Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thursday Thirteen--Thirteen photoblogs worth taking a look at.

I haven't done a TT in a while and haven't put up any links of interest either. I don't want to have any old favorites feel neglected but my goal today is to list photoblogs from as many countries as I can find and also ones that I haven't mentioned before. So here goes.

1. moodaholic--Denmark I think. Very atmospheric photos and besides I like the site name.

2. torekimi--Germany and Japan

3. The Wink photoblog--France

4. JvA fotoblog--Netherlands

5. Nikos Laskaridis Photography--not the usual photoblog. Pictures presented in an unusual way and there's music too.

6. Wyss and Wyss--Switzerland

7. Arco Iris Reloaded--Portugal--This is one of my favorites of the Palacio de Monserrate--but look at others of the series.

8. http://kepesvagyok.my-expressions.com/--OK it is in Hungarian and I'm not going to attempt it.

9. jggweb--Spain

10. http://photo.sistek.name/index.php--I think he is Czech.

11. From Belgium with Love--no guesswork needed here.

12. Look and See--Australia

13. JR photoblog--Montreal, Canada

Food, glorious food

Big Tasty

This photo is submitted to Thursday Photo Challenge--Food.

While traveling in Puerto Rico, I followed a recommendation in a tour guide for a spot to eat. Unlike many tour guide recommendations, the road did not lead to a tourist trap but to an area that was as local as any I have eaten at. Between the beach, Balneario de Luquillo, and the highway, off a frontage road, there were dozens of little kioskos or food stands selling fried fish, cold drinks and sometimes a game of pool or two. There were lots of bright lights and loud music and young people cruising around. It was getting late for families but with the beach right there, I'm sure they were around earlier.

La 26 de Marta

All the kiosks looked about the same with various seafood fritters in glass cases in the front and a seating area with menus on the wall offering seafood salads, cocktails and a soup called asopao. Traveling with a hungry teen means we got to order one of nearly everything.

Menu

The food was good and the atmosphere enjoyable if noisy. The proprietor who looked in his sixties but may have been younger was missing a lot of teeth but was very friendly and spoke English. Like nearly everyone we chatted with in Puerto Rico it seemed he had a Chicago connection and in fact had lived there for a bit. He still had a daughter in California and hoped to return to the mainland at some point. Given the number of closed kioskos we saw, life as the owner of one may not have been much of a steady and guaranteed income.

La Mexicana

After dinner, we wandered to the now dark beach to let the kids take a dip. It turned out to be a short dip since there were hordes of voracious biting bugs that went for us two non-swimmers.

Poetry Thursday--a poem in dialogue

I have to admit I like these prompts. It is like taking a class with no precise hours, no exams or grades and you don’t have to do the homework unless you feel like it. It’s pass-fail without the fail.
Today’s prompt is to write a poem in dialogue. In the past I would have run away from this one but I’m getting more daring the more I do this. I wasn’t aware of this format until recently I discovered a poem in dialogue in Meadowlands, by Louise Gluck. The dialogue took me unawares: no quotation marks. It took me a while to feel appreciative but I found that it works as poetry, at least in her hands.
Here is an excerpt from The Wish:

Remember that time you made the wish?

I make a lot of wishes.

The time I lied to you
about the butterfly. I always wondered
what you wished for.

What do you think I wished?


I’m not printing the end of the poem because I believe it pushes the edge on copyright law. But you get the idea.

I ‘m going to borrow Gluck’s format for my poem which is a dialogue with myself. Talking with myself is something I do far too often.

Poetry

So, don’t you feel a little silly,
Doing all this poetry stuff?

Yes, it’s not what I intended.
I’m a prosaic sort. No imagination,
I guess.

If it doesn’t engage the real-life senses it isn’t real?

Sometimes it seems like that.

Isn’t poetry a sort of adolescent journaling
You should have outgrown by now?

Yes. Like love letters and mooning
Over a favorite teacher.

Then why do you do it?

To dance with words, each line a pirouette or plie
My body could never accomplish.
But my mind can.

Won’t they laugh?

Not if I don’t tell them.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Is Nothing Sacred?

Disrespect for the dead

I'm submitting this photo to Lensday--Sacred--but I need to prepare a much longer rant to accompany it. This is a photo from one of the oldest cemeteries in Chicago. Many of the graves are from the late 19th century. The neglect is appalling supposedly because the owner has condominiums in mind and has no intention of paying for upkeep. The lack of respect for the history, families and those interred there has me livid. I'm glad that's not my great-great grandmother buried there. More to follow when I have a bit more time to check my references. Work now.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Macroday--Games

No time to post. Younger son had a dance recital which managed to eat up the whole day. He did great. Wish I could post the pictures. If I have any that are all backs, maybe I will.
Here is my entry for Macroday: "Games". Hope you like it. The mahjong tiles and dice are vintage, some bought in Perugia Italy and some in San Diego, California. The Scrabble tile I just found a day or two ago in an antique store. Got the entire set with wooden tiles (did you know that if you buy Scrabble now the tiles are plastic?) for $3. Probably missing some letters but who cares? I used to play Scrabble a lot at home when I was a kid. I have yet to try it with my kids.

IMG_3445

Till tomorrow.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Small town excitement

Even though Chicago is a big city, my neighborhood is a very small town. If I look in the neighborhood phone book I can easily pick out names of people I know. Today was our neighborhood garden fair and there were any number of familiar faces.
Yesterday younger son and I were leaving his school when we noticed fire trucks and large amounts of smoke. We all know that fire trucks in an urban area can mean anything from a heart attack to a false alarm in a public building. But the smoke made it clear this was for real. It had the smell that burning rubber makes.
We immediately decided to park and check it out. Fortunately we could park before we got in the way of the fire trucks. Another less lucky driver had pulled into a driveway to clear the road but then could not get back out. I was a bit surprised that he actually asked the fireman to move his truck to let him out. I mean, really. There's only a burning building and who knows, people at risk. The fireman was up to the task. He told the guy to drive on the sidewalk.
I forgot to mention that as I had been out at a meeting in the far south suburbs yesterday, I actually had my camera with me. So here was my big chance for a little photo journalism.

House on fire

My first shot of the action was of the firemen unreeling the hose and running toward the back of the building. I could see a man and boy who appeared to be helping with the hose. That struck me as surprising, kind of like the paramedics letting someone help with the CPR. Then I saw the family walking toward me; I couldn't see there faces but they looked shaken up and teary. I guessed that it was their house on fire. I couldn't take pictures of their pain. It just isn't in me. So there goes my career as a photo journalist.
Funny since I talk to people about their pain all the time. I see them cry, see them scared, embarrassed, panicky. When someone apologizes to me about crying in my office, I tell them that's why I keep the Kleenexes and joke that I have stock in Procter Gamble or whoever it is that makes the tissues. In real life I don't own stocks. I once meant a psychiatrist who was chatting with a drug rep about her investments in pharmaceutical companies. This troubled me ethically. I don't want stock in something I prescribe. It seems like a conflict of interest.
Anyway, even though my job in a way gives me a license to pry, I didn't want to pry into the business and pain of someone I didn't have a professional or personal relationship with. Don't you always cringe when there are journalists interviewing the families of a murder victim and so forth? How ghoulish. Not that I'm better than anyone else. I gape at car accidents too.
And here we were going to gape at a fire. There was quite a crowd gathered. This was a real neighborhood event. A number of police, a bunch of local people and the local electric company men who stopped working to gape too. There wasn't much of a show fire-wise. From the front of the building there was little smoke and no flames to be seen. The ladder trucks had their ladders extended into a second floor window and you could hear but not see the firemen breaking out the windows of one apartment. Most of the action was hidden by a tree.
In many ways it was more interesting to people watch. A woman walked by with her two pedigree dogs, one of whom had his leg in a cast. Several people had their cell phones out, probably to call and tell someone about the fire. Some parents were showing their kids what was going on.

Watching the Show

My son asked why the people we saw were so upset. I told him I'd be upset if our house were on fire. He replied, why, it's just things? I wisely didn't mention our cats because that would have scared him. He's right, if no one comes to harm, it is just things. But losing one's home to a fire would be devastating nonetheless. Fortunately, judging by idle ambulances and how quickly the fire department was able to start pulling out, it appeared that no one was hurt. With fire hoses and men with axes and picks at the scene, there probably was a fair bit of property damage.
I let my son take some photos too. I figured he'd enjoy it (he has the makings of a fair little photographer) and people would mind him taking pictures less. Although it is a big camera for a little kid. He was a bit too excited to keep the camera still and take the time to focus. Some of his pictures looked more like modern art than photos.

Ladder work

So that's the highlight of my Thursday. How was yours?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Driving do's and don'ts

Do As I Say. . . .

Don't talk on the phone while driving,
Above all don't write a poem.
Don't look for something on the floor
Or program your Palm Treo.
No candid shots of passersby
Or flipping rude drivers the bird.
And absolutely, never, ever, take
This photograph.


Accident on Lakeshore Drive

By way of explanation, as I was heading to work on Tuesday, traffic hit a total slow down, and boredom overtook the anxiety of knowing, I'd arrive late at work. I took a few photos and wrote this poem. When the cause of the traffic was visible I took one shot but with the blockage passed there was no time to focus or frame the photo.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Favorite Vacation Spot

I found this photo contest on a blog participating in Wordless Wednesday. The theme is "My Favorite Vacation Spot." I'm always game for a new game that doesn't take up too much time. Thanks to An Island Life for the meme. If you want to join in you have until midnight May 17.
I was torn between photos of the Pacific beaches where my parents hang out and the farm in Tuscany where I spent much of the last two summers. In the end Tuscany won. Actually I don't know if I will ever get back there. The kids find it a bit boring and aren't as close to the family that initially invited us there. I loved it. When I was bored, rarely, I just figured a little boredom is good for the soul or made a day trip to the nearest big town which is Lucca (20 minutes away). Florence was less than an hour away, Siena a bit further and so on. Not exactly dull. So here is my photo of where we stayed. The fenced in yard in front had horses and goats. The horses were available for riding lessons. The house in back is one of the ones we stayed in. We moved around a bit for logistical reasons and the property has several homes.

Agriturismo near Marlia

Wordless Wednesday--Self Portrait with Birch Trees

Also taken on Illinois Institute of Technology campus.

Self portrait with birch trees

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lensday submission--Modern

This is one piece of modern architecture I really like. It is an El station at the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. I like its lines and how it appears to swallow the train whole.

Elevated train stop

Newberry medal book meme




I can't believe I'm posting this when I should be going home from work and getting some dinner and sleep. But there's a book meme I want to join since Chunkster is done (thank heaven). This one should be really easy. In fact I already read two of the books since I heard about it. The goal is to read six Newberry Medal winners. Thanks to Nattie Rose Writes for this one.

Here is my list.
I found all of these at a used book store which explains a probably rather strange assortment.
1. Gathering of Days by Joan Blos,
2. Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Patterson,
3. Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (I loved this as a kid but not having read it for 30+ years I doubt that really counts as rereading),
4. I, Juan de Pareja (one I've never heard of), by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino.
5. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
6. Kira-kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
Alternate or extra: Bridge to Terabithia by Kathering Paterson

I've already read Shiloh and Call It Courage. Reviews to follow. It is nice to have a short, easy read or two after slogging through two very big books recently.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Neighborhoods

Bronzeville

The prompt for Photo Sharks is "Neighborhood". I was full of ideas for neighborhood photos--the neighborhood bars, the banners proclaiming what neighborhood you are in or a mosaic of the above. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods for better and for worse. For better, because each neighborhood has its own character, its own particular history and architecture, and in Chicago, many of the neighborhoods are at least in part defined by ethnicity. Devon is Indian, Pilsen Hispanic, Argyle Vietnamese, and so on. The food is great too!
Of course in any big city some of the neighborhoods are almost exclusively poor and African American. This is the down side. Urban ghettos are no more desirable now than they were in the middle ages. I have taken many pictures in the local African American neighborhoods and in the course of placing my photos in a proper context have learned about the places attached to the photo. Some of what I have learned is positive. Crime rates are generally down and urban renewal is in place in some areas. Nonetheless, although I became fond of Englewood this winter due to its lovely old homes and boulevards, I decided that I was not safe in a neighborhood that has one of the highest murder rates in the state and which vies with another district for the highest crime rate.
When I moved to Chicago around 24 years ago, I was surprised to find how strictly delineated some of the neighborhoods are. There are many areas where a single street is the line of demarcation between an African American neighborhood and a white, Chinese, Hispanic or Polish neighborhood. I can only imagine what behaviors keep these lines inviolate--threats of violence, biased realtors, and just plain old fear and hatred.
I'm reminded of a story a fellow student told me years ago. We were all first year medical students back then and my friend chose to go jogging on the wrong side of one line of demarcation. He came back telling me that a little girl told him to "Get outta my neighborhood." The story was funny coming from a short Indian-American man from New York as he tried to mimic the child's south side accent but the implications were less funny. I have been told that young white people cruising through south side neighborhoods are presumed by police and locals alike to be looking for drugs. So far I haven't been pulled over by either.
One of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods is known as Bronzeville. It is just north of where I live and has some lovely old town houses, a scattering of brick and stone mansions and other architectural wonders. As the housing projects go down, urban renewal has been flourishing. New businesses are coming in, some of which are taking advantage of a rich cultural heritage. Bronzeville was a Chicago gem of the jazz/blues age. At one point, you could have heard Louis Armstrong play there. So it is good to see new life coming in although I hope the neighborhood does not lose its character with all the new construction.
As time permits, I will tell you more of my urban ramblings but this is all I have for now.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Second Chances

Pilsen Mural

What an interesting prompt. At first all I could think of is the trite second chances that are so often offered as solutions in our culture. You know what I mean, if at first you don’t succeed . . . etc., etc., etc. There’s It’s a Beautiful Life, Groundhog Day, even Click (which at the behest of my son, I watched recently—how many four letter words can one use in one movie? A lot apparently).
You can change careers, marriages, get forgiven after a fight, go back to school, get a sex change operation. Aren’t these all second chances? In my book, not really.
I’d say the reverse. You only get one life; make the best of it. This may seem unempathic and a bit cynical. Or maybe I’m just frolicking in my current, relatively functional existence.
But I don’t mean it that way. I’ve had my share of hard knocks (really, but you’ll have to read about it in my memoirs). But there was no room for sitting around waiting for a new life to come along. At some point I needed to get off my duff and keep moving forward. There wasn’t any alternative.
I see nearly daily those who deserve a second chance but aren’t going to get it: the single parent raising a mentally ill child, the psychotic young adult, the bereaved parent, the terminally ill middle aged woman. Life seems to say to them, tough luck, this is as good as it gets. (Great movie by the way). You don’t get to change your genes, delete all your bad choices (why did you marry and have kids with that piece of scum?), or turn back the clock.
So what to do? Isn’t part of my job to help people figure that out? To tell them that we will do our best to help them out of their chronic depression or chronic pain. But no false promises. You may have your disorder for the rest of your life. Your pain may be incurable. Your autistic child may never live independently.
If I can, I will try to “cure” with medication or psychotherapy. But sometimes I just try to help people cope. One step at a time, I say repeatedly. Let’s focus on what you’re going to do today. Let’s congratulate you for the progress made over a year’s hard work and look ahead to perhaps fewer days of disability than last year. Did you make one friend or pass your first college course after three years of trying? Don’t mind that it isn’t even for credit. Your mentally retarded child is lucky to have a mom like you; now let’s see what we can do about the tantrums.
I guess I don’t feel that life is about second chances. You can hope for change, to better your existence, to decrease your pain and suffering but this is all there is. (I’m not talking theology here.) Fight like the dickens to feel better. Fight like the dickens to have a life worth living. Never quit. There are solutions. There is progress. Change can happen. But, as I jokingly tell people sometimes, we don’t do personality transplants in my office. No brain transplants or time travel either.
Good luck to you all and Happy Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

See It Sunday--Village

Village of Lucchio

Village of Lucchio in the mountains of Italy. Above the town are the remnants of a fortress.

Fortress

Friday, May 11, 2007

Creativity

create

A few weeks ago a blog-friend challenged me to go out and photograph some things that spurred on my creativity. I didn't have time to do it that day but I have been mulling over it for a while now. I've come to the conclusion after a bit of time that I want to do something new. I'm not sure what yet. It could be as simple as attending a photography workshop or as involved as taking some serious writing classes. I'll let you know when I know. I'm not exactly planning on a new job or worse yet a new career but the mental gears are turning. I think that the years of medical and graduate school, residency training and parenting young children took a major bite out of the creative me and it is finally coming back to life. I still don't have time for any major life changes. Those will have to wait until I'm an empty nester in 8 or so years. But it feels exciting to feel the internal winds may be shifting a bit.

create. .

Photohunters--Five

Actually there are five fives. All from Chicago buildings.

Four Fives

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Thirteen--Thirteen birds

Parrot at feeder

Here are thirteen birds I've recently photographed.
1. Red winged blackbird.
2. Northern Flicker
3. American Goldfinch
4. Starling
5. White crowned sparrow
6. Cooper's Hawk
7. Canada Goose
8. Yellow bellied sapsucker
9. House sparrow
10. American Kestrel
11. Magnificent Frigatebird
12. Junco
13. Monk Parrot

You can see many of these photos on my blog and others on my Flickr site (click on widget on sidebar) in my set labeled Birds (duh!).

Booking Through Thursday

The question of the day is:
Where don't I read?

Answer:
Almost nowhere. I generally do not read while driving a car, unless you count billboards, bumper stickers and other print on vehicles and buildings I pass. In obscenely bad traffic, I have once or twice flipped through a catalog. I had a coworker years ago who would read an actual book while driving on the highway to work. I think this makes cell phones look safe.

Heil

I recently started taking pictures in the car which also is not safe. I try to only do so at stop lights and when in very slow traffic. It is hard to look through the lensfinder and accurately judge the following distance of the car in front.
I took a picture of the truck in front of me last week because this particular truck company makes me have unpleasant associations with World War II newsreels. I'm sure Mr. Heil runs a very responsible trucking company but his last name has unfortunate implications. After all would you buy Kremlin cosmetics or Ethnic bathroom cleansers?
Speaking of trucks, I actually had one hit me last week(and I wasn't reading or taking pictures). I was in downtown highway traffic and had the nerve to merge into a lane in front of a truck. Traffic was moving slowly, the gap was plenty large but the truck driver didn't see fit to brake.
Have you ever not wanted anyway to pull in front of you so you try to close the gap rather than letting them in? I think the driver was pulling that little stunt and didn't stop in time. He only slightly clipped my rear bumper and then had the gall to yell at me. Since no harm was done to my car, I didn't even stop (who wants to spend an hour standing on the curb only to have your insurance rates go up) but I did take his license and call it in to the state police. I don't know if they ever pulled him over, but I doubt a charge of reckless driving will look good on his record. I don't know if it made the news out of state but there was a local scandal a year or two ago in which it was discovered that many Illinois truck drivers gained their licenses through bribes to select officials.
Back to books. I do read in bed, in the car when I am not driving, in the tub, in restaurants, in airplanes and airports and anywhere else I am allowed to read. Although I have definite reading preferences I will read a cereal box if nothing else is available. When I was a kid, I got car sick but we took long family car trips so I read anyway. I developed an iron will so I never threw up even though there were times I might have preferred to. One road trip to Canada, I read James Clavell's novel Shogun. Having a good Chunkster novel sure helps a long car ride go by.
Happy reading!

No posting

I've been a bit busy. I did get to a park yesterday with my camera. They have recreated a little bit of prairie which is quite convincing except for the periodic trains and car traffic. I saw Red-winged blackbirds, an as yet unidentified woodpecker, a flicker as well as the usual urban geese, sea gulls, robins and so forth. The prairie wildflowers were spectacular too.

Peeking out of hole
Woodpecker peeking out of its hole.

Shooting Star
Shooting star flower

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday scribblings--Ocean

Beach near Villa Nicolas, Costa Rica
I didn't take this picture but I love this picture of me walking on a beach in Costa Rica a few years ago.

I have described before that I find oceans to be a place where I can relax, "let my hair down." Even though, now that I have long hair, I find getting salt water and sand in my hair most unrelaxing. Which is one reason I probably will get all that hair chopped off next month.
I probably love the sea so much because of the many childhood associations I have of visiting it. I love walking barefoot in the sand, hunting for shells and agates, sitting on the sand with my face to the sun and feeling the breeze and warmth on my face.
This summer, I'd like to take my kids camping on the beaches where I hiked as a kid. I feel guilty that my oldest is 15 and has never been camping. Yes, I have offered him a number of high quality life experiences including international travel, summer camp, music lessons and so on, but still. Where would childhood be without camping--unrolling your sleeping bag in a tent, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows on a stick, fighting off ravenous hordes of mosquitoes and so on?
I want to spend a night listening to the foghorns off the Washington coast from my warm sleeping bag and get up in the shivery cold morning to light a fire to make burnt pancakes for the family. I want to introduce my kids to the infamous taste of Tang (do they even still make it anymore?). Well, life would go on without Tang. I wonder what freeze dried foods they sell at REI these days? They used to have such appetizing names as "Turkey tetrazzini." Food like that could only taste good after a long day spent hiking.
I remember REI from the days before it had a catalogue, when only a privileged few Seattlites, could go to the downtown warehouse to get backpacking gear. We'd always buy our sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tents and hiking boots there. Also the food and maps of where we were going. One longish trip, I got bored and wandered around the store filling out entries for a give away they had at the store. I kept filling out the forms even as my folks were waiting in the checkout line. I must have stuffed a lot of entries in the box nearest the register because a few weeks later I learned that I had won my very own, large hunting knife. Fortunately they let us trade it in for an upgrade to my sleeping mat. For a few weeks, I had the most comfortable camping bed in the family.
I doubt we would manage to backpack this year. Too complicated and I'm not sure if my younger son would cooperate with carrying his gear for very far. But there is car camping which requires less gear I don't own (backpacks, ultralight stoves, water filtration devices, cook pots, and so forth). Unless you count my childhood back pack which is still in the garage growing mildew because I can't bear to part with it.
The other major complication of backpacking would be how would I carry all my camera gear? Well, one thing at a time. First I have to figure out what we are all doing this summer. Which reminds me, I'm supposed to be doing that today.
I hope there is a beach trip in your not-too-distant future. Enjoy your Sunday.
sarala

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shutterday--Ground

As in things seen on the ground.

Crab Shell in Shore Grass

Thanks

Pink cow

Debo Blue described me in her 100th post as "colorful and unpretentious." I just wanted to thank her. Funny, I could describe her the same way

Just a Mural before I Go. . . .

To do some chores.

No Tiren Basura!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tuesday Challenge--Transport

A bit blurry but not bad for a shot taken while driving at 60 miles an hour. I had never previously thought of this particular expressway as the "road to recovery" but whatever works. . . .

Road to Recovery

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Photo Friday--Relaxation

Imagine pulling up your lounge chair and relaxing under this umbrella!

Beach hut and sunset

Thursday Thirteen--Thirteen Plant Catalogue Adjectives

Bromeliad flower
Bromeliad flower in Puerto Rico

Ever marvel at the language used in a plant catalogue? Here is a sampling of excessive use of adjectives from a plant catalogue or two, in honor of the effusive, glowing, marvellous and intense glamour of spring.

1. Shining
2. Robust
3. Adaptable
4. Striking
5. Lush
6. Unique
7. Stunning
8. Dramatic
9. Exotic
10. Intense
11. Wondrous
12. Vibrant
13. Delicate

Now for homework use, each word in a sentence applied to yourself as in: My intense dark eyes looked vibrant as I combed my dramatic shining hair.
See, you too can be as gorgeous as a catalogue plant! Not bad for instant self esteem!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fall on Your Knees--a book review

Legs

“All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Tolstoy

One of the books on my Chunkster and TBR list was Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. I bought this book on one of my trips to Canada. I’m sure of this because the book is a Canadian edition. As I mentioned in the latest Booking Through Thursday, I like to pick up books as I travel. Unfortunately, I always pick up more books than I can actually read and there is something intimidating about a book that runs to 566 pages. Even if it is a novel.
Fall takes place in a part of Canada that I have never visited, Cape Breton Island. It sounds like a place that I would like to visit although growing up in the early 20th Century does not sound so appealing. It is one of those books reviewers call “sweeping” and “epic.” It is also relentlessly tragic, reminiscent in this sense of a Russian novel. The first words of the novel are: “They’re all dead now.”
Reading this book made me wonder, do novels have to be depressing to be candidates for greatness? Certainly Tolstoy would have thought so. But at times during this book, I would wait for the next shoe to fall, dreading it all the while. Who would die next, what new misery would next befall this family.
Fall is also fascinating. It is the story of three generations of the Piper family, beginning with the forced marriage between James Piper and his thirteen year old Lebanese girlfriend. In one novel, there is all thrown together poverty, race relations, mental illness, illegitimacy, infanticide and more. There is an amazing cast of characters thrown in as well. In how many novels, would you run into a Lebanese woman, married to a Scottish-Irish man, cooking chicken soup with Matza balls? I have always thought that Canada’s melting pot atmosphere is an interesting reflection on that of the United States. It feels to me as if Canada is one or two generations less “melted” than here and this book seems to reflect that cultural diversity.
MacDonald is a wonderful observer of humanity. Here is one woman pondering whether she dare tell her brother some of the secrets held by the Piper family. “Besides, there are some things that are right to tell a woman friend, but otherwise indecent to repeat. Some things, when discussed with a dear husband or brother, are only poison. Good women discuss these things the way epidemiologists identify and track disease without alarming the public. This is woman’s work. Men are unfitted for it by nature and should be protected from it the way women shouldn’t have to go down the mines. Men are so innocent.”
In fact, there is not much innocence in Fall on Your Knees but there is enough beauty to keep me reading to the end. I thought this was a good book, not necessarily a great book, but accomplished. I finished reading it a month ago so I am having trouble putting my finger on my dissatisfaction. Read it yourself and tell me what you think.

Worldess Wednesday--Detail of Earth Sculpture

This is part of the twin planet to moon, posted a few days ago.

Detail, earth sculpture

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blogging against Disablism Day--BADD?

Ad on bus stop

What happened recently in Virginia has been hashed over so many times that I have little original to say about the tragedy but I will tell one story to heighten awareness regarding those who silently suffer from a mental illness. It is clear the young man who killed those people and then himself was mentally ill. This doesn't bring back the dead or get him posthumous help.
But I will reflect to you all what a patient of mine once commented when another mentally ill individual made the headlines years ago. She felt that every time an outrageous act is attributed to mental illness, it becomes all that much harder to focus on the fact that most mentally ill individuals never harm a soul, don't do scary things and don't act "crazy." There are no news headlines about how someone with a mental illness holds a job, raises a family and donates money to the charity of his/her choice. Occasionally a celebrity "comes out" about his or her Bipolar Disorder, Depression or OCD, or Oprah parades a few folks on her show, but it is never enough to make my patient feel that she doesn't have to apologize to the world for her illness.
Enough said.

See Diary of a Goldfish for more.