December 2010

Last night, “KC” and I decided to drive around our general vicinity and check out the Christmas lights.  Some of them were pretty normal, but others were just crazy.  Given that there’s no snow around here, it’s a little weird that people put up those lights that look like icicles, but it’s even weirder that they put up snow men, reindeer, penguins, polar bears and igloos.  I tell you this, nothing says Christmas like penguins, polar bears and igloos.  

One yard was particularly amazing.  They did the whole thing up to honor A Charlie Brown Christmas.  We saw Snoopy on his dog house (complete with a wreath), Lucy’s psychiatric help booth, the text of the section of the Gospel According to Luke that Linus recites at the end, and they even had the movie itself  running on a screen set up on their front porch.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  I wish I could have taken some pictures, but I honestly don’t think the Droid’s camera could have done justice to it all.

I wish all of you a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year.

That is the question.

On the one hand, I have no interest in Kindles and other e-book readers.  I love paper-and-glue books. I love how they feel.  I love how they smell.  I love holding them in my hands.  On the other hand, I already own more books than I have room for and the storage unit is already filled to bursting.  Also on the other hand, I can’t afford to buy all the books I want to read, and the library doesn’t always have what I want. 

So, I’ve weighed the pros and cons and made the decision.  I’ve had a little windfall (thanks to my dog-sitting gig) and have decided to invest some of it in a Kindle.  I plan to get the $139 model because I’m relatively low maintenance don’t care about all the bells and whistles that the more expensive models offer.  I already have some free books loaded onto the Kindle app on my Droid, but reading the Droid’s screen for more than a minute or so is very hard on my old eyes.  I’m pretty excited now that I’ve made the decision.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy belated birthday, Jane!

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to post my best wishes to Miss Austen on the actual anniversary of her birth, which was this past Thursday, December 16.  A lot has happened in the 235 years since she entered the world, but the fact remains that her life was an important one, even though we don’t know a whole lot about it.  She only wrote 6 complete novels and a handful of stories and novel fragments, but she is still one of the most famous women in Western history.

Searching under “Jane Austen biography” at Amazon turns up 259 hits.  A search for “Jane Austen” in all of Amazon’s departments comes up with 9,391 hits.  A search for “Jane Austen” at LibraryThing comes up with 1,204 hits.  We get 1,245 hits at GoodReads.  WorldCat gives us 12,365 hits when we search for “All formats.” A plain-vanilla search at Google results in 4,640,000 hits in 0.26 seconds.  The details of her life may, for the most part, be a mystery to us, but there is plenty of material out there that is either by her, about her or inspired by her.  For the purposes of comparison, an Amazon “All Departments” search for “Charlotte Bronte” comes up with 3,548 hits, 1,794 for Elizabeth Gaskell, 1,501 for Maria Edgeworth, 554 for Ann Radcliffe and 324 for Frances Burney (862 when we use “Fanny” Burney).  So, 235 years after her birth (and 193 after her death), she and her work are still read and discussed.

King George IV, Sir Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, Anna Quindlen, Nora Ephron, Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling, Harold Bloom, Kingsley Amis, Lionel Trilling and C.S. Lewis all read and loved Austen’s work.  This list is certainly not comprehensive, but it really does show some of the depth and breadth of Austen’s appeal.  Some refer to her as the first “chick lit” author, but just look at the men who love her work.  Her work cannot easily be labeled.  Her stories are timeless, with characters and themes that appeal to people in all places and in all times.  Her books have been translated into dozens of languages, and books and films based on her stories take place in such disparate locations as India, Utah, Israel, Connecticut, Boston, Australia, Texas, Boca Raton (Florida) and Scarsdale (New York).

Jane Austen may have been the 6th of 7 children born to a small-town Anglican priest and his wife, and she may only have walked the earth for 41 years, but her life and work are still celebrated today.  Happy birthday Jane, and thank you for everything.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder.  For people of my generation (Baby Boomers), this is one of those events where we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.  I was too young to understand the impact of Kennedy’s assassination (although I do have a distinct memory of watching his funeral with my parents), and I do remember the King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, but I was still in elementary school and not really able to understand the bigger picture.

But I absolutely remember everything about the evening of Monday, December 8, 1980.  I was a senior in college, and was in my room doing homework when a guy who lived a few doors down started running down the hall yelling.  He was telling all of us to drop what we were doing and follow him.  I did, and half our hall ended up in that room watching the news and trying to wrap our heads around the horrible news.  It took a while to get over the shock, and I remember playing all of my Beatles records for days.

Here are audio clips from the last interview John Lennon ever gave.  The interview was for a Rolling Stone cover story which the magazine is re-running in their latest issue. There’s a lot of good stuff at this page, so check it out.  And here is a link to a bunch of video clips showing how the  news was reported by a variety of outlets; this includes Howard Cosell’s famous Monday Night Football announcement of John’s death.  For you youngsters out there, we had no Internet in those days (nor cell phones or even answering machines), so if you weren’t near a radio, a television or a landline phone you had no way of knowing what happened.

I think I’ll listen to some Beatles music this evening and remember the night my childhood ended.

Having a new job means I once again have the cash to do some things I want to do, so I decided to learn to make jewelry and to improve my knitting skills.

We have a very nice little beading shop over in Lakewood Ranch called Knot Awl Beads. The selection is large, the classes are varied and employees are helpful. The quality of the tools used to make the jewelry is better than over at Michaels or JoAnn, but I have no problem going to these stores to buy beads going forward.  I’d originally bought some sparkly beads at Michaels because they go perfectly with a new outfit I’d bought for job-hunting and figured that this earring-making business was easy.  I tried and I tried, but I could not make a satisfactory earring out of the beads.  So I made arrangements with Knot Awl Beads and last night I went over there for  my first jewelry making lesson, a 1 1/2 hour class on “wire-wrapping.” This is the most basic jewelry class that allows one to turn a bead (or several beads) into earrings or a pendant.  We started with copper wire because of how soft it is, but the earrings I got to take home with me are in sterling silver.

Here they are (click on the picture to make it larger and see more detail):

I’m pretty proud of them and am wearing them now.

After class, I came home and took up the cheap tools I’d bought at Michaels in an attempt to turn the sparkly beads into a presentable pair of earrings.  I think I succeeded:

No, they’re not perfect (they’re not even as good as the earrings I made in class) but I felt completely comfortable wearing them to church this morning with the matching outfit.

Earlier in the day, I spoke with the ladies at A Good Yarn about improving my knitting skills.  They have a very extensive list of classes, but since I have a specific item I want to make, I said I’d prefer a private lesson.  I want to make the Lily camisole from Louet with Euroflax yarn in cream.  I have already knitted a shawl with the black yarn, and love that it’s machine washable.

I’m also making  cross stitched/beaded Christmas ornaments for 2 friends.  I plan to give 3 ornaments to each friend, and am working on the last of the 6.  This one should be done later in the week (they have each taken about a week to stitch), and then I will back all of them with felt, wrap them up and mail them off.  I bought felt squares for about 30 cents each from Hancock Fabrics, and will cut each one to fit the ornaments and will glue them to the back with fabric glue.

Here are the 5 ornaments I’ve completed (except for the felt backing) so far:

I like these a lot and hope that the recipients do, too.  I also bought a couple of kits to make for our tree here.  But those won’t even be started until I get these out of the house.  It’s likely that I won’t even do them until next year’s tree.

The “Fine China” piece has obviously been put aside for the duration, but I’m about 3/4 of the way through.  I’ll post a picture when it’s done.  Hopefully I’ll be able to find a framer at a reasonable price (or a frame-it-yourself place) and get that out of the way. Of course, this means my reading time has been cut back, but I’ll work it out.

With all the hubbub with Thanksgiving and starting a new job (yes, I got a job!), I have been remiss about posting.  I’ve started to read Northanger Abbey and took myself to see Deathly Hallows again.  I liked it even better the 2nd time.  The differences between the movie and the book weren’t quite as glaring to me this time.  I was more prepared for the scene where Harry gets attacked by Nagini, which is good because I really hate snakes.

I also recently finished a re-read of Philosopher’s Stone and am in the middle of a re-read of Chamber of Secrets.  I plan to re-read all of the books and see all of the movies before the grand finale this summer, in Deathly Hallows, Part 2. I’m noticing things in these earlier books that I didn’t see before.  There are so many hints of the things to come that I should probably take far more time in reading them than I actually do.  One example is in Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry and Ron are visiting Hagrid for the first time, and Harry complains about Snape not liking him.  Hagrid is very noncommittal, and doesn’t look at Harry when he tells him that he can’t imagine why Snape would not like him.  Since I know how the whole saga ends, I think it’s an interesting little tidbit.

I tried to explain to my father why I love these books.  They’ve become classics, and they’re not just for kids.  There are so many layers to these stories, and they can be read in a variety of ways.  OK, so Rowling is no C.S. Lewis.  But that’s OK.  Her books are still both interesting and entertaining.  I think it’s a wonderful thing that stories that tell of the struggle between good and evil and the importance of loyalty and bravery and love are so popular — wouldn’t it be nice if more people would live that way in their real lives?