Bathtub Reading

Reading Santa

I read a lot. I mean A LOT. I may review one or two books a week, but I read a bunch more than that. The bulk of what I read is catalogued over at my book blog. Anyway, Rob did a “ten books that have stayed with you” thing over on Facebook, and since I’m tired and crabby and really wanna finish decorating my tree, I’m going to participate.

Again, these are in the order they occur to me. And I’m posting them without comment. Some are good literature, some are media tie-ins. All had something in them that has stuck in my brain.

  • The Eight, by Katherine Neville
  • Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
  • A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik
  • Mothers, by Jax Peter Lowell
  • Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Outside Lies Magic, by John Stilgoe

It should be noted that these are not a TOP ten, or BEST ten, they’re just ten books that I go back to from time to time.

Honorable mentions go to Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, and anything Keith R. A. DeCandido has ever written, especially his stuff within the Star Trek universe, but his original work as well, because he’s just so damned readable, and because he always has these details that seem insignificant until you realize that they make his characters sing. Seriously, go read Dragon Precinct (and its sequels) because they’re just AWESOME.

So, why is this called “Bathtub Reading”? Because my measure of how much I adore a book is how long I’m willing to stay in the bath with it. Really good, gripping, compelling writing leaves me cold and pruney. Books that are just okay don’t cause me to linger that long.

Today’s Santa: A Santa ornament with a book (perhaps the book of Naughty and Nice Names?) seemed an obvious choice for this post. He’s very heavy. Ceramic. Hand painted.

Thursday 13: Beau Melange

No theme, just miscellany.

1) This quotation about the recipe for coffee, according to Talleyrand, always makes me grin:

Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.

2) All day yesterday the word anamnesis was caught in my brain. It’s used liturgically to refer to a memorial act – the Holy Communion in high church. In English, we say “remembrance.” – Do this in remembrance of me – but anamnesis is a deeper memorial. Not just witnessing, but participating in the memory AND the mystery.

3) I watched MSNBC’s coverage of the introduction of the new pope yesterday. My favorite quote, from one of the commentators:

I love that he’s a Jesuit. This means he has a brain.

Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the person who said it.

4) Since the beginning of the year, I’ve reduced my coffee intake to one cup a day, but I’m spending the time to make really amazing coffee. Most recently, I’ve been using a tiny Bialetti moka pot. I love it to bits.

5) Last month, I splurged on tea from Teasim. They make an organic Earl Grey that is so fragrant, it makes me want to take a bath in it, but today I was drinking an herbal blend of peppermint, licorice root and cloves. It made my head feel better.

6) According to Henry Fielding:

Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.

7) I haven’t been blogging a lot because I’ve been in a serious reading mood. Specifically I’ve been reading a lot of Star Trek fiction because I feel like I need to escape.

8) Fuzzy and I saw Oz the Great and Powerful last week. It was good, but I couldn’t help contrasting it with the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland. Both fantasy lands are interesting, but I think I prefer the darker, gritter Wonderland.

9) My favorite version of Oz is the SyFy miniseries Tin Man. This has nothing whatsoever to do with my undying love for actor Neal McDonough. Or rather, for his work.

10) The rules of Rock Scissors Paper Lizard Spock, as explained by Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on The Big Bang Theory:

1. Scissors cuts Paper

2. Paper covers Rock

3. Rock crushes Lizard

4. Lizard poisons Spock

5. Spock smashes Scissors

6. Scissors decapitates Lizard

7. Lizard eats Paper

8. Paper disproves Spock

9. Spock vaporizes Rock

10. Rock crushes Scissors

11) As I write this, at a bit after 2 in the morning, there are five dogs sleeping in my room. Dog number four is Aztec, our current foster. The most Zen chihuahua in the world.

12) Dog number five is our new puppy, Teddy (he came with the name, and we think it suits him). This is his picture:

13) A Facebook friend shared this video with me the other day. It’s called “God Made a Dog,” and it’s awesome. Enjoy:

Words as Weapons

Words are a form of action, capable of producing change.
— Ingrid Bengis

For almost two years now, I’ve been involved with an organization called Soldiers’ Angels, which is a non-partisan group that writes mail and sends packages to American soldiers serving “in harm’s way.” Joining was difficult for me, and I did it in part to honor the memory of my grandfather, who was career Army, but also to honor a net-friendship with a man I know through his writings at places like MySpace and OpenDiary. Every so often, he half-jokingly calls me his muse, but in this he was mine, though he probably isn’t aware of it. Or at least, he won’t be until he reads this. If he reads this.

I remember him posting something to the effect of people not actually being able to uphold the tenet, “Love the soldier, not the war,” without the soldier being criticized as well as the situation. I wanted to prove that I could put my money where my mouth was, so to speak. I’ve never believed we should be in Iraq, but I strongly believe that the men and women in our military deserve our respect and support.

I also remember a conversation I had with my grandfather, during Operation Desert Storm, which – wow- was almost twenty years ago, now. She was complaining about people demonstrating against the war, and he, after patiently explaining to her exactly where Kuwait and Iraq and Iran were, and what the point was, finally blew up at her for her whining. “God DAMN it, Esther,” he said, “What do you think we fight for?” He went on to explain that while he didn’t much like the demonstrators either, the fact that they COULD demonstrate was a crucial part of American culture and society.

So what does this have to do with words as weapons?

Think a moment. You’re eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. You come from a large high school in a major city. You join the military, partly because you know if you survive you’ll get an education, and partly because it’s an escape from the life you know – one with a place to sleep, regular meals, and friends to watch your back, and partly because you want to belong to something.

Maybe your parents just aren’t letter writers. Maybe they don’t want you to serve, for political reasons, or for personal ones. Maybe you don’t even talk to them. You come from a culture of instant communication, email, text, the constant ringing of cell phones…and you’re sent to a foreign country, where you may or may not have email access, but even if you do your time is limited, and phone time is rationed the way water is during a drought, and even if the conditions aren’t that bad for you, you see others coming and going from places where the risk is greater and the conditions considerably worse, and just when you feel most isolated, you get an envelope from a stranger, who says hello, I’m here, and I’m thinking about you, and you’re not alone.

That letter – words upon a page – is a weapon to fight loneliness, and to create a connection.

Saturday at Barnes and Nobel, I picked up the book Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature through Peace and War at West Point, by Elizabeth D. Samet. Samet is a civilian English teacher who has been teaching at the United States Military Academy for nearly ten years, and the book is about the way the study of literature and poetry affects the cadets in her classes.

She mentions the fact that there are some who think teaching poetry to men and women destined to be military leaders is a waste, but that there are others who passionately believe that these men and women need such studies as much or more than the rest of us, because it gives them important insights, fosters creative ideas, teaches them to think, and feeds their souls.

She also mentioned a program begun in World War II, and back in vogue today, of issuing specially sized versions of popular and classic literature designed to fit in a cargo pocket, and distributed among our soldiers. She labels this chapter, “Books as Weapons,” and she’s right.

Words have power. Just as a speech can invigorate and encourage, a good story can spark a new perspective even as it entertains. It can offer escape, or it can be the catalyst to catharsis. A poem can trigger a love of words, or create a verbal picture. And each can offer a connection to the familiar, or to the possible, or both.

Words, and the books which hold them, are weapons against indoctrination, boredom, and stagnation. They curb lonleliness, incite laughter, warm hearts, and expand minds.

Write a letter. Read a book. Scribble a story. Compose a poem. Draft, craft, recite. CREATE.

You’ll be changed.
And you will also be the instrument of change.

I Want a New Drug

Or actually, I have a new drug. After consulting with my doctor today (or rather, her colleague, a gregarious gentleman with bright red hair, whom I quite like) we determined that Imitrex was actually over-medicating me, causing headaches to linger.

He’s got me on a milder drug, Midrin, which seems to have knocked the pain in my head back to zero, though I am a bit sleepy.

Tomorrow, I have a hair appointment. Just a wash/cut/blow dry. I’m stripping the pink out on 9/27 and replacing it with Aveda’s new “blackberry” (a deep, deep brown with violet undertones) and either Special Effects’ Blue Velvet or Deep Purple stranded through it. I’m not ready for normal yet, but I’m ready for something darker, and I’m bored with pink.

I am jam-packed with work-type things for the next two days, but should have time to update CafeWriting on Saturday, if I feel better.

Meanwhile, head over to this post at the ATG blog, and tell us what your preference is with regard to medical professionals.

Also, remember that this giveaway will remain open until October 31st. Comment there for a chance to win an advance copy of Colleen Gleason’s latest work.

Ordinary Bravery


For this Blogging for Books, write a blog entry (2,000 words or less, please) about a time when you took a risk in your life on someone or something – a new romance, a new career, a new home, etc. Were you successful beyond your wildest dreams – or did you crash and burn?

“I can’t get over how brave you are,” my aunt told me on the phone a few weeks ago.

“I’m not brave,” I said. “I make Fuzzy kill spiders for me, and I’m still horribly shy.”

“But you picked up and moved from California to Texas,” she responded, her tone implying that Texas was about as foreign as Mars. “That’s brave.”

“No,” I said. “That was necessity.”

That conversation has been echoing in my brain ever since, as I’ve tried to figure out what about our move from California to Texas is brave.
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