Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My First Stop for Filling in the Gaps: The Lost Symbol

I've been pretending to start reading the first of my Fill in the Gaps books any day now.

Oh, I've read some good books lately, and those of you who have stopped by From One Book Lover have read about them.  However, none have been on my Fill in the Gaps list. And, frankly, that's a problem: how in the world can I get them all read in time?  I'm in trouble!

Until now.

Of the 100 books on my list, none have jumped off the shelves and into my hands — until....

Drum roll, please:

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.

Bless the library for having a copy on the shelves when I dropped off my other books a few days ago.  (I've been scanning the bargain tables, but so far, alas, no symbol — and with as quickly as I devour his books, I need 'em discounted, like cheap junk food for a sugar high.)

I've already set aside a little time this weekend to get lost in the book.  I've enjoyed his other novels, so I suspect his magic will still hold.

What are you reading?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Poem to Celebrate Spring

In the Memphis Airport

Above the concourse, from a beam,
A little warbler pours forth song.
Beneath her, hurried humans stream:
Some draw wheeled suitcases along
Or from a beeping belt or purse
Apply a cell phone to an ear;
Some pause at banks of monitors
Where times and gates for flights appear.

Although by nature flight-endowed,
She seems too gentle to reproach
These souls who soon will climb through cloud
In first class, business class, and coach.
She may feel that it’s her mistake
She’s here, but someone ought to bring
A net to catch and help her make
Her own connections north to spring.

She cheeps and trills on, swift and sweet,
Though no one outside hears her strains.
There, telescopic tunnels greet
The cheeks of their arriving planes;
A ground crew welcomes and assists
Luggage that skycaps, treating bags
Like careful ornithologists,
Banded with destination tags.


Monday, March 15, 2010

New Year's Resolution, Part Deux

On the Ides of March, the question arises: how are the New Year's resolutions coming along?  Only time will tell, and now is the time to tell!

I want to read more.
If I chose shorter books, I'd have a greater number of books under my belt.  Instead, I choose books like Black Hills (from the author of Drood) and The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, which aren't modest tomes.  I have finalized my Fill in the Gap list, and have quite a selection of modest books from which to choose.  (I keep promising to start Dracula soon. Maybe tomorrow?) 

I finally found what sounds like the perfect H.P. Lovecraft book: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre.  David has told me I can't read it at night, especially since it was touted as having sixteen of Lovecraft's "most horrifying visions."  The cover alone is disturbing.  Bring it on!

I want to listen to more music.
Nikki's recent visit was a lovely reminder about the great music on the radio today.  We jammed to Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce — plus one by Lady Gaga and Beyonce, very cool. Nikki knows all the words, which was a lot of fun.  I may not be there anytime soon, but I can sing a chorus or two.

However, it's not all roses and happiness. I listened to Ke$ha's song "Blah Blah Blah" and I thought, "I'm sure I heard it wrong."  Then Rachael talked about some new pop music she recently heard and, yes, Rachael confirmed that what I heard was what I heard.  I have a question for the radio station: since when is THAT kind of language allowed on the air?  Yes, that may be a man's nickname, but not in that context.

I also am appalled by the lyrics of most Pitbull songs I have heard, but I am totally sucked into the beat.  Sigh.  Can I listen and still be able to champion the dignity of women?

I want to listen to music more.
Chez Cohen now rings with the tunes from yet another Nickelback album, and David and I got tickets to see Jeff Beck, one of the most talented guitarists on the planet (except for Philip Cohen).  The next few months will be filled with live Eddie from Ohio, Nickelback, Julie Murphy Wells and more.

In the meantime, the iPod is on with plenty of Aretha, Dr. Horrible — and did I mention Nickelback?

I want to write more letters.
The 2010 letter-writing campaign begins tomorrow with a letter to Mom.  Then there's the Christmas newsletter I will write for public consumption.  Soon.  (Hey, at least now you have a chance to read it!)

I want to run faster.
Now that the weather will permit running without a perilous dance on the ice, I look forward to breaking in a new pair of running shoes.  Last week when the weather broke, I took to the streets — and promptly developed blisters.  (Two on one foot! Talk about a wake-up call for new shoes....)

My new Asics will grace the streets of Fairfax soon, and you'll see me limping around as my legs mutter, "Oh, that's the painful stuff you do to us on a regular basis!  Now I remember!"  If you're in the car, slow down: I can't move that fast.  Yet.

So, which of your resolutions have survived intact? Which have you abandoned or postponed?  C'mon, you can tell me!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nothing Says Spring Like, er, Red Slippers

Red Slippers

Red slippers in a shop-window; and outside in the street, flaws of gray, windy sleet!

Behind the polished glass the slippers hang in long threads of red, festooning from the ceiling like stalactites of blood, flooding the eyes of passers-by with dripping color, jamming their crimson reflections against the windows of cabs and tram-cars, screaming their claret and salmon into the teeth of the sleet, plopping their little round maroon lights upon the tops of umbrellas.

The row of white, sparkling shop-fronts is gashed and bleeding, it bleeds red slippers. They spout under the electric light, fluid and fluctuating, a hot rain—and freeze again to red slippers, myriadly multiplied in the mirror side of the window.

They balance upon arched insteps like springing bridges of crimson lacquer; they swing up over curved heels like whirling tanagers sucked in a wind-pocket; they flatten out, heelless, like July ponds, flared and burnished by red rockets.

Snap, snap, they are cracker sparks of scarlet in the white, monotonous block of shops.

They plunge the clangor of billions of vermilion trumpets into the crowd outside, and echo in faint rose over the pavement.

People hurry by, for these are only shoes, and in a window farther down is a big lotus bud of cardboard, whose petals open every few minutes and reveal a wax doll, with staring bead eyes and flaxen hair, lolling awkwardly in its flower chair.

One has often seen shoes, but whoever saw a cardboard lotus bud before?

The flaws of gray, windy sleet beat on the shop-window where there are only red slippers.

by Amy Lowell

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Holiday for Grammarians Everywhere!

I officially love Martha Brockenbrough.

The founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us [sic] created National Grammar Day in 2008.  National Grammar Day is March 4.

Now, that's a holiday I can fully support.  You know this to be true, those of you who have lived through my discussions (that's what I'm calling them) regarding extraneous commas, Random capitalization, split infinitives and sentences ending in prepositions — not to mention noun-verb agreement, proper hyphenation and, for the love of all that's holy, the proper use of ordinal and cardinal numbers, especially in dates.

My love of grammar is so notorious that a friend recognized my handwriting on a sign in a women's restroom in my hometown.  "You scratched out that apostrophe, didn't you?" Vicky asked.  Yes, I did.  And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I am totally unapologetic about my adherence to grammar rules, and I will speak in a way that sounds archaic to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.  Call me crazy and old-fashioned, but if you can make at least three different meanings from the sentence "What is this thing called love" — well, then you understand why grammar is important.

Grammar rules are as important as driving regulations.  When one earns a driver's license, s/he agrees to follow certain rules (stop at a red light or stop sign, use a blinker to signal a turn, etc.).  Only by agreeing to follow the same rules can we even begin to guess what the other driver might do in a certain situation.

The same goes for grammar.  How in the world can you effectively communicate without agreeing to some ground rules?  Initial caps is a start, followed by the proper arrangement of words and correct punctuation. (Spelling counts, but that's a topic for another blog.)

Don't get me wrong: I make mistakes.  (We won't go into the whole apostrophe with an acronym controversy.)  However, I try to follow the rules so everyone knows what the driver is doing and can act accordingly.  Wait, that's the other one — but the end is similar. In the end, if you follow the rules, no one gets hurt.

So, visit the National Grammar Day Web site and enjoy the March Forth song — then march forth to spread proper grammar among your friends and family.  I'll be there with you.  It will be fun, I promise.  Okay, if it's not fun, at least it will be an adventure.  Are you in?