Wednesday, June 13, 2018

a book I love: Dealing with Dragons

I started reading this last night and finished it while I was at work. (Don't give me any grief; I work the Circulation counter at my library every day, and I sit and wait for people to need help. I'm allowed to read.)

My friend P.C. mentioned this when I was looking for books for the 2015 reading challenge. She simply mentioned the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, and I put the first book on my to-read list, but if you've been to my Goodreads page, you may have noticed that my to-read list there is 641 books long. (And that's just the books I've heard of while I had access to a computer or paper and pen!) So the series got lost in the shuffle until someone mentioned it recently, and I requested the first book from the local public library.

(I've read Patricia C. Wrede before; I found her Snow White and Rose Red when I was in junior high, and I absolutely loved it. I still read it about once every two years.)

Back to Dealing with Dragons: man. I said this at Goodreads, and I'll say it here: where was this book when I was eight or nine?! I would have loved it. As it is, I'm reading it for the first time at the age of forty-four, so better late than never. (It wasn't published until I was sixteen.) I was always more enamored of the princesses who kicked butt, like Wonder Woman and Princess Leia, rather than the Disney princesses I grew up watching, so Princess Cimorene is my kind of princess.

Cimorene is the seventh daughter in her family, and she wants more than to sit and embroider and wait for her parents to arrange a match for her. On the sly, she learns fencing, cooking, languages, and magic. When she gets taken to a neighboring kingdom for her marriage to take place, she is given advice on how to run away after grumbling that she'd rather be eaten by a dragon than marry the vapid prince her parents have chosen. Where does she end up? In a cave with five dragons. Cimorene finds a place with one of these dragons, Kazul, becoming the dragon's princess. She is content there, though she has to shoo away annoying knights and princes who get sent to rescue her ... she doesn't want to be rescued!

Any more than that, and I'll be spoiling you. The target audience of this is readers aged ten and up, or maybe a precocious eight year old. If I had a kid to whom I liked to read, I would love to spend a few weeks reading this to him/her/them. As it's just middle-aged me, yeah, it isn't the most complex plot or characters ever, but the story is charming and sweet. I liked both Kazul and Cimorene a lot. I have requested the remaining three books from the public library, and I have anxiously checked the library's website twice today to see if I might get them before the weekend.

Friday, June 8, 2018

yay, books

Recap since my last post: I finished that book challenge in 2015. I wrote a book-length fanfiction in 2016. (Haven't done anything with the first draft in 18 months.) I did another PopSugar book challenge in 2017. This year, my goal is simply to read 52 books. I'm up to 45 books read in 23 weeks, so I'm on track to double my goal for 2018.

If anyone wants to find me at Goodreads, this is me. I keep track of what I've read and when I've read it, though books I read more than four years ago have estimated start and finish dates. I have a Favorites shelf and a Hufflepuff* shelf.

*After seeing one too many "Books Every Hufflepuff/Gryffindor/Slytherin/Ravenclaw Should Read" posts at Book Riot and elsewhere, I decided to compile my own list. Deleted the duplicates and ignored a few recommendations. (Yes, there is a spreadsheet.) It started with 42 books and has grown to 54 as I type this, but several are from a comic book series, so the 54 is accurate in one way ... but exaggerated in another.

I see a lot of people making YouTube videos about books they've read, and I watch the Vaginal Fantasy hangouts with Felicia, Veronica, Bonnie, and Kiala, so the idea of putting oneself out there to talk books is growing on me. But this seems to be more a thing for attractive millennials, rather than a fat, middle-aged woman with no education to speak of and a thin skin when it comes to criticism. (I'd make a book review vid, upload it, and get dogpiled by people who tell me to off myself because I'm fat and old and not pretty.) So making this blog about books -- which was the original point several years ago -- makes sense. I don't know if I'll stick with it or not, but it's worth a try.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

books!

So a website called Pop Sugar put forth a reading challenge this year:

http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2015-36071458?crlt.pid=camp.RTlcdYOWNcmE

Fifty ticky boxes, fifty-two books, one year.  I'm in!  So far, I've read four:

A book with a color in the title: Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black.  Written by Karl Bollers, art by Rick Leonardi (Chapters One through Four) and Larry Stroman (Epilogue). New Paradigm Studios, 2013.  My first graphic novel that I actually finished (one eighth of a zombie comic that made me sick to my stomach doesn't count), and I really liked it.  Give me all the Sherlock Holmeses and John Watsons in the world, thank you very much.

A book with antonyms in the title: Lynn Front to Back. Written by Lynn Kohlman, forward by Donna Karan. Assouline Publishing, 2005.  I chose this because it fit the category, and I was intrigued by the subject matter: a fashion model from the 60s and 70s whose passion was being behind the camera lens, but then her life took a different turn after a cancer diagnosis and went under the knife several times, including a double mastectomy and then brain cancer.  Hard to read because of its weight and size, but worth the read.

A graphic novel: Serenity Volume Three: The Shepherd's Tale. Written by Zack and Joss Whedon; art, colors, and letters by Chris Samnee, Dave Stewart, and Michael Heisler, respectively. Dark Horse Books, 2010.  Don't read it until you've seen all of Firefly and Serenity.  We get hints of Shepherd Book's backstory in this very short graphic novel, but each phase of his life that they chose to give us could have been fleshed out and given its own fifty-page treatment.  Disappointing because of the length, but I liked what little we got.

A book based on or turned into a TV show: Neverwhere. Written by Neil Gaiman. HarperTorch, 1996.  Gaiman has been very good from the get-go at creating intricate fantasy worlds and populating them with interesting characters, and what I wouldn't give for a novel about Door, Hunter, or the Marquis de Carabas.  Instead, we get Richard, [HIGHLIGHT TO SEE SPOILERS] who whines his entire way through the book about wanting to get back home, has his hand held the entire way by more competent characters, lucks out, and then when he does get what he's been whining about, he finds that he didn't want it after all. [END SPOILERS].  Having said that, I really enjoyed the recent radio drama that I got from Audible last week.  Even Richard was not entirely unappealing, thanks to James McAvoy.  Didn't count, though, since it was a dramatization, so I still read the book.

Four down, forty-eight to go.  I've got two audio books and two paper books in progress.  I will read several books that I've read before for the challenge, like The Hobbit and Hamlet, but I'm trying to read as many new-to-me books as I can.  Audio books count if they're unabridged and not dramatized.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Remembering What It's All About

I wouldn't name either of these films in my top five, but I love watching Julie and Julia and Ratatouille so much.  Problem is, I've often watched them -- or more appropriately, started to watch them -- and then paused the DVD so I could get up and make something to eat.  Chips and salsa won't do, no; I have to make it.  To create something, even if it's oil and popcorn kernels in a pot on the stove and shaking the heck out of it.

(Maybe the impulse is really a deep-seated desire to dirty some dishes.  I feel out of place in an entirely clean environment, because I'm afraid of messing it up.  Might as well mess it up deliberately and be comfortable again.  The minute I put the last clean and rinsed item in the dish drainer, I pour myself a bowl of cereal or make chocolate milk.  Yes, I'm weird.)

And there's the impulse to consume something, too.  I have a complicated relationship with food, as I've been overweight for thirty years and obese for twenty-five.  I can feel fulfilled with my life without consuming alcohol or tobacco or even caffeine.  I don't have sex, which a lot of people see as a need, but it's not like breathing.  No orgasms?  Guess what?  I'm still alive.  It's a want.  But if you don't consume food, you die.  You can't go cold turkey on food the way you can just quit smoking, no matter how difficult quitting smoking is.  You have to modify what you eat and/or change how you eat it.

Food has become an incredibly complicated thing, especially in the last sixty years.  Fast food, sodas, mixes, and frozen items (and entire entrees) are just some of the things that have become the new norm.  For years, I lived on fries, various versions of cheeseburgers, sweets, and fried seafood.  Easy to get, not too expensive, and easy to clean up.  Obviously, my body eventually rebelled against this treatment, and I frequently feel sick as a result.  So taking care of my body, both in exercising it and in how I feed it, has become an act of loving myself.  I don't always love myself, so I have weeks of relative inactivity and the occasional serving of fried food.  That probably won't change, but I consider my habits to be healthier than they were ten years ago because of what I do now, even though my body has deteriorated because of almost forty years of treating it badly has caught up with me.

I saw this video last week:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX7kwfE3cJQ

TL;DR: We allow corporations to cook a lot of our food instead of making it ourselves, and while some processing is okay -- canning vegetables and milling flour, for example -- some processing is less healthful.  So cooking my own food is more time consuming than letting someone else prepare it, but I have more control over what goes into my body as a result.

In an interview for Julie and Julia, Meryl Streep said, "[Julia Child] gave us the idea that delivering this beautiful food to your family, to your guests, was an act of love."

Thomas Keller, who owns the French Laundry and is one of America's finest chefs (as well as a contributor to Ratatouille) said, "Anybody can cook, it's just that you have to have the desire, the determination, to make something that you're going to feel proud to give to somebody.  Have that emotional connection with somebody.  I think you have to be emotionally attached to what you're doing, and certainly with food.  It's very easy, because it's something that nurtures."

In a way, cooking for myself is an act of self love.  And when I make one of my mother's favorite recipes for her, I take care of her, too.

Friday, September 19, 2014

In which Trina thinks about music and communal singing and joins a chorus:

I read about a study some researchers in Sweden made this year about singing.  It makes sense that people singing together would breathe together.  Breath is a big part of the physicality of singing, after all.  But the study showed that the singers' heartbeats synchronized, too.  It sounds like something out of a romance novel -- their hearts beat as one, or some such sentimental rubbish -- which is probably why I smiled like an idiot when I read the article.

I have always found singing soothing.  I was never fond of solo work; I get crippling stage fright, but I did it because I wanted to show off.  I really, really don't like it.  Making music as part of a group, on the other hand, is a delight.  It still satisfies my need to show off if the group is good, because if it's good, and I'm in it, then I'm good, right?  Right.  And the showing-off aspect isn't even what I like best about the whole thing.  Every rehearsal feels like an accomplishment.  I make progress in learning the music and blending in with the other singers, and I love to contribute my bit to a whole that really is beautiful and worthwhile.  While in Melbourne about ten years ago, Glenn Frey mentioned how he loves singing with other people, and I knew exactly what he was talking about.

I mentioned earlier this month that I auditioned for and got accepted into a small women's chorus that rehearses near the law school.  (I will call it LWC, for Local Women's Chorus, hereafter.)  My voice has deteriorated a little thanks to GERD, so I wasn't sure if my singing would be good enough.  I haven't needed to practice sight reading in years, either.  But when I got there, Conductor E seemed very happy with my audition.  (I didn't BS my way through any of it, I swear!  I was shocked that I sight read as well as I did.  Thanks, Mrs. Ekedal, for making sure all your choral students left each school year knowing how to read and transcribe music!)  Conductor E still had about twenty other women to see that night and a week later, and all of them could have been loads better than me, so despite her enthusiasm, I didn't expect to get in.  I wasn't surprised, however, when I got an acceptance e-mail the next week.  Thrilled, excited, enthusiastic, and chuffed to bits, yes, but not surprised!

This is a much higher caliber of chorus than any other I've been in before.  (No offense to the Young Americans, Millennial Arts Association, or the Southern California Mormon Choir.)  We've started on two pieces in Latin: Porpora's Magnificat, which is the Annunciation story, and Rheinberger's Messe in A, Opus 126.  We'll sing both for Christmas.  I sang Latin once before when I was a nun in The Sound of Music, so I know how to handle the vowels, and I've studied both French and Spanish, but I don't feel entirely at ease yet as I read these two incredible scores.  The music itself is tough, too!  Long runs of notes, trills (I can almost hear my first voice teacher cackling at me from heaven), staggered breathing, and fugue-y bits in three and four parts ... this is quite a change of pace for someone who hasn't been challenged musically since 1990.

So yes, for the first time in my life, I have to practice between rehearsals.  It always stuck with me before, and I'd practice because I was asked to, but I never needed to.  From Wednesday to Monday, I listen to the pieces we're working on (I bought them from iTunes) and read the music.  I'm not entirely over my cold yet, so I just listen most times, but I've sung along, too.  Or I speak the words in rhythm, which will get me used to the vowels and consonants as well as the timing.  And at least three times a week, I clear the cat dishes away from the floor in front of the keyboard and slowly plunk out the notes.  It's got to the point that the music is a constant buzz in my mind: when I wake, as I fall asleep, and of course as I'm writing this!  That hasn't happened since I was in Into the Woods three years ago.

Google Translate has done its bit, too.  I can glean a few concepts from the Latin, but I don't understand most of it, so I have entered it into the Translate web page and written the English words into the score.  I need to know what I'm saying.  Putting emotion into each piece will make my performance better, even for audience members who don't know what the text means.

So that's me at the moment.  If my life is a glass jar, each of these things is a big stone: work, sleep (usually not enough), family, Bubba the Hutt, LWC rehearsals, my health, and physical fitness.  Other things like social media, books, other hobbies, and housework are pebbles, and music is the sand that trickles into all the gaps in between.  I find I have less time for the pebbles as a result, but I'm okay with this.  I feel less isolated when I'm a part of something like this ... when I have something beautiful to which I can contribute.  Something I can't do alone.  And they need me.  Or at least, they want me! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

*scowls*

I've always been a picky eater.  Something smelled yucky, and I would swear up and down that I didn't like it for twenty years after, even if I never tasted it.  The only thing about this that has changed is my tastes ... I can still "dislike" something if I've never let it pass my lips.

The concept of a burrito grossed me out for years.  I didn't like beans until I started to frequent Super Mex on a sort-of regular basis when I was at my previous job, and the idea of everything getting stuffed into a tortilla like that just seemed weird.  But now that I want to try making one, I can't seem to find any basic instructions on the Internet.  Fancy recipes, yes, but I guess everyone assumes you either buy frozen burritos (yuck) or else you already know how to make them.

So I shall experiment tonight.  If all else fails, I have other stuff in my fridge and can make steak tacos instead.

Jeans shopping this afternoon.  I almost bought some online today.  They're beautiful, they look like they would work on my body, and they come in black and navy.  Their major selling point is that the fabric is soft, "like butter."  (A certain Mike Myers SNL character comes to mind.)  Perfect, I thought!  But when I saw that they have fake front pockets -- the designers think I would rather have a smoother line on my already-lumpy body than something I can actually use -- I raised the middle finger at the monitor.  This is yet another example of designers preferring appearance over utility when it comes to women's clothing.  Of a corporation thinking I will pay through the nose for a pair of jeans that don't even have what I'm looking for.  I wear jeans to work more than my pocketless trousers (no thanks to Lane Bryant) or all my pocketless dresses and skirts (ditto to all their designers) because I have keys I carry around with me at work, and those jelly-like bracelets with key rings just scream "loser bank teller."  Been there, done that.  Putting my keys in my back pockets don't work, either, because I prefer to not have something jabbing me in the butt when I sit down.

So heed this, Avenue: GIVE ME FRONT POCKETS -- BIG POCKETS I CAN PUT A WHOLE CHECKBOOK INTO -- OR GIVE ME DEATH.

Rant over ... at least until I hit the mall later.  Heaven help the first sales associate who looks in my direction if I find a single pair of jeans with minuscule or nonexistent pockets.  (I won't go off on her, but she'll get an earful about why I wouldn't buy it.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Good things Friday

Sometimes, the only thing keeping the darkness from winning is remembering what I am grateful for:

Helping to reunite a lost dog with her owner on Thursday.

My favorite song coming up on my iPod.  (It's the Barr Brothers' "Beggar in the Morning."  Make it shine so pretty, make it shine so bright.)

Mom's coming home in the morning.

Shopping for new clothes.

Practicing a piece for the chorus and getting it right on the first try.

Bubba the Hutt, who wiggles with happiness when I brush him.  This makes it more difficult for me to brush him, but it's still fun.

Confiding in someone and knowing he gets it.

Shoe lust, even if I don't buy them.

Coming home on a Friday night, putting on an audio book, washing yesterday's and this morning's dishes, and feeling the stress from another work week drop from my shoulders like a cloak.  I'll happily don it again on Monday, but I'll feel better for the break.

Happy weekend, y'all.