Sunday, April 26, 2009

Great Expectations

Great Expectations Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

(Follow the chapter links for the Gutenberg online text of the book.)

Chapters 1-6

Ch. 1: The only image I have in my head from a movie is that of Robert DeNiro bursting out of the water, and that does not match up with the swampy scene conjured up by the book for me. No wonder I couldn't watch the movie.

Ch. 2: "My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap."

Oooooh. ouch. Joe's a good guy. I'm liking Joe. Sister, not so much. Will she be more than 2-dimensional? Pip picks the pie that was "put away so carefully." Uh-oh, Pip. Don't do that.

Ch. 3: "The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that instead of my running at everything, everything seemed to run at me. This was very disagreeable to a guilty mind. The gates and dikes and banks came bursting at me through the mist..."
Love this. 2nd convict-->mystery coming?

Ch. 4: Mrs. Joe plays the martyr. So much family lost...where is her grief? Stolen pie on Xmas day...this does not bode well.

Interesting: the churchmen speak of of chopping up and eating Pip, just as the convict did.
Convict: "You fail...and your liver shall be tore out, roasted, and ate."
Mr. Pumblechook, on if Pip had been born a swine: "And what would have been your destination?" turning on me again. "You would have been disposed of for so many shillings according to the market price of the article, and Dunstable the butcher would have come up to you as you lay in your straw, and he would have whipped you under his left arm, and with his right he would have tucked up his frock to get a penknife from out of his waistcoat-pocket, and he would have shed your blood and had your life."

Off the mark regarding the Prodigal Son, I would say. Haha, tar water in the brandy! Pip is saved by the cop at the door re: pie.

Ch. 5: "I noticed that Mr. Pumblechook in his hospitality appeared to forget that he had made a present of the wine, but took the bottle from Mrs. Joe and had all the credit of handing it about in a gush of joviality. Even I got some."

Pip's convict gives himself up, the better to get...revenge? ...the real culprit?

Ch. 6: Pip can't tell Joe: "The fear of losing Joe's confidence, and of thenceforth sitting in the chimney corner at night staring drearily at my forever lost companion and friend, tied up my tongue."

Chapters 7-12

Ch. 7: Pip --> teaching Joe to read; Miss Havisham --> summons Pip to play
Ch. 8: Mr. Pumblechook's premises = farinaceous = having a mealy texture or surface; containing or rich in starch. ....oh, now I see.

of Estella: Though she called me "boy" so often, and with a carelessness that was far from complimentary, she was of about my own age.

Everything stopped at twenty minutes to nine. Pip couldn't be honest with Joe, but is with Miss Havisham. Estella has quite the attitude for one who follows a lot of orders.

Ch. 9: "I entertained an impression that there would be something coarse and treacherous in my dragging [Miss Havisham] as she really was (to say nothing of Miss Estella) before the contemplation of Mrs. Joe. Consequently, I said as little as I could, and had my face shoved against the kitchen wall. " Pip seems to have a natural inclination for tact.

Pip says Miss H is tall and dark. Wait, is that making her sound like his sister, who I notice he described as tall and bony with dark hair?
And then I told Joe that I felt very miserable, and that I hadn't been able to explain myself to Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook, who were so rude to me, and that there had been a beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's who was dreadfully proud, and that she had said I was common, and that I knew I was common, and that I wished I was not common, and that the lies had come of it somehow, though I didn't know how.

This was a case of metaphysics, at least as difficult for Joe to deal with as for me. But Joe took the case altogether out of the region of metaphysics, and by that means vanquished it.

Hmmm. I wonder if this will be Pip's krypton. Will he be able to be manipulated when it comes to the 'region of metaphysics'?
Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
Pausing.... Hmmm. For me, it would be that day I paused at the bookshelf on Eastern Philosophies at the bookstore at St. John's and George Wenberg noticed and asked if I was wondering where to start. I started.

Ch. 10: Stranger plies Joe with drink. Stranger knew Pip's convict. Stranger has Joe's file that Pip gave to the convict. Stranger gives Pip a large amount of money by Pip's, Joe's, and Mrs. Joe's measure. Pip has a nightmare about the file.

Ch. 11:
Pip still "unwilling to play." Estella makes him cry. It is important to Estella and to Miss H that Pip think Estella's pretty.
But the black beetles took no notice of the agitation, and groped about the hearth in a ponderous elderly way, as if they were short-sighted and hard of hearing, and not on terms with one another.

These crawling things had fascinated my attention, and I was watching them from a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder. In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and she looked like the Witch of the place.
The place is creepy and weird, but interesting for a boy to explore, like abandoned houses rumored to be haunted. Then there's the weird vibes blatantly and deliberately created by Miss H between the children. Hints that she will be avenged of men through Estella.

And who's the boy who fights Pip, thus facilitating a kiss from Estella? Just how old is Pip, that he likes the crawlie things, but is taken in by a kiss?

Ch. 12: "When the day came round for my return to the scene of the deed of violence, my terrors reached their height. ...However, go to Miss Havisham's I must, and go I did. And behold! nothing came of the late struggle. It was not alluded to in any way, and no pale young gentleman was to be discovered on the premises."

So...Miss H is keeping Pip from apprenticeship, wants to keep him ignorant, and isn't paying him to spend countless hours in her creepy old house. The singing of Old Clem --> sounds surreal.

Only Biddy gets the truth from Pip. "Why it came natural to me to do so, and why Biddy had a deep concern in everything I told her, I did not know then, though I think I know now." Biddy is the girl teaching Pip everything she learns.
What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character fail to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my thoughts were dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the natural light from the misty yellow rooms?
She's putting a spell on him.

Now Miss H wants Joe to come too, to apprentice Pip at her place. This discombobulates Mrs. Joe.
When she had exhausted a torrent of such inquiries, she threw a candlestick at Joe, burst into a loud sobbing, got out the dustpan,—which was always a very bad sign,—put on her coarse apron, and began cleaning up to a terrible extent.
Oh wait. Is it because she wasn't invited, and these two were?

Reflection upon reading what I just wrote:

It seems all may hinge about that "one selected day." I should have been thinking of the "long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers." Snap! I think those are used to bind fairies, and I bet maybe they also can bind witches. Then there are the creepy crawlies, and Miss H looking like the witch of the place, the darkness and candles, and that girl, apprentice witch. The hangers-on, seeking the favor of the witch. How did I not get that when I even said she's putting a spell on him.

This would change the reading entirely. Boy howdy, then those movies really do miss it.

But then, it could be related to this sermon. Or perhaps that concept was floating about back then. I'll read it later if I get the time. I found that sermon by searching for complete term "chain of iron."

Month in Review

  • I went to see The Importance of Being Earnest with my homie. Theater is so much better than the movie, once you're used to the theater. Come to think of it, I am thinking of seeing Frost/Nixon. All that fits in my schedule is this Thursday or next Thursday...anybody interested in joining me? Even more so, I want to see Crazy Enough. Do I really want to see the first? If I don't, several people could join me for the second.
  • I've started following a website in blog format called Neuroanthropology....absolutely completely my kinda thing. I've found there such gems as Buddha's Brain.
  • March 20 my status said: I just said over the fence, "Hey neighbor. You need to get a handle on your anger. Let it be." He was yelling at his wife/partner. He stopped yelling. Five friends liked it. What I liked was the way my friends' responses were such a perfect reflection of what they know of me, and who they are. What I couldn't say, because Facebook didn't allow that many words, was that I hovered there for a bit, wondering if I should say anything. A woman walking her dog had also paused, noticed me, and came up the driveway to confer. That decided me. I didn't think it merited a 911 call, but he was worrying people. Within a few days, first one, and then the other, moved out, and I think it may be that a new owner simply had given them notice. The overheard yelling did have something to do with moving.
  • <-- A sample from a set of photos I uploaded to flickr. See the rest here.
  • March 22, talked to friends about my secret facebook project. I completed it at 3 am, April 22. If you want to take my Which Bodhisattva are you? quiz, you gotta get on FB. Or wait the month it'll probably take me to get it online at some other quiz place. I figure it took me about 15 hours to review information, take notes, create a grid of categories the questions would address, create the questions, and then the answers. At some point, I may upload the grid of questions and answers.
  • This is good to know if you ever have to go to the hospital.
  • March 27: I did my first storytime. I hadn't yet been evaluated, but my library branch needed me. I did my storytime for evaluation on April 6, which went as well as I have the ability to do. I think I passed, but I don't know for sure. As far as I know, nobody from the classes knows their final outcome.
  • My Zen center experienced a very important moment in its history: a beloved Lay Teacher receiving dispensation to have students. The next week, her first two students were given lay disciple ordination. This is a first for us. I'm still not so sure how I feel about the "separate but equal" lines...monk/priest and lay lineages. Here's a hint.
  • Of course, yay Iowa and Vermont!
  • I watched a heart-opening documentary on Ansel Adams from the PBS series American Experience. There is dharma there. I'm saving it to watch again. Quote below.
  • Facebook's monthly electricity bill is over $1,000,000, but then there are over 200,000,000 unique users.
  • Here's something to respond with anytime someone attempts to derail a witnessing or naming of oppressive phenomena.
  • New things so bad they're good: Keebler's Chocolate Malt Chunk Chips Deluxe cookies
  • Tigger and friends!
  • April 18: a poem:
    Extra smiles.
    Long gazes.
    It feels like all are flirting with me.
    Oh! We're tripping on that spring
    sunshine rush that feels like a
    glimpse of love.
    I shouldn't take it personally.
  • New light rail getting put through its paces (photo) yay, Trimet! This will be the 4th light rail line.
  • Great interview on Alternet with the author of the first book on Polyamory that I read, The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures Probably not-so-great comments. I haven't read them yet.
For the first time, I know what love is, what friends are, and what art should be. Love is a seeking for a way of life, the way that cannot be followed alone, the resonance of all spiritual and physical things. Friendship is another form of love, more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting, and acceptances of things, like thunderclouds, and grass, and the clean granite of reality. Art is both love and friendship and understanding, the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things; it is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit, it is a re-... Read Morecreation on another plane of the realities of the world, the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the interrelations of these. ~Ansel Adams

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Slow Reads

I got myself into this situation again...reading several books at once, but these are slow, deliberative reads.

Great Expectations Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

For a library classics book group, I will begin Great Expectations, starting Sunday. I meant to start this week, but the time is already getting away from me. I hope you will be inspired to read along with me...I have one person who has said she will. I will blog about it as I'm reading, though not so much as I did with Moby Dick. I vaguely recall perhaps reading this in junior high or high school, but I remember nothing. I have not been able to watch any of the movies. After the slow read of A Tale of Two Cities, however, I am looking forward to this.

My schedule (which comes to about 14 pages/day):

  • April 19 to April 25: Chapters 1-12
  • April 26 to May 2: Chapters 13-23 (thru Vol. 2, Chapter 4)
  • May 3 to May 9: Chapters 24-36 (thru Vol. 2, Chapter 17)
  • May 10 to May 16: Chapters 37-47 (thru Vol. 3, Chapter 8)
  • May 17 to May 23: Chapters 48 to 59 (to the end)
If you can't get your hands on a book right away, you can read it at Project Gutenberg, or Google books, or a variety of other free spots with ads of varying degrees of annoyance factor.

Zen Center classes
Buddhist Wisdom: The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra
Buddhist Wisdom: The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra

For some reason Goodreads has this book by Judith Simmer-Brown, but it's not. She wrote the preface only. It's a 50+ year old translation and commentary by Edward Conze.

This will be my second reading. I took the class too long ago to be able to complete the paper, so here I go. This will complete my class requirements for our seminary.

Here's my schedule, sort of. The page numbers are inexact though, due to my teacher's old edition of the book:
  • April 14 — Diamond Sutra, p. 9-24
  • April 21 — Diamond Sutra, p. 25-50
  • April 28 — Diamond Sutra, p. 51-64
  • May 5 — Diamond Sutra, p. 65-74
  • May 19 — Heart Sutra, p. 77-93
  • May 26 — Heart Sutra, p. 93-107

The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom The Diamond Sutra
by Red Pine

I discovered in the first class that several people also have the Red Pine translation and commentary, and it sounds much more personable, so I'm going to use that too. This is because Conze drew from Indian and Tibetan commentaries, which are rather analytical, and Red Pine from Chinese commentaries, which are based more in everyday life, or in practical application. I've also sent for Red Pine's Heart Sutra. (Thanks to Amazon Prime, they will arrive in 2 days.)

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

by Tara Brach

I'm reading this one for an open class at the Zen Center. (non-seminary, no paper)
  • April 1 — Prologue through Chapter 2 . The trance of unworthiness, strategies to manage the pain, awakening from the trance, the wings of acceptance, what radical acceptance is not.
  • April 8 — Chapters 3, 4. The sacred pause, unconditional friendliness.
  • April 15 — Chapters 5, 6. Coming home to the body, desire.
  • April 22 — Chapter 7. Fear.
  • April 29 — Chapters 8, 9. Developing compassion for ourselves and others.
  • May 6 — Chapters 10, 11, 12. Forgiveness, Radical Acceptance in Relationship, Realizing our True Nature.
There are audio podcasts of the classes, but I'm not going to link to them. If you really really want to listen to them to get more out of these books, contact me privately. The podcasts are there for the Dharma Rain community, but if you consider yourself part of my community, you could be extended family of sorts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Signs, Art, and a Recipe

I'm pleased that my library joined the reusable bag game. I do believe we've been selling for 25 cents, the same double thickness plastic bags, and the same cord-handled paper bags, since I've been working there.

On a related note, and as noted here last summer, I have too many of those reusable bags now. So, to share the wealth I suggested we start a bag-share at my work place, for those times when you get to work, and you realize you forgot to bring even one of those dozen bags hanging on the hooks back home. My co-workers thought it a good idea, so now we have probably a half-dozen bags to share there, not including these spiffy new bags. The library is selling them at cost to encourage the use of such bags, and I imagine to keep the cost on a par with the ubiquitous grocery store bags.

I didn't think we were selling many at first. While nicely designed and green, the sign and the bag next to it just weren't very noticeable, I thought, so I got a little creative with sharpie and big pink post-its. We started selling more of them. I have yet to buy one myself...again, I already have too many.

Recent Acquisitions:

To the left of my library book bookshelves, a scroll painting. I bid and won it at Dharma Rain's silent auction. Above the shelves, a print of the painting "Reign of the Dharma." My friend Domyo outbid me, and kindly gave me the framed print. I have to follow up and find out what the scroll painting says. I bid on it not only because it is pretty, but because I like the poem, something about enjoying the fruit in bowl and flower bud. The Zen Center made "something over $21,000" at the auction.

Another piece of art I bought, at Etsy, from Rosie:

It's called 3D Heart Attack and is signed on the back. It all began because she became obsessed with coloring Munnies. People who follow her blog wanted to buy, and had also suggested Etsy. Rosie's first batch of six went in a day. By the time I got there, this and one other art piece were left. I paid $150. (Steve told me he didn't want to know again if I paid that much for something like that.) I like it though, and it goes to a good cause. I think it's a reasonable price coming from a celebrity. I actually was glad I got a painting rather than a Munny, I've always liked her paintings. She's raised her prices a little, because they do sell. My little painting is 6X8, and has two round tinker toy pieces between the two canvasses, glued to each.

I am tickled with this new appliance. I've never had a pressure cooker before, and this is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and steamer combined...I get to send two appliances to their next life for this one, and I got it for free. I used my credit card rewards points. I was urged to do so before another bank goes belly up and I lose them all. I got a bunch of other gift cards too.

This was my first soup I made. The first thing I made in it was beans: from dry to fully cooked, one-half hour. I am converted.

Because I've never used a pressure cooker, I also bought this book right away:

Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

by Lorna J. Sass

rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I have these great recipes, what do I do? I make this one up. The cookbook has grain and bean cooking times "at a glance" in the front cover, and I have the page marked for the charts of vegetable cooking times. It turned out just the way I thought it would, except I put a tad too much chili powder in it. That happened because I'd just bought some new stuff, but I used a quantity based on the stale stuff.

What's that? You want the recipe? OK, I'll try.

A cross between Wisconsin Chile and Minestrone, I guess

all amounts approximate

1 cup dry red kidney beans
enough water to cover a couple inches
pressure cook 18-20 minutes

release pressure, drain and rinse beans
saute 1 onion, about 4 cloves garlic, chopped (oh yeah, the digital pressure cooker has a brown setting)

put beans back in pot. lessee, what did I put in there?:

1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato bisque soup
about 3 cans water
about 2 cups uncooked green beans
3 carrots, sliced
1 bunch red chard, stems removed, chopped
about 1 inch diameter handful of pasta, spaghetti or linguini, broken into about 2 inch pieces
about 1 tablespoon chile powder
about 2 teaspoons cumin

mix it all together, pressure cook for 3-5 minutes
(If I'd had some, I would have put 2-3 stalks of chopped celery in as well.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Books Read, including on Love

These are some books I read a while ago, and the draft has been hanging around waiting to be posted. So, finally, I post:

Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire
by Julius Lester

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Over 10 years ago I read She: Understanding Feminine Psychology. I chanced upon it at an opportune time...I had fallen in love, and that book became my operations manual.

The story of Eros and Psyche is timeless for its archetypal truths. Julius Lester tells it in the way of a traditional black storyteller. In some ways this pulls us in closer to the story, in some ways it distracts. I would have liked to see more of his narrator's hints of how Cupid had touched his own life. The intrusion of the story itself into the narration didn't work for me as well.

I enjoyed the narrator's commentary on love and how this story relates to this contemporary life. I recognized the insights of psychological book mentioned above. I appreciated the insight from the male and Cupid's point of view.

In all of his eternal life there had never been and never would be another moment like this one. Cupid had to choose which truth meant more to him--the truth of his love for his mother, or this new truth with its promise of a beauty that would unfold, evermore and evermore. But he did not choose truth.
...It is fearful to merge one's spirit with that of another's. This is why the beginning of relationships can be fraught with terror. Love requires courage, and I am sad to say, Cupid was a coward. In lying to his mother, he was choosing to keep secret his soul's love. True, he kept his mother's love, but he placed himself in danger of losing something of greater value--himself. However, we must be fair to him. He was new to love. He did not know how much courage love required.
I knew I'd like it when I read this:
I'm going to get philosophical for a moment since this is a philosophical novel. In love, and perhaps only in love, are the finite limitations of self dissolved and we merge, not only with the beloved other, but with wonder itself. In love, whether it is love of another, of music, of art, or whatever, we belong to someone or something and are no longer alone.
Exactly. I remember in She that Johnson said not everyone experiences this. Even grandmothers could be 'virginal.' It is a gift to experience this, though overwhelming.

When it does happen, one could use a guide, whether it is someone who has experienced it, or a psychological tome, or this novel. This book would be a good guide to love.

She: Understanding Feminine Psychology She: Understanding Feminine Psychology
by Robert A. Johnson

rating: 5 of 5 stars
a must-read for any woman overwhelmed by falling in love

Inkheart (Book 1) Inkheart
by Cornelia Funke

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wasn't quite as enamored of this story by Cornelia Funke as I was by her books Dragon Rider and The Thief Lord but it may have just been a matter of timing, and perhaps I'd seen too much of the movie previews. I think the story itself is just getting started. Lynn Redgrave as reader of the audio book was perfect.

Inkspell (Inkheart, Book 2) Inkspell
by Cornelia Funke

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely the middle of a trilogy...the story is not over at the end of the book, so I'm ready for the next one.

While I loved Brendan Fraser's reading of Dragon Rider, I needed some time to adjust to his reading after Lynn Redgrave's reading of Inkheart. While I find his use of different accents to indicate different characters adorable, some of them didn't seem to fit, but again that could be due to associating those characters with the voices by Ms. Redgrave. So if listening to both, allow some time between your listen.

I noticed some characters are growing up, and it's not working quite as well for me as Tamora Pierce's work, or J.K. Rowling's. The books are enjoyable, nice listen for a walk.

Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy
by John Bowe

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Just the fact that this book exists means it needs some attention. I didn't finish just because I don't have the time for this...I don't need the details to be outraged by the fact of coerced and forced labor.

How convenient that the general public is so outraged over 'illegal aliens.' This allows for this kind of stuff to happen, hidden in plain sight.

The other day I heard an anecdote of racists in Florida, and I have to wonder if it is just coincidence that today I read in this book of several cases of slave labor in Florida. So much of my world is invisible to me...where my clothes are made, my material goods. Whether WalMart or Target, if things are cheap, I have to wonder, who made these for less than livable wages? Did they receive wages at all?

In the introduction, the author says, "In the United States, most modern slavery involves the coercion of recent or trafficked immigrants. Such cases are incredibly hard to detect, because much of the time the perpetrators don't rely on chains, guns, or even the use of force. All they require is some form of coercion: threats of beating, deportation, death, or, perhaps most effective, harm to the victim's family back home should he or she eve speak up. These cases occur in out-of-the-way places that are, to quote one activist I met, beyond most Americans' "cognitive map."

The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism: From 1600 to Modern Times
by Tristram Stuart
no rating: haven't yet read it.

This would be a good book to read with someone. Could be dry, academic, but packed full of philosophical, religious, imperial, as well as cultural history around the idea of vegetarianism.

I would be more inclined to read it and enjoy it if I read it slowly over several months, and could have conversations in a group of people about it.

My Montana: A History and Memoir, 1930-1950My Montana: A History and Memoir, 1930-1950
by Jewel Beck Lansing

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this for a book is a good book for that kind of group in which people can bring their own experiences of the local history. There's some talk of the book, and the conversation can meander from there. I really like that it is one person's experience of a particular place and time. It is a true glimpse into recent history. On the other hand, it then lacks some neutral omniscience. For instance, this was about whites growing up in the middle of an Indian reservation, and aside from acknowledgment that the government engineered this stealing of land, there was little written, and thus little awareness, of what life was like for Indians at that time on that reservation.

I was very aware that I would have been very uncomfortable with the hygiene of those poorer times. Impetigo is just not something I want to encourage.