Thursday, October 27, 2016

You Are an Extra

You are an extra.

Not the hero
Battling the aliens
With bloodied fists
And broken face
But eyes still piercing blue
And perfect teeth.

Not the plucky girl
With the carefully casual
Wardrobe, who can
Throw a punch and
Detect the alien's weakness.

Not even the dog
Buried beneath debris
Who will paw his way out
To inspire our hero's
Last stand.

You are an extra,
Just a filler in the periphery
To take up space and
Offer background noise.
At the end of the day
You get an envelope
Full of twenties and
Lunch from the craft table.

But when the director
Instructs the mob to flee
The green-screen alien,
There is real terror on your face
As you run from


We stroll along the trail.
Such a bright sunny day!
So sure of the hard dirt underfoot,
The wind on the right cheek,
The sun on the left shoulder.
Trees stand as sentinels,
Their leafy limbs laugh in the sunlight.
Ranunculus and blue bells
Peek among the greenery.
The soft sussurration informs
On grasshoppers, beetles, bees.

Shadows seep out longer,
Rustles grow more ominous.
Each tree a twin of the one before.
All colors fade to grey.
Directionless forks
And the sun gone down.
The lure of a rock
To sit, to stay--
So tired.

Right to Left

Needs and wants
knit together, indiscernible--

to stay,
to go,
heartache either

Sometimes it seems easier
to clean the slate,
sweep aside the debris,
push backspace,
rub out,
start over,


but these lines are drawn deep,
each one connected to another,
a labyrinth built in the infrastructure.

Did we move too much?
Did we stay too long?

too many vectors

all wrong decisions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are going to write about something as unpleasant as watching your parents declining health, having to put them in a Place, clean out their old house and deal with all the finances and worry and guilt that comes from a real but fraught relationship with them, why not do it in comic format? It made this memoir much more personal and accessible, which I'm sure is why it made several lists from 2014. Chast comes off as someone very real, not painting her or her parents as heroes. She shares what was helpful, and admits to all the feelings that come with taking care of the elderly, even if it is unbecoming. Definitely insightful.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Bollywood Bride

The Bollywood Bride (Bollywood)The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not a big fan of romance novels, mainly because the characters are so flat and unrealistic, and the plot is predictable and cliche. The Bollywood Bride doesn't escape these sterotypes altogether--she is a Bollywood star, he is a muscular smart guy with a tender heart-- but they both have issues and at least the plot was a little more novel. Most of the action occurs during an Indian wedding, and it was interesting to learn of those customs. For a quick, entertaining read, it did the job.

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The way the joke goes is that the secret to a happy marriage is for a man to wake up every morning and tell his wife he's sorry....But the real secret is to wake up every morning and thank her.  Because the happiness a good woman brings to your life is incomparable.  No one else can make you happy the way she can.  Not your job, not your friends, not even your children can give you what a good marriage gives you.  A good marriage is all you need to make it all worthwhile.  And she gives you that.  The day you realize this is the day you no longer have to worry about a thing.

The Summer Guest

The Summer GuestThe Summer Guest by Justin Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Cronin is a very gifted writer. I really enjoyed his vampire books, and I'm not a fan of vampires. That's Cronins gift, making you care about things that you normally wouldn't. This is a book of small things, the quiet lives of people working and visiting a fishing camp in Maine. But he makes you care about their lives...I cried three times. His themes of courage and fear, and the fluidity of time were beautifully woven throughout, if a bit too obtuse at times. His use of weather to reflect the mood of the scene was again artful if a bit obvious at times. A memorable and satisfying read.

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that for the first time in many years, maybe ever, I was coming truly alive, and here’s the thing: the problem of being alive is that it makes you frightened.

I thought how time passes, and how love is just another word for time.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Beethoven: Anguish and TriumphBeethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I should get college credit for reading this book. When you are done, you will have read not only details of Beethovens life, but also the history of the time, short biographies of colleagues and patrons, and in depth analysis of the majority of his work. It could be overwhelming at times, but it definitely enlarged my understanding of the man and his music. Swafford is a composer himself, so some of the analysis could be a little technical for a lay person, like myself. But I did enjoy understanding some of the meaning behind the music, meaning that his audience understood, even if it took them some time. In a time and place where freedom of speech was extremely limited, Beethoven was still able to communicate through his music. I will admit that I grew to admire and empathize with him, though he was often cantankerous and abrupt. I have always loved Beethovens music and being able to understand the man and the meaning behind the music, makes it even sweeter. A good (long) read for anyone who likes Beethoven.

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In the end, symphonies, string quartets, piano concertos, and the like became virtually the only kind of free speech left in Austria.

Before long this symphony took its place as one of the monumental humanistic documents of its time, and of all time. Its purpose is not to praise God but to exalt humanity. It is a vision of what an enlightened leader can do in the world. But Beethoven had not forgotten God. Some two decades later, in his last symphony, he would return to the question of the ideal society, the search for Elysium under the starry heavens. And again and again in his music he returned to an ending in joy.

He was an evolutionist more than a revolutionist. Call him a radical evolutionary, one with a unique voice

To discover new means of expression is to discover new territories of the human. It seems that such an ideal, not revolution, was what Beethoven considered to be his task, his duty. He had always believed he had it in him to do something like that. The difference now was that he knew how to do it.

Now we will converse in music.” For more than an hour he improvised for her. “He said everything to me,” Ertmann later told Felix Mendelssohn, “and finally gave me consolation.” 16 It must have been a heartrending scene, Beethoven making music for a bereaved woman who played and understood his work as well as anybody alive. He gave voice to her grief and offered her hope. Here was a microcosm of what all his music does: it captures life in its breadth of sorrow and joy, spoken to and for the whole of humanity.

forever yours forever mine forever us

There is one of the most trenchant things Beethoven ever said about his creative process: Always keep the whole in view.

Karoline Unger pulled his sleeve to turn him around so he could see the ovation he could not hear. 6 It was as if the audience were breaking their voices to make him understand that this was a triumph in spite of everything—in spite of the incapable performance, the impossible music, the emptying seats, his lost hearing. However it happened, the thought of it is sad beyond description.

the Ninth is a hymn not just to redeeming joy but to the redemption music itself can provide

The vision of the Ninth Symphony is that as loving brothers and sisters we will find here on earth our joy and our peace. God cannot do that for us. Conquering heroes and benevolent despots cannot do that for us. We have to find Elysium for ourselves.