11 January 2020

pillars of the what now?

pillars of the earth by ken follett has been my favorite book since its publication in 1989. i have read it three or four times and loved it every time. the engineering, the architecture, the innovations in selling wool futures and automated fulling, the love between jack & aliena, not to mention knights and castles and cathedrals and monks, history and intrigue and gold stored in trunks. IT HAS EVERYTHING. 

so when i was looking for my next audiobook, it was a natural choice. i was so excited to listen to someone telling me my favourite story. yay!

and so it began, and as is so often the case with a story you haven't read in a while, there was a lot of stuff at the beginning that i had forgotten. oh, goody goody goody!! we were off to a great start. 

the story takes place during "the anarchy" which is the period of norman-english history immediately following the sinking of the white ship in november of 1120. the white ship sank in the english channel just off barfleur, normandy. upwards of 250 people drowned - lords & ladies, knights & squires, retinue & posse & so on. among the victims was king henry the first's sole legitimate heir, william. by all accounts, young william - who was about 17 - supplied wine in abundance to passengers and crew alike. when it came time to sail, the revellers were in high spirits and ordered the captain (whose father had captained the ship which brought william the conqueror on his english invasion in 1066) to race out and overtake the ship carrying the king. they quickly proceeded to hit a rock, and the ship went down. there was one survivor and it was not william the heir. this circumstance left henry without a legitimate heir. he named his daughter, maud, as his heir, but neglected to prepare her at all. nor did he adequately prepare his barons, because upon henry's death in 1135, most of them couldn't stomach a woman in power, and, betraying their oaths to henry, threw their support behind stephen of blois, henry's nephew. stephen's authority was legitimized when his treacherous brother the bishop of winchester crowned him at winchester in december of 1135. maud's brother robert rebelled against stephen in 1138, and he & maud invaded england in 1139. and then, stephen and maud led opposing factions in a violent and destructive war that raged across england for 20 years. in the end, stephen made peace with maud's son henry, and henry became the first angevin king. 

so this story is the backdrop for pillars of the earth. it's a deep & dim backdrop, though, with the daily lives of the fictional characters taking the spotlight. 

as the story unfolded, something weird happened. there is a violent rape scene early on, which i remembered... but i did not remember the characters being quite so... stereotypical, i guess is the best word. flat. unimaginatively drawn. plus the whole scene was overly graphic and had a sort of rah-rah misogynism that made me question mr follett's sensibilities. 


and then, it happened again. and again. and throughout the story, there were graphic scenes of gore and sex. what was happening? where was my lovely story??

i blame audio. when you're reading, your brain does the imaginotransference (per jasper fforde). when you're listening, the narration contributes mightily to the experience. i mean, more than just the difference between seeing and hearing. i know for a fact that when i am reading, my mind slips over some passages and locks in on others. when a narrator is expressively moving through the text, they can hold my attention on it in a completely different way. 

in conclusion, i am a bit sad about pillars. all of the things i have loved about it have been tarnished. it is like catching a dear friend abusing kittens. what is happening? i have loved you.


i am now listening to sharon k penman's when christ and his saints slept. i have read this one as well -- many years ago -- and enjoyed it. it's also set during the anarchy, with the royals and their respective entourages being the focus. i am about halfway through and it is solid. 

but i don't see it replacing pillars. pillars has all those other things, those things i have loved. you can't just unlove things you have loved, even if they are all caught up in tawdryness, or they spend time with gruesome neighbors. 

in the end, the heart wants what the heart wants. 

02 January 2020

askew askance

six or so months ago, we moved an elderly relative into our home because it was no longer safe for her to live alone. one of the side effects of this happenstance is that there are a LOT, a very very LOT, of additional people constantly in and out and all throughout our home. family, mostly, and some paid caregivers. i could bore you for pages about how this drives me in. sane. but i will leave that for another day. today, we will examine Loading the Dishwasher. 

Loading the Dishwasher is not difficult. you simply place dishes into the racks in such a way that they will have a relatively good chance of getting clean. you can do this in a vast variety of ways. there is no "right" way. 

there are, however, some ways that are dead fucking wrong. 

for example, if there are a half dozen plates aligned in a rack facing east, placing a plate north by northwest across that rack and the adjacent rack is dead fucking wrong. if there are numerous pieces of flatware in the individual holes of the flatware basket, each facing heads up and handles down, putting a handful of mixed pieces heads down into the one open basket on the end (which is for large or odd sized pieces) is dead fucking wrong. 

i mean, these are not great practices in isolation, but taking into consideration the fact that there are exemplars right there, well. you know. that's just dead fucking wrong. 

so. who would do things that way? i will tell you. it's... this one caregiver. no, i am not going to name her name. but i will tell you that she loads the dishwasher incorrectly. no two ways about it - it's wrong. 

now, i have heard justifications for this. maybe she doesn't have a dishwasher, maybe she's never loaded a dishwasher, maybe she lived in russia until she was 8. okay, that last one is definitely true and the others could very well be true, but i contend that they are all red herrings, bunny trails, goose chases. they are distractions. they are irrelevant. 

because it's not about knowing how to do the thing. it's about a bit of observation, a bit of attention, and a whole lot of pattern matching. i mean, it's not an advanced skillset requiring years of technical training. a monkey could do it. literally. 

so, why can't this young lady do it? at this point, i am past the rage and moving on to curiosity about what exactly is hindering her success. can she not detect the pattern? is she in such a goldarned hurry that she can't look at what she is doing? does she not care? is she doing it on purpose?

i can tell you that it is not characteristic of her other actions and behaviors, and i can tell you i haven't gotten to the bottom of it yet, and i will not promise to follow up with you or even ever mention this again. 

30 December 2019

different people do different things.

jogging past the walgreens today, i hear "'scuse me! 'scuse me!" from a small white SUV in the parking lot. i figure she needs directions and that she can find someone better than me to get them from -- plus, i've just received the go-ahead from a man exiting the walgreens parking lot and need to keep moving in order to stay warm.

i work my way around starbucks and over behind publix, and again I hear "'scuse me! 'scuse me!". lo & behold, stopped right there in the middle of the dead end street is the white SUV from the walgreens parking lot. so i pause my jog and give her a May I Help You look and she leans across to holler out the passenger's side window: "I just want to know if you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior!"

(i thought this showed quite a commitment to evangelism, to chase me down like that.)

for myself, having a bit of southern baptist in me and having once been baptized in a crick, i feel justified in telling her "yes!" with a smile and a wave, but it looks like she might get out of the vehicle, so i go ahead and throw in an overhead-double-jazz-hands "hallelujah!" which seems to satisfy her, as she waves and rolls up the window.

what i conclude is that her 2019 new year's resolution was "save me 50 souls for jesus" and she left the completion of said resolution a little late in the game, boxing herself into the "chase down strangers" corner. like my mama said, different people do different things.

09 November 2019

books 2019

audio books

pillars of the earth - ken follett
silver on the tree - susan cooper
the grey king - susan cooper
greenwitch - susan cooper
dark is rising - susan cooper
over sea, under stone - susan cooper
king of shadows - susan cooper
harry  potter and the deathly hallows - jk rowling
harry potter and the half-blood prince - jk rowling
harry potter and the order of the phoenix - jk rowling
the mountain of the women - liam clancy
the murder of mary russell - laurie r. king
island of the mad - laurie r. king
justice hall - laurie r. king
a letter of mary - laurie r. king
stately holmes - laurie r. king
the marriage of mary russell - laurie r. king
spy school british invasion - stuart gibbs
spy school goes south - stuart gibbs
dodge & twist - tony lee
spy school secret service - stuart gibbs
spy ski school - stuart gibbs
evil spy school - stuart gibbs
spy camp - stuart gibbs
spy school - stuart gibbs
never where - neil gaiman
bones of the lost - kathy reichs
black irish - stephan talty
kingdom of the blind - louise penny
the golden tresses of the dead - alan bradley
hex hall spellbound - rachel hawkins
polaroid guy in a snapchat world - david spade
almost interesting - david spade

paper books
a breath of snow and ashes - diana gabaldon
the fiery cross - diana gabaldon 

14 September 2019

don't know what the solution might be

i had an idea for a blog post, and wanted to link it to a previous post, and so i went to look for that previous post, and oh. oh. oh my, i used to be a writer. prose and poetry, essays and dreams. oh my. what has happened to me. i can blame busyness, but it doesn't make me feel any better about myself.

the blog post i wanted to write is to capture my idea of an infinite toolbox. when 3-D printers are in the home, see, you can have one that prints tools as you need them. this would go for garage tools, kitchen tools, and so on. you print what you need, and if it is not something you will use everyday, you just toss the plastic or metal back into the bin that feeds the printer, and when you need another tool, you print it.

cool, huh?

well, i wrote a post once about a skype wall, where you can sit down with far-flung friends and family, and have a meal together by skype. you can sit side-by-side by the screen, and it's like being at table together. now it's nearly coming true with those portal devices that are available. so, i wanted to say, here's my new idea and maybe it will come true like my old idea.

but i got sad when i saw how wonderful a writer i used to be, and i thought about how i don't do that anymore.

11 August 2019

gilt by association || a melodrama in one act

maxie sat in the aqua vinyl chair. the new rolling stone was absently thrown across the formica tabletop. while maxie was noticing how some of the little gold specks in the tabletop closely resembled knute rockne, she dreww a quick breath. "i know that man," she told the baby with the beet-covered face. "i know that man in the magazine." the baby's moth opened and beets fell out.


(i found this original piece by me in a file of undated material, while cleaning out my home office.)

18 April 2019

we are runners.

you size up the competition
as you shake hands
with all the usual suspects.
that one guy is here -
you'll show him.

you toe the line.
the road stretches out before you
empty and beckoning,
clear as an invitation.
in the near distance,
the lead bicyclist waits.

you hum along with the national anthem singer.
i don't hear that it's happening at all
until y'all are halfway in,
and conversations quiet
as hats come off in a wave through the crowd.

my place is mid-pack.
i swing my arms to maintain
a modest bubble of personal space
amid strollers
and pets
and costumed hobbyjoggers
and children.
i am anonymous.

the gun fires and we are off,
you and i.

you are out of the gate like a cannon shot,
a thoroughbred - formed for this.
you strain but it doesn't show:
you know better than to waste energy on a grimace.

i bob and weave.
the crowd is thick
and without rhythm.
children sprint then deadstop in my path.
a gaggle of giggling bridesmaids glide past in a miasma of mimosa.
a stroller wheel catches my heel.
a dog's leash is a tripwire.

i see you coming back
while i am still going out.
you are beautiful.
you are inspiring.
you will not be defeated.

the crowd thins and i can breathe,
and i set my sights on one and one and one,
and one by one they are behind me.
i will not be defeated.

as i make my way back to the car,
you are there -
receiving adulation like a savior.
you showed that guy.
you showed us all,
on this day.

you race to be
the winner,
and i race to be
not the loser,
and we are both fierce competitors.
we are both fierce.

we are not the same in many ways,
but on this day, we are the same
in the most important way:
we are runners.