Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weekly Readings

What with the holiday travels, there hasn't been much time to listen to audio books.

The two regular books I've managed to tackle were both acquired from the free bin at the local library, which says something about their quality. Possibly, it also says something about the quality of people who're presently moving, cleaning their bookshelves, or are recently deceased.
There is something extremely alluring about free literature. Not just the price, mind you, but the kind of second-hand aura- this time you hold in your hand? Someone's already picked it up. Read it. Cast it aside. Unfortunately, the selection leaves something to be desires-- about 70% of all books that end up in the free bin are romance novels.

"The Mother's Day Murder"
By Wensley Clarkson
AKA- "A treatise on dumb people."
Rating: 8/10
I picked this up with a handful of romance novels. The romance novels were barely glanced at before being returned to the free bin, but this little guy was actually read through. It's your basic true-crime novel. If it carries any moral to it, it is this: "Asking teenagers to murder your husband is a Bad Idea". A tale of a mildly insane woman with a deceased daughter, a living son, and a string of younger lovers takes a turn for the worse when the woman realizes that her husband's worth more dead than alive. The stupidity of it all burns the retinas, but it's not a half bad read, if you're looking for something light and inconsequential.

"Selected Poetry of Lord Byron"
Edited by Leslie A. Marchand
AKA- "Literary bliss."
Rating: ? (In progress of reading.)
When I was a kid back in Russia, I thoroughly enjoyed poetry. It was somewhat of a tradition in my family to memorize long un's and recite them on the long trips, or when an occasion arose. However, I'm not at all familiar with English poets; my stock of memorized English-language verses consists merely of "Crusader's Return" from Ivanhoe, that Durin ballad from Lord of the Rings ("The world was young, the mountains green/No stain yet on the moon was seen), and a ditty from The Last Unicorn. Which means that I'm overdue for another, likely by this Victorian Englishman. He writes like other people sing.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The game

Take two people in a car. Add several multiple-hour trips. (10 hours and 18 hours total, respectively). Add boredom and proneness to car-sickness when reading.

What you get is a game.

Person A. selects first and last letter of a word. Person B. fills in the blank. Ex: t-y, tasty. Or tardy. Or any such thing. Person B then thinks of a word starting with the last letter of the previous word, and A gets to guess it based on first and last letters of the new word. Ex: y-r, year->r-n, raisin.. and so forth. Words have to be 4 letters or more. Names of people/characters are not acceptable, names of places are. Brownie points are given for longer words. I'm sure someone could come up with a comprehensive scoring system for something like this (if it hasn't been done already), but we're not at that stage yet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A few thoughts on artsiness

Today, I went out for coffee with an acquaintance, who showed me some of the therapeutic art she's been doing in the off-time from her (unrelated to art) degree. She wanted to take the artsiness to the next level (learn to paint better/actually exhibit her work.)

Things that came to mind for someone that did art as a hobby were as follows:

1. Books. There's very little you can't learn from books, technique-wise, and good photographic reference tomes are invaluable.
2. Classes. As much for learning as for making a connection with fellow enthusiasts. Keep in mind that some of the things taught in art classes will be detrimental to your own work. Attend at your own discretion
3. Time. The results you'll get practicing any craft (and art -is- a craft) are directly proportional to the number of hours you'll put in.
4. Community involvement. In fact, networking in any way, shape and form, period. It also helps to keep in touch with people whose work you admire, since, on occasion, they provide something ephemeral called 'wisdom'.

Things that did not come to mind immediately, and that really should have, were-
1. Marketing yourself. Self-explanatory.
2. Validity of the source for information above. As a person who's still figuring out how to make a living doing art, I'm possibly not the best reference.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Art of war, and planetary respect. Unrelated to Star Trek.

Current readings:

"Art of War"
By Sun Tzu
Read by David Warrilow
AKA- "The most referenced text everywhere, ever."
Rating: 10/10
Quite frankly, with how short this book is and how often it is mentioned in other readings and visual media, there is absolutely no reason why anyone shouldn't read it. The book is composed of mostly few-liner "food for thought" items and guidelines regarding various sides of military conflict. It is wisdom in its distilled form, and part of me wishes I'd have read the entire thing rather than listened to it-- when you're listening, there's little to no chance of digestion and contemplation on the topics. Vast majority of it is also common sense.

"To you we shall Return, Lessons about our Planet from the Lakota"
By Joseph M. Marshall III, read by the same.
AKA- "Respect for the planet, evil white men, and the incongruity of the above."
Rating: 6/10
I'm on the fence with this one. In parts, this book is a very nice narrative by a native American about growing up as such, complete with life lessons and cultural overview of the Lakota. It's well-written, engaging, and really takes you back there. In other parts, it's a guy ranting on values of going green, love of mother earth, evil of white men, and our need to go back to being more environmentally-friendly. He has an interesting perspective on it, but it's really nothing new, and, in parts, the guy's frankly got no idea what he's talking about. 

Recently, Elrin and I have been watching Star Trek, the Next Generation, on Netflix. Strangely enough, it appeals to me greatly, as a mixture of a western, drama and action. Fun little time-waster.


The little wren was back, and it brought a friend! (Friend not visible.) I ended up making it a roosting pouch (more like a nest box) out of one of those wooden clementine crates. It's held together with wood-glue and a lot of gummy tape. :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December Visitor

This afternoon, we had a visitor on the back porch. The visitor in question was a -wren-. It was also a -Carolina Wren-, which meant that it was among the most jolly, annoying, and downright spastic birds one could get on their back porch. Carolina wren's common call is a mundane, high-pitched "Squeak", while their alarm call is something like a cheese-grater, being put through a sink garbage disposal ("Screek-screek-screek-SCREEK!") One has to hear it to fully appreciate the sheer volume of it.

Apparently, these little guys are year-long residents in Virginia, but are somewhat cold-sensitive. Not surprising, considering that they're basically insectivores, who belong in the deep south... We're thinking of putting up a roosting pocket or two to encourage these little guys to hang around.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A quote.

El: (regarding "The Figure in Motion, a visual reference for the artist" by Thomas Easley) "Get your porn book off the kitchen table."

On an unrelated note, I did get a couple of things finished this week:
The first is this little ornament. The local fiber artist, Helen, made the blank, and I've added a bit of embroidery. 

The second is this 12x12 inch painting that 've been pecking (pun intended) at for a while now. Acrylic on board.

It's been a cruddy week, otherwise. Got either the cold or the flu, and am trying to sleep it off.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Boxes, boxes, boxes!

South-west Virginia is full of artists.

Nicola is from the area, and does some wonderful wood-turning.

from the area, and does Russian-folk-art-inspired painting.

The result?

It is not a terribly advanced box, but it's a start.

Nadya's also just finished “Born to Run”, which turned out to be an excellent book, something like 8/10. Very upbeat and educational.

Nadya will stop talking in third person now. Yes, she will.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter's coming.

It’s been a wet spring, a crazy summer, a magnificent fall.

The flock of mourning doves at our feeder grew to nearly 15, and OtherKitty has been renamed to Finnigan. A cyclamen mite infestation nearly wiped out the African violet collection earlier in the year; the consolation acquisition was a six-foot hibiscus tree, which was supposed to have gone to my parents, but did not end up where intended. The tree is currently putting out tea saucer-sized red blooms, which shame me with their flagrant disregard for the freezing weather outside.

Winter rolls in. Every morning, the eroded slope, as seen from our office window, is covered in frost. “Silvered” wouldn’t be the right word for it, as it is dead-white of a piece of printing paper. Frost lacks luster, and I cannot wait for the snow that sticks. It is undoubted- the most beautiful shadow is the one cast by a person under a street lamp, onto a sheet of freshly fallen snow.

I miss those days of last year, when I would sit down before the computer with a great mug of black tea and write until my eyes hurt from the glare of the screen. It is the unfortunate truth that painting full time makes such writing impossible. It is also true, that there are snippets of time, early in the morning, before breakfast must be served, when I might make a choice of sleeping the extra hour, or writing.

I believe that I will resume weekly updates of my reading list on here, if nothing else.

Current audiobooks:

“American Lightning” by Howard Blum

Read by John H. Mayer
AKA: “Intrigue, thrill, and lack of cohesion”.
You wanted to listen to a thrilling tale about the dawn of 20th century? The politics, the crime, the battle of labor unions vs. capitalist overlords, the beginnings of the movie industry? I bet you did. Did you also want to listen to the author struggling to mesh two relatively unrelated stories together? I thought not. To add to that issue is my opinion that Mayer isn’t the best of narrators.

“Too Late to Say Goodbye” by Ann Rule
Read by Karen Ziemba
AKA: “Murder happens, someone dies”.
This one is a standard Ann Rule true crime story with good narration and moderate amusement value. Like Agatha Christie books, these have a fairly predictable storyline. Crime happens, crime gets solved. Good, solid listening for long hours of painting.

“Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall
Read by Fred Sanders
AKA: “Mexican supermen and a walking corpse, not in that order”.
Now this is an interesting bit of long-term journalism. It reminds me vaguely of “Three Cups of Tea”, whose author wasn’t entirely truthful, as it turned out in the end. As I’m only half way through this one, I’ll reserve judgment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Just saw a black vulture feast on a road-killed opossum! This is rather neat for two reasons:

1. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a black vulture.
2. It's huge bird, close-up. How can that be -not- neat?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two books I could read, and one I couldn't.

Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen - The first book to make me cry in years. A must-read, if only because it raises a valid point about end of life care and the way doctors are trained to view it.

Aftermath, inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home - Mildly amusing, with some relatively gruesome details. Would've been better if the author didn't go into personal musings near the end, but still definitely readable.

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder
- ARGHHH! The author may be an expert fact-digger, but he's an absolutely awful writer. I tried, and I tried... for over a third of the book, but was absolutely incapable of getting into it. Sigh.

Challenge count-down: 4/100

Saturday, March 26, 2011

100 book challenge.

So.. After 30+ pages on Tale of Daon #2, I hit what I'd like to term "a progressive burn-out". It happens about 6 months to a year into any creative endeavor of mine, and is no surprise.

Therefore, I shall once again pick up reading. 100 books sounds like a reasonable number, about 2 a week, maybe more, maybe less. Maybe I'll finally get to posting those book reviews on here again. Who knows!

Anyway, the first two books, freshly read:

Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky- A highly recommended read. Salt is a surprisingly interesting subject, and I wouldn't mind reading the guy's cod (fish) book.

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan- I read it a while back (maybe in highschool?), and recall it being a lot better, factually, than it seems right now. It's still a rather interesting read, but after Salt: A World History, is nowhere thorough enough.



Friday, March 11, 2011

Completing ToD

Some 5 months after beginning, Tale of Daon, part 1 (~100k words), is finished. A couple of people are proofing it, and after that, an unhealthy number of copies shall be sent to publishers.

Onward with ToD #2~!