There is a fairly recent interview with her here.
I found Decca the most interesting of the sisters, because she was the only one who actually broke free of the life and conventions of her class and ended up leading a life different from what was expected of her. She was the most unconventional of the six. The others, no matter how "funky" their political opinions, still stayed within what was expected of them by their social background. Debo and Pam, in The Mitford Girls at least, stayed a bit in the background, probably because they were the most "ordinary" of the six. Relatively speaking that is. I would have loved to find out more about them. Though for that I suppose I'd have to read one of the numerous other books that have been written about one or more of the sisters.
The most interesting part of the book were the chapters dealing with the period from the late twenties until the end of the Second World War. Anyone who reads this book cannot but read that part with hindsight, knowing what Fascism and Nazism would lead to, knowing about the Holocaust.
In fact, the same goes for Decca's becoming a communist in the thirties. At this time Stalin's terror was pretty much at its top. This was one question I had that didn't get answered in this book: to what extent did Decca really believe in Communism as an ideal, a solution for economic and social problems or was Communism for her a way to combat Fascism. Or was she just some sort of fellow-traveler. Even more important, to what extent was she aware of what was happening in the Soviet Union, the Gulags, the executions and persecutions, the famines following the collectivization of the agricultural sector. This book at least doesn't say anything about her knowledge of and attitude towards all this.
Many more pages are dedicated to Unity's infatuation for Hitler an Diana's support for Nazism and Fascism. During her life, Diana actually never apologized for or repented her support for Fascism. I found Diana an interesting woman as well.
Apart from the six women's roaring lives, this book also gives a very interesting picture of upper class life in England and especially of the social mores and conventions that the girls had to cope with and adhere to in the first half of the twentieth century. One thing that struck me was how the different families were on the one hand continually selling their mansions, houses, and parts of their estates because they couldn't afford their upkeeping anymore, moving into smaller living places all the time, but on the other they were also continually traveling abroad, sending their children to finishing school abroad, and they kept buying land and houses as well. All these changes in property were sometimes hard to keep up with. To my 21st century mind it was sometimes hard to understand the logic behind not being able to afford one thing, but at the same time spending so much money on other luxuries.
Another thing that struck me is how seemingly common extramarital affairs were in the society in which the Mitfords lived. Don't get me wrong, I am not a prude and all this adultery going on didn't bother me as such, it was just one of the things I noticed while reading the book. Extramarital affairs seemed to have been acceptable for both men and women, but at the same time once a woman was divorced, her social status was gone. This became very clear when Diana's affair with Oswald Mosley was discussed in the book. When their relationship started, Diana was still married to someone else. She did push through a divorce, despite the objections of many, her own parents among them. Diana's mother even forbade some of the younger sisters to visit Diana after her divorce.
All in all, I enjoyed The Mitford Girls enormously. Mary S. Lovell wrote a fast-paced, seemingly well researched book, that gives an intriguing look into the lives of a family that was notorious and famous at the time and also into upper-class life in England in the first half of the twentieth century in general. I highly recommend this book as an introduction into the Mitford family.
As always, if you have reviewed this book on your blog, leave a comment with the link to your review or send me an email with the link, so I can include it in the post.
Friday, July 11, 2008
From the book jacket:
Most comedians are committable. People say I'm the most normal of all comedians - and I'm still certifiable. - from Chapter One
That stammer. Those basset-hound eyes. That bone-dry wit. There has never been another comedian like Bob Newhart. In this, his first book ever, Newhart gives his brilliant and bemused twist on a multitude of topics, including flying, the trials of a family holiday in a Winnebago, and more serious subjects, such as golf. And, of course, there are side-splittingly funny stories from his life and career. Who else has a drinking game named after him? ("Hi, Bob!")
He writes of his few years as an accountant (he routinely grew so frustrated trying to reconcile petty cash that he would round up and down using his own pocket change). He describes his surprise at the groundbreaking success of his albums, starting with The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which was the first comedy album ever to hit #1 on the charts and won the Grammy for Album of the Year (beating Sinatra). There are stories from the legendary television shows, which spent fifteen years on prime time, and tales of other comedy greats. Ans as counterpoint throughout, he provides excerpts from some of his classic routines, which revolutionized comedy.
This isn't a memoir like most memoirs. It's a book only Bob Newhart could have written, with his unique worldview and irrepressibly wry humor on every page. Oh, and there's a fair bit of plain silliness, too.
I love Bob Newhart. Back when I was a teenager, my friend Tina and I would listen to an album of his, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back. He did a bit about computers and automation that included the line "Sit down, machine" done in a computer-type voice that cracked me up. (I guess you had to be there!)
Saturday nights, we always watched The Bob Newhart Show with Bob as Dr. Hartley and Suzanne Pleshette as his wife Emily. Then later, Newhart on Monday nights with Bob as Vermont-inn-owner Dick Louden and Mary Frann as his wife. Do you remember Larry and his brothers Darrell and Darrell? And the fantastic ending to that show?
So it's hard for me to say that I didn't really enjoy this book that much. There were parts that were very good, such as the texts of various comedy routines. Reading those, I could picture Bob and hear his voice. But other parts of the book dragged for me.
I guess I was looking for more Bob Newhart as Dr. Hartley and Dick Louden than Bob Newhart as Bob Newhart.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
From the book flap:
"Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days upriver from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a man-child was born to Omoro and Binta Kente."
So begins ROOTS, one of the most important and influential books of our time. When originally published thirty years ago, it galvanized the nation and created an extraordinary political, racial, social, and cultural dialogue that had not been seen in this country since the pulication of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
ROOTS has lost none of its emotional power and drama, and its message for today's and future generations is even more vital and relevant than it was thirty years ago.
When he was a boy in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley's grandmother used to tell him stories about their family - stories that went back to her grandparents, and their grandparents, down through the generations all the way to a man she called "the African." She said he had lived across the ocean near what he called the "Kamby Bolongy" and had been out in the forest one day chopping wood to make a drum when he was set upon by four men, beaten, chained and dragged aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America.
Still vividly remembering the stories after he grew up and became a writer, Haley began to search for documentation that might authenticate the narrative. It took ten years and a half a million miles of travel across continents to find it, but finally, in an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered not only the name of "the African" - Kunta Kinte - but the precise location of Juffure, the very village in The Gambia, West Africa, from which he was abducted in 1767 at the age of sixteen and taken on the Lord Ligonier to Maryland and sold to a Virginia planter.
Haley has talked in Juffure with his own African sixth cousins. On September 29, 1967, he stood on the dock in Annapolis where is great-great-great-great-grandfather was taken ashore on September 29, 1767. Now he has written the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him - slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workers and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects - and one author.
I had seen the TV mini-series of ROOTS a long time ago. So when looking for a book for the In Their Shoes Challenge, this one jumped out at me. I enjoyed the mini-series and wanted to learn more about this family.
One thing I did learn that was unexpected was the fact that Alex Haley had been sued for plagiarism by Harold Courlander who wrote the book THE AFRICAN. Mr. Haley settled out of court and admitted that some parts of the book were taken from THE AFRICAN. This fact led me to question the book as a whole - was it to be considered fact or fiction? Mr. Haley answered that question:
"To the best of my knowledge and of my effort, every lineage statement within ROOTS is from either my African or American families' carefully preserved oral history, much of which I have been able conventionally to corroborate with documents. Those documents, along with the myriad textural details of what were contemporary indigenous lifestyles, cultural history, and such that give ROOTS flesh have come from years of intensive research in fifty-odd libraries, archives, and other repositories on three continents.
Since I wasn't around when most of the story occurred, by far most of the dialogue and most of the incidents are of necessity a novelized amalgam of what I know took place together with what any researching let me to plausibly feel took place."
So - a mixture of fact and fiction. Still a terrific book. Reading this, I could picture scenes from the mini-series. I could see LaVar Burton as the young Kunta Kinte in chains on the slave ship. John Amos as the older Kunte - now named Toby - and Madge Sinclair as Bell jumping the broom. Leslie Uggams as their daughter Kizzy, and Ben Vereen as the wonderful Chicken George.
My one complaint with this book was the fact that as the story moved from generation to generation, lives were just dropped. The story of Toby and Bell abruptly ended when the focus turned to Kizzy as she was sold to a new owner. Perhaps Mr. Haley couldn't find any documentation of what happened to them after that time, but it was a let-down after following Kunta Kinte for 546 pages. I was hoping to find out what life was like for them without their daughter.
I'm going to either rent or buy this mini-series on DVD along with the sequel "Roots: The Next Generation" which was based on the follow-up book by Mr. Haley.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Crossposted from aquatique.net