Wednesday, August 27, 2008


What's funny is when you make coffee, and the whole pot of water has run through, and it's only then that you realize you didn't actually put any coffee in.

La la la....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

pamcake puns--not for the faint of heart

Conversation during last weekend's Infamous Saturday Pamcake Breakfast at Sullivans', The Oklahoma Files:

Courtney: The older I get, the sicker I get anytime I go on amusement park rides. I used to love them, but now I can't handle them anymore.
Jennifer: That's because your vestibular system changes as you get older.
Courtney: My what?
Jennifer: Your vestibular system.
Courtney: I have a vestibular system?
Joel: Do you feel self-conscious now?
Courtney: Yeah, I do...I don't know if I want people looking at my vestibule.
Jennifer: Not vestibule, vestibular.
Pam: Is that Ferris's brother?


Monday, August 18, 2008

book comments 7

What a blogging roll I’ve been on lately. Ha ha. ;o) Here are some more book comments for your perusal. I love it that reading fiction is part of my job now…and I am also really enjoying writing comments on all these books, even though I keep letting them pile up until there’s a huge stack to comment on all at once.

*singing* “Darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes…” (Thank you, Billy Joel. ;o)

Onward! for I have many books to review, and I suspect that only my hardiest readers will be sticking with me on this one. I’ve been reading a lot the last few months. ;o)

"Gretchen, I Am" by Reverend Carroll E. Jay
--ooh, a story about possession!
--allegedly a true story of how a 1970s Ohio housewife is possessed by the spirit of a 19th-century German girl
--has potential, right?
--written by the housewife’s husband, whose tone is pedantic when it isn’t put-upon and condescending
--literally, one of the worst books I’ve ever read
--This is what sometimes happens when you buy 90¢ used books at Goodwill.
--don’t recommend (the book, not Goodwill—sorry for the double negative)

"Sword-Dancer Saga" (novels of Tiger and Del) by Jennifer Roberson
--sword-and-sorcery in a setting that pits desert against icy mountains and male against (or with, as the case may be) female
--the adventures of male-chauvinist Tiger and fiercely independent Delilah
--wit, wisdom, action, magic, conflict, love, pretty much everything--what more could I want?
--I don’t know how may times I’ve read this series (6 books), but I re-read them again for fun this spring and thoroughly enjoyed them all over again.
--highly recommend

"The War of Souls, Volume One: Dragons of a Fallen Sun" (a Dragonlance novel) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
--first time in eleven years that I’ve read a Dragonlance novel
--fun, interesting, action, adventure, sorcery
--I got a little lost with all the recounting of history, since it’s been so long since I’ve visited the Dragonlance universe.
--Also, this seems to be set in something of an alternate universe, because a lot seems to have happened that I don’t remember having happened in the novels I read so long ago.
--I *loved* reading Tasslehoff Burrfoot again--didn’t realize I’d missed the little guy. ;o)
Addendum: And I *very* much missed Raistlin. *le sigh*
--recommend, but only to die-hard fantasy fans

"The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul" by Douglas Adams
--typical Adams in that it’s totally hilarious
--fun characters, even though the attitudes of some of the Norse gods irritated me a bit
--loved how very British it all is--I miss that dry sense of humor!
--I especially enjoyed the thread of the refrigerator throughout.
--recommend to anyone who enjoys a good satire and a good fantasy

"The Brontë Project" by Jennifer Vandever
--subtitled “a novel of passion, desire, and good pr”
--the most recent disappointment in my reading adventures
--story of the rivalry between a doctoral candidate with a Charlotte Brontë thesis and a French faculty member with a Diana Spencer obsession
--I was excited about this one, because I was intrigued by the Brontë connection and interested to see how the Diana mythology would fit in.
--story turned out to be an annoying, angsty (and most of you know how much I dislike that word, so you get a hint of how much this book irritated me) digression about one young woman’s inability to set any sort of boundary either internally or externally
--translation: The main character whined and refused to get a backbone through most of the story. I had a hard time sympathizing with her at all.
--What I really did enjoy, though, were the quotations from Charlotte Brontë at the beginning of each chapter.
--don’t recommend

"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro
--the story of an English butler, post-WWII, looking back over his life and questioning whether or not he was justified in “just doing his job” by serving the people he has served; or if he should have taken more of a stand against certain decisions those people made; and whether or not he always acted correctly in various relationships
--fascinating look inside the mind of a gentle, quiet, subtle man whose life was one of noble servitude and, at the same time, unassailable pride in what he has accomplished
--poignant, heartbreaking; Ishiguro makes you fall in love with the main character
--As I was reading, I remembered that this story was made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins. I’ve never seen the film; but as I read, I decided I must see it, because I could hear Hopkins’s voice in my head as I read. I suspect he was perfectly cast in the role.
--highly recommend

"Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory Maguire
--story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy and her little dog Dodo—I mean, Toto—arrived via twister
--basis for the musical “Wicked” (a musical which I still highly, highly, highly recommend!!!)
--SO much potential in this book!
--SO much about this one that I thoroughly disliked, I’m sad to have to say
--Unfortunately, this novel takes the innocence of “The Wizard of Oz” (film version) and tosses it into the gutter. There were so many sexual perversions in this novel, I really should’ve stopped reading. I didn’t. I kept thinking it would get better. It didn’t.
--very dark
--don’t recommend

BUT: I’ll say again that I DO recommend the musical “Wicked”—it takes the good parts of the storyline and brings back the fun and innocence of Oz that so many of us grew up with.

"The Soul Hunter" (Book 2 in the Day of Evil series) by Melanie Wells
--story of a woman named Dylan Foster who is struggling with her faith and is unwillingly drawn into the world of the supernatural by the evil plotting of a demon named Peter Terry
--fast-paced, full of dry wit and great dialogue…for all of which I am a total sucker ;o)
--creepy, because Wells does a great job of making the reader believe that this could happen to you
--I thoroughly enjoyed this one and intend to acquire Books 1 and 3.
--highly recommend

"The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff:You Wish" by Jason Lethcoe
--orphaned Ben makes a birthday wish and inadvertently jeopardizes the future of the entire world
--didn’t know wishes had so much power, didja? ;o)
--basically a children’s book endearing enough for an adult to enjoy
--totally sympathetic main character and fascinating magical universe
--This is what’s going on in our own backyard, and we don’t even know it.
--highly recommend to anyone who enjoys kids’ literature

"Little Altars Everywhere" and "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells
--the stories of Siddalee Walker and her mother, Viviane Abbott Walker, and the long-lost tribe of Amazon women known as the Ya-Yas in Louisiana of the 1900s
--I first read “Divine Secrets” when I was in college, but had never read “Altars” till recently.
--I’m reminded that “Divine Secrets” is one of my favorites, and I was so sorely disappointed in the movie when it came out.
--These books epitomize, to me, the power and sorrow and joy and incredible strength of female friendships.
--I think I dedicate my recent first reading (“Altars”) and my recent re-reading (“Divine Secrets”) to my fellow Ya-Yas out there. I love you, girls!
--highly recommend

This makes 30.5 books I’ve read so far this year! I say .5 because I never did finish Wolfe’s “Man in Full.” I just can’t do it.

Coming soon: a review of the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

cultural transitions do funny things...

...for instance: Recently, I have discovered in myself a penchant for listening to loud, fast, hard music. Not at home, where I would bother the neighbors, but pretty much anytime I'm in the car by myself. Thanks to my dear friend who prefers I don't broadcast her generosity, I have a car--did I tell people that?--for which I had to pay only $1.00, and this car not only has more horsepower than I've ever driven regularly before, but it's also equipped with a lovely stereo system.

On top of that, I've found myself becoming more open to creative influences--including influences in music--lately, partially due to culture shock reactivity, and partially due to some of the insights I gained by working through Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way."

All of which is how I found myself driving south at 70mph on I-35 yesterday, rocking out to Metallica (Stefan, you'll be interested to know it was that "Sandman" song ;o) and AC/DC and REO Speedwagon.

Understatement: It was fun.

Understatement: I miss the Autobahn. ;o)

Friday, August 08, 2008

book comments 6 ("golden compass," finally!)

I am hereby making good on my promise that my next review would concern the controversial "Golden Compass" trilogy by Philip Pullman. Since it's been about 4 months since I made that promise (and to whom I made it, I haven't a clue, since I don't know who actually reads these book comments when I write them), I figure it's high time I gave my review and pointed my compass in a different literary direction. Pun fully intended, I assure you.

Anyone who wants a good synopsis of the books can type the titles into a search engine and find out everything knowable about the storyline without having actually read the books. What I will do is share what thoughts I have and, as always, encourage my readers to investigate for themselves and come to their own conclusions. As Levar Burton always said on Reading Rainbow, "You don't have to take my word for it." ;o)

ONE. The so-called "Golden Compass" trilogy consists of the following novels:

"His Dark Materials--Book 1: The Golden Compass"
"His Dark Materials--Book 2: The Subtle Knife"
"His Dark Materials--Book 3: The Amber Spyglass"

"His dark materials" is a quote from John Milton's "Paradise Lost," Book II, which Pullman quotes at the beginning of "Golden Compass." Some people probably jump on the ominous sound of "dark materials" and try to make it something insidious and sinister. All I can say to that is that perhaps a thorough and careful reading of Milton's masterpiece is in order.

TWO. When the controversy over the "Golden Compass" film was raging, I remember receiving various hysterical emails, warning against the atheistic nature of the storyline. Well, remembering back to what I read, I can recall only one definitely atheistic character: one Mary Malone, a former Catholic nun who lost her faith because (a) she thought that being a Christian meant she could never enjoy any kind of sensual pleasure, and (b) she decided that since her desire for pleasure was so strong, that must mean that God doesn't exist.

Of course, my summary is very subjective and--as is the nature of most summaries--brief. But that's the basic message that came across to me concerning the motivations behind this fictional nun's departure from faith. This former nun is also the source of the quote, "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all" ("The Amber Spyglass," p. 393). Of course, this character would say that--this character is an atheist. Duh.

Former Sister Mary also says that she misses God "terribly. ...And what I miss most is the sense of being connected to the whole of the universe. I used to feel I was connected to God like that, and because he was there, I was connected to the whole of his creation" ("The Amber Spyglass," p. 399).

THREE. Some of you might also be interested in the idea that during the course of the story, two children (Lyra and Will) kill God. At least, that's what all the hysterical emails of last year claimed happens during the course of the story. Here's what really happens:

In the universe of Pullman's trilogy, an angel called "the Authority" has set himself up as "God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty--those were all names he gave himself" ("The Amber Spyglass," p. 28). The Authority has a Regent named Metatron.

By the time we join our heroes (Lyra and Will) on their quest, Metatron has begun a systematic takeover of the so-called "Kingdom of Heaven," and the Authority is basically a shell of his former self. When various angels and various peoples of various dimensions begin fighting back against Metatron, Metatron tries to sneak the weakened and debilitated Authority out of the back door.

Lyra and Will find the Authority, who is locked up in a crystal litter. The Authority is terrified and crying, and the two children decide to help him. But as soon as they open the crystal cage, because of his weakened state, he dissolves in a breath of wind.

So basically, the two children accidentally help a formerly devious, misguided, ex-powerful angel "die."

Does that sound to you like two children kill God in the story?

I didn't think so.

FOUR. It's interesting to me that the controversy over these books has been stirred up over only the last year or so, really, when the first of them was published in 1995 and the third one in 2000. Where was the upheaval thirteen years ago?

I guess that's a comment on how much more important movies are than books in today's Western society, considering that it was the impending release of the film (certainly not to be confused with proverbial impending doom) that caused so many people to get bees in their bonnets.

FIVE. It seems to me that in his trilogy, Pullman is attacking what he views as "the church."

This does not mean he is attacking God, even if he thinks he is attacking God.

This does not mean he is attacking Christianity, even if he thinks he is attacking Christianity.

Even if he is attacking organized, institutional religion in general, this does not mean that he is successfully attacking the heart of truth.

Pullman has bought into the idea--I'm going to call it the lie--that so many people believe: that a certain world-spanning, institutionalized, well-known religious organization is the be-all and end-all of Christianity.

He has bought into the lie that organized religion is the be-all and end-all of Christianity.

A quote from "The Subtle Knife" might illustrate best what seems to be Pullman's view of "the church": "...every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling" (p. 45). I say that if Pullman's writings manage to obliterate that kind of church, then I'm totally with him on that one.

If Pullman's writings somehow manage to topple a hierarchical, institutional organization that purports to be the church Jesus established but actually isn't, an organization which bears no resemblance to the God-willed community of the called-out (ekklesia)...if Pullman's writings manage to bring down that lie, then more power to him, I say.

SIX. I remember reading that Pullman allegedly said that he considers the "Dark Materials" trilogy to be the atheistic answer to C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia." (I'd like to note, however, that nowhere online did I find an article or interview in which Pullman made such a statement. If you can point me to a link showing his direct quote--and not an instance of hearsay, such as I am offering here--then please do so.)

My thoughts on this: If Pullman truly considers this trilogy to be his atheistic answer to Lewis's Narnia, then his answer is--from a literary and allegorical standpoint--wholly inadequate. Sounds harsh, I know...but in measuring himself against Lewis, Pullman invites readers to make the comparison. And in this reader's opinion, Pullman is not as skilled a writer as Lewis, and his writings show less depth of thought than those of Lewis. If Pullman wants to set himself up as a believeable Lewis-antithesis, he's going to have to do better than this.

SEVEN. That said, and in spite of my other criticisms, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the "Dark Materials" trilogy. Pullman is an excellent writer and, as it were, he "spins a good yarn." The plot is great; the devices are fresh and interesting; the characters are believable, endearing when they are supposed to endear, and revolting when they are supposed Um, yeah. ;o) (Lyra still annoys me a bit, but book-Lyra isn't as irritating as film-Lyra; besides, she shows quite a bit of development as a character over the course of the three books.)

EIGHT. To sum it up (hallelujah, right? ;o) --> These books are fiction. They are fantasy. They are not real. If you have an aversion to fantasy and imagination, you're not going to like these books. But then, if you have an aversion to imagination, you probably don't like a great many books, so it's a moot point, and I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to those who are concerned about the influence these books could have on their kids; to those who are considering reading these books for themselves.

If parents are teaching children the truth about God, then these books aren't dangerous in the least. (However, I personally wouldn't let my children read these books, simply because of some of the themes explored in them: divorce, extra-marital sex and homosexuality. I'm thinking that before age 13 would be too young.)

LAST. My recommendation: Read 'em. Put yourself in the mindset "fairytale," and read them. Enjoy the story. Then put the books back on your shelf and think about your faith. What do you believe? And why? And how can you use these books--and every other resource that life offers you--to introduce to God the people whom he misses most?

And that's all I have to say about that. ;o)