Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I didn't intend to read all of Michael Cunningham's new book all in one go, but with one cat curled up next to me and the other on my stomach, I wasn't going anywhere. Specimen Days was interesting, and I enjoyed it, but I'm not totally sure what it was about. Walt Whitman's poetry was a major theme, but I just don't really know what happened; it didn't click for me immediately the way The Hours did. The set-up of the book is similar, with three loosely connected novellas, but none of the characters really captured me or evoked a sense of understanding. I've only dipped into his other two books and have little interest in them, and I'm really hoping that The Hours doesn't turn out to be his one big hit. It's so frustrating when that happens with authors--Tracy Chevalier is the same way. Oh well, I might reread Specimen Days more carefully and see if I can get more out of it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I just remembered that we copied a bunch of CDs onto the computer a while back, and there are quite a few I haven't yet burned or even really listened to; so the past couple days I've been treating myself to some new music--Cowboy Junkies, Gillian Welch, and Over the Rhine. While listening to OTR's album "Films For Radio", I discovered that one of the songs on it was written by Dido--what a great combo! It's a neat song, too--click here and scroll down one song to read the lyrics. Music really fascinates me, as well as the ability of musicians to express themselves so perfectly. Though I'm by no means a superior writer, I get prose--I know more or less how it works, and how to produce it. But poetry and music are whole other worlds! I love the little vignettes of life that can be displayed in a good poem or song and illustrated even further by the one who reads or sings, speaking to one's soul so much more poignantly than prose.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's not often that I see movies that either I really like or that I have anything to say about, but we've been on a lucky streak lately. For anybody interested in good films now that the days are growing shorter and evenings are better for snuggling on the couch than going for a good walk, try these...

*The penguin movie, a.k.a. "March of the Penguins"--the National Geographic film in theatres now is the most romantic movie I've ever seen. In my opinion it's not really a kid's movie, but we enjoyed it immensely and were astounded both by the cinematography and the single-mindedness of these strange animals.

*"Uncovered", starring Kate Beckinsale--I'd seen this a while back and been interested in it, but it wasn't till a second perusal of the synopsis on the box that I realized it was a dramatization of Arturo Perez-Reverte's excellent novel The Flanders Panel. Let me tell you, the book is a WHOLE lot better, mainly because it actually sustains suspense, whereas the movie seriously lacks subtlety. That said, if you haven't read the book (and you should--it's fantastic), the movie might amuse you with its dramatic story of mystery in the art world.

*"Mean Girls", starring Lindsay Lohan--I wanted to see this in great part because the main character is homeschooled, but my sister had also recommended it. I was pleasantly surprised to find it clever and highly amusing; Odious kept coming into the room to find out what I was laughing so much about. Lindsay Lohan is an excellent comic actress, and does a great job in this snarky film. I also liked that while homeschooling was somewhat ridiculed, the point was clearly made that high school is a terrible, terrible place that can suck in and corrupt even the best of teens.

*"Ponette"--this movie made me cry, and that's a pretty unusual occurrence. It's a French film about a little girl whose mother dies, and her attempts to understand and deal with the tragedy; the four-year-old actress is AMAZING. I'd been wanting to watch it for a while, and when I finally turned it on I intended to go to bed after an hour or so and finish it the following evening. It was soon clear that I was staying up late. What an incredible film--highest recommendations.

*"Funny Face", starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire--without the singing and dancing this movie would have been about 20 minutes long. I know most musicals are like that, but this one seemed particularly dull and poorly-acted--maybe it's best to experience them first as a child. Still, Audrey Hepburn is always good, and it was fun to hear the origin of songs like "Funny Face" and "S'marvelous".

Friday, September 16, 2005

The best thing about Kara Dalkey's Blood of the Goddess trilogy was that it (by a very random thought train) inspired me to start a new story that is going quite well. Actually I did enjoy the trilogy, although nothing much had really taken place by the time it was over. It starts out with a young apothecary's apprentice, Thomas Chinnery, en route to China to seek out new herbs and treatments for his master. A surprise battle at sea results in Thomas's capture, after he has met several strange people and resurrected a dead man with the use of a mysterious powder. An attempt at escape lands him in the Santa Casa, in the heart of the Spanish Inquisition, and his only way out is to lead a mission to discover the origin of that same powder. The characters are an interesting mix of English, Spanish, Arab, Hindu, and immortal, and the story kept me interested, although, as I say, to little end.

I've always liked Kara Dalkey, in part because she used to live in Lake City, CO, quite close to where I grew up, and one of her books (Crystal Sage) takes place in a very familiar setting. However, she does have trouble with endings. It's too bad, because she's a good writer, but I think it may be why Odious doesn't care for her books.

Suddenly I realize I have many things I want to share here... where to start? A few days ago I received a book in the mail from Mother Earth News; I'd been looking forward to its arrival, since I ordered it upon reading its review in the magazine, and had been greatly intrigued by the few pictures in the article. It's called Home Work, by Lloyd Kahn, and it surpassed my expectations like few other books have.

In preparation for building our house next summer, we've been reading a number of excellent books on the subject, but this one is by far the most inspiring. It's a collection of photos and notes about alternative-style houses around the world, and I'd be willing to move into almost any one of them. (Maybe not the driftwood shack.) Numerous ideas have been running through my head since finishing the book, and new possibilities have opened up, not to mention the welcome reaffirmation of certain plans. If you're at all interested in solar-powered homes, straw bale, log cabins, treehouses, yurts, or architecture in general, you'll love this book.

Another interesting read on the same topic was Richard Manning's A Good House. He's a reporter who decided to build a house after purchasing land in Montana, and made a little extra money off it by keeping a journal of the process. Though his pessimism and simple sentences (journalistic writing!) got a little wearing, as well as the lengthy description of the deed and mortgage problems, much of what he wrote was useful and interesting. I particularly liked his thoughts on passive solar and composting toilets (two features we also intend to implement), and the impact a house has on its environment.

This post is long enough, and I have other things to do, but next time I'll talk about the great movies I've been watching, and maybe post some cute kitty pictures now that I've figured out how to make that work.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Odious says I am not pastoral enough.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

It's come to me in a dream--the seventh book in the series will be Harry Potter and the Chef's Knife, detailing the adventures of Ron and Harry as they discover the secrets of Saint Theresa of Avila, who ate nothing but mayonnaise. Yes, I really did dream that, and would probably prefer to read such an absurdity than whatever J.K. Rowling comes up with next. After the Half-Blood Prince, I have no reason to read any further. All interest in the characters has been lost for me--I'm still extremely upset. I read the sixth book the day after it came out, and am just now getting around to posting about it, yet still I feel betrayed and apathetic at the same time. This may be a spoiler; I'm sorry.