Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar love.

I don't know why I like the Oscars so much. Actually, I love the Golden Globes even more, TV and movies in the same night--yay! Anyway, the Oscars were fantastic this year. The set was gorgeous, Hugh Jackman was funny and entertaining. The opening number was really entertaining. The jokes and bantar was actually pretty funny. I loved how they had 5 representatives for each category as presenters--it was almost as exciting to see who was going to be presenting as it was to see who was going to win. Especially since the critics had the winners all right this year and there were no surprises. Then each presenter individually honored each nominee. I swear the actors were as touched by the salutes as by winning.
The "story" of the night was actually a really entertaining way to watch the evening. The presenters for the most part were hilarious especially Steve Martin and Tina Fey. That woman can do no wrong. The video year book was entertaining too. Honestly for someone who has watched NONE of the nominated movies--not even Wall-E--this was the most entertaining Oscars by far. Did anyone else notice the prevalence of Cold Play music?
As for the dresses this year, I think most of them were gorgeous. If there was any group that bombed it would be the under 20 crowd--Miley, Vanessa, Amanda Seigfried even Zac Efron with his slicked back hair.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I Run

I run because there is a monster in my brain.
It resides in the corner of my brain where I keep a list of all the things I have to do.
Most days, as I go about my business, I feel it rustle and bump around, but it is only a minor annoyance. Other days, it roars to life with a vegence. Through it's eyes I see the pile of magazines on the hearth that need to be filed or recycled, the dishes in the sink that need to be washed. There is paint peeling in the hallway that needs to be scraped and repainted. The kids need to learn to clean their rooms better. I should make a chore chart. Their clothes need to be gone through and expunged, that would make it easier. I need to shop for dinner. I need to organize the storage room. Really, someone should take that pile of giveaways to the curb. Why can't I remember to bring the recycling bags with me into the store? Then I wouldn't have to deal with these plastic bags everywhere. I need to get a dr. appointment for my son. Does he need a hearing test? We need to work on multiplication facts. I should read to them at night. Do I have a 3 month supply of food in case of a pandemic? I should organize this better so I know what I have. I should call that lady about whether she needs help while her husband is away...
And so it goes. With each added item, the monster grows longer and fatter. It's a giant grub with green tentacles that reach into each lobe of my brain, squeezing out all thought and function until I have to consciously tell myself to breathe.
That is when I try not to think and pull out lycra instead. I squeeze into it, lace up my running shoes, and shove in my earphones. I run and run and run until the only thing I can concentrate on is the rythm of my feet, in time with the music. I run until I don't have to concentrate on breathing anymore, it wheezes out of me in a desperate reflex to keep me alive.
The pounding seems to lull the monster to sleep, and when I'm done--soaking and heaving, my brain seems hollow and quiet.
Taking a shower, a tiny tentacle tentatively searches. The monster is not dead, but the tentacle in manageable: The most important priority somehow sifted to the top.
I'll methodically lop off the tentacles as they appear, until the monster multiplies unchecked again. Then I will lace up my shoes, and run again.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Beach" Reads

Picking books at random off of my list of 200+ books-to-read, I seem to have a predilection for picking books about whaling and the frozen seas at both ends of the pole. Either that, or there are a lot of books chasing Moby Dick.


When I read Moby Dick, I didn't understand why it was a classic. It seemed to be more of a field guide to whales, with a story of a personal vendetta against an anthropomorphized whale thrown in. Looking back now, especially after reading several books about the same subject, I realize that Melville captured the seas and the wonder and mystique of the giant leviathan better than any author yet.

Indeed, there is something about the whaling profession that made climbing into a ship and setting sail for the outer limits of the known world, hunting beasts larger than the largest of ancient dinosaurs more like space travel. A whole new world of icy poles, endless days, and monstrous bears was opened up. For a writer, is there a setting with more potential? These three books dwell on the survival of man in these extreme latitudes.
Georgiana Harding tells the story of Thomas Cave, a whaler who took a bet to spend the winter alone on an island off of Greenland. In a land of endless snow and ice, in never-ending night, the landscape becomes a blank slate where the panorama of the mind takes over. Cave's ghosts of his past visit him in his solitude, yet his inward struggle for acceptance, for peace, seem elusive. When the ship retrieves him at last they find a man aged and withdrawn. He seems to have acquired a gift for helping men dispel their "demons", yet his reluctance to intermingle with humankind betrays his inability to dispel his own phantoms. The kernel of wisdom Cave receives from this experience seems to be "there are some places that man should not be" and "the only evil that exists is the evil that man brings with him".

That lesson is better learned in The Terror by Dan Simmons. It is based on a real ship that set sail in 1845 looking for the Northwest passage and was locked in the ice for 3 years. There were no survivors, so Simmons imagines a rich and thrilling existence for the doomed men as they battle the elements and a horrifyingly intelligent white bear (sound familiar?). Yet what really dooms the men is the greediness of the company that provided the ships with defective canned goods and the lust for power and revenge among the men. Despite the gloomy material, Simmons lines his novel with hope. Unlike in Moby Dick, acceptance ultimitely becomes the antidote to revenge and leads to new life rather than death.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the three is the non-fiction book Island of the Lost by Joan Druett. It chronicles the tales of two ships that wreck on a small island near the South Pole. Through the industry and skill of the first mate of one ship, the entire crew of that ship were able to survive almost an entire year before they were rescued. Another ship wrecked on the opposite side of the island. However, as if to add credence to Simmons novel, this crew self-destructs with greed, lust, and slothfulness. Only one man survived. Its a thrilling contrast, all the more because it's true.


As the winter wears (seemingly interminably) on, I will continue to plow through my book list, but perhaps I'll read something sunnier next time. My reviews of these books are at goodreads.