Friday, November 12, 2010

Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler (book not dvd)

Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler is a transcript of her brilliant one woman show with some extra material added about V-Day and her organizing productions of the show across the globe.

However what works on stage doesn’t always work in print.  It is unfortunate that Ensler didn’t take the time or make the effort to replace certain pieces with ones that would read better.  Often a spoken word poem only works when it can be heard and seen.  I am thinking specifically of the piece where Ensler plays with the word “cunt” and how amusing this was on stage but when on the page was trite and pretty senseless.  Obviously, Ensler has talent enough to write something that either translates to both stage and page or the ability to write something that will work where it is to be presented.

In spite of its flaws, this book has the potential to create dialog.  For instance, when Ensler quotes from a New York Times article on the repercussions that infibulation has on women, the results listed only include physical complications from tetanus to early deaths.  Not one word is said about the psychological effect that such a treatment has.  (Alice Walker has tried to explore this in her novel Possessing the Secret of Joy.  She also has a non-fiction look at this surgery:  The Same River Twice.)

I think this would be a wonderful book for younger women to read and share, to perhaps begin to have a relationship with their own bodies and also understand how many women grew up (and still are, no doubt) where being with the body, all of it, is not something society celebrates.  Not all feminist issues are touched upon but enough are that there is much to be discussed and considered and questions that should be answered even when they are not asked.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weight by Jeanette Winterson

Weight by Jeanette Winterson is a layered novel.  On the surface, it is a retelling of the Atlas myth.  Underneath are deeper themes about choice, commitment, and what it means to serve the gods.  (I couldn’t find a third c word but obviously devotion would have fit here nicely.)

Winterson’s prose is so beautiful that I didn’t want to put the book down.  I devoured it, ached as I read it, wanted to run out and buy a copy of my own.  The novel focuses first on Atlas and his punishment for rebelling against the Olympian gods–holding the cosmos upon his shoulders throughout eternity.  At one point, Heracles (or Hercules, if you prefer) carries the burden briefly while Atlas picks the golden apples from Hera’s garden.  Hera and Zeus also make pivotal appearances, along with mythic figures.  Even Laika, the first living creature to orbit the earth, is given a place on the page.

In the prologue Winterson says that authenticity is important (xv) and even begins with the simple statement that “Choice of subject, like choice of lover, is an intimate decision” (xiii) and Winterson makes a conscious choice to be authentic throughout, infusing this archaic truth into a more immediate truth.  For anyone who thinks that the lessons of ancient mythology are no longer relevant, this novel would stand as a defiance against such presumption.

(You can read the prologue here.)

This book is one of the ongoing Canongate series on mythology, a collection of short novels that retell the various myths of the world’s culture.  Other authors have contributed their own retellings, including Philip Pullman’s Good Man Jesus, Scoundrel Christ, which I reviewed here.  Having enjoyed two of these books so deeply, I am eager to read more from this series (particularly the books by Karen Armstrong and Margaret Atwood).

If more authors wrote with the honesty and beauty of Winterson, I would never write another review because I would be too busy losing myself in words.

PS:  It is interesting to note that in wikipedia this novel makes no appearance in the long list of cultural influences.  I want to be surprised.  I am merely disappointed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Makes Me Happy

Finding Information is Harder Than it Looks

Ever since I woke up with vertigo, I've been on an endless search for information about vertigo, resources to share with others who are living with this condition, whether their condition is the result of an inner-ear infection, a disease,  blood pressure or anemia, vestibular or cervical.  I read anything and everything I can find.

There are days and weeks that go by with nothing and more often than not I find links to articles that promise to be helpful but are a waste of time and space.  Case in point, here is a verbatim cut & paste from something I found online:

The first time I knowledgeable Vertigo indicators was appropriate after I had a nasty bout with bronchitis. I experienced by now missed 1 7 days of function due to it. About the day I planned on returning to work; I acquired up when my alarm went off and promptly hit the ground.

Forget for a moment that this "blog post" is clearly poorly translated from another language.  What is interesting is that the website on which I found this has nothing to do with medicine, with vertigo, with science, with research.  No.  Rather the website on which I found this dubious blog post about vertigo is really a collection of links for you to work from home, how to start a home business, how to use google to protect your computer security and drive more traffic to your website.

I guess one of the ways they think you can do this is by posting articles that have nothing to do with the true purpose of your website to lure people who are legitimately trying to find information on various topics in hopes of distracting them long enough to click on one of these many "other" links.

This same poorly translated blog post appears on yet another website, this one supposedly about preparing for the holidays judging by the url.  What having vertigo and preparing for the holidays has to do with one another is anyone's guess.

The time the article begins like this:

The first time I skilled Vertigo symptoms was correct immediately after I had a nasty bout with bronchitis. I received by now missed one particular week of work because of it. On the day I planned on returning to operate; I acquired up when my alarm went off and promptly hit the ground.

Yep.  Only a slight variation on a theme.  (Both sites have this poor person falling into "your flooring" so if you had some stranger show up in your home and fall into your flooring, it's this writer, apparently.  Or maybe it's the translator.  Not sure which but somebody, like this blog post, gets around.)

The links on this holiday site offer ways to lose weight nicely (which I must say is nice of them), something about how to build a better website, and one link that will give you five pick up lines sure to function.  (As opposed to the dysfunctional pick up lines?  Maybe functional pick up lines help you avoid picking up dysfunctional people?  Again, your guess is as good as mine.)

And yet again:

The very first time I experienced Vertigo indicators was proper soon after I received a nasty bout with bronchitis. I obtained previously missed 1 7 days of do the job because of it. Over the day I planned on returning to work; I got up when my alarm went off and promptly hit the floor.

This site tells you yet again how to lose weight (but not nicely apparently), build site links, something about forex trading, and even a link to watch America's Next Top Model Season 15.

In other words, I click on a lot of useless information in search of useful information.  If you don't see me sharing information about vertigo for any length of time it's probably because there's simply nothing new to share.  That and I'm a terribly selfish person.  I'd rather not link to these weird websites that have these weird links that I don't trust.  I like to keep erroneous and untrustworthy websites all to myself.

Like I said, selfish.

Bliss by Katherine Ramsland

Bliss: Writing to Find Your True Self by Katherine Ramsland is a self-help book that uses visualization and writing exercises to help the reader discover his/her path to bliss by first looking at the values the individual has and inviting the reader to let those values be the foundation for finding fulfillment in life.

Bliss does not necessarily mean being an artist.  It can be found in serving your community or even planting a lovely garden, creating a home where people feel welcome or sharing your wisdom through service.  There are no professional roles in life that cannot be a part of experiencing bliss, not when they are a natural outcome of something that matters to you personally.

This book caught my eye when it was first published but I didn’t immediately read it.  Now I wish I had.  I think it would have been a lot more insightful for me had I read it around the same time I first read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  I probably would have found it far more engaging.  However, I must say that many of the exercises are best done within a group dynamic and the author clearly wants this book to be read and shared.  Of course, two people would suffice but you get the feeling, when you read the exercises, that a slightly larger but still small group would be great–say four to six members.

It’s a good book.  It didn’t blow me away.  Maybe because of bad timing.  Maybe because it was geared more for a group.  For anyone who is still in the afterglow of Cameron’s book, this might be a good choice.  Or maybe it would be redundant.  I don’t know.  But I’m curious to know if anyone else has read it . . . what did you think?

There is one technique she recommends for remembering dreams that I think would be quite effective.  She suggests setting your alarm for 45 minutes before you need to get up and then allowing yourself to return to a light doze.  I plan on giving this a try by setting my alarm to go off very quietly 45 minutes before I need to get up and then let it ring as it usually does at my true wake up time.  I know that I have often had my most vivid dreams when I almost wake up and then fall back to sleep only to be woken up not long afterwards.  No doubt this technique could bring very good results.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

First Holiday Commercial

Every year I promise myself that I will remember to record for prosperity when I see my first holiday commercial.  Today I finally remembered to record it and today I saw the new Hershey's Chocolate holiday commercial.  Unfortunately, the video is nowhere to be found online . . . yet.  I'm sure it will turn up.  I could share the Hershey's Kisses holiday commercial, which is cute and makes me oh-so-happy.  But that isn't the one I saw.  As soon as I see the video is available online, I'll update accordingly.  In the meantime:

First commercial of the season:  9 November
Program:  Cheers rerun
Time:  5:30ish pm

Friction by E R Frank

Friction by E R Frank is a young adult novel, probably more for tweens than mature teens, that deals with friendships and honesty.  When Stacy comes to a small alternative private school, Alex is enlisted to introduce the new student to how the school is structured.  Drawn in by Stacy’s sophistication and sympathetic to the girl’s loss, Alex is happy to help but soon grows uncomfortable with some of the things that Stacy says, eventually realizing that maybe her new classmate isn’t as nice as everyone else seems to think she is.  Stacy’s stories quickly spiral out of control and Alex is not the only one who suffers the consequences.

I know that if I had read this book as a young adult, I would have devoured it, fascinated by the story and its implications.*  As an adult, I read with more experience and wasn’t surprised by the outcome.  I was very pleased with conclusion, which could have easily turned toward the trite but allowed the book to end on an enigmatic note where forgiveness hovers somewhere on the horizon.  I love it when a writer trusts the reader, especially when a young adult writer does so.

This novel stirred up some memories.  I would say more but I might give too much away.  I definitely think this novel is worth reading and is one I would recommend but I realize that the subject is one that may be triggering to some people and that younger readers may not be ready to approach the subject.  I would happily share this with my young readers, if I had any around.

*The book wasn’t published until 2003 so I would have either had to stop aging or time-travel to have read this as a young adult.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Celebrity of Courage and Integrity

Richard Gere
The Celebrity of Courage and Integrity

Who's my favorite celebrity and why? My first response was nobody. After all, I loathe the gossip mongers and their ilk. I think Perez Hilton is vulgar, far more so the Paris Hilton could ever hope to be and she's had a sex tape go public. The way the media treats celebrity disgusts me and my admiration for the so-called "celebs" begins and ends with what I see of them on stage or film.

Often, it ends there as well. I will stumble onto a one-on-one interview with a celebrity and listen to what they have to say, which is typically nothing, and find myself disenchanted. Someone who once appealed to me loses their glamor because I've listened to them talk for themselves. How unfortunate. I've taken to avoiding interviews for this reason, leaving the performer where they belong, behind the veil of pretense with the perfect lighting, make-up, and wardrobe, etc.

Then came Richard Gere and Viggo Mortensen.

To be honest, I had not been thrilled with either of them at first. Gere was a media frenzy when he first came on the movie scene, a pretty face who happened to pick the right projects and then rightfully disappeared. I hadn't really cared when he seemingly returned to the screen (and as I write this I suspect he never really went away but I was simply that good at ignoring him altogether).

But after 9/11 he did something incredibly brave for there was a program that aired on every stations, the Concert for New York City, and Gere had the courage to say something that went against the general emotional wave one experienced at that time in the United States. He had the audacity to speak about tolerance and non-violence.

He was boo'd by the audience and I chose to tune out the nonsense people said everywhere I went afterwards, vilifying him and making empty promises about never ever going to see another of his films.

Very few seemed to care that Gere, a Buddhist, would believe in non-violence as a reasonable response to violence. Even fewer were aware of the violence already being experienced by Muslim Americans, especially those men, women, and children living in NYC. (A friend of mine told me about a friend of hers who was afraid to go out with her head appropriately covered because it would draw dangerous attention to herself as she walked her child to and from school.)

Violence is not the answer.

Viggo Mortensen did something similar while promoting the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. In an interview he, along with the director and two of the other actors, talked about the film, about Tolkien, about the experience of bringing this iconic literature to life. And all the while he sat there wearing a t-shirt with the message: No Oil for Blood.  The letters looked like they were painted on, a lurid and vivid red dripping like blood against the white of his shirt.

My memory, however, may be off because, as the picture below reveals, he may have been wearing a different shirt altogether.  Then again, this may be a different shirt he wore at a different time. I don't know. I don't care.  I just thought I'd share this because, assuming he had more than one shirt with the same sentiment, it all the more suggests how strongly he felt about the issue at the time.  And remember, this was back in 2002 when some people's anger and self-righteousness were still running high.

At the time, most people were buying part and parcel every word of propaganda being spread about Weapons of Mass Destruction and The War on Terrorism. The alerts were in a perpetual state of red and few people questioned the necessity of doing something about Sadam Hussein.

Too few were unquestioning and seeing that Mortensen not only questioned but demanded answers was a surprise to me because I had never heard of him and I was perhaps one of the few who didn't swoon over his performance as Aragorn.

I would inevitably swoon, however, when I read some of his poetry and heard him in an audio recording sharing some of his own works.

But really, the true celebrity remains a nameless student who once stood in the face of an oncoming tank in the middle of Tianenman Square. According to wikipedia nobody knows if he is still alive although I have heard people say with absolute certainty that he is dead, was killed within a year of the incident. (I believe most recently Robert Thurman in his series on Tibet.)

This is courage and this is the sort of personal integrity and bravery that should be celebrated and should earn an individual the status of celebrity.

I'm almost certain both Gere and Mortensen would agree that they are not nearly as courageous as that young man; they might even agree that he is a more deserving celebrity than they. But I don't know because I can't ask them for myself.

Bliss to You by Trixie Koontz

Bliss to You: Trixie’s Guide to a Happy Life by Trixie Koontz dog as told to Dean Koontz is a book of dog inspired wisdom, written in a peculiar syntax that I suppose is meant to be cute.  Personally I think if a dog knows how to write a book, it probably also knows how to speak grammatically correct English.

But in the end, it’s okay.  This book is full of plain good advice and common sense.  From the importance of having a quiet heart to the pleasure one can find in a cookie, Trixie sounds much like a zen master, encouraging the reader to love life.

This book is absolutely for dog lovers.  What Trixie has to say about cats is not very zen, frankly, or Christian, for that matter.  That is my one disappointment.  And don’t think for a minute that the only reason I am saying I loved this little book is because the royalties go to Canine Companions for Independence because I am not above giving a negative review to a book even if the proceeds are going to a good cause.

This is just a precious book, a fluff yet insightful book that I would highly recommend to anyone who loves dogs. A perfect stocking stuffer or filler for a gift basket.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Trying to Keep Up

I've been trying to keep up with the daily poetry prompts but, as you can see, I've missed a day.  So far everything I've written for that prompt sounds false so I've not bothered to post anything.  I haven't quite given up.  Sometimes it needs to simmer.  In the meantime, six out of seven . . . not too shabby.

And if you knew what else I've been up to, you'd be in awe.

But that news must needs wait.  In the meantime, enjoy the poetry or not.

I forgot about it altogether

Apparently I have a Plinky account.  I forgot about it.  Until today.  Basically, the site offers you a prompt and you respond.  So here is my response to today's prompt.

Little Miss Muffet

You find a big spider in your bedroom. Your next move is to . . .

the next room immediately. I simply couldn't sleep in the same room with an insect. I am phobic when it comes to anything with more than four legs and my fear increases exponentially with the number of legs.

I won't even eat shrimp, crab. or lobster because they are, in my mind, merely glorified sea bugs. "Glorified" in that people not only pay to eat them but spend more on them, ounce for ounce, than they do most other sources of protein.


My phobia is so pronounced that I made sure nobody at one of my jobs was aware of my fear because at this particular company the men were notorious pranksters and I knew, given the chance, they would take advantage of this knowledge to my consequence. At best, some plastic insect would be put somewhere I would not immediately notice but could terrify me when I did. At worst, they would find an actual bug, even a dead one, and place it in my cubicle.

So my fear remained my secret. I no longer work at that office so if any of those former prankster coworkers are reading this . . . neener neener neener!