Monday, April 30, 2007

reading report for april

Oh, I suppose I could post the April reading report. It will be short, because I don't have enough energy to go on and on. but THREE great books this month, which is like manna from heaven, don't you think? I can't even remember the last time I read three good books in one month.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Well, of course I've heard of her. But I'd never read anything by her. This is one amazing book. It's received so much press I probably don't have to say much about it, but briefly, it's the chronicle of the year following her husband's unexpected death. She is just ferociously intelligent, you can see it in every paragraph. And the writing is so clean and sharp it's like a razor. It's a wonderful read, even though her grief shadows every page. Highly recommended. the new "best book so far this year."

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Another amazing book. It's about a young boy whose father was killed at the Top of the World restaurant on 9/11. Foer's great achievement is the voice of the boy, Oskar-- it almost echoes in your head, it's so clear and distinctive. You're almost relieved when he (briefly) moves to a different narrator. but it (the narrative voice) starts to falter and drag a bit toward the end. Otherwise it would have knocked the previous entry out of the "best book so far this year" spot. The plot is very carefully worked out, though, I thought it ended well-- which doesn't always happen, as previously discussed.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. Very moving and inspiring account of a former mountain climber's determination to build schools in Central Asia. I actually still have about 50 pages to go, but it's a great read, very absorbing.

and that's all for now.
Aunt BeaN
It has been quite a long time since I posted, and it's for a very good reason: nothing to say. I make it one of my goals not to bore you to death. I think I'm going through my midlife crisis. Will let you know when I get out the other side. I thought I was almost there this weekend, but it has returned in force today, so boring-ness abounds.

Love and kisses,
The Menopausal BeaN
(except it might only be PERI menopause, which is reason enough for a week-long pout if you ask me)

Monday, April 09, 2007

If you're at all a fan of classical music, you should check out the Washington Post article about Joshua Bell playing incognito in the subway in D.C. Try this link, I don't know how long it will work. Joshua Bell is one of the greatest violinists in the world, and he plays on a priceless Stradivarius. The Post convinced him to play for about 45 minutes unannounced at the entrance to the L'Enfant Plaza subway stop. You'll have to read the article to find out what happened, but one of the main points is how so many of us are too busy to appreciate beauty. I wonder which group I would have been in-- the ones who hurried on by, raising their voices on their cell phones to be heard above the music, or the ones who stopped to listen. I think, I'm sad to say, that it would depend on the day. There would be days where I would rush right on because I was late for something "important." But there would be days when I would stop. I've stopped for lesser musicians than that, I know. I remember once on a subway in-- let's see, it must have been D.C. because that's the only true subway I've been on in the past four years-- there was a guitar player playing. He probably wasn't a professional-level player, I'm not enough of an aficionado to know, but he was good enough that it sounded heavenly in the echoing subway chamber. We were tourists, with time on our hands, so we stopped to listen for awhile. But there are plenty of times when I'm late for something and anything that stands in my way is just a nuisance. And that's a shame.

Aunt BeaN

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The prom (again) now that it's over

Well, she looked gorgeous and the dress fit and the shoes matched. Her date looked handsome in his rented tux. They had a great time. I never experienced a high school dance as anything but torture, although a torture I would have been heartbroken to miss. So it came as a great surprise to me that they were having so much fun they didn't want to leave when it was over at midnight. So much fun they couldn't be bothered with calling home to check in. So much fun they couldn't be bothered to get home by 12:30 (which was their curfew). I had gone on to bed and my spouse was waiting up, or it might have gone a little differently. But finally at 1:15 she got home, safely, which is the main thing, of course, but still-- 45 minutes late. We didn't find out until the next day that she had also stranded a friend that she was supposed to drive home, and that his parents received a call at 2 a.m. to come pick him up because he didn't have a ride.

Oh, it was a lovely experience. We're not used to this. It was not good.

She had a variety of school things scheduled over the next week and weekend that she couldn't miss, so she ended up being grounded this weekend. She doesn't like being grounded. She keeps asking if she can go do this or that thing, some of which we've said yes to, but to anything in the evening we've said no. On the plus side, she stayed home for an entire evening (on a weekend!) and worked on her homework. It was nice to see her that much. On the minus side, it's made us all into real grumps.

the continuing saga.

Aunt (Mom) BeaN

atheism, the new religion

In the last couple of months, I've listened to interviews with controversial atheists Sam Harris (once) and Richard Dawkins (twice), and also read the recent column Mr. Harris syndicated nationally. I haven't read their books, though I do plan on reading The End of Faith, which has been sitting on my shelf for a year now. I'm mainly responding to Harris. Richard Dawkins strikes me as someone who enjoys fanning the flames, being at the center of a storm of controversy -- someone who relishes stirring things up. I just don't have a lot of energy for that. His arguments seem to me to be as much about getting his fifteen minutes of fame as anything else. But while that element is present in Mr. Harris's arguments, I find them much more interesting and thought provoking. 

At the heart of both Mr. Harris's and Mr. Dawkins' argument is a firm belief that fundamentalism is the true face of religious belief. Mr. Harris mostly pokes fun at religious moderates; he claims that theologically they are on shaky ground compared to their fundamentalist counterparts. Mr. Dawkins claims that religious moderates make extremism possible, by mainstreaming religious beliefs that are centuries out of date. But who says? They have no way to back that up, it's just their opinion about the religious experience. And it has the added bonus of making their argument 100% easier-- then they only have to respond to the extremists.  

In short, at the same time that they criticize the fundamentalist mindset, they insist that fundamentalists have the only correct way to experience religion. The millions of us out here who have religious beliefs but don't share fundamentalism's strict (biased) interpretation of some ancient text are just dismissed with a jibe about "believing what we want to believe." It's easy to set up the terms of your argument and then insist that that is the only way the discussion can be conducted. Good job, guys. But it ignores the truth of the experience of millions of people on the planet who have deeply-held religious beliefs that are based on compassion and tolerance.

never finished this one but I'm posting it anyway.