Tags: reading

new year

I dunno, you?

Yeah, I was going to post more, but yesterday I didn't, like, get up. It's the weather-two-states-off-rheumatiz. And it sucks.

Still reading Conan Doyle, with online annotations and pastiches, and still getting a smile out of the level of analysis that speculates on whether Dr Watson is perhaps making things up. Not telling the whole story, and so forth. Really. It seems to be the most common type of criticism of the stories, at least online (Sherlock Holmes fandom goes back a hundred years). While I am thinking, all the other detectives (except Poe's) are referring to Holmes, who was father of them all, down to CSI and Castle. And all those confusing problems with the timeline of Conan Doyle's stories? I'm thinking he was just not paying very good attention to his continuity, being as it was just popular pulp he was writing while patients for his medical practice were thin on the ground.

Last night (in another window on the forest) I was following a liveblog I found for the City Council meeting concerning the Edgewater hotel renovation, which lasted literally all night, until past 7 a.m., although I did not. A friend of mine from college who is now on the School Board mentioned on her Facebook that she was there, signed up to speak on one of the questions, and ended up getting her chance at like 2:30 in the morning, although I was done well before that. People were getting kinda short with each other by that time I gather. I learned a lot about the project, and remembered why I don't go to meetings anymore.

Is there any way for political culture (local or national) to possibly be just a tad less alienating to those of us who don't want to play that way? Or does it have to be dominated by the blowhard kids you never wanted to hang around with on the playground cause they wouldn't give you the time of day?

Things I found in the basement today: calligraphic piece that just needed a bit of mounting board trimmed off the bottom so it would fit in the frame; red postal stickers that will be just the thing to put on the calendar like stars; laundry basket that had paper files in it; paper files that were very fat because they included a lot of photos and postcards and printed materials from a series of vacations, that I had been thinking should be assembled into books; slide projector and box for it, which are now together and off the floor in a place that I am less likely to lose them again; file basket full of things I started writing; kitty's feather pillow.
new year


Mr S came back from burning prairie yesterday and assured me that this burning season is finally over. It's been a hell of a long one. He goes off for fourteen-hour days, climbing bluffs and whatnot with a pack, and comes back all blackened and smelling of grass fires. Some years it's just a couple weeks in March or April, from the time the snow melts until things green up enough that a fire can't sustain itself, and-or it starts seriously raining. This year, weather was permitting. They burned marshes and prairies and habitat for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, and didn't torch any evergreens by accident. The planet is in peril, we must make firebreaks.

Coincidentally, I've been reading Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell, which coincidentally turned up at the library book sale, cheap, after I was wowed by the review last fall in the NYTimes. It starts out with the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, which was more catastrophically a great fire, and one of the reasons it was such a big fire was that the soldiers called out to restore order tried turning some blocks of the city into firebreaks, when they didn't know what the hell they were doing. Like, using a warehouse full of flammable chemicals as part of your firebreak: bad idea. Shooting citizens who are fighting fires by hand and digging people from the rubble, also bad. This is the sort of response that comes of expecting the worst of people. I'm up to her chapter on William James and the Moral Equivalent of War, an idea whose time must surely have arrived. Right. Now.

Although we don't see much of Haiti on the news lately, what with the surfeit of interesting times and all, people there are still doing what Solnit says people do in catastrophes: building shelters, taking care of the injured and dependent, scavenging for each other, and feeding people. This is pretty much what they were doing there before the earthquake, if one considers the building codes (lack thereof) and (unreported) graft.

When this gets to be too much, besides reading Sherlock Holmes in annotated entirety, I've started again on Solnit's book Wanderlust on the history of walking. This is also quieter reading than McDougall's Born to Run which Number One Son gave us for last Xmas, although along the same philosophical lines. There is enough buzz now about those wacky finger-shoes (Madison is that kind of place) that I suspect I am going to actually buy a pair, and see if they actually fit my feet, although I'm not betting on it. Henry David Thoreau said that just walking to everywhere within a ten-mile radius of your home could keep you busy and interested all your life. Then I thought, that means ten miles out, and ten miles back, which is a daily walk would actually take me all day if I were even up for it which I'm not. But the point is, it's nothing extraordinary for a healthy human animal. Even uphill, in the snow, as we used to say.

Number One Son (who is studying for exams and has one each day this week) says, Exercise Is The Cure. But he doesn't mean the exercise with bad attitude that most industrial populations seem to think is required. He means, like, jumping rope, playing outside with your friends. (Mr S and I often play Plant Identification, which is sort of like Name That Song except he gets more of them right, and you have to walk around outside to do it.) Number One Son has just finished a semester of being a personal trainer and studying geriatrics, and says, when you feel bad, exercise a bit, stop while it still feels okay before you do anything bad to yourself, and then think about how that worked and what you liked.

This morning I remembered that I neglected to register for the Balticon art show. I've been so out of it for months. But I could start packing for WisCon now. Also, does it even need saying, I'm going for a walk. This is just me trying to work a bit of writing back into my day.
new year

Recent activities

1. I think I neglected to tell about the trip to Eau Claire. Mr S was driving, which for a professional driver (as he is) on a closed track would be one thing, but rush hour even such as it is here on a Friday was something else, and I had to remind him before we even got onto the highway that what he considers a safe following distance what with his superior reflexes and all is not what my blood pressure and adrenals see that way. By the time we got on the interstate, where everyone from Illinois had decided to head north for the weekend, I was in a full blown panic attack. Some people like adrenaline, I guess, but I do not. It's a three-hour drive. There was a section of merged single lane travel for some distance after the Dells, and when we got past that and all lanes up to speed again, torrential rain so that you actually couldn't see the lights of the vehicles in front of you.

2. On the way back, on Hwy 12 to avoid all that construction and general unpleasantness, we stopped at Mirror Lake State Park for a walk. I drove home from there, because I need the driving time.

3. Last weekend I was not really up for a drive down to Naperville though. So Vicky and Adriana (my Cuban family) drove up to see me on Saturday, which was very sweet of them. We had lunch at a cafe on Monroe St, dropped off Adriana for some more visiting, and I directed Vicky to St Vincent dePaul where of course we both found treasures.

4. Number One Son's rugby team played well, and came in third out of eight in the tournament, after Platteville (obnoxious ruffians) and LaCrosse. Then this last weekend they hosted the Alumni for the rugby team's thirtieth anniversary, played the old boys who had seventeen on a side and all the calls in their favor, but these turned out to be good fund-raising tactics. He got a shiner, which he says the photo (on FB) doesn't do justice. Now last week of classes, and next week exams.

5. Sunday we walked around Owen Conservation Park and identified plants. A small child reproved us for being Off The Path, but we splained we were reading tags on the new plantings (white oak, not swamp white oak) and then for a bonus we splained that the fields there around the new retention ponds had been mistakenly planted with four kinds of clover instead of any kind of prairie mix (so it's not like you can step on anything all that important). It is a little surprising how quickly other stuff is coming up in there. I spotted the poison ivy patch in the woods again, which is why nonprofessionals should stay on the paths. The prairie restoration in the middle is coming along, but the woods on the outside of the firebreak path are full of buckthorn and honeysuckle.

6. As is the Arboretum, in some areas, where it should be viburnums and dogwoods. I walked out there to the McKay Center again today, which I figure may be nearly eight miles all told. Had many adventures with flora and fauna. Being downwind of the lilac collection is staggeringly wonderful. They have three American Chestnuts, in the horticultural collection, which I find very sad.

7. And on a literary note, it is all very well for Sherlock Holmes fans to go along with the narrative frame of Watson writing up the adventures, and then try to establish chronologies and secrit histories, as though it were all real; but I want to know how A. Conan Doyle got all that slashy subtext so stunningly well embedded, when from his biography he seems to be such a boy scout.
new year

Escape to 1889.

Actually it was in the handmade books community that I found this accordion book unique binding which linked to entire page spreads of a sweet little piece of Holmes/Watson slash (by another hand). I am tickled to find my communities of fandom and book artists connected even in a small way, or very far away.

That of course linked to the deeper veins of H/W, not to mention the motherlodes of internet fanfic. After a bit of a wander I settled in for some more reading, and found a wonderful little theoretical work on homoerotic content in the Canon, a subject I had only heard of in passing although it sounded plausible enough just on the face of it, Decoding the Subtext, which lists and discusses the Doyle works in fictional chronology.

And that is how I arrived at the bookshelf to take down a mid-twentieth-century facsimile edition (courtesy of bibliofile) of the Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, reproduced from the Strand Magazine, with classic illustrations by Sidney Paget. It's a fat book, but still doesn't weigh as much as my laptop.


When I was little, in Oklahoma and Texas, I went barefoot quite a lot. My feet must have been pretty tough: the blacktop could be hot enough to avoid, in the summer, but the chief hazard was any Sticker Patch. Now I could probably look up what those little plants are that make clusters of round prickly burrs that stuck into your feet like cactus spines. The way to escape the Sticker Patch was to stop right where you were, and pay attention, and step very carefully to a place where you could pull the stickers out. Crying was optional.

Today I walked over to the marsh path behind Edgewood, feeling pretty terrible, and then on the way home took my shoes off, which makes me pay attention to Be Here Now, and I feel better. Broken, but still good. When I get the kind of tech that will allow me to post while I am on my walks, I expect I will be blogging more, because when I walk is when I get more thinking done, but much of what I have to think about is fairly unpleasant. Sometimes I make notes, and sometimes I bring my notes here. But I am not thinking any more than I can help when I am at home, even to make sentences -- I am reading novels, particularly in series, long series, and watching television, and doing my damnedest not to be thinking any thoughts. I think this is what used to be called a nervous breakdown.

If I could run away I would, but that trick never works. I'd like a quiet b&b, preferably on the water, with good wifi. I got an email from an artist who is selling her studio-gallery space with upstairs flat amazingly cheap ($115K), right in the middle of historic Mineral Point, which is a nice little artist colony with summer tourist trade less than an hour from here, and that sounds just about right too. I'm not going to make it to the international calligraphy conference this summer, for my week of summer camp, because I just can't hack it anymore.

Spring is usually good for what ails me. But this winter I went further than usual into the Dark, and I'm not back yet. The dark is where seeds are sown and bad things rot away, so I am down with that.

We were watching some cop show, with some main character in the hospital having a dream and meeting her dead parent and deciding whether to go with him into the Light, the kind of scene where all the fans cry "Don't go! Toward the White Light!" and I said to Mr S, when the time comes for me to go to the White Light, I am so not hanging around here. I am moving on.

How Do I Rule

1. Still the jock of my Yoga for Chronic Pain class. Not practicing a lot, but after my walk I lie down and stretch at least minimally. Is that all it takes? apparently.

2. Still walking every day. Today, warm and sunny, another barefoot walk. Number One Son convinced me to walk more barefoot because, jeez, I have callouses even inside my shoes. As it gets warmer I try every sandal and shoe in my possession to find something that will replace boots (wearing out) and walking shoes (likewise ready for replacement). There is no shoe I can wear without socks that will not give me blisters within a couple of miles. Today I started out in flipflops and took them off after I got past the gravel alley and the coffeeshop. Lots of nice grass out there already. I don't walk as fast, but there is nothing for staying in the moment like bare feet on the ground.

3. Finished e-filing taxes when I got home.

4. At one and the same time, I was reviewing inventories of the calligraphic artwork I've taken to the OddCon art show the last several years, of which I had not kept very good track. That gave me an idea for something to showcase this time, then digging it out one thing led to another and now I have stuff sorted out to hang Friday. Also prospective work for WisCon art show dug out of the files, and paperwork for Balticon (application deadline May 1). After months of doing nothing, this is some kind of improvement.

5. Sat down and read (I'm halfway through Kathy Reichs' "Bones" series which I am taking in order) until bibliofile stopped by to visit. We channeled kitty's thoughts, then cats and dogs living together -- leading (through Ghostbusters apocalyptic reference) to programming prospects on racism, sexism and social class for OddCon and WisCon. White Men in SF: Threat or Menace? It's a, it's a joke, son.

6. Hey! found sculptures on my walk! brought em home.

7. Cut narcissus from the yard for the table.

8. Made a salmon quiche for dinner. With bread and salad. Fruit later. (Fridge still overfull since Number One Son's vacation visit.) Sitting down with television now.
new year

Extended absurdity

Last summer I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with great enjoyment, agreeing with the blurb that the only thing to improve a great work of literature is the addition of zombies. Jane Austen had already written most of it, and I admired the seamless addition of hordes of ravening undead, and the sheer likelihood of martial arts being part of the education of genteel young ladies of the English Regency period.

The same publisher has now come up with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen with a different collaborator, which I immediately checked out of the library. Within the first few pages I had doubts: this seemed a lot sillier than the previous effort, even given that the original S&S is less a favorite than P&P. The sea monsters have overrun the world from the first page, and the work is clearly genre pulp. It's a mash-up; maybe parody, and I'm not enough of a literary theorist to decide whether it rises to satire.

But I persevered, and on page 34 was rewarded with the first Laugh Out Loud moment. "Lady Middleton... was reserved and cold, as if having been stolen from her native village in a burlap sack and made to be servant and helpmate to an Englishman many years her senior, for some reason sat poorly with her." It's an observation with the acuity and social concern of Austen, and in this novel it is completely literal. There were enough of these laughs to keep me reading, and they became more ridiculous as the work proceeded (pirates and then steampunk sort of science), although always it was the absurd juxtaposition with polite social conventions that provided the laugh, and jolted me out of immersion in the fictional world. But I read fast. It was fun.

I began to wonder if the modern author was about to rip the proper resolution right out of Miss Austen's hands. I've read a lot of sequels and prequels and interpolations by other hands to the work of Jane Austen, but never one that pushed the whole fictional premise hilariously over the top right from the beginning. I like a little surrealism, and a little absurdity, although I find most surreal works go on for rather too impossibly long to keep my interest; and on another tentacle I enjoy Jane Austen quite a lot. If you have biases like mine, you might enjoy this. Like the man said, I wonder not that it is done well, but that it is done at all.
new year

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Couple blogs I've read lately remark on the realization of the limits of so many books, so little time. Maybe you're not a worm's-eye-view person; but at our house, it was no great shock for me to follow an online link to a table of Average Life Expectancies, canoodle over that a bit, and realize by a bit of simple mathematics that I am only going to have time to read about another three thousand books. More or less. I mean, sure, I could live another ten years beyond the average, what with clean living and long-life genes -- maybe four thousand.

Maybe that sounds like a lot of books to you. I grew up in a household that contained four times that many books, most of which I hadn't read. I regret already not having kept a Life List more carefully from an early age -- only the last 25 years or so. I suspect the greater part of what I have yet to read will be the less stylish or demanding kind of work that I can gulp down in a day, in a condition of total immersion, which is what I have been wanting from my book reading lately. Nonfiction and poetry, not so much.

This is only one narrow aspect of the thoughts such a countdown inspires. (Yes, I even found a countdown timer to run on my desktop, and if I was at home I'd get all linky on ya.) But I'm at the library, with another four genre books checked out, so I thought I'd mention it.
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Superfluous Technology

"Twitter is more fun and useful when you access it from your mobile phone." I think not. Phone, rather elderly, for speaking and listening; full keyboard for tap tap tapping out letters and lines and sentenes. Collapse )

But I was nattering about Twitter. Not that I spend a lot of time with that, since I have plenty of other things going on through the laptop which is my usual mode of access, although I can see it might be useful in The Future. I follow a few friends, when I get there, and post very little, which is after all the form, isn't it, posting 140 characters. Or less. It's poetry; publicity; or weblogging, which after all is the original recursive navel-gazing of the intarwebs, Look At What I Found On The Internet. I love the Proust that I am currently reading there -- occasionally, when I get there -- one phrase at a time, in a very artfully edited edition.
new year

My Own Fifty-book Challenge

I sort of missed the boat when these started, so if anyone could point me at an explanation of where the format came from, I thank you kindly. I haven't been writing much about my reading lately. Seems like too much work, and it's not required, for a grade you know. But I firmly believe reading should be its own reward. I had stopped reading entirely by the time I got out of college, but recovered in only a few years.

Book pruning is terribly overdue here. I had some progress last year, with actually reading a pile of newer acquisitions, and gave some kick-ass small press stuff to the library (and then had the pleasure of actually seeing some of them on the shelves). As I have perhaps explained before, the only method I ever learned of sorting my books involved moving across country, sorting them into boxes to keep and boxes to be disposed of before moving. So living in the same house for twenty-hum years, it's gotten a bit out of hand.

Today I have in fact counted the unread books. Oh dear I think I forgot the poetry and plays bookcase, but lots of those are references and need not be read cover to cover. Oh dear I forgot the cookbook shelves... Nonetheless, the totals are sad enough. I have 196 books THAT I HAVE NOT YET READ here in the living room. (That doesn't count the dozen library books. The library has given me some very helpful training in deciding when to let go.) Then I went downstairs, and found another 256. Give or take. Considering the reference problem, and the art book Just Look At The Pictures problem, books I have purchased and looked at and not actually read.

A reasonable goal would be to dispose of fifty of these books, one way or another. Read them, decide not to read them, give them away, or read and keep for whatever reason. That's only ten percent of the available unread stock (many of them have bookmarks in them already part way through). Worry about the rest another time. Over ten years, though, it is conceivable that in this way I could reduce this category to current acquisitions. I can start with the easy ones, right?