Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Altar Of The Dead

The Altar Of The Dead was strange. Something easily guessed by the title. It is saturated with death. Again, this is something to be expected. Yet, there is more than just death. There is life and perhaps love.

I found myself distant from the story. Distant from the main character. Perhaps it was because I didn’t grasp how old he was at the beginning of the story. I thought he was middle-aged and tragedy just followed him. I didn’t realize that he was at that age when your friends begin dying around you. I realized his eventual age when he described going to the altar year after year.

Of course, I many not have understood because I’ve been sick and everything is kind of hazy. Though, it may be that the story didn’t connect with me. It was well written with interesting characters, who love and hate and grieve. They lived with a very real turmoil. Everything in their lives was in relation to this altar. For some reason, I just wasn’t as affected by this story as I was by James’ other works.

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Eye: Part 2

My eye is almost better. I can see normally, but my eye still gets sore by the end of the day. To much dry air at work, I think. I’ll be taking the drops until the bottle is finished. I’m not allowed to start wearing contacs again until about the end of October. The doctor wants to make sure that I am completely healed. Plus, I’ll be getting new contacs. I never want to go through this again!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Aspern Papers

James’ The Aspern Papers was an interesting story that I enjoyed immensely. Passion can certainly lead a person to interesting places.

When I was finished, however, it did not leave me with the same excitement or questions that the other stories did. While I did not predict the ending, nor could I say that it was predictable, I definitely saw it as a distinct possibility. Was it meant to be shocking? The main character was definitely not shocked. If he was, then perhaps I would be too. After all, James did give us multi-faceted characters, with emotional range. Again, you feel as though they could be real people. James makes you empathize with them. So if the main character takes everything calmly, then so do you.

It’s good to have an emotional tie to the story. I think it makes it more enjoyable. Yet, do we lose something if we become too invested? Did I lose some of the excitement of the story by feeling the calm of the main character? It is definitely something to consider in future reading.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Celebrity Duets

I can’t believe that Jai Rodriguez got voted off Celebrity Duets!! He was clearly the best singer. By far! Did you hear him with Gladys Knight? He was amazing. How about with Patty LaBelle? Michelle Williams? Again and again, he was amazing. I just don’t understand how he could be voted off. He wasn’t the only good singer, there are others, but Jai Rodriguez was fabulous.

Is that the problem? I wonder. Was he too fabulous? Part of the Fab Five? Lucy Lawless certainly looked shocked when they were told Jai would be the one going home. So was I. So were a lot of people, I believe. The judges all thought he would be in the finally. What does that tell you?

I suppose that I’m just upset at the outcome. Jai deserved to win. I really thought he would win. He seemed to work the hardest and want it the most. What can really be said? The decision has been made. We live with these upsets, these injustices. They look trivial on the outside, but I think they are deeper than they first appear. Besides this, there is nothing that can be done. We just have to see what happens next with the show and with Jai Rodriguez.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Daisy Miller

The second novella in my Henry James collection, a mere sixty pages, was very intriguing. I could tell why Daisy Miller was one of James’ most famous stories. The characters are palpable. You can believe that they exist or at least, existed at the end of the 19th century. They have real emotions, quirks and thoughts. These personality traits feel appropriate, not just to the story, but to the characters as real people.

James uses the title character, Daisy Miller, to discuss the behaviour and customs of Europe. Winterbourne, a man with clear affection for Daisy, questions these taboos. Why is her behaviour so wrong? Why shouldn’t she enjoy the company of her male friend? Why shouldn’t she speak and act as she chooses?


In the end, Daisy Miller dies. Is this punishment for her bad behaviour? Did she deserve death? I certainly don’t think so. Perhaps her death was a punishment to Winterbourne (and to everyone else?) for doubting her. Daisy’s final, cryptic message leaves Winterbourne confused. Why would she want him to know that she was never engaged to the Italian? Daisy cared for Winterbourne. She might have wanted to carry that affection further. However, her reasons for the message might have been more simple or selfish. Daisy may have just been trying to save her reputation. It’s difficult to tell, but the story gets you thinking about an individual’s motives.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Eyes

I've been having a slight medical difficulty. I have tiny ulcers on the surface of my eyes (the left far worse than the right.) My eyes started bothering me on Wednesday the 6th and seeing out of the left one was difficult. Everything was foggy and out of focus. So Thursday I went to the clinic just a few units over from where I work. The doctor saw me and told me that I had to go to the emergency room right away and see the specialist. I went back to work (very anxious) and asked the graphic designer (who I like and trust) to drive me to the ER. Of course, our boss made her stay and he drove me instead. He totally had me going nuts by the time we got there; he actually made me more anxious than when I left. The designer would have had me much calmer.

Anyway, the doctor checked me out and told me what was wrong. He said it was brought on by my contacs not fitting properly. But he was surprised that it happened in the summer. Usually this sort of thing only happens in the winter when the air is dry. I told him that I work in a very dry environment. He asked where I worked. When I explained it to him, his response was, Oh... So even though my workplace didn't cause my problem, it was definitely a contributing factor. I also don't think it's helping me get better. But we have no sick days, so I can't take any time off.

I'm going for a follow-up on the 18th with the specialist I saw in the ER. Hopefully, I'm either be better by then or I get to file some Worker's Comp paperwork.... My boss is totally in denial. He was surprised that my eyes didn't magically get better over the weekend! I told another co-worker (a soon to be supervisor) and she said that if he admits to anything, he's probably afraid that he'll have to pay for it. He's so frustrating.

[Hidden Message Below]
So for health and other reasons, I've officially began looking for a new job. I've updated my resume. I'm having a friend who works in HR read it over for me. Hopefully I find a job where my co-worker isn't fluffing the boss.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

An International Episode

What happened? Why was Lord Lambeth so distraught? Why did Bessie Alden make him leave? Did he propose? Did she reject him? Was she really not in love with him at all?

I just finished reading a short novel by Henry James, An International Episode. After my last novel, I decided to turn to the classics. I am reading through a collection of six James Novellas. They were written over the course of his career. Instead of writing one large piece when I’m done the collection, I thought that I would write a little something after I finish each story.

An International Episode is the first story in this collection. I though it was lovely. James showed the subtle and remarkable contrast between Americans and the English. Such presumptions and speculations. First we have two Englishmen visiting America, specifically, New York and Newport. Then we have two American ladies (whom the Englishmen met on their trip), visiting England, staying in London. It is a charming story, with an interesting ending.

I can’t wait to read Daisy Miller next. It is one of Henry James’ most famous stories. It’s always nice going back to an author that you’ve read before and are sure to enjoy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Distinguished Guest

Finally! I finished Sue Miller’s The Distinguished Guest. It was bad. I did not like it. I would never recommend it. Well, not totally anyway.

There is one really interesting part of the novel. It begins on page 202, four pages into Chapter 14. Lily Maynard, one of our main characters (who is, The Distinguished Guest) is being interviewed by a student who is writing her thesis on “Integration”. Her name is Marcea McKendrick. She is witty, intelligent and black. As Marcea interviews Lily, a discussion begins about whether there is a “Black English” and a “White English”. It is really interesting. Can the English language be divided into Black and White? Is it more a difference between a rural and city or uneducated and educated English? Is it just the vernacular of different social groups? Being neither Black nor White, it is difficult for me to say.

Clearly there were differences in the way people in different communities spoke and still speak. There are many dialects of English, as well as French, Spanish and any number of languages. Quebec French is different from Paris French, which is different from Cajun French. I found this one part of the novel fascinating. Would I recommend the whole novel for just ten pages? I don’t know. Probably not. That one section is worth a read though. Stop off in a library or even spend some time in a bookstore if you are interested in the subject. In the end, I’m just glad reading The Distinguished Guest wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Secret Prisons

It’s taken me a little while to get over it. But really? CIA secret prisons? Did the president of the United States really just admit that the CIA had secret prisons? Aren’t they supposed to be a secret? When something is a secret, aren’t you supposed to not talk about it? Who told him it was a good idea to talk about? Doesn’t it raise all sorts of questions? It does for me. Part of me doesn’t even want to know. As a Canadian and one of a visible minority, it makes me not want to go to the States. The CIA really can make you disappear.


I saw War Of The Worlds last week and after quite enjoying it, I decided to write a little something about it. It began as a review:

‘Last January I read War Of The Worlds by H. G. Wells. I found it very interesting and entertaining. However, it made me hesitant about seeing the movie. A few years ago, I read Wells’ The Time Machine. Another novel of his I’ve enjoyed. Then I saw the movie. Essentially, I waited half the movie for it to be more like the book. Then I spent the rest of the movie hating how they massacred it. The Time Machine was a bad movie, nothing like the book. It was so unlike the book, it should have had a different title. That’s what I was worried about, that War Of The Worlds would be utterly horrible.'

Then Tom Cruise apologized. What began as a few comments on War Of The Worlds changed. When he criticized Brooke Shields and with all the media coverage of him and Katie Holmes, it was just too much. It was also the reason I didn’t go see Mission: Impossible 3. Now I’ve seen both and was entertained. (M: I 3 was a good action movie, full of stunts and explosions. War Of The Worlds wasn’t quite like the book. It was “modernized” and given a definite cinematic flare. Spielberg’s stamp was deeply imprinted. That’s why I should have seen the movie sooner. I saw them before the apology. I had a copy of War Of The Worlds my brother-in-law gave us. My interest in seeing how like the book it was returned. So we watched it. Mission: Impossible 3 was the in flight movie on our way to Mexico.) Brooke Shields seemed impressed or at least pleasantly surprised by Tom Cruise’s apology. From the clip of her interview on Leno, anyway. I think she definitely deserved an apology. Postpartum depression is a serious issue that women have not talked about in the past and they should. I am glad she spoke out.

I just wonder how contrived this apology was. It was certainly timed well, with the release of his interview with Vanity Fair. Did he do that on purpose? Probably. Should we hold that against him? Probably not. Not if he is actually sorry for his comments. However, my other concern is that he did it just to get some good press. From what I understand, M: I 3 and War Of The Worlds didn’t do as well as hoped at the box office. I’ve seen them and liked them. I would have at least gone to see War Of The Worlds in the theatre if not for the over saturation in the media of Tom Cruise. With good press, maybe more people will go see his films.

Of course, there was all that crazy crap in the tabloids about his daughter being disfigured. I’ve seen the pictures. Suri is a beautiful child. What a horrible thing to say? I can completely sympathize with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with that.

Mostly, however, this is the cynic in my speaking. The doubter. What were his true motives? He only knows. Brooke Shields seems to be happy with the apology. I suppose that’s good enough. I think I’ll give the next Tom Cruise movie a fair chance. I might even pick up a copy of Vanity Fair.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hansen Photography

Check out this Photo Blog by a fabulous young man I know. Kevin takes some of the most gorgeous pictures!!

Hansen photography