Friday, October 22, 2010



Me: As cool as you and me put together.

Sanford Sharpie Stainless Steel Fine Point

Today when Rob picked me up he started talking about his new cool Sharpie--a Stainless Steel Sharpie that you can buy refills for and . . . let's face it, if you love Sharpies you are already excited and if not you couldn't care less about what I am talking about.

So when we get home he shows me his new Stainless Steel Sharpie and, as I sit there inhaling that familiar Sharpie scent, he says, "Isn't it cool?"  To which I said, "As cool as you and me put together."  (Yes, I know it is "I" but I am tired and am not a grammar "nazi.")

But you want to know what's really really cool about this?

Rob bought 2 and gave me a Stainless Steel Sharpie of my very own!

You know you're jealous!  Admit it!

Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer

Power of Intention:  Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way by Dr. Wayne Dyer is yet another book on the Law of Attraction.  It’s interesting to me to see how this same idea that was “new” 100 years ago keeps being repackaged and presented.  Dyer’s approach is more erudite and intellectual than others, but he seems to enjoy sharing quotes without specific citations (there are a very few quotes that are cited but page numbers are still lacking and although one quote was easy to look up, it is taken out of context and actually does not align with what Dyer is trying to teach) and he makes some sweeping generalities and even contradicts himself.

None of this is meant to suggest that the book is not good or even effective.  As I’ve said before, this simply is not my experience and I have not witnessed it in the experience of anyone I know either.  And while I ripped apart other books about these things, I commend Dyer for writing a book that isn’t a total insult to the reader’s intelligence.

Although Dyer encourages the reader to not attach themselves to the outcome when aligning one’s self with the source of intention, he reiterates that all results are your choice and although he offers examples of many people whose lives were not abundant in the traditional sense of acquiring financial wealth or accumulating pretty things, he assures the reader that abundance is what the universe offers to everyone while contextualizing abundance as being free from worry, stress, and/or health issues.

Seems to me he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth on this and I can’t imagine a reader not feeling a bit confused.  Don’t expect abundance or attach yourself to the idea of it but know you will have it and if you don’t then that’s because you didn’t really attract it to yourself, your intention was not in sync with the universal Intention, but you shouldn’t feel guilty if you have cancer or your house burns down or you lose your job.

Ummmm . . . okay.

As seems typical for these types of self-help books, the parts I found most engaging and useful are the parts that are drawn from more traditional teachings.  Dyer is a proponent of meditation and specifically encourages the reader to practice Japa meditation.  Chanting a mantra or prayer is a long-standing practice in almost every spiritual path and Dyer doesn’t claim that he is the first person to use this practice.  He’s simply repackaged it with the Law of Attraction/New Thought teachings.

Also, Dyer assumes that there is a god or a universal source from which we all come.  He goes so far as to suggest that anyone who doesn’t believe the soul or spirit lives on after the body dies is living in a “terrifying” state, that “invokes fear and anxiety” with the added assumption that to believe there is an afterlife affords the person a life “associated with peace and love” (114-118).  I disagree.  I’ve known some atheists who were far more peaceful and loving than Christians who went to church every Sunday and Jews who observed every holiday and dietary rules.

But then, Dyer is not writing for atheists.  He’s writing for an audience that he assumes believes in a higher power, whatever terminology is used to describe this being.  Of course, there is also the assumption that if it works for him then it must work for anyone and everyone.  Not a surprise, really.  The book is filled with superficial platitudes and generic suggestions that will make the reader who successfully applies them feel vindicated and the reader who successfully applies them but still experiences suffering feel guilty or even ashamed.

I actually own another Dyer book but I’m not sure I am eager to read it now that I’ve read this book.  I guess that says it all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block

The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block is yet another departure, although not a far reaching one, for this young adult author.  In Pretty Dead, she explored vampires and in this novel the supernatural manifests in the form of werewolves.  There are a variety of themes underlying the main story of Liv’s emerging wildness including racism, homophobia, body image, etc.

Where this book falls flat for me is in Block’s choice to abandon magical-realism, a style of writing in which she excels, in favor of supernatural realism.  And even this I could forgive, allowing that all writers have the freedom to explore other means of communicating their themes, if only the conclusion hadn’t fallen so horribly flat for me.  I appreciate that Liv is struggling with who and what she is and I am sure that most young girls will resonate with this even if they don’t personally suffer from the specific problems she does.  Unfortunately, Liv doesn’t begin to accept herself until she is first accepted by a boy and this is simply not a message I would want my daughter, or granddaughter, to embrace as her own.  Young women should be hearing that they can love themselves without the validation of anyone else, not even a lover.

With that said, Liv’s relationships are at least healthier even if they are not necessarily happy ones.  Her family life is difficult–angry at her mother, feeling abandoned by her workaholic father, she has a loving relationship with her alcoholic grandfather.  Her best friend, Pace, is afraid to come out to their small town community and his story, which is under-explored, is especially relevant in these times.  (I would love for Block to go back and explore Pace’s story more fully even if the conclusion were the same.  Why not write a ghost story?  She’s already done the vampire and now the werewolf thing?)

This is a good beach book, or a bit of Halloween-y fluff.  It is not up to Block’s usual standards and the ending is insulting and disappointing.  I’d say more but no spoilers . . . if you must know what bothered me, feel free to click on the little envelope at the bottom of this review and you can email me.  I’ll tell you all about how it ends and why I know Block could have done better by her readers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Romanov had a seizure today.  As soon as I walked in I shouted for Marc to call Rob and then I calmly placed my hands on Romanov, kneeling beside him, and focused (as best I could as Romanov frothed at the mouth and twitched on the floor) to give him some Reiki.

Within two deep breaths his limbs stopped thrashing and one or two more breaths and he lifted his head, clearly confused, unsure what had happened, utterly disoriented.

A vet appointment later and we are all on high alert, paying attention to him and hoping it doesn't happen again.

And so we wait . . . with fingers crossed . . .

Needless to say, I'll be giving him some more Reiki before I go to bed since he responded so well to it.

Music I Wish I Owned

Madina Lake - Leone 'Frustrated' By Health Issues After Attack - Contactmusic News

Madina Lake - Leone 'Frustrated' By Health Issues After Attack - Contactmusic News
Never heard of Madina Lake before but I'm listening to them now. I hope the bassist is able to recover.

Writers' forum - Writing Under the Tories | authonomy writing community

Writers' forum - Writing Under the Tories | authonomy writing community:
"So are we heading back to a golden age of British literature, but at the expense of a shittier life? Does politics have any effect on the quality of literary output from a nation? Or does a good book find its own way out regardless? Is the policital/social landscape irrelevant to fiction?"
Something to ponder not just for writers but for all artists and not just for those in the UK but around the world.

Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh is perhaps one of the first books published in English by the incredibly prolific Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has been exiled from his home, currently lives in France, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In this slender volume, Thây explains his beliefs about interbeing, a “new” concept at the time, while suggesting that it is not enough to protest but to promote.  Instead of fighting for peace, an oxymoron at best, one should experience peace through being peace-full.  Through meditation, through the dedication and a deep commitment to peace, and embracing the 14 precepts of interbeing.

Through personal stories and traditional stories, the argument made for being peace (rather than having or creating or any of the other gerund forms one can suggest) coming from a man who has seen his home and his people torn apart through war is especially remarkable and the roots of his teachings are evident in this book.  Anyone who has read a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings will recognize many of the teachings.  That is one of the things I love about reading Thây’s writing; it feels like coming home.  Most of what I’ve read has been more contemporary and there is a slightly different tone in his more recently published writings.  I think this is more indicative of his growing more confident with his writing voice over the decades rather than any change in his teachings because I can see none.  At most, what I see is a refinement in his teaching that makes it all a bit more cohesive and no less accessible than it was when he first started putting his teachings on the page.

I've said it before after reading a Thich Nhat Hanh book--reading his writings is like coming home.  I always feel a rightness about his teachings.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Am an Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler

I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler is a collection of prose and poetry with a common theme–the experience of female adolescence throughout the world.  After watching The Vagina Monologues, I was very eager to read anything I could find by Ensler at my library and reading the description of this book had me eagerly requesting a copy.

Let me first point out that my library has chosen to shelve this among the adult books.  I find this a curious decision and wonder if it isn’t a subtle form of censorship.  When I was an adolescent, I would scour the adult shelves for books I wanted to read but I would also skim through the young adult books.  I didn’t always want to read about adults and I knew that if I wanted to read anything about a character my own or close to my own age I’d need to turn to the young adult section.

But I know a lot of young adult readers who won’t do this.  Some have parents who do not grant them permission to read adult books and restrict their library passes.  Others simply don’t think they will find any books–whether novels or nonfiction or poetry–that will speak to their younger experience.

With this in mind, how many young adults will never come across this book because my library has labeled it “adult” rather than “young adult”?  The publication page has four topics listed, three of which begin with “Girls” (they are:  –Psychology, –Social condition –21st century, –Social life and customs–21st century).  The blurb on the inside front jacket begins with this sentence:

In this daring, provocative, and insightful book bestselling author and internationally acclaimed playwright Eve Ensler writes fictional monologues and stories inspired by girls around the globe.

It concludes on the back of the jacket flap:

I Am an Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, and act of empowerment for girls, and an illumination for parents and for us all.

Notice the emphasis I’ve added on “girls” because this book is not written for adults, primarily, although I believe many adults would benefit from reading the various pieces.  I am still surprised by how many people are oblivious to what is happening in the world and, frankly, in our own nation.  It is easy to dismiss things as “past” but it is impossible to believe that the past is not here and now when all one has to do is look around.

But I digress.  I am trying to write a book review and I’m questioning my library’s shelving process and I am proclaiming that people are oblivious to the struggles women and young girls face each and every day.  Ensler includes some facts (which she cites at the end of the book) about girls that reinforce the messages of the prose and poetry included.  Not content to write about body image or child labor in a fictional voice, Ensler contextualizes these voices by rooting them in fact.

It’s harder to dismiss a fact you want to believe is no longer happening.  Not in our world.

This book offers some peeks into what is going on although I am not sure that I can say I loved all of it.  I think some of the poetry, especially, work better as performance pieces.  Reading them  from the page, they lacked a certain flow I expect from my poetry.  Occasionally a rhythm would be created within the free verse or an internal or even end rhyme would manifest but most of it read like attempts at poetry, never soaring to full poetics.  The prose, on the other hand, often had traces of the truly poetic.  And I have little doubt that, had a seen these pieces performed on stage by Ensler or a cast of actors, I would have been overwhelmed by what I heard.

Or maybe I already know too much to be shocked.

What I love about the book, aside from the honest look at what it means to be a girl in a world where women still are not equal, is how Ensler makes the personal universal.  Any girl opening the pages of this book will find herself somewhere represented and every woman will remember the younger self she left behind.  Things haven’t gotten better or easier except now there are more women encouraging younger women to speak out and up.

And yes, I occasionally teared up a bit.  I just wish I had ached more while reading.  Or become more angry.  And I really, really wish I understood why my library would take a book written for young adults and shelve it with the adult books.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What is Spiritual Healing? - Dix Hills, NY Patch

What is Spiritual Healing? - Dix Hills, NY Patch
Lovely article on Reiki. With a video and everything!

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Insatiable by Meg Cabot is a novel about Meena Harper who can foresee when people will die and who has been smitten by the Prince of Darkness himself, or rather his son who has attained the throne after his father’s own death at the hands of a secret group who go around hunting vampires and other similar demon types.

The book has so much promise from the beginning.  Meena Harper is a clever play on the name Mina Harker, Dracula’s primary paramour in the Bram Stoker novel.  Meena lives with her unemployed brother, Jon, which plays off the fact that Stoker’s Mina eventually marries Jonathan Harker.  There are some sarcastic jokes made at the expense of the recent vampire phenomenon, how the general media panders to the vagaries of public tastes, etc.  And simply suggesting that vampires are monster misogynists is chuckle worthy.

Unfortunately, the sarcasm and socio-satire is too sparse to make this much more than what this novel truly is–a very typical romance novel but somehow because it has a vampire I felt I might actually enjoy it.

I didn’t.  I did not, however, loathe it as I have some other vampire romances I could mention.  Nor did I find it as disappointing as I did yet another vampire novel (mostly because I esteem Block’s writing and am unfamiliar with Cabot’s work).

I can see how easily this novel could be made into a movie.  In fact, one could argue that the novel would make a great movie but a great movie doesn’t necessarily mean it makes a great novel.  The plot is predictable and offers a climactic face-off complete with a vampire war.  Oooh . . . perfect for Hollywood and the big screen and . .

utterly tedious to read for me.  I just don’t get it.  What perverse part of me thinks that a book that looks like a romance novel and sounds (based on the blurb) like a romance novel will be anything but a romance novel just because it has a vampire in it?  I don’t like romance novels.  I don’t read romance novels.  So why do I torture myself with them?

Because I keep hoping someone will stop this vampire nonsense by offering something truly interesting and literary.  My expectations run too high for the publishing industry but I know that somewhere out there is a writer who is creating a truly compelling vampire novel, one that has depth and relevance.  And still, with all that said, I have to say that at least the main character’s relationship with her vampire lover is more healthy than what I read in that other book.  At least it had that going for it.  However, faint praise considering how I feel about the other book.