Thursday, June 26, 2008

Changing Flavors

This plant was labeled as a Chocolate Calla Lilly when I bought it two summer's ago and the flowers were a deep chocolate brown. This year they bloomed purple. I guess they had a change of heart.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My New Literary Boyfriend.

I have a confession to make. Since before our marriage my darling husband has had to tolerate my disloyalty. I have always had a coterie of literary boyfriends (fictional characters, and poets and authors long since departed from this earth) with whom my affections were shared. His only consolation was that none of them actually existed on the physical plain.

For years there was only one fictional detective who owned my heart and that man was the sharp dressed, witty and suave Archie Goodwin. For Archie I swoon. For Archie I pine. We met in Rex Stout's first Nero Wolfe mystery, Fer de Lance. From that moment on I was lost. Timothy Hutton played Archie to such perfection in the television series that now when I read the novels I can see Archie swaggering along the New York pavement, his hat at a jaunty angle.

But I met someone new. I met Sam Spade - Archie Goodwin's evil twin. Sam is a hard-drinking, viper-tongued, womanizing rogue - and I love him. I know I shouldn't. I can't help myself. Over the years I've seen empty shadows of the original character saunter across the screen, but all of them lacked the nuance and depth of Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled detective. None of them did justice to the original.

Archie, I'm so sorry. I never meant to treat you wrong. You'll always be my first and best detective love, but from now on you're going to have share the stage with Sam Spade.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farewell, Mr. Carlin

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for rogues and scoundrels. That's why I married one. This morning I learned that we lost one of our finest rogues, Mr. George Carlin.

For all his vulgarity, George was a smart man whose criticisms and satire were needed in a world where complacency is too prevalent.

Having my beliefs challenged might be uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. To paraphrase Socrates, the instant you think you know everything, you know nothing. George Carlin was the master of shaking up the status quo.

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'"

Farewell, Mr. Carlin, and thank you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Soapbox Friday: Why I Hate the Publishing Industry

I keep thinking about this and the more I think about it the angrier I get. A friend of mine recently posted some excerpts from her book on her blog, and amidst the praise and happiness, were a few voices tinged with caution. You’ll never get published,” they whispered, “Agents don’t like that.”

I know they mean well, but you know what? Agents can pack their bags with ice cubes and take a long vacation in Hell for all I care. I’m sick of the publishing industry. I’m sick of their games and their hoops and their snarky little rejection letters. I’ve got a secret for you: those who can’t write like to stick needles in the dreams of those who can.

Even when they reject your work there is an inexplicable compulsion to maintain it in some sort of unread, virginal purity on the off chance that some day – gush and gasp – they might publish it. I write because I love to. I will continue to write regardless of whether I ever earn a single dime. Doesn’t it seem stupid to leave those stories moldering on a shelf, unread and unloved, because allowing you to read it might ruin my chances of getting published, despite the fact that my chances of getting published are slim to none? I’d rather my stories be read.

The truth is computers and the Internet have changed publishing forever. They have changed publishing the way the printing press did back in 1440. You only have to look at cutting-edge authors like Cory Doctorow to get some idea of where things are heading. This future excites me and not because it increases the possibility that I might some day see my work in print. It excites me because it suggests a democratic revolution in publishing. Imagine a world where which books are translated into print isn’t decided by an elitist echelon of agents and editors sitting in their offices on Mt. Olympus but by you, the reading public.

Because folks, most of those agents and editors think you're stupid. They think you’re afraid of big words and big ideas. They think you want Bridget Jones and her ugly underwear. And some of you do, and that’s great, but that isn’t the end-all and be-all of literature. (What I would love to see is more strong, female characters who don't need men to validate their existence, or better yet, relationships built on mutual respect and friendship. I know, dream on.)

One of the chief delights of my life is meeting new people and learning their stories. There are some amazing stories out there and they deserve to be heard. I don’t think the folks currently deciding what it is we read have a bat’s clue where the light is. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent in the bookstore muttering, “Read it! . . . Seen it! . . . Wrote a paper on it! . . . Movie of the week! . . . Hamlet! . . . Cinderella! . . .” God forbid they give us something original, something fresh and thought-provoking. New might not sell, new is a risk, so stick to the stories that have been recycled over and over again because it’s safe and comforting. It’s comforting in the same way carbon-copy McDonald’s restaurants are comforting. After awhile though, all that grease and monotony makes Jack a dull boy.

So, to those brave souls who bare their hearts and souls to public scrutiny I offer my loudest applause. To those of you who read them, enjoy what they write, and tell them so, it is all the compensation anyone could ever want. And if you don’t like what they write, that’s great too! The right to have an opinion is one of the most precious there is. All I ask is that you keep reading.

Sheering Sheep or Fun with Double-Coated Dogs!

For those of you who have never had the evanescent pleasure of owning a Shiba Inu, or Siberian Husky, or any other Spitz breed of dog, allow me to share with you what has become a semi-annual event in our household for the past seven years - The Blowing of The Coat. I don't really like the expression "blowing coat," it sounds vaguely naughty, however "shedding" doesn't quite capture the full horror of the event.

For starters, you should know that the photos below document Sabi's 5th combing of the day. That's right 5th. If you peek down the stairs you can see the remnants of her 4th brushing. Anyone need a dog hair sweater?

See how patiently she perches on B's lap. All that hair is hot and itchy.

Oooo! More dog hair! We paid $30 for the comb B is using. It is called the Furminator, and if you have a double-coated dog you should run, not walk, and buy one. I cannot begin to tell you how many combs and brushes we have tried over the years and none of them work as well as this thing.

We own lots of lint rollers.

You will note that she still has tons of loose hair on her back legs. We could brush her likes this every day for two weeks and get enough hair off of her to make 3 new dogs!

Wasabi is a very pretty girl and we get lots of compliments on her. Shibas are still rare in the U.S. although in Japan they are as common as beagles are here. In fact, in Japan they are considered a national treasure (which should tell you something about the Japanese). They are strange little dogs and not for the first-time dog owner. What's worse is that they look like little teddy bears when they are puppies. It's worse because those little teddy bears quickly grow up into evil, little, strong-willed dogs who take up residence under your sofa and bite anyone who dares to reach under there. There is a site called The Misanthropic Shiba that does an excellent job of describing the breed.

I adore Sabi. She is the perfect dog for me and I will probably always have a Shiba, but I inevitably feel compelled to warn people about their quirks because so many get drawn in by that cute little face and aren't prepared for the attitude that comes with it. So anyway, if you like mountains of dog hair accumulating in and around your house, get a Shiba!

P.S. If you're wondering, Gerrard was enjoying a beer during all of this.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dog Day Afternoon

These are my dogs. They're weird.

Gerrard wanted his picture taken.

Wasabi doesn't like sharing the camera.

"We are not amused."

Gard makes a game of pushing the frisbee under the
deck furniture and then trying to get it back out.
Also, I need new deck furniture.

Sabi prefers to soak up the sun.
These two are the source of so many smiles. Gerrard is just about the happiest, most easy going creature I have ever known. He's a dude, and Wasabi has more attitude in her little paw than most people I know. They're my babies . . . even when they're bad.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reach Out & Amuse Someone

Message #1: "Darling, you know I love you, really I do, but things can't go on like this. I know you're out there keeping the streets of our fair city safe, but I'm more important than Crime or Justice, or any other ideals! - - Hello, dear. I was about to get in the shower and of course that's when you'll call me back, so I wanted you to have a nice melodramatic message to entertain you. I love you!"

Message #2:
"Hello, dearest, just a quick post script to my previous voice mail. When I mentioned ideals I meant Platonic Ideals, because crime isn't an ideal unless you're talking about Platonic Ideals - which I was. And when I say Platonic I don't mean 'friendly.' I mean that strange Greek fellow with all the odd ideas about caves. All right then, good bye."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

There is one word that comes to mind when I think of my dear dad - Civilized. I have never met anyone who sets people at ease so graciously, whose quirky sense of funny is warm rather than biting, and who rarely loses his temper - and even then there is something so dignified and righteous about his ire that you can't help but know that he's in the right. One of my clearest memories from childhood is an incident where I was in trouble. I had been trying to stall going to bed. "I need a drink of water . . . I need to use the bathroom . . . Did I tell you what happened today?" Mom had had enough and sent me on my way. I can't imagine what possessed me, but as I ascended the stairs I stuck my tongue out at her . . . and got caught. I was told to go to my room and wait. Daddy arrived, very serious. He sat next to me and began to explain why I was in trouble, that what I had done was disrespectful and that I would have to have a spanking. We both cried. Him because he didn't like to spank me, and me because I felt awful for having disappointed him. In retrospect, I have no memory of the spanking. I know I received one, but it wasn't what stuck in my mind. What I remember is his taking the time to explain to a small child what I had done wrong, and telling me how much he didn't like punishing me. It impressed upon me the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, but more importantly he showed me the respect and love that I was to try to model for the rest of my life. As a civilized man, my father is very private and so in a way I feel bad writing this, because I'm invading his privacy by sharing this with you. On the other hand, he's a great man, a noble man, and someone I hold in the highest regard. In any situation I measure my actions against what I think he would do. I think the world needs more men like my dad, and for those men who live their lives in quiet dignity, they should be applauded.

So, here's to my Daddy-O, to whom I owe so much, not the least of which is my warped sense of humor and my appreciation of Civility. I love you, Dad!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fabulous Friday: Nick & Nora!

Can you believe that I had never seen The Thin Man until last night?! Well, neither can I. It had been recommended to me several times, but it had never crossed my path until yesterday. Thank you TCM. William Powell and Myrna Loy were adorable. "I'll have five martinis. Line them up right here. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5." Indeed. Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Conversations With Royalty

Whilst shopping last evening . . .

Officer B: (to cashier) I guess you want me to pay for that.

Cashier: Afraid so . . . unless, you want to pass it off to her (nodding to me).

Office B: She didn’t bring a wallet. She never does.

Me: The Queen doesn’t carry cash.

Cashier: (laughing) I’m glad my wife didn’t hear that.

As we are leaving the store . . .

Officer B: You know, he’s not the first guy to say that to me.

Me: What exactly?

Officer B: That they’re glad their wives didn’t hear what you said. They all seem to be afraid you’re going to lead some sort of revolt. You know, “Down with men!”

Me: Nothing like that! I like to be treated well, but I’m not mean.

Office B: Huh?

Me: I don’t go home and shriek like a harpie. I don't want to crush you. I treat you well; I expect to be treated well in return. You have Mrs. Ogle to thank for that. She told me, “Treat your man like a king and he’ll treat you like a queen. If he doesn’t, you’ve got the wrong man.”

Officer B: I certainly don’t have any problem with that.

Me: I shouldn’t think you would.

Debts Past Due or Past Debts Due

This article made me smile. I'm not a huge Prince Charles fan. He strikes me as more of a farmer than a prince. Which is perfectly fine, it just isn't the glitter and sparkle that interests the little fox* that lives in my brain (* foxes like to collect/steal shiny things). Can you imagine paying a bill from the 1600's?!

Britain's Prince Charles pays off 17th-century family debt but declines to pay interest

AP News
Jun 11, 2008 11:51 EST

Prince Charles has paid off a royal debt from the 17th century, but showed modern-day fiscal prudence by declining to pay the accumulated interest, which would have been substantial after more than 350 years.

Charles made the payment of 453 pounds and 3 shillings — about $900 — during a visit Tuesday to Worcester with his wife, Camilla.

The debt was incurred in 1651 when King Charles II — at the time recognized only as the king of Scotland — was preparing for the Battle of Worcester.

He had asked the Clothiers Company of Worcester to prepare uniforms for his soldiers and pledged to pay afterward. But his forces were defeated and Charles fled to mainland Europe, leaving behind the unpaid bill.

Charles II never got around to paying it after he returned from exile in 1660 to claim his throne as king of England.

For the last 15 years, Worcester businessmen have tried to collect payment. Prince Charles decided to pay it as "a gesture of good will," according to a statement released by his office.

The prince handed the payment — enclosed in a 1650s-style gaming purse made by the Royal Shakespeare Company — to Andrew Grant, master of the Clothiers Company. Charles received a receipt for his payment after the brief ceremony at the Commandery, which served as the royal headquarters during the Battle of Worcester.

"We are very grateful to the Prince of Wales for repaying the debt to the Worcester Clothiers Company," Grant said.

The Clothiers Company, founded in the 13th century, is one the last of the medieval-era guilds still active in the area.

Prince Charles said he was happy to take care of the debt, but said he would not be paying the interest because "I was not born yesterday."

With interest, the bill would have exceeded 47,000 pounds ($94,000), according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Literarture, Art & the Aristocracy

So, here's the Pushkin post that got subverted by an animated hippo and a dancing dog. Somewhere the literary gods are shaking their heads in shame. I am not what you would call a fan of Russian literature, it's a bit gloomy for my taste. However, there is one novel that is an exception to that rule: Yvgeny Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. To say that I love this novel would be a gross understatement. I happen to have a few portraits of Pushkin and some of his progeny.

Natalia Gonchorova Nikolaevna Pushkina, wife of Alexander Pushkin

Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna deTorby, later Lady Zia Wernher,
daughter of the Countess of Merenburg, Grand-daughter of Pushkin.

And so my parting gift today is the final scene from Martha Fiennes brilliant cinematic version of Pushkin's novel, Onegin. To set the scene, Tatyana is a wild-eyed country girl who falls in love with Yvgeny, a young dandy who has inherited the nearby estate. He rejects her because she isn't sophisticated. Heartbroken, Tatyana moves to Moscow, debuts in society and marries into the aristocracy. Onegin and Tatyana meet again and he decides he wants her to be his mistress. Below is the final scene where she rejects him (Three cheers for strong women!). I can't help it, I love it when she asks him if she's noble enough for him now. When you think about when this novel was written, and that it was written by a man, it is pretty amazing that she doesn't swoon into Onegin's arms and surrender to his desires. And that, ladies and jellyspoons, is what makes me wish I had 5 minutes to ask Pushkin a few questions.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fabulous Friday: Happy Hippo

I had this whole Friday post put together about Alexander Pushkin and then I went to dinner with my dad last night and things took a turn for the silly (like they do).

This song, which is totally infectious, was playing in the restaurant and we were trying to figure out when it was first released. Dad said the 80's and I said the 60's. Turns out we were both wrong, it was first recorded in 1939. Anyway, I ran across this video and Pushkin got pushed aside.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I wish I had written that . . . continued

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think they will sing to me."

Hands down one of my favorite poems is T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There are numerous times during the year that I am moved to read it again and every time it speaks to the Me who identifies with Prufrock's fears and hopes and longing.

It's a longish poem so I won't torture you with the entire thing. Although, I will say that it is definitely a poem that can be read in portions and is worth the time. Here is one of my favorite stanzas.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

I wish I had written that.

*image: J.W. Waterhouse, The Mermaid

Monday, June 2, 2008

My weekend with the Dashwoods!

Have I mentioned how much I hate having my picture taken? I guess my cave-woman soul fears it will be snatched away by the evil, magic box. That or I'm just really vain. So, anyway Liz sent me these from my weekend with her family and I figured they weren't too terrible. What's with the creepy guy in the blue shirt over Liz's shoulder? Yikes!

Liz and I have been fast friends since discovering early in our acquaintance that we both dislike Faulkner and Hemmingway. It's a brave thing for a Southern writer to openly admit that she doesn't like Faulkner. As for me, I prefer Eudora Welty.

Here I am with the whole Dashwood crew (plus cousin). It was such a wonderful weekend and I count myself lucky to have such amazing women as my friends.

By the way, Sex & The City was pretty good. Rebecca, Liz and I (first three from the left in the above) had a fabulous time making snarky comments and disapproving 'tsk, tsk' sounds. What was that thing on Sarah Jessica Parker's head?! Some of the outfits defied logic and fashion. There was a bit of gratuitous nudity so definitely not a movie for young children you wish to remain pure of heart. I just avert my gaze until given the all clear by braver souls.