Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Report: Blessings

Anna Quindlen, columnist turned novelist turned columnist, wrote Blessings in 2002. I read it when it was first published and ended up reading it again for our February book club because I couldn't remember what it was about. Don't take that as an indictment of the book, it's more an indictment of my bad memory.

In a nutshell, this is a story of what happens when a baby is left on a doorstep. A young man named `Skip'--with a past--who's working at a family estate called Blessings finds the baby. 80-year-old Lydia Blessing--also with a past--still lives on the estate. Skip and Lydia form a relationship that evolves from prickly to something more.

Even though the premise is a little sappy and predictable, I promise you'll get wrapped up in the story and characters.

RIP J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)

From J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye:

"I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reader of the free world's State Of The Union Address

Tomorrow night at 8pm Barack-star delivers the annual State Of The Union Address. Unfortunately, Barack-star's perception of the state of the union is very different than mine.

In one year, I see that our country has lost 3.6 million jobs. Unfortunately, Barack-star and his spokespeople keep telling us that their efforts have saved or created anywhere between 1-2 million jobs. Really? How do you figure, Barack-star? That part they can't tell us.

Unemployment hovers around 10-12% (not counting folks who have just quit looking for a job, which brings the number closer to 17%). Even though Barack-star promised if the obscenely expensive stimulus bill was passed unemployment wouldn't go above 8%.

We've been subjected to months of our elected representatives wasting time making backroom deals that stink to high heaven, to get a healthcare bill passed that nearly 60% of voters say they don't even want. Just two days ago, Barack-star's chief advisor said they're not backing off. According to him, the only reason us rubes in the hinterland don't want this thing is because we don't understand it.

Barack-star ran on a platform of hope and change. Added benefits were to be transparency and bi-partisanship. What we got was the most highly divided, polarized political climate in my lifetime. In more than 400 speeches Barack-star has continued to lay all blame at the altar of the Bush administration and refused to take any personal responsibility for anything even slightly negative.

We've coddled at least two terrorists who attacked innocent U.S. citizens (one successfully), giving them rights previously only given to citizens. We've been told that the monster responsible for 9-11 is to receive a trial in the same city he tried to destroy.

All through the campaign Barry and his folks told us over and over that he'd never raise taxes on the middle class. He went on to say over and over that if you made less than $250,000 you'd be safe from additional taxes. Apparently he's done a 180 on that promise too. Economists on both sides of the aisle say we're looking at tax increases on all Americans of $1.4 trillion over the next decade.

Barack-star likes to remind us that he inherited the biggest deficit in the history of the U.S. True enough. Unfortunately, he's made a bad situation worse. Economists are predicting that the budget deficit will quadruple in 2009 to $1.75 trillion. Barack-star is expected to read some lines in the State Of The Union Address about making budget cuts. He'll have to slash a lot, because cutting the projected deficit in half would still leave deficits twice as high as they were under President Bush.

I didn't vote for Barack-star, but I hoped and prayed he'd surprise me.

He hasn't.

"The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance."
Samuel Butler

Monday, January 25, 2010

Picture of the day

Barack-star made a speech to a sixth grade class last week. It must have been a high level policy speech. He needed his teleprompters.

No word if he took any questions from the sixth graders.

Friday, January 22, 2010


It's foggy and rainy. The kind of Friday you want to crawl into your flannel pjs, drink hot tea with honey, and watch about 20 episodes of Mad Men with hunky John Hamm, while you knit something cozy.

Being the overplanner I am, I stocked up at lunch time on new, yummy soft yarn to start knitting on a sweater vest--for me! Yipee!! This is the yarn I bought:It's called Brae Tweed, the color name is Berry Heather. Love it.

By George, I think he's got it!

Barack-star, January 14, 2010:
"If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done, that is a fight I want to have."

Barack-star, January 22, 2010:
"We've run into a bit of a buzz saw along the way."


What do you think President Obama and the Democrats in Congress should do now about their health care bill?
55% Suspend work and consider alternatives

Source: Poll of 1,010 adults Jan. 20. Margin of error: +/-4 percentage points

Overused words of the day

1. Pivot
2. Populist

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Report: Foundation

Selected quotes:

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

"The Foundation's [country's] greatest asset throughout the Periphery [world] is its reputation of power."

"The other half goes to the government at the end of the year when all good citizens pay their income tax."

"You're a Smyrnian after all. It seems naturalization and education can't wipe out the taint in the blood. Listen, and try to understand, just the same."

"There will be other crises in the time to come when money power has become as dead a force as religion is now. Let my successors solve those new problems, as I have solved the one of today."

War, a country concerned about its image throughout the rest of the world, high taxes, illegal immigration, financial meltdown...sounds familiar, huh? Well, all that and more is central to the plot of Isaac Asimov's science fiction novel Foundation.

Asimov had a theory that all civilizations follow certain trends or progression arcs, and societies evolve along predictable paths.

A little unnerving isn't it? Especially considering the book was first published as a series of short stories starting way back in 1942.

There's even a theory that Osama Bin Laden was influenced by Foundation and used its espoused society-building principles to expand Islamic fundamentalism. The name 'Al Qaeda' actually means 'foundation' in Arabic.

Interestingly, even though it's set 50,000 years in the future, Asimov's society was run by men bossing other men. The only woman in the whole book was some powerful dudes' trophy wife. Kind of like Mad Men of the future.

Not my favorite science fiction book, but worth reading.

Whew--glad we cleared THAT up!

John-Boy Edwards has finally admitted (after nearly two years) that he's the father of New Ager turned party girl turned videographer Rielle Hunter's daughter Frances Quinn.

And who reported that first?

The National Enquirer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Report: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I don't think my brain is wired the right way to read and enjoy Agatha Christie's whodunnits, like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

This is a perfectly good mystery, and you might really love it. With my limited brain power, I had a hard time keeping track of the characters and who did what and what time they did it. Needless to say, tracking those details is important if you're trying to figure out who murdered poor Mr. Ackroyd.

Considered one of the best of its genre, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is on the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list.

Here's a hint (or "clew" as Agatha Christie calls them): the butler did not do it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Report: Jane Eyre

My friend Connie refuses to read gothic, English Victorian romance novels like Jane Eyre because {according to her} there's always a dark rambling mansion, a secret lurking inside, misunderstandings brought on by something like a lost letter, and a horrible traumatic event such as a flood, fire, or earthquake.

Hmmmm. Connie may be onto something because Jane Eyre has all that and a whole lot more.

The good news is I found Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte a lot more readable, and thus enjoyable, than say a Dickens' classic like Great Expectations, or even another Bronte sister's masterpiece--Wuthering Heights.

Jane Eyre was first published in 1847, but read this excerpt and tell me it doesn't sound thoroughly modern:

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."

Yes, there's a rambling mansion lit only by candlelight, a madwoman run amok, implausible coincidences, and a catastrophic crippling event for one of the main characters.

But Jane Eyre is also an amazing story of survival culminating in an incredible love story. Have you felt like this with the love of your life? I have:

"My spirits were excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supper, and for a long time after. There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease, becaue I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed either to console or revive him. Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and light my whole nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine. Smiles played over his face, joy dawned on his forehead; his lineaments softened and warmed."

This plain Jane triumphs as a piece of great classical literature.

“Words are the voice of the heart”, Confucius

From FOX News 1/7/10:

The U.S. Census has shocked the senses for many who want to know why the descriptor, "Negro," is being used in the 2010 questionnaire, the New York Daily News reported.

The term is included under Question No. 9 of the 2010 census questionnaire, which was approved by Congress over a year ago.

The question, which asks about race, provides the following answer choice: "Black, African Am., or Negro."

The word "Negro," referring to individuals of black African descent, represents to many a low moment in U.S. history. Considered a racial slur by leaders of the civil rights movement, the term has since been abandoned for its association with slavery and segregation.

From Washington Times 1/10/10

Democrats on Sunday defended Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his private remarks during the 2008 campaign describing then-Sen. Barack Obama as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect."
"I think if you look at the reports as I have, it was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. "It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hey, Barack-star--lighten up

I think Barack-star is looking progressively peeved at something. Here are three photos in chronological order from the last year:

See what I mean?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Elvis is 75!

If he was still alive this is what Elvis Presley might look like today:
I like this version better:

Long live the King--wherever you are.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Report: The Book Thief

The Book Thief is our book club's January choice. Excellent! The theme of this book is World War II's Germany from the perspective of a little girl living in a small German town outside of Munich. We all know the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. But this book illustrates life for the average non-Jewish German in the early 1940s. As required by the government, Liesel and her friends are members of the Hitler Youth, she witnesses book burnings, suffers through air raids and makes do with war rations.

The book is narrated by Death. Death gives readers a glimpse into the future throughout the book, then the backstory unfolds. Who knew Death could be so eloquent?

Written originally as young adult fiction, the book is profound in its simplicity.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Report: The Pillars Of The Earth

Maybe you know author Ken Follett as an action/thriller novelist. Well, this is his first foray into the genre of historical fiction and I think it's a masterpiece. Don't let the size of this book scare you away. It's imminently accessible and readable.

Building a grand cathedral in 12th century England is the central theme of the book, but the power struggles, romantic entanglements, murder, political intrigue, conspiracies, etc. keep the plot contemporary and believable.

If you like history and/or fancy yourself an anglophile I highly recommend this book.

BTW, I just read there's a sequel!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wrapping up 2009

Losers of 2009
Nidal Malik "AbduWali" Hasan
Tiger Woods
Robert Gibbs
John, Kate, and their eight
Harry Reid
Bernie Madoff
David Letterman
John Edwards
Levi Johnston
Kanye West

Most overused phrases of 2009
Shovel ready
Throw him [them, her, it] under the bus
At the end of the day
The new normal
Wall Street vs. Main Street
Crisis (often used with unprecedented as in "unprecedented crisis")
There’s an app for that

Resolution wrap up:
1) Make my bed every day. DONE!
2) Quality reading. DONE!
4) 12 movies. EIGHT.
5) Spending freeze at Chez C. BIG TIME FAIL ON THIS.
6) Make at least 1/2 of all our Christmas gifts. DONE!
7) Get out of town quarterly. DONE!
8) Do more service projects. DONE!