Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hopping Aboard the Holiday Train

It's happening again--I've been tossed onto the holiday train--the one I didn't think was coming for another hour. I was just hanging at the station, thinking I had all the time in the world. :)

We celebrated two lovely Thanksgivings with two different families, and in between I graded papers with ferocity. The pile was daunting. I am finally reaching the bottom . . .

Meanwhile, when we drove home from my brother's house this evening, I noticed that everyone else in the world had already decorated their homes for Christmas. I realize why people do it this early; it's because this is the weekend when they have a little spare time. So what if it smooshes Christmas right on top of Thanksgiving? We are a multi-tasking people, and now we multi-holiday.

So, I must admit, I feel that I'm behind again. I have another task list, which involves getting Christmas decorations and taking a holiday picture and making cards and buying stamps and blah-be-holiday-blu.

I didn't really get to finish with the whole thankful theme, but that's okay--I can just be thankful into the New Year. Maybe I'll get into the permanent habit. And the paper grading is an endless river, so I may as well make room for other things in my life.

Once, though, just once, I'd like to see these big events coming before they smack me right in the face with their energetic realities. And I'll be the one whose house is glowing with lights and clean enough for visitors and full of the smell of something wonderful baking.

For now, though, I'll just try to get one of those right, and everything else will be frosting on the fruitcake.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When My Life Fades . . . A Thanksgiving Reflection

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Oh Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me!
I am small and weak; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
Ever behold the purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made
And my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
But to fight my greatest enemy: Myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with
Clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
My spirit may come to you without shame.

(picture: Denver Sunset by Jim Kritzberg)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nietzsche and Menuhin Find Common Ground

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--Friedrich Nietzsche

Here is a beautiful defense of that contention: Yehudi Menuhin playing a Hungarian Dance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mystery News

Tim Maleeny has moved his Cape Weathers series from Midnight Ink to Poisoned Pen Press; this is MI's loss, I must say. Maleeny's new, much-anticipated title, Greasing the Pinata, comes out next month, and I've begged for an ARC so that I can get a sneak peek. :)

Maleeny's first mystery, Stealing the Dragon, was nominated for a Macavity Award and an IPPY Award, and his short story, "Till Death Do Us Part," won a Macavity in 2007.

Bob Morris has a new title called A Deadly Silver Sea. I hope to interview him soon and ask if the title (or the book) was influenced by John D. MacDonald.

I'm a fan of the Jess Lourey mysteries, and I know that she is working on a fifth in her Murder By Month series called September Mourn; August Moon is available now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Thought, More Profound Than the Last

"There is no cure for birth or death except to try to enjoy the interval."

--George Santayana

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fool Me Once, Shame on You . . .

You know all the old Charlie Brown cartoons where Lucy tries to get C.B. to kick the football? He goes through agony trying to decide if Lucy is sincere this time--if he can trust her to leave the ball there so that he can experience one glorious kick.

Lucy always wants Charlie Brown to try, but she never allows him satisfaction. She pulls the ball away and Charlie Brown falls flat on his back--time after time.

I always found this scene odd for several reasons. For one, Lucy is never malicious. Her face is blank when she pulls away the football. The suggestion seems to be that Lucy, like the snake or the scorpion, is merely doing what is in her nature. She has to pull the ball away, because she needs to see people like Charlie Brown try and fail. She doesn't even take smug satisfaction in Charlie Brown's fall; she speaks to him calmly and walks away. For Lucy, the meaning of the universe is verified every time Charlie Brown makes his sad attempt.

For another, Charlie Brown knows what Lucy is. It isn't a matter of wondering whether or not he can trust her--he knows he cannot. Therefore, there must be something else compelling Charlie Brown to agonize over the "to kick or not to kick" decision. He is Hamlet on the ball field, and Lucy is his existential agony. For Charlie Brown, it probably doesn't matter either way. If he kicks it, he could fail. Since he is Charlie Brown, and has very little self-confidence, he most likely will fail. If she pulls it away, there is an excuse for his failure. Lucy is responsible.

Does this mean, then, that Charlie Brown NEEDS Lucy to pull the ball away, because it justifies his lack of prowess? And does Lucy, who dispenses "Psychiatric Help" for five cents a session, somehow understand this?

I often think that Lucy is too easily dismissed as a horrible person. Sure, she is a cartoon, but I find a great deal of existential truth in Charlie Brown.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Mystery of Intention

One of my favorite author quotes is Samuel Beckett's response to people who asked if the mysterious character of Godot (in his play Waiting for Godot) was meant to be God. Beckett said, "If by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot."

Thus he clarified--or did he?--a mysterious character in perhaps the most enigmatic play of the 20th Century.

An author's intention is often the greatest mystery. Some theorists would have us believe that what the author meant is ultimately not important. This works for me, to a point, but I find that I always long for a date with the author, during which I am allowed to ask unlimited questions about their work. I'd like to start with Shakespeare. :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thought for the Day

"There are two kinds of people; those who finish what they start and so on."

--Robert Byrne

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Attending a Dog Wedding

Here's something I never thought would happen: my beagle received a marriage proposal a couple of weeks ago because a nearby town was holding a mass "dog wedding" in order to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. They hoped for the most participants, and there were many people with costumed dogs at the event yesterday. This delicate mini Doberman is Bina, my beagle's intended. She didn't care much for him--and in her defense, he was atrocious for the entire ceremony.

Some beagly instinct told him that this ceremony would, apparently, result in his death, and he bucked and strained on his leash the entire time, often emitting horrible belching sounds. Little Bina sat quietly in her veil and tried not to make eye contact. This is the danger of an arranged marriage.

Bina's owner, a filmmaker, was there to record the event and possibly turn it into a "mockumentary." There was certainly much fodder for humor. I'll write more tomorrow on Poe's Deadly Daughters, but just now I have to go grade papers!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mystery and Mustaches

I'm posting on Inkspot today about the ever-mysterious mustache.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

"Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be."

~Sydney J. Harris

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Visit the Swamp

Pat Balester's new mystery is set in The Great Dismal Swamp. I chatted with him at Poe's Deadly Daughters today.