Consider the Oyster

mouth watering prose about the joys of oysters. I have an undeniable craving to make an oyster loaf… M thinks I’ve lost it. Oyster stew anyone? She tempts me with her descriptions of the tastes. I’ve been reading this one on the bus every day this week and have caught myself licking my chops as I read.
Update: now finished with this lovely short glimpse into the head of a gourmand. I don’t even like the taste of oysters, yet MFK has me dreaming of gulping down raw bodies along with their liquid. I will be reading every book I can find that MFK has written: it is too much of a treat to my soul to pass up.

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Birds of America

Enjoying Mary McCarthy’s words… just stumbled across a section where one of the guests at Thanksgiving dinner is a vegetarian, and she trotted out her usual dialogue, and it was perfect, especially the focus on having to repeat herself three times at dinner with everyone asking the same questions. Peter is a freak but still loveable. Yea!
I finished this one today– McCarthy is an excellent writer and I’m about to dive head first into the rest of her work. The Paris/overseas section of the book was much more interesting than the American section; and the juxtaposition of both sections seemed a little forced.

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Expat

The unifying theme in this collection of women’s writings of living abroad is missing home. All of them yearned for the return to the US, with its sensible procedures and 24 hour groceries. While this idea was interesting in the first 20 essays, it became tedious toward the end. Yes, you live abroad and miss certain familiar things like Taco Bell or no smoking in restaurants. Blah de blah de blah. This theme was so prevalent that I wonder if the editor of the book asked each author to flesh the “missing home” idea out in each essay. If so, boo. If not, it’s a little strange that every one of these ladies brings it up. Still, useful information on coping with the change to life abroad, with the mysteries of plumbing and smallish cooking devices. There were some great stories in here, but overall they were lost in the swirl of sameness.

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Where we stand

Hmm. Maybe I was not in the right mood to read this. Because I did not find much of value in this tract on class and race. Luckily, my friend (whose book I was reading) had underlined the good parts, so I could just skim ahead until I found a good section to read. We had exchanged books: I gave her Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and she gave me Where We Stand. I think she came out ahead even though I hadn’t underlined any of my book.
The one useful section was when bh wrote about how class would come to the forefront for the middle class when housing became more and more unaffordable. Other lessons: make a budget and stick to it. Don’t go crazy on material things. Live simply.

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The widow’s children

Seagull imitations, drunken hotel gatherings, family deception. Paula Fox has mad skillz in the writing department. Clara’s mother, Laura, is in town with her drunken hubby Desmond, on the eve of their cruise’s departure. Clara meets them in their hotel room where they’re joined by Laura’s brother Carlos, and her good friend Peter Rice. Alma, Laura’s mother, has passed away that afternoon, but Laura refuses to tell anyone until later that evening, after freaking out and running through the streets getting soaked. Peter is called up to the unenviable task of letting Carlos and Eugenio know that their mother is dead. Clara is not to be told, but Peter relents and tells Clara about her grandmother’s death. Ends at the funeral, where Peter’s mind floats away gently into the good night. This book could easily be reduced into a three act play.

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Organizing from the inside out

I need to read these type self-help books every five years to remind me of what is missing from my reading life the other four years. Ack. Absolutely nothing is missing. Here are some of her tips to help you get organized:
Plan
Attack
Keep it up
Ok, and then there’s:
Sort
Purge
Find homes for stuff
Put in containers
Maintain the clean
This book could be boiled down to one powerpoint slide. But then, of course, we’d be missing the interspersed tales of clutter control that her “clients” experienced. Wow, “Charlotte W.” needed some file folders to get her organization system working? (This is incredible stuff.) “Maria M.” ran out of storage space, so she placed some items in off-site storage and promptly forgot about them. (Pass the Valium, please) Avoid this book and all others of its ilk unless you are completely buried under mountains of paper and have no idea about how to trash the things you don’t need.
Advice that I live by: If you haven’t used it in a year, toss it out.

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Gig

It’s a shame word.com is now defunct, if this collection was anything like their webzine. Fantastically edited interviews with hundreds of people about their jobs: what they liked, what they hated, what made them get up in the morning every day. The huge range of possible careers opened up before my eyes, making me reconsider my current job situation. I’m an organized person into spiritual and mental clarity, therefore I could be a clutter consultant! The enormous variety of people interviewed was staggering.

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High and Mighty

Keith Bradsher’s expose of the inner workings of Detroit’s Big Three colluding to keep SUVs free from the environmental and mileage requirements of automobiles (federal law put huge loopholes for SUVs to drive through, classifying them as light-trucks, when they weigh upward of 8000 lbs… the loophole originated out of a freakin’ chicken tax on imported chickens!)
WHAT CAN BE DONE:
NHTSA (Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Admin) should test the stability of new vehicles (lessen rollovers)
NHTSA should receive more funding from Congress to develop crash-compatibility standards (the raised hoods of SUVs plow right through car’s windshields in crashes, and are more likely to inflict death on the other vehicle)
make side air bags standard equipment
Write a letter to your insurer to ask that it use the widest possible adjustments by model for automotive liability insurance.
States should tighten the penalties for killing or crippling people with your auto/SUV.
Change state licensing, restricting 16 year old drivers to daylight driving
Ban steel grille guards within city limits
Regulate the headlight height and tilting of the beams so that any headlights mounted 30 inches high or more are tilted slightly downward
Close the federal tax loopholes which allow people to write off the entire cost of the luxury SUV because it is a light truck
Strenghten emissions standards for light trucks; under Clinton’s EPA, regulations were issued making SUVs weighing 10,000 lbs. to meet same standards as autos in 2009. Auto industry is filing lawsuits to prevent this outcome.
Increase gas prices
Better fuel economy in SUVs
Make the SUVs smaller; people can’t see past them to avoid accidents, they cause traffic congestion because of their large size

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Journals

Oh, Courtney. Why do you release your husband’s very private journals to the public for a buck? I unabashedly devoured these unique journals, presented in Kurt’s own handwriting complete with doodles and cartoons. The journal pages were color photocopied into the pages of this book. The first page was a simple plea from Kurt ” Don’t read my diary when I’m gone” “Ok, I’m going to work now, when you wake up this morning, please read my diary. Look through my things, and figure me out.”

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Maiden Voyage

This is one that the weathered gent in Baja recommended, after brainwashing me into thinking I needed to join the seafaring life.
Tania sailed in a 26′ sailboat around the globe in 2.5 years, with the longest non-stop stretch being the trip across the Atlantic back to New York (48 days). Along the way she makes friends who impart sailing wisdom and advice, which was necessary for Tania, who had never sailed a boat alone. The trip was a challenge from her father, who bought her the boat in lieu of college tuition, and as she set sail at age 18 to cross the globe. The intended goal was to become the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe alone. This record eluded her, as she gave a friend a ride for 80 miles through the South Pacific, discounting the thousands of miles spent alone on the seas. Her constant companions were her cats, and a Swiss chap she met along the way, who sailed along with her to Malta. Tania’s plan was to write articles along the way to help pay for her travels. Judging from the book, not many articles were written, as every time she put pen to paper, she had writers’ block. After many dispiriting emergencies, her father would fly to her aid (in Sri Lanka, and Gibraltar) with new equipment, including new sails, radar, solar panels, electrical equipment.
The writing itself was average; Tania cannot simply say “cloudy skies”, but instead “skies heavy with cloud,” and other such distasteful murmurings. I believe her writing style was influenced by her choice of reading material; she preferred spy stories and romance novels to the weightier classics her mother recommended. The injection of Tania’s life story among the details of the sailing adventure became a bit nauseating. I lost interest in how her parent’s divorce created havoc for her adolescence, and snored through stories of her life as a NYC street punk.
Overall, the story itself floated clear of the burden of Tania’s immature writing. Very entertaining reading for the armchair traveller.

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Roughing It

Discusses the stagecoach trip from Missouri to Nevada; lingers in Mormon country for awhile, attacks the text of the Book of Mormon for being hogwash (ripping off the Old testament but adding in modern elements, such as during the Ark rip-off, they had a compass…). Silver mining in Nevada, and living it up in San Francisco; sailing to Hawaii. Contrary to the misattributed quote that “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” Mark Twain actually noted that the weather in SF is 70 degrees year round. (see the reprints page)

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How to Be Alone: essays

Franzen begins to grate on me after awhile. I enjoyed the essay Lost in the Mail about the Chicago post office and its seriously problems (mountains of undelivered mail from years ago to present day, stashed bundles hidden in carriers’ apartments, fires lit with undelivered mail).
Most of the other essays were at least skimmable. I glazed over a couple of times and just had to give up outright on some essays.

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The tipping point

Very much enjoying this one. The three rules of epidemic: law of the few, stickiness factor, power of context.
Law of the few: connectors, mavens and salesmen
Paul Revere was a connector (one who is charismatic and knows a lot of people) and a maven (broker of information). Hence the revolutionary war.
How ideas tip into the majority, from being thought up by a minority of innovators. Highly recommended.

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