Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Starting with a Whoop and a Holler

I love owning a home, but you wouldn't believe the heinous inconvenience it can be to deal with a half-functioning kitchen appliance. Our refrigerator hasn't made ice since the day it was delivered in August. I have spent hours on the phone with Best Buy trying to get them to live up to the warranty agreement that we spent hundreds of additional dollars on. That hasn't been time well spent.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm on the receiving end of that commercial where someone is being taught how to always answer "No" to any incoming calls concerning the use of frequent flyer miles. But Best Buy is slightly more subtle, meaning that they say yes, but they really mean, no. It makes me want to print pictures of a giant turd and paste copies of it all over Best Buy some night. I know, that's not very Catholic of me. So what? I'm a work in progress. By the way, I'm an attorney, and I can tell you that many attorneys have these thoughts (and worse) about plaintiffs/defendants (and their attorneys) all the time but they just don't talk about it. I guarentee that when teachers unions and school choice advocates leave the Supreme Court after oral arguments they aren't thinking "Gee our differences aren't really that big. Let's have lunch and quell our desire to beat each other into steaming bloody piles of flesh." They're, however, thinking "That @#$*&$*. I can't believe he said that. His children should have to go to public school...and be born with horns."

Well, enough of that. Let's get back to my favorite topic: books.

  • This children's book is split into three sections. The title is With a Whoop and Holler by Nancy Van Laan. I liked Parts 2 and 3 but not Part 1 so much. It was an ok book with pretty great illustrations. My fear is that it's just another coffee table book for adults clothed as a children's book. Do super-artsy highly graphic illustrations appeal to children? I don't know. I don't have any (children that is). I would suspect that the illustrations would appeal to older kids only. Nonetheless, I liked the Superstitutions and Wise Old Sayings. Also, I liked the fable/morality tale stories--i.e., the stories that "explain" why animals are the way they are.

I'll keep this book in my library if only for the source books it lists. Plus, I would like to see what else the illustrator has done. I think Old Gally Wander is the south's interpretation of one of my personal favorites. My favorite tale involves a girl doing good deeds, a witch at a well, being bewitched, and the girl being rewarded for her deeds. It's only from sheer laziness that I haven't found out what the title is and I only vaguely remember its plot. It was my favorite when I was 8. I should probably do a reread before I claim it's still a favorite. Anyway, I believe Gally Wander is an adaptation because the sentiments in the my favorite and this one were really similar. The sentiments represent a very black and white perspective of the world (as do many children's stories, see e.g., Brother's Grimm, i.e., be kind and you will be rewarded and others will help you or be self-involved and mean and others will do their best to screw you). English Christian morality tales? Work hard now. Get paid well later?

  • Plagues and Peoples is a switch back to more ordinary academic fare. I began the entry in my book journal with "I'm finally finished." It was a good but very slow read. Firstly, I don't generally have to look up so many words. I have a doctorate, but I couldn't claim to know (without some serious parsing of latinate and germanic roots) what pollulate, schistosomiasis, and ungulate mean. By the way, pollulate = to sprout; schistosomiasis = infestation with or disease caused by an elogated tremotode worm; and ungulate = hoofed herbivore. I fully understand that a book about diseases will contain the scientific names of those diseases. But this tried so hard to be erudite that it went overboard in its use of large and seldom used words. Thumbs up for this historical essay--it was a challenge.

The first half wasn't nearly as interesting as the second. Perhaps, that's because the first half concentrated on Asian History with which I have little familiarity. My facility is with Western History and Writings. Still, the book was well-written by a person with an extraordinary sense of the "big picture." It contained sustained thoughts and themes through to the end (which many history books fail to do). There were many interesting tidbits in it, like the idea that without small pox the Spaniards would have had a difficult time conquering the New World and how Moslem politics and bigotry kept that culture from mimicking "Christian practices" that would have kept them safe from disease. It's a keeper.

  • Master Dating by Felicia Rose Adler is not nearly as funny as Excorcising Your Ex but it did contain alot of common sense advice about getting asked out. Something I will NEVER EVER EVER need again as I'm getting married. Hi, sweetie. I love you! Uhum. It's advice coincides with my own experiences, i.e., that when you feel confident and appear genuinely interested in what a person of the opposite sex is saying, then you get asked out. If you're into confidence building excercises--which I'm not--then I believe it had some pretty good ones. I've never read Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, but from what I've heard this book is along the same lines as that one.

Probably the most insightful observation it makes is that what men (and I would say women too) fear most is rejection. As you can tell, that leads to a big problem. People don't always ask others out when they should, and in my case it encouraged me to date some men that I shouldn't (e.g., the one who started talking about his acid trips with his friends while we were on our first dinner date. I wasn't that opposed to the topic--I'm open minded about what people may or may not have tried when they were younger. The problem was that that was all he talked about. For those of you that know me, that was the dinner where I ran out of things to say during the appetizer. As you can tell from my blog, that's saying a lot). I read this when I was single, and I really don't like the whole self-help genre, so take what I've said with a grain of salt. It wasn't an entire waste of time, but it definitely is not a keeper. Back out into the world this little bookie goes.

  • I realized I hadn't read poetry in a while, and so I delighted in finding an usually lighthearted T.S. Eliot book called Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats while perusing titles in one of our many used books stores. How could one fail to love a book about cats (sort of) that uses the word terpsichorean? As an aside, one of my cats is having a kitty dream and is snorting and twitching beside me--I hope it's a juicy one (yes, that's intended to be a really bad pun). Anthing that mentions derivation from the Greek muse of dance and song or prestidigitation and leger domain, and so on is cool in my book (yes, I seem to be a in a terrible pun mood. Please forgive me.). It's a very sweet book, and, while I'm aware that many well-educated linguists would not call it good poetry, I can't help but like it.

It captures a lot of human nature and cat nature at the same time. Anthropomorphism is fine with me. I liked Growltigers Last Stand and the Ad-dressing of Cats very much. This was a good quick read for being poetry. I always find poetry sticks with me the most, but has to be read slowly too. I also think that children might like this book. It possesses enough variation in pace and rythm to entertain children. One story was a troubling: the relationship between Cats TM (the musical) and the poem Mr. Mistofelles. They sound related, borrowed, etc. it displeased me. This tiny book is definitely a keeper.

Even though I have very little understanding of art beyond knowing what does or doesn't please me, (that's even though I am marrying a fine artist and have taken college level art courses), I feel ok saying that although I like the drawings as illustrations, I probably wouldn't think much of them without the poems--that's even though the illustrator is a favorite of mine, namely Edward Gorey. The best illustrations accompany Growltiger's Last Stand, Rum Tum Tiger and Macavity. As another aside, while I was writing this review in my paper book journal, the cat that sits beside me dreaming was chewing on my pencil, sitting on my book, and all the while making look at me noises, flicking me with her tail. So needy. T.S. Eliot perfectly captures the eidos of the Cat.

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