Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three Healing Arts Derive Their Power From Nature - The Jakarta Globe

Three Healing Arts Derive Their Power From Nature - The Jakarta Globe:

"Yuli claims reiki has cured heart disease, diabetes and lupus. The healing process depends on the severity of the illness and usually takes about 30 minutes."

This Time Together by Carol Burnett

This Time Together:  Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett is one of those rare celebrity memoirs where you feel like you are sitting in a room, perhaps across a table enjoying a cup of coffee and just listening to these wonderful stories.  The chapters are short so it is an easy book to dip into and walk away from without feeling you are going to forget or miss anything.  Some of the stories Burnett shares are poignant and touch the heart.  But most, and thankfully, the stories are funny and often self-deprecating without being exploitative.

There are many behind the scene moments although the focus remains mostly on relationships.  Her friendships and celebrity encounters give her a wealth of possible stories to share, no doubt, and her choice to only share those that will most honor the person about whom she is speaking is lovely.  Even when the story borders on the weird (and in my opinion the Joan Crawford chapter was a little uncomfortable for me and I wonder if it was as uncomfortable for Burnett) or wild (like pretending to be making out in a hallway when . . . well, I won't give too much away), Burnett never shares anything that would embarrass the other person so much as herself.

I didn't grow up with a television but I spent enough Saturday nights sleeping over at my friend's home to see some episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, including the famous "Went With the Wind" one.  I remember her opening routine of inviting the audience to ask her questions. And of course, the ear tug that concluded every episode when she and the other members of her comedy team would sing "I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together" and then take their bows.  I'm glad I read this book and it's nice to know that Burnett is glad she had this time together with more and more people each and every year.  I look forward to sharing her with my children's children and maybe I'll remember to share some of my glad time stories with them while I'm at it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Things One Sees on Television

I took a picture from this scene in Arrested Development because of the poster hanging in the background.

See that poster in the background?  We have the same one hanging up in our great room, only ours is framed differently.  It was just a random bit of strangeness, seeing something familiar on someone else's wall, especially someone else who is on television.

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Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery is the second in a trilogy of books that almost seems derivative of Anne of Green Gables and if both books were not written by the same author there would likely have been accusations of this flying about.  Emily differs from Anne in that she is less gregarious, a physically darker and emotionally quieter character.  The adventures are somewhat the same.  In this book Emily goes to school where she deals with rivalries, misunderstandings, some gossip, and a few mishaps.  Not unlike when Anne goes off to school in her second book.

Montgomery, unfortunately, interjects herself into this book more than I have noticed before.  Perhaps she always had and I overlooked it but in this book, aside from occasionally assuring the reader that she is a biographer and merely recording the facts as she knows them, there are occasional judgments made on Emily's actions and the wisdom, or lack thereof, in her choices.  It as these moralistic insertions that I found most distasteful, even self-righteous.  And let's face it, a bit ironic because a biographer merely recording the facts should not interject personal opinion about the justice in the consequences of another's actions.

But this is a novel, after all, and the whole authorial voice, whether as biographer or moral critic, is an odd choice to begin with.  Again, it may be that I never noticed this before and perhaps Montgomery does this in her Anne books as well.  I guess I'll figure that out for myself eventually.

In the meantime, I liked the first book but this second one . . . meh.  Perhaps by the third book I'll be back in love with the series.  I still love Emily, not as much as I do Anne, but I can see where Emily might be more relateable.  I think I identify more with Anne, however, so that may be coloring my personal preferences as well.  *shrug*

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Best of Everything After Fifty by Barbara Hannah Grufferman

The Best of Everything After Fifty:  The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money, and More by Barbara Hannah Grufferman is a surprisingly thorough text that can be summarized in very few words.  Offering advice on what "women of a certain age" should do (Do it!), should avoid (Don't do it!), and how they can know when some advice may not be right (Listen!), Grufferman encourages her readers to use a little common sense while giving them permission to maybe feel overwhelmed by everything that's coming.

And frankly, there's enough content here to feel a bit overwhelmed.  Because of the scope of the text, Grufferman does not try to be the primary source for all of the content.  Instead, she serves as a researcher who seeks out the experts and then shares what she learns from each.  So when she lists the various tests that should be done and explains why these are now necessary (mammograms, naturally, as well as cholesterol levels, bone density tests, and more), the list she presents is one that has been suggested to her by a particular doctor who works in a hospital.  All experts are listed in the back of the book with brief biographies, contact information, and websites (where applicable).

These health guidelines and assessments clearly fall under the "do it" category.  When she goes on to discuss things like diet and exercise, there are some recommendations that are obviously "do it" and some that are "don't do it" but then there are the blurry areas, those not necessarily necessary things women can do or not do.  More banal are the discussions about plastic surgery, botox, etc.  Should you "do it" or "don't do it"?  This is where Grufferman has the sense to sit on the fence and say "Listen."  Listen to yourself.  If you feel you want or even need plastic surgery then why not?  Unfortunately, so much space is given to the choices available that it is hard to hear that small voice thinking it isn't necessary.  This is especially true for the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) section where she goes to great lengths to explain the options and then tosses a quick "talk to your doctor" without offering any other options (like homeopathic, herbal, etc.) for those women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.  (I personally do not like the use of the word "symptom" at all as it implies something wrong--a disease or condition--rather than suggesting that menopause is a natural transition so it is also quite possible that my resistance is a knee jerk reaction to a preconceived attitude towards something that should not be associated with disease, etc.)

Don't get me wrong.  I think this book is a good reference to start with.  I just want to really emphasize Grufferman's advice to "Listen" and when you read her recommendations for products that contain the peptide GABA because they may help "relax the muscles" in your face I want to chime in and say, "You know what else relaxes muscles?  Massages!"  Think about it.  When was the last time you gave yourself a nice facial massage?  Last night?  Last week?  Last month?  Have you ever?  And if not, why not?  As for the products that are recommended throughout (skin care, makeup, etc.), I would urge the reader to either stick with what you are using and already love or, if you don't know where to begin, start inexpensively and work your way up.  No need to buy a $50 product you might like when you already love a $10 one or can give a $15 one a try first.

Listen . . . that is the crucial piece of advice.  If you read something that simply will not work for you for whatever reason, skip it or make a note of it and research it further.  She says only wash your hair once or twice a week.  Will that work for you?  I don't know.  It didn't work well for me at all but then the author's hair is curly while mine is baby-fine and straight so not washing my hair left it looking not only dull but downright dirty.  And if you want to follow her fashion recommendations, I say go for it.  But if you prefer to find thrift store or consignment shop treasures then listen to yourself.  Do what is right for you.  Let this book be a launching pad for you to create your own invaluable resource of what you can do to make your fifties the best they can be, one that meets your unique needs during this time in your life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If Not Winter by Sappho (trans. Anne Carson)

If Not Winter:  Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson is a collection of the few pieces of work written by Sappho that still exist.  Only one poem has survived the millennia and the rest of merely fragments, often of such poor quality that only a word or single phrase has survived.

Carson, the translator, is a scholar and she takes these fragments and presents them as they are--Greek on the left and her English translation on the right.  I am no Greek scholar so I cannot say how well she does in her translation but her talent is inarguably present in her ability to communicate a poetry even in the fragments.  Now, I am not suggesting that I was able to draw deep meaning from the fragments that are a single word.  However, there are pieces that Carson puts together in such a way that it is not unlike reading a cummings poem where the words do not necessarily go together grammatically but somehow evoke emotionally something that fits so perfectly one cannot imagine any other possible interpretation.  

Here is only one example of the magic Carson manages to create, from fragment 21:



] pity

] trembling


] flesh by now old age

] covers

] flies in pursuit


] noble

] taking

] sing to us

the one with violets in her lap

] mostly

] goes astray
So much of the original text is obviously missing and yet so much remains that it takes only a little imagination and a little faith to fill out the flesh of the emotional meaning within the phrases we have.

Another example of Carson's brilliance is demonstrated in her choosing to place fragments 74A, 74B and 74C on a single page in three columns.  Unfortunately, I cannot get the layout to work for me but the four words included on these fragments are:  goatherd (74A), longing (74B), sweat (74C), and roses (74A).  The poem is there, implied, and it doesn't take much to read these four words and then fall into silence and sighs of appreciation.

There are pieces that, when read, sound incredibly contemporary, almost confessional and scatalogical.  It is easy to forget that these poems were written 6 BCE by a woman who was appreciated as a great writer in her time, even considered, as Carson informs the reader in the introduction, to be a living Muse, the tenth muse, by none other than Plato.

After reading this book, I can easily see why.  Carson has done a superlative job and I hope to add this book to my permanent library soon and want to commend my library for actually having a copy of it for me to adore in the meantime. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What makes lesbian literature, lesbian literature? (

What makes lesbian literature, lesbian literature? (

"In short: what defines the novel as lesbian, the fact that the author is lesbian or the plot?"

This is a very interesting article. I enjoyed Tipping the Velvet and I adore Jeanette Winterson. The fact that some of her novels have lesbian characters didn't determine nor define my appreciation.

And I figured if I am too sick to write my own thoughts I'd just share someone else's until I feel better. Any day now . . .

Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang

Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang is a graphic novel inspired by a cd (which now comes with a bonus dvd) by the same name.  To be honest, I am not a Neil Young fan, which is important for me to say because I had no contextual awareness, no clue as to what inspired this graphic novel.

With that in mind, I loved this story of a young girl's coming of age and coming into her own awareness of how each of us can and should make a difference.  It should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with Neil Young to know that this novel is politically charged and if your leanings are not liberal then you will probably find the story distasteful.

This is unfortunate because Dysart creates a fable, using a story-telling tone that is precise and thematically perfect.  Through the narrator's voice we learn about the Green family, particularly about Sun who is burgeoning on womanhood and a very rich sense of self-awareness.  Most surprising is that the author allows the secondary characters to also have their own stories, something one doesn't often find in graphic novels.

And Chiang is an ideal choice to put words into imagery because each page exudes with emotion and further defines the meaning of the text.  The edition I read, an advanced reader's copy, arrived in black and white so I can only imagine how luscious this book will seem fully colored.  Even without the promise of a full spectrum, the visuals are wonderful and there are many panels and even a few pages where there are no words necessary to show the reader what is happening.

Approached as a mythology, it is especially powerful, a story that is meant to say more about society than it does about the characters moving across the pages.  Wonderful.  Fulfilling.  A pleasure.  A treasure.  Just wow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zine Thing Officially Done

So yesterday Rei came over and at 10am she, Marc, and I began the 24 hour zine thing.

Marc finished his first.  Rei, by that time, had discarded her original idea and began a new one.  All told she completed 24 pages but not of a single zine.

I finished mine at 7am.  Now we need to scan, print, copy, cut, fold, staple, glue, and they should be ready to go.

I haven't made something like this since I was a kid and I tried to stick with hand-writing it all but I did print out a recipe to ensure it would all fit on a single page.  Thematically, it worked together better than I could have possibly anticipated.  Themes seemed to echo themselves.  The rough draft had more content which I dropped in favor of being more cryptic with some things.  I may write up an annotated explanation of some of the things I was trying to do on each page or what the effect is I was hoping to create.

But in the end, I now it is mostly crap.  After all, it is damn near impossible to think one could pull together a zine masterpiece in 24 hours.  Not unlike nanowrimo where you know what you are doing is mostly fun and not likely to produce a final product worth being shared with the public.

In some ways this was more like the annual blogathon where you post to your blog every 30 minutes for 24 hours.  Truth is, I found this zine thing easier and when I finished doing the blogathon I swore I would never do it again whereas with the zine thing I am considering giving it another go next year.  Under the circumstances, I would label that a successful experience.