Monday, October 31, 2016

Dia De Los Muertos

Talk About Your Anger

"You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it." - Maya Angelou.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016



an attack on the reputation or integrity of someone or something.
"I don't think anyone is casting aspersions on you."

(down) 37. "Slung" aspersions. MUD

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Cottage Gardens of Petaluma

"No Battle is Ever Won..."

“... They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” — William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review

The Enchanted AprilThe Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

“Anyhow,” said Mrs. Wilkins, stopping her, “I'm sure it's wrong to go on being good for too long, till one gets miserable. And I can see you've been good for years and years, because you look so unhappy”—Mrs. Arbuthnot opened her mouth to protest—“and I—I've done nothing but duties, things for other people, ever since I was a girl, and I don't believe anybody loves me a bit—a bit—the b-better—and I long—oh, I long—for something else—something else—”

I love love love this book. Four women bereft of love, even married bereft of love, in a cold, wet London February go to a medieval castle in Italy in April. Love, along with the flowers, blooms abundantly. Elizabeth von Arnim's touch is light, affectionate and humorous. It's a romantic comedy of manners, similar to Jane Austen, but more kind. It's a hero's journey, stepping out of their comfort zone to find something better. An effective antidote from the ills of the world.

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Book Review

Ten Modern Short NovelsTen Modern Short Novels by Leo Hamalian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

lazzarone: noun; beggar, scoundrel, rogue.

noun; harshness of tone or manner.

“It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over.” - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899

This paragraph is a product of its time and the character speaking, to be sure. But it's fascinating to me that the whole thing is equally true if you reverse the genders and change one other word:

“It's queer how out of touch with truth men are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too rugged altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we women have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over.”

ten·e·brous ˈtenəbrəs/
adjective: dark; shadowy or obscure.

“And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul.” - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

This volume is a wonderful collection of short novels by authors from the US, Europe, and Russia. These stories give us writers at the top of their profession and the height of their skill and talent. Several, Tolstoy Conrad Faulkner, I intend to read more of. All of them I'm glad I had a chance to experience. Not only are they well told stories on their own, they all illustrate a wider context of the authors' lives and society around them. I especially loved that the editors give us an extended essay about the author and the story at the end of each piece instead of a couple of unsatisfactory paragraphs all lumped together in an introduction. This gives the reader a chance to read the story unbiased and form their own opinion and then fill in and expand that opinion with the details and context of the author's life and career. A pleasure to read.

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Book Review

AgostinoAgostino by Alberto Moravia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant story about the awkward painful transition from childhood to beginning adolescence.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shakespeare Said It Best

"I do desire we may be better strangers." - Shakespeare

Book Review

The StrangerThe Stranger by Albert Camus

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't agree with Albert Camus' existentialist philosophy that it's absurd to look for meaning in life, but I enjoyed this book. Something about the spare, plain language kept drawing me in so I found it easy to read and to return to. Though the protagonist is ammoral, not seeing any difference whether he does or does not do something, the story ends on a hopeful note. He realizes at the end that though the universe may not care whether we live or not, we all get the same thing: we all get a life. Therefore we should be good to each other. And it's possible to be happy in all circumstances.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What Makes You Feel Alive

Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.

~ Sufi Saying
( Hafiz )

It does not matter how slowly you go

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

~ Confucius

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book Review

Adjustment Team: Short StoryAdjustment Team: Short Story by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because it's the basis for the movie "The Adjustment Bureau" which I love. This short story is very short, but it's very good. Time and events being tweaked by government like bureaucrats is a great concept and this story is just a nugget, a kernel, giving us the taste of the idea. I'm glad the writers of the movie took it and ran with it, fleshing it out, giving it the full treatment it deserves.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Book Review

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved reading this book. It was one I couldn't wait to get back to when away from it. Growing up in Illinois, state motto “Land of Lincoln,” I've learned about Abraham Lincoln since a very young child and have continued to look for more information as an adult. FYI: the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is very much worth a visit with the whole family, Though I'm not a Lincoln scholar this book seemed to remain true to what we know from history of the man. Placing fantasy fiction in a real time and place with real historical figures works for both the author and the reader; the author doesn't have to build an entire universe from scratch and the reader can jump right in to something that feels very real without a lot of explanation. Seth Grahame-Smith does start his story when Abe is a young child with some background on his parents giving the reader a complete story of Abe's life from birth to death.

A story about fighting vampires works really well with the story of fighting slavery. The vampires sucking the blood of enslaved people are a physical manifestation of the wealth and greed that is stealing their life. It also parallels current events in that large multinational corporations are trying to suck up all of the resources and wealth for themselves. And like then, they're lying about what's causing our problems and their real intentions.

The story is episodic and a bit dry at times, but that's a side effect of it being told as real history, like a biography of Lincoln's life. I would have given it 5 stars except that the e-version I read was organized oddly. The Table of Contents for example is at the back of the ebook. There are links to it, the text, a preview of the authors next book, and the copyright page at the front, but expecting to see it in the first few pages I just kept turning pages as if reading a traditional book and started reading when I came to the story. I didn't see the Table of Contents until I got to the end. Also, while reading I kept coming across asterisks that implied notes with more explanation, but there is no indication of where the note is, nothing at the bottom of the page or the end of the chapter. The asterisks are not numbered like many footnotes and there is no Notes page listed in the Table of Contents. Again, it wasn't until I was done reading I came across the Notes page and noticed one of the asterisks might be dark blue instead of black. That's when I discovered that each one is a link that pulls of a pop-up with the Note on it. So if you've got the ebook, know to tap the asterisks as you come across them.

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Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Key

One of the marvels of the world is the sight of a soul sitting in prison with the key in its hand!

~ Rumi
Image: John Dykstra