We started streaming maybe 8 or 9 years ago when the Roku box first came out. Cut that damn cable and it opened up a whole new world of TV viewing. Now you can subscribe to any number of channels and get about a gazillion shows, movies, series, music… which doesn’t necessarily mean you can always find something you want to watch.
Now HBO Max, Netflix, Prime and others will happily suggest ‘if you watched this mystery movie, surely you will like all these’. My suggestions run from Viking shows, to foreign murder mysteries, to outer space horror killer clowns.
Sometimes I just turn the TV off and read a book. And, that leads me to the latest installment of What I’ve Read Lately.
Stephen King’s latest book Fairy Tale. Now, I haven’t read a Stephen King book in many years, though I was a big fan of King from the beginning. I was enthralled with every part of the story and characters. It was a delight to read and I was sad to see it end–the highest praise for any book.
The Book of Night Women sort of hits you in the gut. I can still remember the emotions I had when reading it. Written by Marlon James who was National Book Award finalist for Black Leopard, Red Wolf and the WINNER of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings. This is a review from Time Out New York that tells it better than I could. “James has given us an epic novel of late-eighteenth-century West Indian slavery, complete with all its carnage and brutishness, but one that, like a Toni Morrison novel, whispers rather than shouts its horrors.”
Then I’ve read a series of murder mysteries taking place on the Scottish coast–The Dr. Cathy Moreland Mysteries by Mairi Chong. There are a lot of fairly decent books in Kindle Unlimited. Sometimes, I just like a quick, easy, but suspenseful read. The author J.D. Barker has some good mystery books in Unlimited as well.
It’s hotter than blue blazes here in Texas. Every stinking day for at least a month it’s been over 100 degrees. Thank God for air-conditioning–I say before I see my smoking hot monthly electric bill.
What have y’all been up to?
I threw myself a 75th birthday party with two homemade cakes courtesy of hubby. Lots of family came in town and my eclectic group of friends came to wish me well. It was a super party. Everyone brought me wine or vodka. Hmm, what did that say?
I’m getting out a little more. Living thru the pandemic which seems to have no end in site. Still wearing that mask, but going a few more places. Like the Van Gogh Immersive show. What a wonderful experience.
I’ve been reading a lot. My ability to read a long book is over. I mostly find murder mysteries or sci-fi novels. River of Gods by Candice Millard is a very good book about Sir Richard Francis Burton. He’s one of my favorite historical people. Olga Dies Dreaming: a novel by Xochitl Gonzalez is excellent as well.
So, when do you think ‘the former guy’ will finally get arrested for the umpty-million treason acts he’s committed? Can they please also take his whole family and his cohorts in Congress? It still amazes me how people can believe and adore him. I’ll say one thing, In the four years he was president, he and his administration managed to perpetrate a humongous amount of scandalous and down-right scary deeds.
Here’s a quote I really like: “To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
― Oscar Wilde
I’m very appreciative of the life I have right now. I hope you all can find a balance, a peace, a joy in your life.
I leave you with this picture of the grandkids–because I’m sure they are the cutest ever!!!
Sometimes in social media there are posts on finding joy in your life. Often we are asked to list every day what constitutes a joyful experience for us. I never lasted more than a day or two of keeping track. Today, I did think about it because… it’s Sunday.
Recommended watching: This past Thursday, the last season of The Expanse(on Prime) premiered. It’s based on James S A Corey’s novels The Expanse. In all my considerable years, this is the most amazing and thoughtful sci-fi show ever.
Humanity is out in space. Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned to get along. There are the inners (Earthers), Mars (who want to be free from Earth), and the Belters (Beltalowdas) those who live on the outer moons and asteroids. Before the premier, fans from all over the globe did get along thru a ZOOM meeting to discuss aspects of the show. It brought me much joy to see and hear the ‘expanse’ of the show’s fandom.
Recommended reading: Amor Towles’ Lincoln Highway. A tale of travel, discovery, heartfelt characters and a quite emotional ending. At first, I didn’t think he could outdo his A Gentleman in Moscow. And, while this book is different, it is that same irresistible unfolding of a good story.
Recommended human contact: Man, these past almost two years have been rough as far as in person contact. As more folks are vaccinated, lately I had the total joy of visiting with several friends in person. A few of these folks are long-time friends and catching up was glorious. Thru the Messenger App we saw our grandchildren look for candy canes and an elf in their Christmas tree. Also, a group of volunteers I work with met for a small party and White Elephant gift giving. I got this!
Recommended outdoor exercise: I try to walk everyday along the city trails near my home. I see the season changing finally to Fall. And, there are deer! All sizes from little guys to big bucks. They are so domesticated they will amble right in front of you–expecting you to wait till mom and her kids cross the trail. Yesterday, the squirrels were fussing at me as they seemed to be chasing each other perhaps in some squirrelly mating ritual.
Every once in a while I run across a question on Twitter or Facebook that goes something like this, “what are some books you read and still think about? Or, what’s your favorite book or author?”
That’s a really hard question to answer for anyone who is a life-long reader such as I am. And, anyway, I always go especially blank when I see those questions. So, I started making a list that, over time, probably includes some of the books that answer those inquiring minds.
This is a quote from a reviewer on Amazon who tells it better than I could. Sir Richard Francis Burton was a mid 1800’s British explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. (and I’m going to add ‘lover’) Known for entering Mecca as a non-believer disguised as a Muslim, a act that would have brought him death had he been discovered, is also credited with translating the entire original sixteen volumes of “The Arabian Night” and Kama Sutra. Furthermore he is known for his public debate with Captain John Hanning Speke over the discovery of the source of the Nile. After I read this book I thought, If they ask me what deceased person I would like to meet, I will always say Sir Richard Francis Burton first. He could teach me some Kama Sutra poses. Also, check out the excellent movie “Mountains of the Moon” about the trip to find the source of the Nile.
The Scar by China Miéville This book won many awards in the Sci-Fi genre. I have a hard time imaging the brain this book came from. What a long strange trip it was reading. And, I’ve never forgotten the wonderful uniqueness of this book. Shucks, I might read it again!
Gertrude Bell Queen of the Desert If you saw the movie about this book with Nicole Kidman–forget it!. Read the book! Seven facts about Ms. Bell from Wendy Mead
Bell was the first woman to earn first-degree honors in modern history at Oxford; Bell was unlucky in love; A skilled mountaineer, Bell almost met her end on a slope; Bell’s fascination with the Middle East began with a visit to Iran in 1892; Bell was passionate about archaeology; Bell was the only woman working for the British government in the Middle East; Bell helped establish what is now the Iraq Museum.
Read the book especially if you are a woman. You’ll say, “Why haven’t I heard of her before?” Yeah! good question.
I’ve been asking myself lately, why, oh why, do I keeping thinking about things from my past–specifically from the 1960s and 70s? Especially, when I can’t remember what I ate for lunch or my neighbor’s last name?
I questioned does this happen to others and why? I Googled: why do older folks dream of the past?
Dreaming of the past and the world beyond
An article by Katy Waldman calls it the ‘reminiscence bump’. “The basic finding is this: We remember more events from late adolescence and early adulthood than from any other stage of our lives. This phenomenon is called the reminiscence bump.” A robust line of research shows that there really is something deeply, weirdly meaningful about this period. It plays an outsize role in how we structure our expectations, stories, and memories.” Voile! That makes sense to me.
Kate Morton, a truly resplendent author, says this about memories in her book The Clockmaker’s Daughter. “Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and buffed for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.”
I reached a moment of clarity when reading her comparison of sentimentality to nostalgia to “Sentimentality is mawkish and cloying, where nostalgia is acute and aching. It describes yearning of the most profound kind: an awareness that time’s passage could not be stopped and there was no going back to reclaim a moment or a person or to do things differently.” However, as I have previously stated, I have no deep regrets and I hardly ever say “if I had only…”
So out of my head and on to the stars for a moment as I embraced the cosmos with one of my favorite persons on twitter Sarafina Nance, who goes by the handle @starstrickenSF she is an Astrophysics PhD, a stargazer and an eternal optimist. She greeted today with an out-of-this-world observation about the universe
…some stars explode, their light as bright as entire galaxies, while others collapse in on themselves, stuffing all their mass into a tiny yet supermassive blip in space-time. Some stars are so massive, and their photons so many, that the stellar surface simply floats away, forcing the star to disintegrate others are so small, barely larger than Jupiter, that they live on for trillions of years, bearing witness to the cosmos in a way nothing else can.
She has also said all of us will be stardust someday, how cool is that?
“Age changes you in ways you least expect” I heard this quote in a movie last week, but can’t remember which one. I thought about it off and on for a few days with the conclusion that this is most certainly a true statement.
Sitting outside a coffee shop, reading Patti Smith’s book “My Train,” I became filled with a thoughtfulness regarding my life. Feeling like a cheap imitation of Smith, I start writing on a scrap piece of paper thoughts for a post.
I’ve always been aware of Patti Smith because of her music. Often called the “punk poet laureate,” Smith has an impressive musical repertoire which still influences many.
After reading “Just Kids” a few years ago, I became a huge fan of her literary mind as well. I am at the same time appreciative and envious of her experiences and courage to travel her many creative paths—all while keeping in mind the difficulties of her life which arrived uninvited.
From my 2013 Twitter: I wonder what compels me to constantly try to do things out of my comfort zone?
Was I courageous in the paths I took in my life? Did I travel to places I always wanted to see? Did I follow a risky decision to some sort of personal transcendent conclusion? Can I still call myself a life-long learner? Am I still willing to explore new things out of my comfort zone? Yes and No.
Yes. In the summer of 2018 the hubby and I took a 5K mile road trip—in our Ford Fiesta–up to Minnesota, down to Nebraska over to Colorado and across to New Mexico—stopping on the way to see family and friends. No. I vow never to do this again.
Yes. I still read fiction and non-fiction. I recently discovered Wired magazine which I admit to some of it being over my head, but I’m learning. No. I don’t finish books that don’t grab me in the first chapter or two.
Mom and me. She had me reading at a very young age.
My mother used to say ‘only boring people get bored.’ Though I often say to others I have no regrets in this life, I occasionally lament some of my mistakes. But my life was not and is not boring. May your life be the same.
Yes, I out of my comfort zone riding the tram in Telluride.
A younger me with my son who I raised as a single mother.
I recently rediscovered the amazingly good science fiction novels by Jack McDevitt. I’d read a number of his books published in 2000-2012. His stories specifically interested me because they were action loaded, pithy, and plausible–in a sci-fi kind of way. The Priscilla Hutchins series starred a strong female character, which I like as well.
Now as I re-read them in order, I see that almost 20 years ago he was telling the far-away future, with insights that are still quite relevant today. The following are some quotes that made me think he could have written these stories last week.
“There’d been studies over the years supporting the proposition that groups composed exclusively of women usually made intelligent decisions, that exclusively male groups did a bit less well, and that mixed groups did most poorly of all, by a substantial margin. It appeared that, when women were present, testosterone got the upper hand and men took greater risks than they might otherwise. Correspondingly, women in the mixed group tended to revert to roles, becoming more passive, and going along with whatever misjudgment the males might perpetrate.” Chindi (The Academy series (Priscilla Hutchins) Book 3) by Jack McDevitt
“There is, he’d said, an inverse correlation between the amount of power a person has and the level at which his or her mind functions. A person of ordinary intelligence who acquires power, of whatever kind, tends to develop an exaggerated view of his own capabilities. Sycophants gather. There is little or no criticism of decisions. As his ability to disrupt the lives of others advances, these tendencies become stronger. Eventually you end with Louis the Fourteenth, who thinks he’s done a good job for France, although the country he left behind was ruined.” Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt
“Freedom and idiots make a volatile mix. And the sad truth is that the idiocy quotient in the general population is alarmingly high.”
“It is not faith per se that creates the problem; it is conviction, the notion that one cannot be wrong, that opposing views are necessarily invalid and may even be intolerable.” both attributed to Gregory MacAllister, “Downhill All the Way” in the book Odyssey (The Academy series(Priscilla Hutchins) novel Book 5) by Jack McDevitt
I hope y’all had a swell Thanksgiving with your respective families. From what I’ve been seeing Christmas season began in October now, with decorations going up in the shopping centers and streets right before Halloween.
The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion, the National Retail Federation estimates. I’m no fan of all the commercialization. However, I realize what I think matters not a whit. More on Christmas economic facts if you are interested.
The hubby and I were on our own for Turkey Day but were in touch with all our relatives via the wonders of modern technology. We watched the Minnesota daughter and family put up their Christmas tree via live chat. I’m wondering if it will survive the two small boys and very large puppy until the 25th.
The kitchen was sticky for a week as Richard worked on juicing 6 gallons of tangerines from our two trees in our back courtyard. We also ate plenty and had multiple bags of gift fruit. (there were a few grapefruit and oranges as well)
Still busy with work both paid and unpaid. But, always make time for reading and live streaming on the telly.
I save quotes from books via my Kindle. Here’s one from Varina, by Charles Frazier. She was the wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States. V had a very adventurous and long life. This quote seems to explain not only our history but our present politics as well.
“Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather-light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one or the other. Every time —ten out of ten—he’ll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. Because the sack’s what’s behind the ideals, like the foundation under a building. And that’s how freedom and chains and a whipping post can live alongside each other comfortably.”
I leave you with a quote from The Oregon Trail by Buck Rinker for whatever path you are on, whatever your passion is.
“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.”
Evidently, I was still a very young child when my mother introduced me to books, setting me on a life-long safari of endless reading adventures.
Lazing in the pool soaking up sun always sets my mind to wandering. Yesterday I was reminiscing about how when I was about seven years old my parents bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. It was a big dollar investment in those days (1954). I remember the salesman talking about an installment plan. It was also a big load of books for an ‘always on the move’ Army family.
I started with the first letter of the alphabet and, over time, worked my way through XYZ. I finished up as I turned 11. It was glorious journey. My siblings were younger, but the books grew up with them as well.
Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” I’m so glad my parents invested in our knowledge in this way.
Of course, there is now a very different set of Encyclopedia Britannica online which is just one of the places I go for information. It’s worth checking out.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual San Antonio Public Library’s Book Festival. Out of a good many speakers, I chose to hear Juli Berwald the author of Spineless–the science of Jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone. She was very good–entertaining and well-versed in jellyfish. So now I am about half way through the book. The hubby is reading it as well. Who would have thunk it! Jellyfish are quite the animal! I’m looking up Jellyfish documentaries on Netflix asap.
I recently read The Monk of Mokha a tale of Yemen, coffee and a tenaciously motivated young man who resurrectes the coffee trade in Yemen. If you think this would be a bland read, guess again. It’s as rich as Yemeni coffee itself. And, there’s the volatile, multi-leg journey racing across Yemen–as it turns into a war zone–carrying his coffee samples to the conference that will make or break his multi-year efforts. Dave Eggers is the author and he never disappoints.
The newest book from Yan Martel, author of Life of Pi, is The High Mountains of Portugal. Three seemingly different tales weaving together with a slightly surreal tinge. Parts of it seems to go on a bit, but stick with it for a fine reading experience.
I dearly love British crime/mysteries whether they be books, TV shows or movies. Author Alex Marwood was recently recommended by Stephen King on Twitter. I figured her books were damn good if he recommended them. The Wicked Girls and The Darkest Secret are psychological thrillers hard to put down till you get to the end. And, as the Brits might say ‘bloody good characters’ as well.