Thursday, May 31, 2007

Because I don't feel like writing...

Carole Lombard - even when I cheat (not that there's anything wrong with Carole Lombard, I just wanted to know what it takes to not be her)

Your Score: Carole Lombard (even when I cheat!)

You scored 14% grit,

14% wit, 42% flair,

and 40% class!

You're a little bit of a fruitcake, but you always act out in style. You have a good sense of humor, are game for almost anything, but you like to have nice things about you and are attracted to the high life. You're stylish and modern, but you've got a few rough edges that keep you from attaining true sophistication. Your leading men include William Powell, Fredric March, and Clark Gable. Watch out for small planes.

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the The Classic Dames Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rockstar Supertoby

Originally uploaded by Martina
Toby aka The Sweetest Dog Ever is finally home from the hospital. After three enemas followed by a disgusting sounding procedure designed to evacuate his bowels of what in his xrays showed up as multiple 4" in diameter obstructions, the vet released him today.

It all started over the weekend when he stopped eating or being able to go to the bathroom. At first we thought that it was the kids next door feeding him bones, which can lead to constipation, especially in older dogs. As it turns out, the problem was due to something else, something else entirely.

Our sweet Toby's stomach was filled with....


Yes, you read that right, ROCKS. Apparently his mellowness is not, as we thought, the product of a secret stash of pot that he has hidden in the garden. He has been too busy eating ROCKS to be enticed by weed, let alone cultivate it. My furry friend has now racked up a $350 vet bill (thank God for the incredible pet insurance I have as a benefit through work, or it would have been MUCH more).

Now my wallet is even lighter, but it doesn't matter, because he is okay and that's all I really care about. So let all human and non-human Powellhurstians are rejoicing at his triumphant return to the fold.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Did you know...

. . . that there is a 3-Day Novel Contest? There is! It has been held every year since 1977, when a group of Vancouver writers started the tradition. The challenge takes place every Labor Day weekend and offers the sweet sweet grand prize of publication for its winner. How did I not know about this? Until stumbling across a copy of Dayshift Werewolf at the library last weekend, I never knew such a thing existed! Even cooler is that last year's winner (Jan Underwood, author of DW) is from my very own city AND she's a foreign language instructor. Now I ask you, what is not to like?

While the back cover blurb describes the book as being about "the underdogs of the horror industry: a claustrophobic mummy, a free-wheeling zombie, a demon with a hidden human and other incompetent monsters who find new truths in life on the dark side", I have to say that my favorite of the novel's eight chapters is the one about a disgruntled gnome, who finds that the great American West is not all it's cracked up to be - not to mention alarmingly short of camembert and people who are not rude.

A victim of displacement via the loss of habitat (Norwegian old growth forest), he defects to America to seek his fortunes in the pristine wilderness of the Rockies. He describes the plight of his people thusly:

...the logging has had a devestating effect on Gnome culture. Most of us have lost our splendid heritage and become tame. Many have assimilated into the Garden Gnome society. I watched it all happening before my eyes, and I decided to take a stand. If the habitat of the Forest Gnome is destroyed, why then, the Forest Gnome must take his culture elsewhere. Gnome culture must be preserved. I am the beginning of the Gnome Diaspora.

How, I ask, can anyone not love a story containing the words "Gnome Diaspora"? One doesn't often hear those two words in the same sentence, but the idea of a gnomic diaspora delights me. Frankly, there's something just something about gnomes. My favorite coloring book as a child? Gnomes! One of my favorite news stories ever? Gnomes! I come from a family with a weird gnome connections going back to the old country - black and white photos of my teenage mother in the garden with what appears to be her gnome guide and pictures of a two year old me in our German apartment admiring what appears to be a lawn gnome chronicle this strange relationship between our respective peoples. And that is why this character just tickled me to no end.

Beyond that, however, the rest of the novel was entertaining - especially the chapter about the demon, which somehow had a Gaimanesque quality. It was also the perfect short (a mere 80 pages), diverting novel to read on a day when I was worried about my own little singing werewolf, Toby, who is spending the night at the vet. The poor guy has a bowel obstruction from the neighbor kids slipping him bones through the fence.

I feel so bad for him, like I'm a bad dog mother, for not having noticed or at least insisted on Saturday when we were working with the vet via the phone that he squeeze him in for an appointment. Life will be MUCH happier tomorrow, when Toby will be home again and Baxter, Ruby and I can stop moping around like we have nothing to live for. Apparently he is the glue that holds our little family together. Meanwhile, books are a good distraction and any book that can keep my mind off of missing my buddy is a good one.

Monday, May 28, 2007

All about me

After a Memorial Day full of food and company, I am too tired and too full to post much of anything introducing my new Summer of Blogging project. My three regular readers (yes, you read that right, there are three of you now. I had a readership spike!) may recall my post a day endeavor back in January. From my perspective, it went very well, but I've really fallen off of the "write something, ANYTHING every day" wagon, so I'm cracking down. They say it takes three months to develope a habit, so I've decided to try again, but expand it from a month to span Memorial Day to Labor Day (but with some slightly tweaked rules, which I am making up as I go along).

So, now you know my Super Duper Top Secret Project (did you notice I've been posting more the past few days? That is why!).

Meanwhile, I found this test via my friend MQ's website. Because I am on the verge of a Memorial Day food coma, I am making it my Monday evening post. I may be back with more later, but if not, at least I'm covered for today.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My new love

The woods all around me, dark now, were full. High wind, black birds, clacking branches, musical frogs, bats, weeds whispering low - here and there, a possible footfall. The night was alive, a different world from the day. Creatures of all sorts were abroad. - from Phillip DePoy's The Witch's Grave

Have you ever read one of those completely captivating mysteries that you just cannot bring yourself to put it down? Then, when you're done, you're disappointed because it's over, so you channel all your energy into trying to convince anyone who will listen to read it, because you just know they would love it, if only they would give it a chance? That is exactly how I am beginning to feel about Phillip DePoy's Fever Devilin mystery series. Not since my Julian Kestrel crush of early 2006 have I been so enamoured with a mystery series.

The series centers on Fever Devilin, a Folklorist who leaves academia to return to his native hills of Appalachia to collect folktales. Instead of quiet research, Devilin finds mystery and unexplained events and with the help of his two sidekicks, Shakespearean scholar Wilton Andrews and his childhood friend Skidmore, he sets about solving them. The plots are intelligent and complex, but never confusing and the stories include such a healthy dollop of folklore, folk music (sacred harp, mouth music, psaltry, hammer dulcimer, mandolin), history and legend that it is hard not to fall in love with them if you have any interest whatsoever in stories and oral tradition.

The other thing that I love about these books is that they are filled with well developed characters. Each person has not only a distinct voice, but DePoy has also taken the time to imbue them with believable characteristics. The characters are complex - they have histories, hopes, fears, annoying human quirks and most are genuinely likable. You'll find no charicatures or dumb yokels here.

So, next time you are bored and looking for something fun to read, pick up a copy of The Devil's Hearth. You'd might as well also pick up a copy of The Witch's Grave while you're add it. That way when you are finished and feeling depressed that it's over, you'll have another one to read. I haven't yet read the third installment (A Minister's Ghost), but am willing go go out on a limb and recommend it too. Basically, the highest praise I know to give these books is that they are just the sort of mysteries I would like to write myself!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some things...

Here it is the middle of the night and I cannot sleep, because Toby is still not eating or feeling well and I am worried. He is the best dog ever, which makes it really difficult when he looks at you with his big, sad brown eyes as though he has all the faith in the world that you, his person, can make it all better. So, I will occupy myself with some website recommendations I've been meaning to share for a while now:

1. A fun site boasting "more Gods than you can shake a stick at" (a description I find it impossible not to love!), Godchecker offers information on more than 3,000 Gods, Goddesses, Spirits, Demons and Saints, allowing you to browse by Pantheon. It also features a Diety of the Day, a Holy Hit Parade and an Oracle that offers helpful relationship advice like "Your best interests are of great Godly concern. But they work in very mysterious ways."

2. A compendium of all you ever wanted to know about Victorian London, The Victorian Dictionary is run by author and librarian, Lee Jackson. I first came across Jackson's site after a visit to Flavel House here in Oregon. The visit inspired thoughts about the Victorian ghost story and the inevitable idea of writing a spooky novel for NaNoWriMo, which in turn inspired me to explore a bit of Victoriana as part of my research. The novel is pretty much completely outlined, but (as yet) remains unfinished. If I spent more time writing and less time farting around, I would probably be a bit further. On the other hand, if I did that, I might never have learned this from The Lady's Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, trans. Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 - Part II (cont.) :

If your hands are rather fat, do not wear tight sleeves. The pressure and discomfort to the arm will only make the hand swell. A tight cuff is as unsuitable to a large hand as a low heel is to a large foot. If your fingers are square or wide at the ends, you may narrow them a little by pinching and squeezing the tips. Needless to say, you will not obtain the taper fingers you desire all at once, but in time you will become aware of a notable and pleasant change.

3. My absolute favorites horoscopes ever are written by Rob Brezsny at Freewill Astrology and I absolutely LOVE Rob's healing Prayer for You for its enthusiastic use of adjectives. A prayer that is vibrant and bursting with life, it makes me feel good every time I read it. I can also highly recommend his book Pronoia, which is based on the idea that:

Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It’s the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It’s a mode of training your senses and intellect so you’re able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

It also has a lot of great ideas that can be turned into writing exerices, which will be one of my projects when I have finished picking and choosing my way through the book on paganism from whose exercise questions I am currently picking and choosing as writing prompts.

4. I first became aware of Christina Miller when a friend (you know wh you are!) gave me a wood collage of her Bellini Madonna for Christmas one year. Since then, I like to visit her Iconfusion gallery to look for new additions. On my particularly covetous days, I find myself wanting them all (at the moment Coronation of the Virgin and Our Lady of the Columbia in particular).

And with that, sleepiness has finally come my way, so I am off to bed. There are more links where those came from, but those should be enough to get you started, denizens of the internets.


You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside. ~ Dr. Wayne Smartypants Dyer

When I was eight or nine...

I went through a phase where I was not only fascinated with witches (thank you, Samantha and Endora!), but I was also convinced that I could control the weather. The proof? A series of tests carefully conducted with the help of my faithful assistant (aka Ratgirl aka Laurel). We would stand outside on blustery days, our arms raised to the heavens in good High Priestess fashion as we commanded the wind to blow. It did, yielding proof that we were filled with the Magicks and it was good.

Many years later....

I am driving to work, thinking about how after a couple months of relative happiness, I am again feeling I've somehow been diverted from the Job Satisfaction Highway to the Suckfest County Fairgrounds via an upcoming project symbolizing the kind of cosmic detour that apparently amuses The Fates significantly more than it does me. So, I do the only reasonable (and obsessive) thing I can think of, which is to start chanting in my head "Please please please please please please please please please, just let it go away. Please?"

I arrive at work. The first thing I hear as I sit down is a cheery: "Good news! It went away!" wafting from my boss' office. This brings on the thought that perhaps I have been too hard on The Fates, which is then followed by an inconspicuous but highly festive bout of butt dancing in my new ergonomic office chair. Had it been later in the day, I might have done a jig, but at such an early hour a person needs to save her strength . I realize, even after all these years, the Magicks are still with me and it is good.

But then, after lunch disaster strikes. I smugly return from a celebratory outing to Lamb's to learn that the project has returned! I am left feeling betrayed by The Universe, The Fates, and especially The Magicks. How can you toy with me like this? I will not be your voodoo doll (or maybe I will, but I won't like it...that I promise you!). In my head I can just see the planning meeting (I'm cosmically important enough to merit a planning meeting, right?) that lead to all this: "Hey, you know what would be fun? We take the Powellhurst girl..."

Days later...

I have been working on The Project for two days now. As much as I had dreaded it, it has not, as far as I can see, actually killed me. Of course, there is the slight chance that I am living out some kind of Sixth Sense moment wherein I am dead but just don't know it yet, but I don't think so. What I think is that this is a good lesson in how we create our own reality. Now I'm not saying that The Project* will ever be on my personal Top 10 List, but having to do it did not exactly turn out to be the end of my world either.

The truth is that once I decided to just suck it up, shake off the exceptionally bad attitude that I had been cultivating over the last few days, and just DO it, it (kind of like ripping off a bandaid) really wasn't so horrible. There were even a couple moments of it when I might have actually cracked a smile. My point is, that when we (especially those of us with a natural expertise for internal snowballing) expect heinousness that is exactly what we get. If we approach things with an open mind, sometimes they are actually bearable and sometimes even fun. While I have my doubts that knowing this will ever turn me completely Pollyana, I do think that being willing to admit and use it is a bit of Magic in itself.

*You will, by the way enjoy this much more, if you read "The Project" in that whispery voice used in pseudo-news pieces about The Secret. I guess I probably should have told you that nearer to the beginning, but I figure if you've read this far, I've probably bewitched you anyway, so you will probably forgive me sooner or later, so you had might as well just do it now. Seriously. Don't make me turn you into a toad. You know I will do it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blue Screen of Death

Originally uploaded by Martina.
DELL 2004-2007

No more warm afternoons writing on the back deck.
No more surfing the net from bed.
No more laptoppy goodness.

I had a feeling it was coming, but cannot believe my laptop would choose just when I was getting into a regular summer writing on the back porch groove to gasp its last breaths. What a betrayal!

In my technically inept way, I keep hoping that maybe it will start if I just try one more time, but each time it just gets worse. First chkdsk called my volume "dirty" and now the black screen makes vague suggestions about how I might be able to restore whatever is missing or corrupt by running the setup disk (like I have THAT!) Somehow, I think I feel a Mac coming on when I replace it. Guess I'd better start saving. Thankfully, there's still the desktop in the house, but for now my new laptop consists of a nifty lime and turqoise colored paper notebook with a glittery cover and a gel pen. I'm very retro that way.

In other craptacular unexpected expense news, when I took my car in for service on Friday, I found out that it needed (along with some other "routine maintenance" to the tune of an additional $600) front brakes that were not down to 10%. With my long commute, the brakes freaked me out a bit, so I went ahead let dealer do them, even though I know I could have had it done cheaper somewhere else. The other maintenance (transmission flush, coolant flush, assorted filters, etc.) will have to wait. I have to think there is someone out there who can can handle the job for a lot less than $600.

I know that it's totally unjustified whining, because I have so much more than a lot of people do (even if not as much as some), but there are times when it seems like everything falls apart at once. Oh, well, I guess I should be happy that I'm spoiled enough to even have all these possessions that can then break on me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Creepy Old Lady Ringlets

The are some decided advantages to growing up and only child, not the least of which is avoiding the inevitable fate that befalls every sibling duo sooner or later. You know the one I am talking about. We've all seen it happen a million times. One sibling is a spoiled child star, getting all the attention as the other one looks on with a mien that was the prototype for Carol Burnett's Eunice face as she ominously mumbles things like "I won't forget. You bet I won't forget!".

Years later, true to her promise, the plain sibling tries to run the other one down with a car, misses, ends up in a wheelchair and blames the whole thing on her would be victim, who was conveniently too drunk at the time of the accident to remember that she wasn't even in the car, let alone driving it. Racked with guilt, the drunk devotes her life to (poorly) caring for her crippled sister (who is a little heavy handed with the "help me" buzzer), goes crazy, becomes increasingly embittered, grows creepy old lady ringlets and spends her days reminiscing about her days as a too precious child star and offering drunken performances of her patented crowd pleaser "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" to an audience of none, while the invalid upstairs slowly wastes away. One thing leads to another. Dead rats are served on a silver platter (which, as an editorial aside, reminds me of Battista in Italo Calvino's must read novel The Baron in the Trees), maids are killed, bodies dumped. In short, former child star becomes a perfect candidate to rival the likes of even the nutjobbiest of hasbeens on The Surreal Life.

And the best part? It all ends with a trip to the beach. Thankfully, for those of us who will never experience the delights of siblinghood first hand, we can at least live them vicariously thanks to Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. And if that doesn't make you think it's worth watching, just know you will miss not only crazy Bette Davis in her ruffly penoir, which is perfect for running away from haunted castles on dark and stormy nights, but you will also never know that Iliad is the classic of dog foods. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Seeing Red

The Red Book came into my life quite by coincidence (or perhaps wave from the universe). One day as I was browing an online retailer's website for something to order along with Rob Breszny's Pronoia (I can't bear to pay for shipping when a $25 purchase will give me not only an excuse to buy yet another book, but also FREE shipping), I decided to peruse their offerings for something that would inspire creativity. Somehow this search lead me to this little red book that promised to "ignite my divine spark", which I somehow became confused in my inspiration seeking head with my creative spark (in my defense it is arguable that they are the same thing), subsequently inducing me to put the book on my library hold list.

As it turned out, although the book was not technically what I was looking for, it was just what I was looking for. Sera Beak's comparative, spiritual cowgirl approach to the divine melds very well with my own belief that most paths have something to offer and are, in essence, really just different routes to the same destination. After having just completed a year long course with the oogie feeling title "Companions in Christ" in an attempt to make up for all I never learned about The Bible as a younger person, it was (despite that the Companions class was great and boasted a really wonderful set of classmates with whom a real bond was forged) really energizing to take a break and dive into Beak's unorthodox, "interdeifical" exploration of spirituality.

I'm not going to lie, there were a few early moments when I wondered if Beak's style was going to be too Spirituality in the City (the book is aimed at hip, smart young women in their 20's and 30's) for me to not find it all "girl power" and fluff. The thing is that this woman (a Harvard educated scholar of mysticism and comparative religion) really knows her stuff, which pretty much removes the fluff factor. In fact, it didn't take too long for me to become swept away with her light hearted approach and actually learn stuff. I know! Crazy, isn't it?

One of the great things about this book is that it doesn't hold any one faith as higher than another. Seeing Kali as a conduit to Creation is not better than bowing toward Mecca or finding inspiration in the teachings of the Dalai Lama, which (even if he is extra awesome with a cherry on top) is no better than praying to the Virgin. It's all good, divine energy, and it all ultimately tells us to be that shimmering vibration of goodness that releases love and kindness into the world. How can that be bad, no matter who tells you to do it?

Some of my favorite sections of the book were the "peel your onion" parts. For someone who hates literal onions (stupid devil's condiment!), I have an untiring fascination with metaphorical ones. I love practices, rituals, ideas that force us to look beneath the surface layers. Like any good present, the good stuff is not in the wrapping paper, but beneath it, and the best things are the ones deep down inside the box. So, it is only natural that I love Love LOVE that this book encourages us to ask questions like "What am I really hungry for?", "What sort of people do I attract into my life?", "What sort of person am I?", and (my favorite) "Why does questioning myself make me want to run for the hills with some aspirin and a bottle of tequila?" After all, if you don't know yourself, you can't know what you believe.

Most of all, however, I love it because its essence is captured in a single, lovely, inspiring quote from Anais Nin:

"And there came a day when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

More than anything, I think that has to be an integral part of why any of us are here - to find that thing that makes not only us, but our communities and even the world blossom.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Are you hungry?

Sitting out on the back porch typing and listening to the sound of the birds intermingled with some Latino neighbor's music and laughter in the distance, I find myself feeling abundantly content and just plain good for no particular reason that I can determine. I do have fabulous hair after a visit to the Goddess of the Golden Shears last night, but even the afterglow of dye fumes and a newly cool coif can't explain this mood completely. Besides, that was yesterday.

Today began just like any other weekend morning. I rolled out of bed around 8:30, thinking I would read a bit, then disappointedly remembered that I was decidedly not enjoying my highly anticipated copy of Chris Moore's newest novel You Suck, which I had started reading the night before as I was waiting for my hair to redden. It's rare for me to put a book aside once I've started reading and even rarer when it's an author I generally like. I'm loyal that way, but even that didn't stop me from aborting my reading this time.

The book started out a little shaky to begin with, then lost me completely when its vampiric main character rented fat cat from a homeless guy in order to drink its blood. Silly, isn't it? I can handle the part about people turning into vampires, but drain a cat and I become outraged and ready to call PETA's fictional abuse branch. What can I say? I like what I like. Oh, well. No one said I was sane.

So, instead, I turned to the computer deal with my severely neglected collection of emails. I was happily typing away, when the hounds started barking. As it turned out, it was all for shy, little Anna (who, by the way, is going to be an absolute stunner when she grows up) from next door. She was vigilantly trying to lure the dogs over to the fence for some nefarious purpose like petting them. This had Baxter's wirey fur chaps in a complete twist, causing him to bark as though we were being invaded by a highly armed, hostile entity instead of a seriously angelic looking 8 year old girl.

Too militant for children, Baxter ended up safely deposited on the back deck, while, after some coaxing, Anna shyly came over to pet and play with Toby and Ruby, who were totally on board with idea of being introduced to a new, tireless, ball throwing companion short enough to be kissed in the face without them having to do so much as stretch. Pretty soon, little Antonio was wanting to come over, and then it was only a matter of time until his mother was sitting in one of our lawn chairs, chatting while the kids played with the dogs. This is notable because it is the first time since my family bought this house 35 years ago that the neighbor house has had neighbors nice enough that one would actually want them one's property. Not that what we wanted necessarily played a huge role in neighborial relations in the past...

Our first neighbor was a drunken barmaid with an equally drunken husband, four screaming kids, a filthy house, and a "Honk if you're horny" bumper sticker on her dented, red station wagon. She was a charmer who ran around the neighborhood in a uniform of polyester stretch pants coupled with a Maidenform bra, while screaming delightful aphorisms such as "You're a cocksucker, just like that goddamned father of yours!!!" at her children, who I am sure will be remembering her fondly this coming Mother's Day weekend. Naturally confident that she was indeed bringing sexy back, she devoted much of her free time to unmercilessly hitting on my dad, often in full view of my mother. Her first meeting with him occurred one enchanted summer evening when she and her red lipstick smeared lips sidled up to our driveway to inform him as he was working on his car that she had had a hysterectomy (wink wink).

Oh, how happy we were when they moved! That was until we got to know the next neighbor. He was a nosey, weird slob, who made fun of my mom's accent, stood buck naked in his picture window, tried to teach his beagles to mate, and let his lawn grow to heights no lawn had ever grown before. Then, just when we thought living next to him could not become any more delightful, he upped his curb appeal even more by marrying the Wicked Witch of the West's meaner cousin. She was nice for about the ten minute period she thought she had hope of finegling free babysitting, then turned stonily cold when informed that the master plan wherein she routinely sends the kids over to "visit" when she wanted to go out was not going to cut it. It's not even that we would have minded watching them occasionally, but to just send them over as she was leaving without ever bothering to ask if it was convenient, let alone okay at all, really takes some nerve.

By the time the Ruler of the Winkies and Nudie had taken their winged monkeys and moved, we were pretty sure the house must just be cursed. Then came the new family (cue the light and angelic singing). New family is so nice. Even the two year old baby is nice with his constant requests to give him five and his more perplexing inquiries of "Do you want a piece of me?", which means that you're supposed to make a fist, so he can giggle and softly bump it with his. It's like they inherited all the nice that was sucked away from the old inhabitants by the curse.

There are many things to recommend the new family. When they moved in, they had the house blessed by a priest (cursebreaker!) and came over to introduce themselves. When our security lights went out, Mr. New noticed and replaced them. You can't get within 30 feet of Mrs. New without her inquiring if you're hungry. Then next thing you know, even if you're not hungry, you're sitting at the table in her back yard with a plate filled with carne asada, beans and homemade tortillas.

And these people are, if I really think about it, how I came to be in such a good mood today. You see, after they came over to visit, Mrs. New (aka Jenny) invited me over for coffee, which turned into coffee, eggs, chorizo, homemade salsa and tortillas and an afternoon of visiting. In the course of the afternoon, I got to know a bit of the family's story, a bit about how they'd taken in a friend (Anna's mom) and her daughters. Shy Anna is now my new friend and I'm starting to feel like I actually know these lovely people on more than a superficial level.

It's nice. It's nice having good friends and neighbors. It's nice for curses to be broken. It's nice for the first summery day of the year to start out so auspiciously. And it's nice to feel fed and in a mood as sunny as the day is.

Jacob the Liar

When he was 25, Jurek Becker completed the script for Jakob der Luegner (Jacob the Liar) after hearing an anecdote about a man who had owned a secret radio while interred in the Polish gehtto of Lodz. Under threat of the direst of consequences, the man took the risk of providing news to his neighbors about the advance of the red army. A survivor of the Lodz ghetto (and later Ravensbrueck and Sachenhausen) himself, Becker was inspired by this tidbit to imagine what might have happened a ghetto dweller named Jakob Heym had pretended to have a radio in order to spread hope to his neighbors. The resulting text is an intelligent, yet thoroughly readable study of questions like: Does Jakob act responsibly in lying, even though he has good intentions? Do his lies do more harm than good? What is real? What is true? And, ultimately: Do Jakob's attempts to provide hope really make any difference in the end, since they don't change the inevitable outcome?

I know it sounds like a heavy, bulky text, but it is not. The subject matter is heavy, tragic, even moving, but thanks to one of the most interesting narrators ever created, Jakob's story is told in such a conversational, human, sometimes even humorous tone that its questions don't weigh the mind down even as they occupy it. Jacob's story holds some moments of great sweetness, friendship, and love amidst all of the ugliness of a daily life spent waiting for what one knows will ultimately be a tragic ending. All of this makes it just the kind of intelligent, thought provoking read I adore, as well as the kind I can recommend without reservation. Seriously. Read it. You won't be sorry.

(Take that, Oprah's Book Club!)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day!

The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.
Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte d'Arthur

So much going on as May begins! May Day, International Worker's Rights Day, Beltaine, Walpurgisnacht, and the beginning of Mary's month. Most importantly, however, the coming of May always feels to me like summer really will return. This little glimmer of hope is highly important, living in a part of the country where it can sometimes feel like we have only one season - the rainy one. But today spring's bright red tulips have faded making way for the first rose to bloom in the garden, the birdhouses on the front porch are filled with soft chirps, the sun is making ever more frequent appearances, and McMenamin's most amusing UFO Festival will soon kick off the summer festival season. (Ed. note: If you have never gone, you should, because where else can you see people walking around small town America in broad daylight donning tinfoil hats? It is worth every penny of the free admission!)

In this part of the world, May has begun with a flourish that has included Beltaine celebrations, poetry writing, early Cinco de Mayo luncheons, and a riveting reading group discussion about the nature of truth, reality, and heroism - all delightful things. I had thought that with the anniversary of my father's death coming up this weekend and the anniversary of another leave taking a short month after that, I might be feeling something less hopeful, more depressed. At this moment in time, however, I find myself feeling engaged in what is coming and relatively content, if still somewhat under the fluxy uncertainty of my transitional birthday tarot reading. So, while I'm not yet in a place where I am certain what kind of blossom it is that will flower forth from my lusty heart, life has taken a big leap forward in that I am increasingly convinced that it does not necessarily have to be stinkweed.