I went to St. Martin's rose-themed Christmas concert last night. It's saying something that the music I would really like to share with you is of limited availability online. The real center piece of the evening, though, was Hugo Distler's Die Weihnachtsgeschichte (1933) a 40 minute piece that tells the Christmas Story as a choral piece with solos and tied together with 6 variations of 'Es ist ein Ros entsprungen' ('Lo how a Rose').

The experience was lovely, but a little weird, as Distler's music often is for me. (Fans of German church music often put him in the tradition of Henrich Schütz (1600s) ... another one of my favorites.) Listening in the cathedral with the music washing over me... I can't describe it really, except to say, I have been able to really sit with the Christmas Story this year in a way I would not have been able to do in years past.

There are probably a very limited number of persons interested in listening to the whole thing, but the clips aren't as good as this full presentation on youtube. So if you want to sit with it, here it is:

I'm posting this a little early this year. Let me know if you are looking for specific recommendations....

Read more... )
I'm about half way through the 2nd volume of Doris Lessing's autobiography, which closely matches the material in The Golden Notebook, which I finally read last year. I still haven't written about reading The Golden Notebook... in some ways it hit too close to home. How could I respond or even address what she had already written so perfectly. The book is not for everyone, I find I cannot recommend it, and yet... there is a reason I think it resonates so deeply with the readers it does find. For me, I keep repeating, "This is the 1950s and so little has changed!"

Read more... )
It's snowing!

Last year I missed both autumn and first snow because I was in Costa Rica.

This year, I am grateful for both.

Read more... )
Does it ever feel like Johnny Depp is now doing the Big Budget versions of films he already made in the 90s?



I think I may have mentioned a conversation I had a few weeks (months!) ago with workcrush in which he's asked, "Who are your people?"

I suspect that's a question that will take a lifetime to answer, because lacking blood affiliations outside my natal family, it's always changing. I suspect the same is true for people with blood-ties, but that is another topic for another time.

But last night I went to a reading by Terry Tempest Williams and as she reading (making me feel like she was both looking and speaking directly at me) I realized that I was among my people. Not just the elderly, environmental, lesbians that packed the crowd (okay, so most of them were probably not lesbians, but the typical late-middle aged readers that attend these things as they no longer have the obligations of blood-ties, parents having died, children having grown...) but Williams herself who was telling me about what it was like to be a woman and a writer.

It was the strangest mirror, at once a moment of recognition, and a kind of mystery that someone else had arrived at the same place without ever having encountered one another before. That she is an essayist, comes from a religious family (Mormon, but whatever), and is passionately dedicated to the West are also points of contact... but mostly it was the way she described her compulsion.

At one point she said, "As a writer, I am aware that every time I pick up my pencil I betray someone; my decision is to be true to myself." And that rang true enough to write it down.

The whole evening was eerie that way. I don't know quite what to make of it. Among other things she has had the career I dream about, and some of the awards to which I aspire. But perhaps most interesting is that in a family tree stuffed with British grandmothers, it was like I had found an American aunt or mother. So rare.

Afterwards when we queued for her to sign books it turned out she knew almost everyone in the audience. So when it was my turn she said, "I don't believe we've met before, how did you hear about this?" I told her about an interview I'd heard on a radio show and we chatted briefly before she asked, "What's your passion?"

"I'm a Woman of the Word, like you," I said.

She laughed and then signed my book, "For you, Sarah. Voice. Courage. Faith." It's probably how she signed everyone's books that evening, but it felt like a special benison, just for me.
Venus transited the Sun and took one of our solar system's beloved authors with her:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/books/ray-bradbury-popularizer-of-science-fiction-dies-at-91.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

I don't suppose I mentioned that I recently re-read Martian Chronicles and gave a copy to Carlos, which has since been passed around the Costa Rican office to much acclaim. Books are harder to come by in CR, so I sent a hardcover copy.

The 1997 foreward to Martian Chronicles features the following story about Bradbury meeting Aldous Hudley just after its 1950 publication. "Do you know what you are?" said Huxley.

Don't tell me what I'm doing, I thought. I don't want to know.

"You are a poet," said Huxley.

"I'll be damned," I said.

"No, blessed," said Huxley.
In honor of Wednesday's transit, you may find the following amusing:

http://www.space.com/15816-venus-transits-sun-history-images.html

Also, John Philip Sousa's march:

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/natlib/ihas/service/transit/200002625/0001.mp3
Essayist and activist Terry Tempest Williams will be speaking at Tattered Cover Lodo June 14 @ 7:30. I will be attending. You are welcome to join me.

Here is a 2011 interview:

http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/vitality-of-struggle/

Her meditations on politics, family, the American West, and what she calls 'sacred rage' have always resonated strongly with me.

Related Jana Richman's The Last Cowgirl:

http://zalena.livejournal.com/801006.html

Both radically changed my thinking about the American West and the place of women (& religion) in it.

"I don't think civil discourse is enough... how do we really find a more meaningful conversation? It's not enough to get a smile from your enemy. What I want to know is what you're really thinking, what you're really feeling, and how did you come to that knowledge?" - Terry Tempest Williams
I think writing about the past week or so is still just a little beyond me. Or maybe we should just say I'm exploring my other modalities...

For this week's Jubilee Read... Alan Bennett's Uncommon Reader about what happens when QEII discovers literature in mobil library.

Quotable moments:

"...briefing is not reading. In fact it is the antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive an perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up." (p21-2)

"The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books id not care who was reaing them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic... It is only now she understood what it meant." (p30-1)

"You don't put your life into books. You find it there." (p101)

Also some hilarious nasty bits about how boring and self-centered authors are. Mr. Bennett should know!

Not sure I agree with all this, but I enjoyed it, particularly because it was short. (Though the fantasy at the end... phew! A political discussion for another time!)
Brilliant interview with author Marilynn Robinson on John Calvin:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01hq373/Night_Waves_Barbaric_Genius/

Start at 22:30

"The thing that Calvin valorizes beyond all things is the presence of the mind in the world."

When he asks why they are viewed as so severe she says they were on the losing end of many wars, and as the leading voices of Abolistionism in the US refused to find humor in human bondage... that is an interesting interpretation, and also one that resonates a little more than it ought.

For more about Calvin's links to 19C literature (inc her description of reading Moby Dick & the Institutes side by side) and her take on 'election' (aka pre-destination) listen to the interview!

This is a very different take than you will get elsewhere. And while Calvin certainly deserves the reputation he no doubt enjoys, and while all the nasty things you've heard about him are also true... she is right on the mark.

Loved Gilead, hated Home. Haven't read Housekeeping, but clearly need to keep up on her essays. Not very many people understand this interpretation. It's no wonder people keep sending me her books!
Reposted from FB, this Ben Hatke robot comic (courtesy of the beautiful [livejournal.com profile] sdn)
http://zitaspacegirl.com/wp-content/uploads/robot17.jpg

It brought to mind Samuel Taylor Coelridge's Lime Tree Bower My Prison

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173248

written upon his disappointment when he was not able to join his friend Charles Lamb on a long-anticipated walk. Charles Lamb had a life much marred by tragedy, not the least of which was the murder of his mother by his sister Mary. Rather than having her institutionalized, he took on her care for the rest of their lives. (They wrote together, among other things, Tales from Shakespeare, through which many --- including myself --- are introduced to the works of the Bard.)

Coelridge affirms in this poem that beauty doesn't just come from the pleasant friendships and vistas, but that "No sound is dissonant which tells of Life."

This poem, along with Work Without Hope (and of course, the BPs favorite Rime of the Ancient Mariner) has always had special meaning for me. It was given to me by a friend when I was going through my own difficult time... when life had given me way more citrus than I thought I could handle. Not only did it affirm our friendship, but it was a reminder that where there is life, there is not just hope, but beauty.

It also reminded me of one of my favorite aphorisms: "When life gives you lemons, stuff 'em in your bra. Can't hurt, might help." ;)
Finally, this op-ed about Nuns on the Frontier opened a whole new world of imagination for me. Not exactly Death Comes for the Archbishop, nor Two Mules for Sister Sara (which, despite its many failings, has a very sexy arrow removal scene. Go Clint!) But a sincere wish that Timothy Egan was writing better pieces on his West beat... His writing since Worst Hard Time have been somewhat disappointing. This article by Western scholar Anne M. Butler (whose work I've hit before) is more like it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/opinion/nuns-on-the-frontier.html
In other news, if the death of Maurice Sendak was not enough, this week Jean Craighead George died:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/books/jean-craighead-george-childrens-author-dies-at-92.html?_r=1

You've probably read some of her books, among them, My Side of the Mountain a classic wilderness novel and Julie of the Wolves.
In calling upon us to care about and answer to those "strange strangers" that live on and with us — including the teeming colonies of bacteria in the crooks of our elbows, the worms that render earth livable for humans, and the foodstuffs that nourish and give shape to our bodies — Morton and Bennett seek to make visible, and palpable, the "mesh" that brings us into contact with all of our inhuman others. In this sense, we might argue that they both see the kind of criticism they engage in as an encounter with the fundamental strangeness of being itself: the more we know about who "we" are, the further we find ourselves from the "us" with whom we began.

I'd say it's a little over-focused on 'plant horror' but it's still a provocative review.

http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type=&id=622&fulltext=1&media=
I told Brother about visiting the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit and he switched almost immediately to one of my favorite designers John Paul Gautier. "He's been doing some really weird stuff lately," he said.

"He always does weird stuff," I said, but realized I hadn't checked in on the latest collections.

Clips behind the cut... )
http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/04/30/thoreaus-walden-the-video-game/

Ian Bogost (creator of a Zen game) has not weighed in yet, but he did have several wonderful posts this week, including one on convincing spambots commenting in his blog:

There's no doubt that they are spam, but its now clear that the spambots are carefully reading my blog (and other, related blogs)—perhaps more carefully than many human readers.

Even better, his article in The Atlantic about the New Aesthetics. (I hate it when they call it that.) This is part of the explosion of OOO that I'm into right now:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-new-aesthetic-needs-to-get-weirder/255838/

BTW - The Ecological Thought is a near perfect crystalization of the BPs recent thought, an excellent overview for newcomers to the field, and quite persuasive. I'm going back to read Ecology Without Nature, but first Bogost's own Alien Phenomenology.

In other news: I've been on a news brownout for about 2 weeks, but a short commentary on recent trials re: Guantanamo unearthed this detail 'they refuse to wear their headphones to hear Arabic translations of the trial' that pushed some weird button (probably the HDT one from Civil Disobedience about the only place for a just man) and news about Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is thrilling me due to the way everyone is finally having to talk about the elephant in the room: our relationship with China and China's human rights policy.

These things all seem related to me. And HDT seems to be knocking daily. It might be time to get started on my next project.

P.S. Speaking of OOO, today a bought two dish towels, a riff on Magritte's 'This is not a pipe' painting. One has a mixer, the other a blender, both bear the inscriptions, 'this is not a ______" (whatever the image of the object is depicting.) For some reason I found these incredibly amusing. They are also swift mnemonic devices to illustrate the difference between the thing and the image of the thing, which is a unique entity unto itself.
There's a lot more I wanted to fit into this review, but I'm happy with those things I was able to fit in despite the limitations of the form and forum:

http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Letter-Blocks-The-BN-Parents-and/Radiant-Days-Elizabeth-Hand-s-YA-novel-about-the-legacy-of/ba-p/1327009

Read it before they ask me to take the f-bomb out!

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