Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Things I learned on Pohnpei

There were many lessons that fell down around me (literally) in Pohnpei, but here are the ones I can remember:

1) Geckos aren't cute. Nor are the little lizards that act like geckos. They are creepy. They look creepy. They sound creepy. They are creepy embodied. And for those who would say "But they eat the bugs," my reply is that I never saw them eat any of the bugs swarming over my bed.

2) Water beds aren't bad for sleeping. They aren't the best if you are a mover like I am, but it wasn't bad. I never woke up with a back ache.

3) Spiders, even when harmless, are fucking terrifying at 5 inches in diameter especially when they are hanging over your bed.

4) The brave can be defeated, or there is a limit to bravery. See, I am not exactly a chicken shit. I know I have vertigo and I live with it, but that seems to be more of a physical/chemical thing than a mental thing (because I'm not afraid of heights). The thing is, I can take a lot and not fuss, but apparently I have a limit.

5) Geckos that fall on you are the devil's spawn.

6) Geckos that poop on you and your books repeatedly are cruel and should be dealt with.

7) Sleeping in a traditional bungalow sounds really cool, especially if you grew up watching Swiss Family Robinson. However, for those with defeated courage, living in a place with falling geckos and gecko poop, spiders too big to keep you sane, and humidity up the wazoo can be too much. I did enjoy my stay, but I don't think I shall repeat it, but then I long for winter.

8) You can forget the feel of air conditioning and then wonder what this marvelous invention is after a week without it in weather where your sunscreen can melt off of you.

9) People who might have sunscreen melt off them should not go on day-long tours and hike to waterfalls where they will sweat out all of their bodies moisture. Sometimes it can be too hot and humid.

10) Nan Madol is amazing and made the falling geckos worth it.

11) The geckos are sane some nights and leave you alone and insane the next and charge at you.

12) Comfort is relative, but luxury is luxury. And today the Sheraton on Guam is luxury. The lack of chirping and crawling and falling sounds makes it all the better.

13) You can miss the internet like it's a friend, even if you don't play World of Warcraft or something similar.

I miss home more than I can say. Sometimes, I miss it enough that I tear up. Two more days!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Juniper Time...or How I Discovered I Wanted to Visit Bend

For 9 in 0'09, I should also report on Juniper Time.

Kate Wilhelm is one of my favorite authors, I should confess that. I don't know why her and not others, but she's been on my list of used book store searches since I read Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. I think it's because she isn't precious. She doesn't apply a Vaseline layer to make things prettier. She isn't exactly brutally honest, but she's honest.

Juniper Time is one of her science fiction novels (before the mystery novels, and after them, I suppose). There is a blight upon the world and a drought so extreme that people have been moved from some states entirely, people are living in ghettos full of crime and violence. There are some who aren't living there, but by parental luck. I expected none of this except the drought. I did not see the violence coming. I did not see how silly our male lead could be. I did not see what our female lead was up to. I was surprised. I'm still trying to decide if I agree with the idea behind the end, living as I do now and not thirty years ago. This is one reason I love older science fiction so much, it's taken from a time I have no direct experience with. Looking at 1984 or Brave New World now, you can still see the eerie truths, but you can smile at the places where the story is dated by its time, which does not demean the story or message.

I would write a synopsis of the book, but I feel that it would be unfair because I can't imagine explaining it. There's a drought. There's international conflict. There's a space station. And somehow, they are all related. Not that the space station is causing the drought.

Oh, but let me just say this: Bend, Oregon. Half of the book (or a little less) takes place in Bend and its environs. When I read "Bend", I thought Wilhelm was crazy or that I was crazy, but the crazy thing is getting a description of Bend from before I knew it. It's like reading about London before it was the heaving mass of a city it is now (except Bend is not anything like London).

So, I read Juniper Time in a whirlwind. I really liked it. I did not love it as I wanted to, but I realize now that it's because I'm not sure that I got enough of the end. It was a story where I wanted more and sort of resented that I didn't get more. Except let me add that no one can push a limit like Wilhelm. I remain shocked that she did what she did to one of her characters, but I love her for the shock.

Possession...or how Byatt needs more editing on occasion

Not that anyone other than Cathy reads this, or pretends to anyway, but I have to write because I have finally finished Possession by A.S. Byatt. I am conflicted as to how I feel about it. My sister asked how many stars I would give it out of five and I was giving it four until I remembered how Byatt cheated. Here are the complaints:

1) She cheated. Balls out cheated. I'll say the same thing of any other writer who does this, but I was surprised when Byatt did. I thought she would have thought better of her audience than to pander to us. See, we spend the majority of the book in the present (or really the 1980s) looking back at things written from the late 1850s. We are in the present, the story is in the present, but we are looking at texts from the past. Ninety-nine percent of the book fits that mold, and then Byatt cheats and gives us bits of the past that we would not know from what we have in the present. And it didn't really add to the book, it provided no great insight. And the final one was the biggest cheat of all, it was pandering.

2) The unnecessary bits. If you read it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't and decide you are going to read it, take my advice and skip or skim sections you feel you are going to die of boredom in. Yes, I just said skip. Trust me, I skipped, and here's why: I am not a literary scholar. I like a good mystery, but when a book is longer than 500 pages and I have to read the journal of a teenage Breton girl, I will skip and skim. If I am given pages upon pages of a poem that drags on, I am going to skip it. Maybe "Swammerdam" had a brilliance I couldn't see, but then it wasn't really meant for me was it?

3) The Cropper chapter. So unnecessary. I almost stopped reading there. Really, I did, then I felt guilty and skipped him instead.

4) Being made to research like the two main characters. If I wanted to do that, I would be doing that, not reading a novel for enjoyment.

However, I did really like the book. I liked Maud and adored Roland. I liked them and the story much more than the film, which I bugged my sister about trying to remember (plus I decided that Aaron Eckhart [although a decent enough guy and generally good actor] was miscast and not because he played Roland as an American, but because he has a confidence he can't really shed). I did feel involved in it (although I was a cheat because I already knew the kicker), I flipped the pages eagerly at the end for the resolution. It is a novel of great feeling, which I appreciate. But I still say Byatt cheated.

I should also add that mid-book, I stopped. I couldn't take it. I closed the book and thought I'd never return. I think it was in the middle of a letter that told me nothing about nothing. During that pause, I read Pride and Prejudice and was reminded how much I love Austen. We should note here that it was easier to read a book written in the early nineteenth century than a book written in the 1980s. And now, I am with Wuthering Heights. I desperately want to understand why reading about England seems natural to me while in tropical Guam.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

television tragedies

A tragic thing happens every spring, and it's not the heinous allergy season I'm deeply entrenched with right now. And in the grand scheme of things, "tragic" is probably a bit of a stretch, but for those affected, the desperation that will ensue feels tragic...TV renewal season.

The problem comes with being a fan of smart television. Smart television is rarely rewarded. The great victory of the years rests in Friday Night Lights, and I worry that NBC gave us that only to let us down on the other prime shows: Chuck, Southland, Life, and maybe Kings (I haven't decided on it yet). Worry supplemented by the stupid addition of a primetime Jay Leno show. With a primetime talk show (which is dirt cheap for NBC), the dramas much more intended for adults are going to be cut and suffer.

Then, there's Better Off Ted on ABC. Dollhouse and Lie To Me on Fox. And the ever challenged How I Met Your Mother.

All this goodness and the networks still keep something as tired and boring as Heroes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My sister's beloved Adalia

The crazy thing happened yesterday as I started shopping for a new suitcase. It was surprise, even though I knew it was coming...I became a published crochet designer. And I'm super scared. Looking at the photos, there are things I wish I had done and things I wish the magazine had done, but it's all done now and I can't change it except to say that maybe more motifs are called for on the top of the back, and maybe in a stronger fiber.

That said, it's super exciting. Super scary and super exciting. The pattern is easy, and would be easier if not for words. I'm always amazed at how words (and abbreviations) get in the way. It reminds me of that saying (that I first heard in Playing By Heart spoken by Angelina Jolie before people knew who she was [and when Gillian Anderson was the superstar in that movie, next to the superstars of Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands]) that talking about love is like dancing about architecture. Sometimes crochet patterns are written like someone's dancing about architecture. Diagrams make it easier. Symbols make things clear.

Anyway, March 31st will be a weird day all around: the magazine goes on sale in stores, and I celebrate my 31st birthday (likely in Guam). And the only person I really want to see the magazine (or really my name in the magazine) is one of my grandmothers, because without her, I wouldn't be there.

Oh, and my sister gets tons of credit on that top too. Tons of credit, including the name.

On a completely separate note, here are some links to animated short films. Goodness all around. I wish I could show you Imagemakers, because I'm sure you'd love it.

The Periwig Maker

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's time to admit defeat. Aside from the yarn that is not arriving in time and is therefore going to prevent me from finishing the afghan.

Here's what's left and can't be taken care of easily:

-the afghan
-the comfort scarf
-the House Unity scarf
-the birthday scarf

And although the end of the month is a way off, I have to prioritize for the second half of the month because I won't have all of my supplies. I have to prioritize supplies too. And books. And patterns.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It took a few weeks, but worry has been replaced with excitement. I get to go here:

Photo of Pohnpei by islagirl

and here:

Photo of Guam by zinnie.

I might not like heat, but I do love beauty.