Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The time I read The Color Purple

She read The Color Purple in August 1983. She remembers because she was in Houston and hurricane Alicia was coming through town. She, her mom and her sister had just driven down from Minneapolis, where they have moved after her mother finished rehab. After several hours on the road, Melanie’s mom switched on the CB and heard the truckers talking about the hurricane coming up the Gulf, scheduled to make landfall in the next few days.

They’d seen storms, but never a hurricane. When they arrived at her mom’s friend’s house, they promptly began to hunker down and wait for the storm. This included going to the grocery store and shopping for supplies: canned goods, bottled water, batteries and books. Her mother bought novels, crossword puzzles and coloring books to help pass the hours to be spent without electricity. And so she read The Color Purple while the winds and rain took the shingles off the houses, brought down power lines and slowly suffocated the tropical fish in the fish tank.

At the time, Melanie was 12 and about to start sixth grade. She had always been a reader and even though she probably shouldn’t have been reading a book about a woman who is molested and beaten and used, she loved The Color Purple. She still has her copy, along with most of the other books she’s ever read. She has books from her college years, books from her working at the bookstore years, books she’s borrowed from friends and never returned, and books that were given to her as gifts. She has nonfiction, memoirs, fiction and biographies. She has poetry and plays, short stories and essay collections, hard cover and paper back. She has books she is planning on reading, books she’s started but not yet finished, and books that she’ll probably never waste her time with. To her, each book is literally a chapter of her life.

Books are one of the few things she’s managed to hold on to through all the moves she’s made. And she mourns the lost copies of the children’s books she had, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, the Ramona series. Through all the moves and the storms, books were the constant.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The time I stayed up all night playing Theme Park Roller Coaster

After building another roller coaster, hiring more costumed entertainers and squashing a balloon animal makers strike, Melanie looked at the clock and noticed it was 5 a.m. She’d been up all night playing Theme Park Roller Coaster on her PlayStation 2. Well, no matter, it wasn’t like she had anywhere to go. No job means not having to get up early the next morning, and not caring what time you go to sleep. But if she continued on this way, she might totally reverse her sleep schedule and then when she did get a new job it’d have on the night shift (something they don’t normally do for office jobs).

Getting to bed was becoming increasingly difficult these days. If she had a normal life, she’d have a regular bed time enforced not by an overseeing parent, but by a desire to get a good night’s sleep before meeting the day with renewed zeal. Each night she’d complete all of the pre-bed rituals – brushing teeth, washing face, picking out clothes for the next day – knowing that they would make a difference in the way she felt the next morning. Now, there just seemed no point. Nothing was going to make a difference in the way she felt the next day. She was going to feel this way forever and ever.

What made it worse was that once she finally made it to bed, either out of boredom or sheer exhaustion, she couldn’t seem to get out of bed. She’d lie there all day trading off between dozing and watching TV. She hadn’t been eating too much, so she didn’t have to get up and go to the bathroom too often. Her body had long since stopped fighting the non movement and she could practically feel herself melting into the pillow-top mattress sometimes.

There was little that differentiated her days from one another except if she spent it on the futon in the living room or in the bed in the bedroom. He days has ceased to be broken up by morning, working, evening, sleeping. Now they were just one long span of time that rarely changed. She was saving money on groceries and laundry (thank God she had a comfortable bathrobe) but these realizations didn’t bring any happiness. Playing video games didn’t bring any happiness either. They were just another way to pass the time.

She’d never played straight through the night before. In a way it was liberating because she’d gone through the darkness of the night and seen the dawn (granted she hadn’t been paying attention). But that morning, as she went to bed, she felt, for the first time in a long time, like she’d accomplished something.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

and the Deathly Hallows

Note: Contains spoilers ! Don't read if you don't want to know what happens in the latest Harry Potter Book. Read if you've already finished the book or don't care what happen. If you don't give a damn about these books, and don't want to read me expounding on them in any way shape or form, I suggest you come back later.

Yes, I finished. Last night, around 10. I'm not going to write out a long book review because (a) there are tons of others out there (a good one is the Caffeinated Librarian) and (b) I don't think any of my two readers are Harry Potter fans. So here are my thoughts on the book and the series as a whole:

First, I don't remember the last time a book has made me weepy. I remember reading The Color Purple and crying. It's not really fair to compair the two books, but a couple of times, when certain characters died (Dobby, Fred), I found myself tearing up. I also felt elation when certain characters did good or showed their true spirit (Neville, Mrs. Weasly, Snape). So kudos to Rowling for making me care so much about these character. (and just to let you know, I am not PMSing...just my normal overly sensitive self).

However, I think Rowling's books seem to have more in common with the more recent television fantasy/suspense shows (Twin Peaks, Lost) than they do with other fantasy/suspense book series (Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia). While all of these works draw on universal themes such as war, religion and death, the television shows work on the premise that it will only go on if they have enough viewers to continue to tell the story (no cries from the TP fans, I was know people were watching it and it still got cancelled). Books, generally don't work that way. Tolkien had wanted to release his books as one rather than broken up into seperate novels. Both Twin Peaks and Lost worked because we kept (or keep) coming back to find out what happens next. When one plot point is tied up, another, more outrageous one, begins. Frodo and the Pevensie children (and the readers) find out what they have to do well before they have to do it. Like the characters on Lost and TP, Harry doesn't find out till the very end.

Does this mean I think Rowling has dumbed down literature to the level of television? No. There is room for all kinds of literature in this world, and not everyone can be Tolkien or Lewis (thank God). The success of her books has started many people reading who may not have other wise (and I say this not just from hearing other people say it - but I witnessed it in my brother who did not take to books like his sisters did, but has devoured each book in the HP series, sought out others like them and has turned into at least an occasional reader because of them) - and that can never be a bad thing. Do I think Rowling drew out the series a little longer than she probably needed to, tied up all the loose ends a little neater than they should be and gave her readers most everything they wanted? Yes. But then again, did I go get the book when it came out? Do I plan on watching all the movies over and over again? Have I ordered a Gryfindor scarf for the winter? You betcha (jk on that last one).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter

I had a fish named Harry once. He was a gold fish. At first he lived in my office at work (this was when I had a real office with a real door and a real window when I worked at the trade magazine). Then, he came home with me and lived there. It was a joke, the reason I named him Harry. He had no hair, he was a gold fish.

I don't know why Rowling named her main character Harry. I don't think his name is Harold; I've never heard him referred to that way. Odd. Anyway, along with 1/3 of the world's population, I am reading the latest and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Actually I think half of that third has already finished the book, so I am reading it along with 1/6 of the world's population. I got my copy, along with everyone else, on Saturday, the day it was released. I was not one of those who waited up until midnight at a bookstore to get a copy, though I can't say I wasn't tempted, because my sister had already ordered me a copy (and a copy for herself and a copy for my brother - we don't know how to share in our family). That didn't stop my brother for getting a copy a midnight though - and finishing it the next day.


But me, I haven't finished mine yet. First, I had a lot of things to do this weekend. Errands, you know. I'm no 16 year-old whose summer days consist of sleeping and hanging out. No, I'm a career woman who has to go to Target and shop and clean the house and do other stuff on the weekends. So I didn't start reading the book until Sunday. Also, unlike the other books, I don't have this compelling urge to get to the end. By nature I'm a fast reader and I tend to skim especially when I'm reading something that isn't too hard to understand. Of course, my retention for the Potter books hasn't been great, but really, who needs to remember everything that happens in a Harry Potter book? It isn't like I'm taking a test on it at the end of the semester. So even though I flew through the other six books in two to three days, this one has thus far taken me four days. I have about 200 pages to go, so I'll probably finish tonight. But maybe not. I seem to be dragging this one out. I guess I don't quite want it to end.


It's not that I love the series so much that I can't live without the prospects of a new one. And, even if that were the case (as it was with Star Wars) you learn to deal with it, don't you? But there's something about the end of a series. Even more so than there is about the end of a book. You want to get to the end to see how it "turns out." But you don't want to get to the end because you don't want it to, well, end. And end it will. These are not real people. They will not continue to live on. Regardless if Harry dies at the end of this book or not, in a way, he will die. Because I won't get to find out any more about him. And I've spent the last seven years learning and caring about him and the wizard world, and now he's leaving me.


It's like that book/movie Misery. Where the fan is so upset when the writer kills off the character finally ending the series that she kidnaps him and forces him to write another book. I can't see doing that to Rowling, though if I were her, I wouldn't go driving around in Maine in the winter by myself...maybe it's best that Potter is ending. I can do my errands on the weekends without feeling the pull of a 500-page book back home and get on with my Muggle life.


In the mean time, be on the lookout for my expert Deathly Hallows review in the next day or two.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How could I forget to mention the bicycle is a good invention

I bought a Trek 7.2FX WSD last weekend. It's an nice bike. I've never had a Trek before. Their headquarters and plant is in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, they only make their higher end bikes in the US. My bike had a lovely "Made in China" sticker on the head tube. Not a nice sight - not that I was particularly looking to buy a bike made in the US, but still, it'd be nice to know that US companies actually do make some of their products in this country. Even if the frame I bought was made in the States, I'm sure most of the components wouldn't be, so there's no winning.

Regardless, I bought the bike so I could start riding it to work. Yesterday morning I woke up early and hopped on the bike and trekked downtown to check out the route and see how long it would take me. Going at a fairly leisurely pace, I got to my office in about 30 minutes. Not too bad. So I would add about 10 - 15 minutes for traffic. Sure, it's longer than the Metra takes me, but this way I'm (a) saving money (after I've recouped my investment in the bike that is - after about 5 months of riding) and (b) being more environmentally conscious. Of course, there's the added health benefit. Last night, on the eve of my being a bike commuter most of the time, I packed my bag, got everything ready, put the new water bottle cage on my bike, the bike lock key on my key ring and went to bed excited and a little anxious about my morning commute. How long would it really take me? How bad was traffic going to be going down Milwaukee? Would I hate showering in the work out room in my office building? Then I remembered, I no longer have access to the work out room. I lost my key card and hadn't gotten the new one activated to enter it. Now I either had to (a) shower before I left the house and go slow enough that I wasn't too sweaty when I got to work (be) ride to the gym and shower there or (c) just take the train and put off my bike commute for one more day. I chose the latter. I'm such a wuss.

But tomorrow - I'll be riding the bike to work for sure!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

yoga

i like when i find more space
breathing in and out
able to reach more, out more, down more, in more
more space

i like it when i feel the pull
breathing in and out
the slow hotness of it spreading
pulling apart

i like it when I fill up my lungs
breathing in and out
reaching the top most point, emptying to the bottom
breath

Monday, July 16, 2007

Abandoned

I see those bikes that have so clearly been abandoned and wonder how they get that way. Sometimes the front wheel is missing. Sometimes they lay, crashed to the ground, bent. Sometimes the chain is off and all rusty. Sometimes there is only the frame left locked to the bike rack. Everything else, wheels, chain, shifters, handle bars, seat, removed from the sad bike that's been left.

I once left a bike for dead in college. A friend of my mother's gave it to me. She never rode it. It was old, but still usable. I rode it only a few times my freshman year . When I moved back home for the summer I forgot it. It stayed chained to the under-used bike rack behind my dorm all winter and summer. It turned into one of those rusted, forgotten bikes. It was still there when I got back to school the next fall. But I did nothing about it. It may be there still.

I guess that's how bikes get that way. But in a city, a large city, it seems odd that someone would chain up a bike, on a busy street, and then just forget about it and then be too embarrassed, or not care enough, to go back and get it. But apparently it happens. I always feel sad for the bikes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

After lunch with some friends, I was walking back to my office across the Jackson Street bridge, when the homeless woman who asks passersby "Hi, can you spare some change?" stops mid sentence to say something to me about eating (I had just taken a bite out of a Twizzler) and I think terrorism. Now, this isn't the first time this has happened. She's made weird, somewhat nasty comments to me a couple of times before. I've never heard her speak to other people this way. And I asked a coworker, who walks past her every day on the way to his train, if she's ever said anything to him, and he said no. Not sure what I did to make her so upset with me.

However, shortly after this happened, I continued on my walk down the street and just as I was wiping away the juice I had just dribbled down my chin, a man walks by me and says "You sure are beautiful." It's nice to be complimented.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Warning: Contains spoilers!

I saw the new Harry Potter movie at a midnight showing on Tuesday (or rather Wednesday morning). It's been a long time since I've been to a midnight movie...and being a school night, I had to take a nap before I went (so sad getting old). Anyway, here are my takes on the movie and the midnight movie experience:

I have a total crush on Daniel Radcliff. Who knew that geeky, bespeckled kid would grow up to be a rather cute teenager. He's about to turn 18, which makes him legal. Mr. H. has yet to give me permission to pursue him.

I really was expecting more movie goers to be dressed up as wizards and witches. I saw a couple that had on long robes, but they also had a goth look about them, so this could be their daily garb. I did notice a man who was sporting a Ravenclaw scarf. That was kind of cool. It would have been neat for the producers/movie theaters to hand out scarfs to everyone who attended a midnight showing, and then you would have to sit and watch the movie depending on which house scarf you were wearing. It would have been a fun way to get the audience more involved and really make it a group experience.

Order of the Phoenix is the longest Harry Potter book thus far. So it's no surprise that they would have to cut a bit out of it to fit everything into a 2 hour 18 minute movie. However, while the part of me that was happy that this movie was only just over 2 hours because I was seeing it at midnight, the part of me that wanted the movie to be a little more true to the book was disappointed. The director and screenwriter consolidated quite a bit of material and left a couple of subplots out. I wasn't all that disappointed that we didn't get to see Herminone's efforts to knit scarfs and hats for the house elfs, though I do remember on my recent rereading of the book that it would be fun to watch her magically knit a scarf. But some of the things that I felt were integral to the plot and feel of the book, were included but quickly, so as not to take up too much screen time.

I didn't really get a feel for how angry Harry was that no one talked to him all summer or that Dumbledore pretty much ignored him during the school year. When Harry finds out about Snape's past and his interactions with Harry's dad, you never really get a feel for how awful Harry's father was to Snape, how that colors all of Snape's dealings with Harry, nor do you see the outcome of how conflicted Harry is because of this new information about his father - who up until now, he's pretty much placed on a pedestal. These new revelations also inform Harry more about Sirius's past and other than seeing how much Harry loves and depends upon his godfather, we don't really see his character developed more (which is a shame since he dies at the end of the movie).

Some of the less important plot developments, but things I would have loved to see more of include the relationship Cho and Harry and Cho's conflicted feelings about liking Harry; Neville and his parents and how they are currently confided to the hospital because they've been driven crazy; the twins, George and Fred, efforts to thwart Umbridge; and how important the O.W.L.'s are to the students and the toll studying for them took.

Finally, I was disappointed in the final battle scenes. We didn't see anywhere enough of the Ministry of Secrets and what it took for the children to get to the room with the prophecies. When the children are fighting the Death Eaters, no one gets seriously hurt (quite a difference from the book) and it is all just flashing wands rather than a real battle. Finally, the fight scene between Dumbledore and Voldemort is so much more exciting and cool in the book. I was really looking forward to seeing the statues come alive and protect Harry.

Overall, I wanted to really like this movie. I thought the Goblet of Fire was a great movie and stayed true enough to the book. But as a fan of the books, I was let down. I also have a sneaking suspicion that maybe the movie skimmed over so much that it might be confusing to a viewer who hasn't read the book. Of course, I can't know this for myself, because I've read the book (and in anticipation of the movie and the final book, I reread them quite recently). So I'd love to hear from someone who hasn't read the book and what their thoughts on the movie are. Until then, I'll probably see the movie over and over (when it comes out on cable and DVD) and may even venture to the IMAX theater, because even though the last fight scene was as good as it could be, you get to watch it in 3D at the IMAX and that's got to up the cool factor, and I'll keep hoping that Mr. H. will suddenly turn into Daniel Radcliff just for a day.

PS - Thanks to Abby for the idea about the scarfs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

baby dreams

had a dream about being pregnant (don't tell Mr. H. - he'll break out in hives or something). It's interesting how we dream about things that haven't happened to us yet. I have no idea what it's like to be nine months pregnant. In the dream we were flying or driving somewhere, or doing some combination of both, and I was pretty much ready to pop (don't tell me about how you can't fly after a your second trimester, this was a dream). My sister was there, and we were looking for our old house (this part of the dream stems from us, my sister and I, trying to find out all the addresses we've ever lived at - which have been many - and going on a quest to find them). At some point in the trip I fell asleep, and when I woke up (in my dream that is), I was amazed that I was still pregnant. I had totally expected that I would give birth while I was sleeping. I guess I have a pretty hopeful (and unrealistic) view of the whole birthing experience huh?

Anyway, Mr. H. and I have been discussing the whole having a kid thing (I say it like that so it doesn't sound like I totally want a baby - because I secretly think if I am too eager to have a baby, Mr. H. will completely shut down and I'll get too old - it's a good thing Mr. H. doesn't read this blog!). So obviously, the whole baby thing is on my mind. Mr. H. asked me the other day why I wanted a baby. And I think this dream totally illustrates the reason: because the birth will be easy and it'll help me find my past. OK, not really. But I have been thinking about why I want a child. Of course, there's the whole thousands of years of evolution and what not. But then again, for years I wasn't sure if I even wanted children. And I'm one of those people that believe that we don't really need more people on this Earth (we probably need less). I also think about all those children out there who don't have families, and wouldn't I be a more responsible citizen by adopting a child rather than having one of my own (of course that brings up a whole host of other social issues like why children are up for adoption, whether I would adopt a baby or an older child, is it OK to adopt a child not of the same race or heritage as yourself...you see what I mean). But now that I am in my mid 30's, I find myself wanting a baby. I do the whole annoying cooing at cute babies and toddlers. I LOVE spending time with my nephews and niece. So is this just the biological clock ticking and evolution pushing me or is there something more?

I think more than anything, you can't intellectualize this decision. Sure, it's partially biological clock, part evolution, part love for Mr. H. and my firm belief that he would be a wonderful father, and that having a child together would be something that I can't even start to find words for.

PS - Just to let all you inquiring minds know, I am not pregnant.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sun and Poker

It's not a good idea to go to the beach and forget to put sun screen on your stomach. Especially if you're wearing a bikini (even if it's one of those "boy shorts" ones, that covers up most of your ass, but not so much of your stomach). I'm past the "oh my God, I burnt my stomach so much I can barely move" stage, and into the "yuck, my skin is sloughing off" stage. Not fun, and kinda itchy.



On a totally different note, since when did Poker become a sport. I mean really? I'm looking for listings for the Tour de France, and it's showing me poker tournaments. There is no sport there (except being a good sport when you loose - and you will loose). OK, so I looked up the definition of sport (n) and the first definition is "a source of diversion." So I guess poker is a sport. Then so is reading (which means I'm very sporty). But seriously, do we consider this a "real" sport?

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