Monday, June 13, 2005

Welcome to Monday

Oooh, I’m updating my blog from work. I feel so scandalous. But, it’s Monday morning, and we get here at 8 every day and no one else ever gets here until at least 9, so while I have some time on my hands I might as well make use of it.

Our educational video project, which I’ve excitedly mentioned several times now, may include an interview with NASA’s new administrator. (You can read about him here) The guy has five (that’s right, FIVE) master’s degrees, including degrees in Aerospace, Electrical, and Civil Engineering. And also a PhD. Now that’s a lot of school. I’m not sure if it’s completely necessary, but what is?

As much shit as I hear about Cleveland (and it seems like there is a lot of shit to hear about Cleveland), I’ve actually been very impressed by the Cleveland Metroparks system. I’ve already mentioned the Rocky River Reservation, which is where I go running every morning (except for today…I went to bed at 2 am last night…oops). This weekend we went hiking at the Hinckley Reservation, which includes an urban climber’s oasis called Whip’s Ledges. There are tons of vertical and near-vertical rocks there for climbing and repelling (which, unfortunately, we didn’t get to do). So, Sarah, if you want to come visit me in Cleveland, I’ll take you there. We also saw, tucked far away in the woods, some other rocks which were covered in mysterious carvings. Engraved on the side of the cliffs were (among other things): several large faces which made use of natural lumpy rock forms as noses, a giant cross, and a galley or some other kind of sea-faring vessel.

The park had a swimming area, which was basically a converted spillway. I didn’t go swimming there, but it wasn’t because I was intimidated by Cleveland’s notoriously polluted water, it was because the opportunity just didn’t come up. My dad tells me that there’s a Randy Newman song about the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, which is an event that actually happened. But, maybe a flaming river was one of those horrendous events that somehow end up being miraculously fruitful in the end; I think it sparked Cleveland’s push towards greenifying and cleaning up, and is the reason the (relatively new) Metroparks were created. But I’m not advocating pollution or anything…

On Sunday I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, which was no MFA or Metropolitan Museum of Art, but had a lot of merit in its own right (even when more than half of the galleries were closed due to renovation). There was a Michaël Borremans exhibit that I found really interesting. A lot of the pieces were informal sketches that he had done on the back of flyers and hotel stationary and such. There were a lot of heads on shelves and heads in boxes, and humans with altered anatomy. He also played a lot with scale and perception. Here are some highlights from the exhibit.

I also did several other things on Sunday (like laundry and grocery shopping) that are much too boring to be fodder for blog material.

Oh oh oh. I’ve been meaning to write an entry about the books I’ve been reading (and the books I intend to read) this summer. (I’d like this to be a book-reading blog in addition to an adventure-having blog.) I have some very ambitious goals. Thus far, I have read:

“The Homecoming”, Harold Pinter. A play, which only sort of counts because I read it in the nether region between classes and finals, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Anat, it’s your kind of play. There’s lots of scandalous-ness and raunchy behavior.

Dance, Dance, Dance, Haruki Murakami. This is the…one, two, three, four, fifth novel of his I’ve read (plus a short story collection), and I think it had a very different affect on me than the others did. There seemed to be something more mature about it. In most of the other novels I’ve read, the action seems to be the focus, but in Dance, Dance, Dance the novel’s effect (which is a very wonderful one) seems to come from its curious (often slightly disturbing) in-action. (If that makes any sense at all.) The atmosphere of stasis that Murakami creates is very (er, um) beautiful, but it asks a lot more of the reader than the books predecessor (A Wild Sheep Chase) did. But, of course, it was well worth it. This book builds tension in a must more subtle way, which is, of course, extremely artful. I also think this is a book I should read again when I turn thirty-five, because it seems like the kind of book where you get different thing out of it as you grow and change, etc. (Yes yes, cheese alert of 7.6. Sorry.)

Friday, Michel Tournier. I read this book upon Anat’s request. It’s a retelling of the story of Robinson Crusoe from an intensely psychological perspective. I don’t know much about French thinking, but all I know is this novel was very very “French” (whatever that means). Robinson struggles with finding meaning his life, and flops between valuing only that which is organized and conquers nature’s savagery, and that which is birthed, untainted, from the “mother” island. Anat described it as being “very sexy”, but be forewarned: all copulations are between flesh and soil (quite literally). This isn’t a book that I particularly enjoyed reading, mostly because it too much of an effort to be psychologically profound; but revelations that were supposed to be chilling ended up being comical, and I’m not sure if Tournier actually uncovered any truths about human-nature.

Under the Banner of Heaven, John Krakauer. This book is a close and careful study of religious fundamentalism through a case study of Mormon Fundamentalists (most readily defined by their adherence to the formerly mainstream now-defunct practice of polygamy), specifically those that were responsible for the murders of a woman and her infant in 1984. (So…the murdered girl would be my age right now if she were alive.) Krakauer has definitely mastered his style of literary journalism, so the book was both engaging and informative. He attempts to make clear the distinction between mainstream Mormonism and Mormon Fundamentalism, but in order to do this he has to also describe their common origins through the story of Joseph Smith (which is very entertaining…and made me really want to see the South Park retelling) and the early years of Mormonism and its persecution. Portions of the book turned into exposés of polygamist colonies where Krakauer waxed a bit sensationalist. But, like most sensationalism, it was irresistibly engrossing. Krakauer’s goal was to explore fundamentalism, and as such, he didn’t dwell much on describing mainstream Mormonism and how vastly different it is from Mormon Fundamentalism; so I wasn’t surprised when I reached his author’s note at the end of the book, where he feels the need to confess his own religious (non) affiliation and say that he respects Mormons and grew up around them. Overall, though, this book is extremely interesting and well-worth reading.

Phew. Take a deep breath. Right now I’m in the middle (past half way!) of reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch. I’m currently on page 464 (of 781), and I made a goal for myself of finishing by next week. About five days ago I made the resolution to read 50 pages per day, and since then I’m only 11 pages behind (I’ve impressed even myself!). But enough about those technical details. It took me awhile to reacquaint myself with the pleasures of reading a Victorian novel (those pleasures are many…), which kind of surprised me (though I really should have seen it coming, after just taking two semesters of literature classes focused solely on “modern” authors). But, now I’m fully engrossed, and somehow reading a Victorian novel has turned me back into a teenage girl. I find myself getting a little bit bogged down by the sections dwelling on politics and reveling in the interpersonal marriage-troubles, girlish-hopes-and-dreams-shattered-by-reality sections. It’s quite funny.

On the docket for the rest of the summer:
Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust
Parade’s End, Ford Maddox Ford
The Golden Ass, Apuleius
Demons, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Castle, Franz Kafka

And whatever book Anat decides on for her book club (if I haven’t read it yet). I wanted to start a book club for so long, I’m going to have to try to participate remotely. (Ha.)

So you can see what I mean about being ambitious. We’ll see, she says, we’ll see.

(Though thankfully, it looks like I’ll actually have a lot of time to read this summer.)

All right, this has been quite the entry. I doubt many of you will make it all the way to the end. But if you’ve made it here, there’s a prize. I don’t know what it is yet, but just email me saying you want your prize, and I’ll think of something. Ok, I have chemical training (another monotonous safety lecture) in an hour, so I should probably try to get some work done this morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I (that would be K.T.) got to the end of it, mostly because it was a discussion about books, one of my favorite subjects. I am enjoying my life here in Vancouver as a librarian. The future promises visits to the Juvenile Detention Center, a pool party in Goldendale, WA, and a teen film festival. Yay!