Showing posts from June, 2011

Love triumphs

This may be the happiest story I've read all week . It seems that a runway at JFK Airport in New York was shut down for over an hour today because of lovesick turtles. Diamondback terrapins that live in the wetlands around the airport mate at this time of year and then the females seek a sandy area in which to lay their eggs. As it happens, that sandy area is on the other side of the runway from the wetlands where they live, and so, around this time every year, they begin their trek across the runway in order to get to the nesting site. And traffic on that runway comes to a screeching halt! Today, more than a hundred of the turtles were crossing the runway. Wildlife personnel and airport staff picked many of them up and moved them to a sandy area where they could lay their eggs. But after the egg-laying, the turtles will likely be trying to get back to their wetlands which might mean another shutdown. Anyway, I just think that it is really cool that all those people in a

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: A review

I will freely admit that I may just not be smart enough to understand this book. I've read a few reviews of it by people who obviously are more versed in modern literature than I, and, for the most part, those reviews have ranged from mildly positive to raves. Moreover, looking at Mr. Wallace's biography, one sees that he won multiple prizes for his writing and some of them were for this book. That biography also tells us that the themes and style which he used in his writing were metamodernism and hysterical realism. I would have to say that the emphasis was more on the hysterical than the realism. The events of this book take place in the not-too-distant future, when Canada, Mexico and the United States have come together in an organization of North American states, abbreviated as O.N.A.N. (Wallace makes a fetish of using abbreviations, often without explaining what they mean.) It is a time when vast herds of rampaging feral hamsters overrun the wastelands of the Northeast.

Hello, my name is Dorothy and I am a GOT addict

Yes, I admit it. I am addicted. I'm not quite sure how it happened. I didn't intend it to happen. I only did it really to placate my daughter who insisted that I should. I didn't know what I was getting into. I had never even heard of George R. R. Martin before I started seeing ads for the HBO series based on his fantasy series of books about the continent of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms. But I watched the first episode of " Game of Thrones " when it started on HBO back in April, and now I am hooked. And how do I know that I am hooked? Because I am suffering withdrawal. The last show of the season aired on June 19 and yesterday at the time that the show would normally have been on, "True Blood" started its season. No more "Game of Thrones" until next spring. At 8:00 P.M. last night, I started suffering severe depression. How will I ever survive without my weekly fix? Admittedly, GOT does not fit the profile of my usual choice f

Silent Sunday: Summer


Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David M. Eagleman: A review

What an odd little book this is. The book is only a little over 100 pages and in it the author presents different brief vignettes of our possible afterlives. Each imagined afterlife contains a deity, but each deity is different. One deity is actually two - a dissatisfied married couple. Another is a microbe, too small for us to see. Others are dim-witted beings who created us to be smarter than they are. Another is too big to even be aware of us. Well, you get the idea of the diversity contained here, I think. These short evocations of the afterlife (or afterlives) are sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes funny, and sometimes just plain weird, but taken altogether, they comprise an interesting book, one that I would never have picked up if my daughter, the librarian, hadn't recommended it to me. Reading things outside our comfort zone is actually very good for us, I think. It is a way to stretch our minds in new directions. I know this book sent my mind running in all kinds of

Infinite wordiness

Last year, I wrote a post here about a list I had seen of thirteen books that everyone says he/she has read but hasn't . One of the books on that list was Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. At that time, I admitted my literary ignorance of the book and maintained that I would probably never read it. I didn't even know who David Foster Wallace was. That was the depth of my ignorance. After writing that, I felt bad. Who was I to dismiss a book and an author that I didn't even really know anything about? So, I decided to learn about Wallace and his work. I looked him up on Wikipedia and was appalled to learn that he had killed himself in 2008. He had suffered from severe depression for many years and had only been able to function with the help of medication. I discovered some of his essays and found them to be well-written and interesting and to express sentiments with which I could agree. To make a long story short, I decided to put Infinite Jest on my &q

Three for Thursday

(1.) The FBI seems to be on a roll lately, having made several high profile arrests. The latest was this week's capture of one of their Ten Most Wanted, "Whitey" Bulger . Bulger had been on the lam for years, apparently with the complicity of some law enforcement people who had been paid off to turn a blind eye. Some of those folks are already serving long prison sentences and, with the capture of the man himself, it is possible that others will soon follow. Bulger, who is thought to be responsible for at least 19 murders, should be right behind them. We sometimes get the impression that our law enforcement agencies are incompetent, but the FBI is going a long way toward redeeming its reputation. It's very nice and confidence-building for the average citizen to see things working the way they are supposed to. (2.) If Rick Perry decides to run for president, it seems that he will have a rumor problem. The rumor is that he is gay . Whether or not there is any tr

Havana Bay (Arkady Renko Series #4) by Martin Cruz Smith: A review

I've always enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series. I have read several of the books out of sequence and now I'm going back to pick up the ones I've missed. Thus, I came to read Havana Bay , the fourth in the series while on vacation last week. It was a good vacation read. Smith is a good writer who knows how to move a story along. He kept me interested and kept me turning pages. This episode in the Renko saga takes Arkady out of Russia, which should be obvious from the title. It is the late '90s and the divorce between Cuba and Russia, formerly the Soviet Union, is just about final. Renko, the intrepid and cynical Moscow investigator, received an anonymous message from someone in Havana that his friend Pribluda, who was in Havana for some unknown reason, was in trouble and needed Arkady's help. Arkady drops everything and flies to Havana, only to learn that a body on an innertube has washed up in the bay and that the body is believed to be that of his

The Minister of Soul

Listening to Bruce Springsteen's music always makes me happy. Even the sad songs have an underlying joy that always brings to mind that line from "Badlands" - "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive!" That's the line that always makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance around the room. That is, if you haven't already. Springsteen's lyrics are dependent on the music to make them live, to make them become the anthems of our lives, and for the last forty years, with a few brief pauses, that music has been brought to life by the E Street Band with Springsteen's voice finding its echo in the soulful saxophone of the man he called "Big Man," Clarence Clemons. Now Big Man, the Minister of Soul, is gone , his saxophone silenced. Clemons had had many health problems in the last few years and last week he suffered a stroke. He died of complications from the stroke over the weekend. It's hard to imagine the E Street Ban


I will be traveling over the next several days and posting here will be sparser than usual. Stay cool and meet me back here next week.

The British are not coming. Neither are the Canadians, nor the French, nor the....

The British are scared. They are frightened that their Conservative party-led government is going to blow up their long-established system of public health care and replace it with something like the American privatized system. This would not be acceptable to them and so they are worried and their politicians are having to repeatedly reassure them that no such plans are being made. Remember the health care debate in this country a couple of years ago? Remember all the bombastic, jingoistic right-wing commentators who loudly proclaimed that America has the best medical care system in the world and that people from all those countries with inferior systems, like Britain and Canada, want to come here for treatment? Remember all of that? Well, like so much else spouted by the right in that debate, (Death panels, anyone?) it was a blatant, bald-faced lie. The British are NOT coming and neither are the Canadians nor the French. In fact, citizens in just about every other industrializ

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford: A review

My home state of Mississippi is one of the poorest in the country and is problematic in many ways, but one thing it has always been rich in is writing talent. Each generation in turn seems to produce at least one or two extraordinarily talented writers. Richard Ford is one of the ones from my generation. For years, my husband had been trying to get me to read Ford's books and I finally decided that this would be the summer that I would read his Frank Bascombe series. The Sportswriter is the first in that trilogy. Frank Bascombe is the sportswriter. He tried his hand at writing fiction but gave up after one book and took a job with a sports magazine. It's a job that seems to fit him. He likes the traveling. He likes talking to athletes. He likes meeting people who know how to be "within themselves." Frank doesn't really know how to be within himself but he aspires to learn. The sportswriter is actually a very conventional, middle-aged, middle class white male with

A Palin/Perry ticket, perhaps?

The mass exodus of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign staff has led to interesting speculation that Texas' Gov. Goodhair might yet be going to enter the contest. The speculation is based on the fact that several of the staff members who quit have close ties to Rick Perry, the secessionist-minded governor, and the assumption is, I guess, that they have quit in order to go to work for Perry in his campaign. Personally, I can think of many good reasons for quitting the Gingrich campaign that have nothing to do with Perry, but that's just me. My cynical husband has long been pulling for a Republican presidential/vice-presidential ticket of Palin/Perry just because he thinks it would have such great entertainment value, and, incidentally would go a long way towards guaranteeing a Democratic victory. If the Republicans even consider such a move, I think they should require their candidates to take and pass an eighth grade civics test before they can be nominated. That woul

I support Huma Abedin

The whole sick drama about Anthony Weiner's - um - weiner just gets scuzzier and scuzzier. Whenever I read more about it, I feel an irresistable urge to go and wash my hands, not to mention wash my eyes with saline solution. Actually, I've tried avoiding reading about it as much as possible, but if one is connected at all to the outside world, it seems impossible to avoid it altogether. Then I saw the headline in The New York Times yesterday that Weiner's wife of one year is in the "first stages of pregnancy." It just made me want to weep for her. Huma Abedin is a beautiful, intelligent woman . I don't know her personally, of course, but I've seen her picture, and I know she has worked for Hillary Clinton for a number of years, going all the way back to when she was a senator. She would not have survived in that position unless she had unusual intelligence and unusual toughness. She now works for Clinton at the State Department as her close adviser a

Wordless Wednesday: Prairie home


The Secret History of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez: A review

I admit I have never read Joseph Conrad's Nostromo , but after reading this book, it is definitely going on my "to be read" list. Juan Gabriel Vasquez, a Colombian writer, has taken the germ of an idea from Conrad, his mythical country of Costaguana, and recast it as Colombia/Panama. He creates a character, Jose' Altamirano, to narrate his convoluted and non-linear tale of nineteenth and early twentieth century Colombia and Panama, a time when the French attempted to construct a canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific but were defeated by Nature in the form of disease, insects, unbearable heat, and earthquakes. Finally, in the early twentieth century, Panama declared its independence from Colombia (with the encouragement and assistance of the United States) and struck a deal with President Theodore Roosevelt's government to try again to build the canal, and the rest, as they say, is history. Altamirano's story begins in the mid-nineteenth century with his fathe

Silent Sunday: Some like it hot


The crotch shot heard 'round the world

If you've been watching television or reading newspapers at all this week, you probably cannot have escaped seeing the picture of a man's bulging crotch in his tidy whities that is alleged to be of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Weiner is alleged by right-wing scumbag Andrew Breitbart to have taken the picture and sent it via Twitter to a young college student. Weiner denies that he sent the picture. He says his Twitter account was hacked and he has hired a legal firm to look into what happened. Several bloggers, doing what the mainstream media would do if it had not completly abdicated its responsibility, have investigated the matter and turned up some evidence supporting Weiner's denial. Personally, I am inclined to give the benefit of a doubt to anyone attacked by Breitbart, given his history of fabrication of scandals such as the ACORN vs. the pimp story or the tale of Shirley Sherrod's racism. Both stories were completely false, but Breitbart and his henchmen, al

The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell: A review

This was the second book in Henning Mankell's series of police procedurals featuring the dour Swedish detective inspector Kurl Wallander. It starts with two men on a boat. They encounter a red, unmarked life raft, adrift on the sea. Coming nearer, they see that there are two men in the raft - two very dead men. The two live men are returning to Sweden after delivering smuggled goods to their East German contacts. They can't afford to call attention to themselves by reporting the raft and the bodies so they decide to tow it closer to the coast where the tide will take it in to be discovered. Soon, the report of the finding of the two dead men comes to police inspector Kurt Wallander and the investigation begins. The first thing to be ascertained is who the men are and where they came from. Dental forensic analysis soon points to an Eastern European country as their point of origin, but there is no identifying information on the bodies or on the raft itself. After inquiries throu

Wordless Wednesday: The camouflage artist