20 August 2008

My Thoughts on Summer in Boston

Boston is much prettier when it's covered in snow. It's also smells better. Seriously, when it's sunny, Boston Common smells like shit.

18 August 2008

Neat Books!

Awhile ago I wrote about the Penguin Classics deluxe edition of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Well I've just finisihed the Penguin Classics version of Candide, and I'll say that it trumps Metamorphosis in book illustration and design. (I won't compare the translations or the stories themselves, because really, I just don't want to.) This picture doesn't show the nice detail of gold leaf in the center of the cover, and even though you can see the cartoon strip of the story's plot, you can't see nice little cast of characters on the inside flap. My favorite part of the cover though, is the very back, which reads "The Satirical Scourge of 1759 - Now in Paperback!" around a stick figure of jolly old Candide. Rachel picked up One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which, with its foreword by Chuck Palahniuk and illustrations by Joe Sacco, paired with Ken Kesey's novel, is a neat sort of trifecta of Oregonians. I support that. That puts the count of these Penguin editions up to three in the Rachel-Patrick household, and that number may be on the rise soon.

12 August 2008

Library Book: The Art of the American Snapshot

It's been awhile, but that's not my fault. Blame it on the library not ordering many interesting books. We did, however, just receive The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978. I'm sure I've said before that I like pretty pictures, and of course this book is full of them. The best part about this book is what makes it different from most other photography books: like the title says, these photos are snapshots. It's not full of artsy pictures from pro photographers, but instead it shows normal people taking pictures of themselves, their friends, and their families, just like everyone on Facebook and Flickr now. The chapters are broken down by decades, and you can see the cultures changing simply by looking back at these pictures. You'll see it in the clothes the people wear in the photos, and it's even as if you can see the attitudes changing as time progresses. You'll see a strange sense of discomfort mixed in with the humor of the 1950s, like two women sunbathing with gasmasks on. Then in the 1960s it seems that discomfort is gone, and, we are greeted by someone's grandmother enjoying her birthday cake with a smile and a monolithic middle-finger. Worth checking out for its cultural eyewitness factor and, of course, lots of pretty pictures.

11 August 2008

This Just In...

American politics has been reduced to a VH1-esque top ten countdown. Today's headline: 7 worrisome signs for Obama. Basically Gleen Thrush's story tells us that there's a presidential election race between Barack Obama and John McCain, in case you didn't know. Has our OCDish quest for knowledge become so bad that we needed someone to tell us what we already know?

10 August 2008

Lazy Weekend

I finally got myself the digital SLR I've been wanting for so long, but I haven't really had much time to play with it. I have however, taken some pictures around the house and whatnot (I also used it at a baseball museum exhibit, but I'll spare you those pictures). Anyway, it being a Lazy Sunday and all, I figured I'd take a few pictures. Turns out today was a pretty good day for that.

Last weekend Rachel and I went to a crazy antique mall, where we found a first edition of Pearl S. Buck's The Patriot, a crazy set of plates and teacups with triangles on them, and these literary lowball glasses.

Those are great, and they also go with these crazy lowball glasses.

There is something nice about having glasses like this on the rare occasion I need some whiskey to aide my writing.

Rachel cut some flowers and colorfied our kitchen.

The crazy part about today is that it was a beautiful clear day for most of the day, and then later it turned into a beautiful thunderstormy day. I love our back porch, the view of the houses and clouds it provides, and the funny little birdhouse Rachel and I got. Well, I was waiting for some birds to come visit our little house, and even though I scared them all away, I got some nice pictures of what is becoming a normal day in this summer.

Early in the day.

And late in the day.

In Oregon and Washington I joked that the weather there was bipolar, but seriously, this is getting crazy here. Sunny and 75 one minute, lightning, thunder, and rain the next. Although, lightning storms are pretty cool.

08 August 2008

Olympics in China

I've never been excited about the Olympics, not that I can remember. What I do remember though, is Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board in 1988. The reason I saw that is because my family was gathered in my Auntie Helen's living room watching those Olympics. I may have been too young to realize it then, but now it's clear to me that the Olympics then were an Event, capital E. Sure, I saw Kerri Strug carried off with a busted ankle in 1996, but even then it was because some cousins were at my house and had monopolized the TV. Since then, the Winter and Summer games have passed with very little notice. Really the only news to me was that U.S. Men's Basketball actually had some competition and Shaun White started kicking snow and skateboarding ass the way we all expected him to. Unfortunately, I didn't see Derek Redmond helped across the finish line by his father until VISA chopped it into marketing material.
(Sorry about the video quality, but it was the only one I could find without Creed music). If you can watch that without tearing up even a little, you're probably dead inside.

For some reason though, I'm pretty excited about these Olympics (even though NBC will decide which sports we want to watch), and it's not just because the U.S. Olympic team is looking rather dapper for the opening ceremony (which they do). There really is a simple explanation for my interest (and a bunch of other people's too): these Olympics are in China. As many people have written, maybe it's right that the Olympics in China feels so wrong. Also, as much as I'm getting sick of ESPN and it's barrage of "news," ESPN page 2 writer Jim Caple's article about the Beijing Olympics points out that the Summer Games could and should put China's faults into the world spotlight. To be sure, a lot of other writers have made the same claim, but I linked Caple's story because of this quote:

And not to sound like an apologist for China's government, but before we get too high and mighty with our moralizing, we should pause to look in the mirror. Yes, China's policies in Tibet and Darfur are contemptuous. Then again, there are many U.S. policies and actions that draw international ire, as well.

While that isn't the most damning critique of some current U.S. policies, this was one of the few articles I found that didn't seem to blast China and praise the U.S. He does expand on it, but I'll let you read it for yourself if you want, and I think you should. I don't know if it's possible, but there is something about the controversy about these games that has me feeling the world might witness another Tommie Smith moment, a moment where an athlete or athletes uses the world spotlight to take a stand and send a political message. Of course I'll watch for the sports, because in all sports, anything can happen, but I'll also be hoping to see someone send their message.

04 August 2008

Because Writing is About "I"

The August 3 edition of the New York Times magazine's "On Language" section featured a story titled "Me, Myself and I," by Caroline Winter. Winter's story is interesting because honestly, how often have you thought about the reason we capitalize this one letter? She points out "There’s no grammatical reason for doing so, and oddly enough, the majuscule 'I' appears only in English*," and "the solitary 'I' towers above 'he,' 'she,' 'it' and the royal 'we.'” Of course she goes on to explain that whole transition from spoken language to a written form and those silly Old and Middle English times where really anything passed for written language. She even throws in some sociological and political affects of the capital "I." Personally, I found the article interesting when Winter hits on the narcissistic value of the monolithic "I," because the act of writing is in itself a pretty self-centered act. I won't argue that writing can never be selfless, but I tend to agree with Margaret Atwood's claim that "all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality." So yes, for me, writing is an almost entirely selfish act, almost, because I want of that weird haunt of mortality and the desire to have something outlast my days. And narcissistic too, because maybe I believe that you really wanted to read this.

*I could be wrong, but I think Winter may have neglected the Russian Language, who I think does capitalize their form of "I."

x-posted at Vernacular.