Monday, May 24, 2010

To Listen:

Somehow I got into a rhythm. A pattern. Can't stop now!

(DiFranco, Amos, Mayer, Weepies, Jaymay, Spektor, Cutie, Yama)

I never really imagined music being categorized. Wrong word. I guess I never really imagined music being charted. Wrong, again. I guess I never really imagined the music that I listen to (while alone) being charted so I could answer those ever-burning questions:

What do you listen to?
Who is your favorite singer?
And your favorite song?

Enter: Last.FM about 4 years ago. I created a profile and started listening.

It's a cool (free) music site. You can listen to "stations" and discover "new" music based on the music preferences you list...or type. You can't download these song, the "station" is streamed to you via the site.

You don't have to create a profile. BUT if you do, you can "scrobble" songs (by downloading applications) that you're listening to on your computer and create all sorts of data charts.

I've listened to 1,319 artists in the last four years. You can see my "top" eight pictured up there....and that makes sense, because I've probably seen those first three at least 15 times in concert.

You can see what song I've listened to 67 times...oops! Make that 68 times, because my laptop just started it up of us is obsessed.

Song? The City by Joe Purdy

You can "love" tracks, you can block tracks. You can find similar artists (as previously mentioned). It's pretty much awesome.
Some examples from the "bottom" of the "loved" list:

Yael Naïm – New Soul
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
John Mayer – Assassin
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Page France – Ceiling
Patty Griffin – Let Him Fly
John Mayer – Who Did You Think I Was
Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart
Fionn Regan – Bunker Or Basement
Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth

After I've "discovered" new music here, I am free (pun intended) to move over to a more famous program and download (not for free, hence the pun) the music I have "fallen" in love with...a vicious cycle.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

To Write:

So I have a new flash piece debuting over at 6S today. It is one of my personal favorites, so I decided to make a "Wordle" out of it to celebrate myself, sing myself (--sorry, Whitman).

Although I keep saying that I'm NOT writing, I guess I AM writing little snatches of stuff. Dialogue. Six sentence flash pieces. Two pages of a story that has just stopped. And I keep writing in my journal and blogging (twice).

I have the ideas floating. I have the time (basically). The energy is helped along with coffee. I feel an urgency in my heart. There seems to be something just below the surface ready to explode on the the ink...along the outer edges.

I just turned my head (left) and saw this: "HOW TO SURVIVE: Writer's Block, Rejection by Editors, Your Absent Muse, and Yankee Aunts" (Oxford American, issue 66)

I could only wish my muse was absent. My muse is so present that "it" is creeping into every little thing that I write. Maybe this is normal, but it's getting too predictable for me. I don't want to hear, "OH? Another story about so and so?"

Maybe it is a form of Writer's Block that I have? I don't know.

Those editors and Yankee aunts have got to wait for another day.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

To Read:

(feel the word, feel the word, feel it)

Pronunciation: \ˈrēd\

Function: verb

Inflected Form(s):
read \ˈred\; read·ing \ˈrē-diŋ\

Middle English reden to advise, interpret, read, from Old English ̄dan; akin to Old High German rātan to advise, Sanskrit rādhnoti he achieves, prepares

Date: before 12th century

*entry from MERRIAM-WEBSTER*

: to receive or take in the sense of (as letters or symbols) especially by sight or touch
: to study the movements of (as lips) with mental formulation of the communicaton expressed
: to utter aloud the printed or written words of <read them a story>
: to LEARN from what one has seen or found in writing or printing
: to deliver aloud by or as if by reading; specifically : to utter interpretively
: to become acquainted with or look over the contents of (as a book)
: to make a study of <read law>
: to read the works of
: to check (as copy or proof) for errors
Thusly there has been reading (or the lack of writing) in my current days. Not only have I been reading (receiving, studying, uttering, learning) short stories written by women--but I just finished reading (becoming, making, reading, checking) a novel as well.

This morning with my coffee I reopened the pages of the March/April 2010 issue of the Writer's Chronicle just for a little "look-see" because it was nearby. There was an article discussing the sound and syntax in a poem by my Sylvia Plath (yes, I just claimed her).

The following section pulled at my heart and cleverly inspired this entire blog entry:

"Although most of us cannot remember fully the time before we began learning to read, we can remember the humility and deep intimacy of those initial encounters. Children read with their entire bodies. They bunch their heels under their bottoms to get leverage over the page. They lurch and rock and squirm while holding a steady finger under each word. Reading is immediate and urgent, and incantation in which the unspoken text is called into being. Energy is released from print in the form of vocalization."

(Naomi Mulvihill)

Little Janet was cheering as she pictured herself running a finger under every word (to mark her place). Her best friend, Ramona Quimby, revisited her for a moment.

Then "a little bit older" Janet was digesting everything written by V. C. Andrews as she carried around copies of whichever "family" series she was reading at the time.

Essentially I remember my reading "relationships" with great fondness. I am happy (relieved) to say that my affair with the written word is still harmonious and important. The novel I finished last night has little pen marks and stars where a passage made me stop and muse.

If I think about my closest friends, I realize that they are avid readers as well. And I am writing not about the ones who have also received degrees in English (too obvious), but those who haven't.

A nurse
A couple pharmacists
An account rep for an office equipment company

We can converse about a book or just revel in knowing that she or she or she has read that too. It's a symbiotic thing, this reading. Swapping and trading books is an intrigal part. We gift books and bookmarks. We give gift cards to bookstores. Is there anything more perfect?

(receive, study, utter, learn, deliever, become, make, read, check)


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Adaptations (2)

Continuing from yesterday (Adaptations 1) I will keep yakking about Film(s)/Book(s)...

Atonement (Ian McEwan) is another one of those thought-provoking films (like the Reader). It was on cable this past weekend and I ended up watching it until Robbie is accused. I could watch the first part of it over and over again (the second half is too heartbreaking). The two versions of the "fountain" scene are inspired--then we have the two versions of "the library" to think about. Wow. I have read sections of the book, but I haven't read it cover to cover yet.

The Hours (Michael Cunningham) I can't begin to tell you how much I love this movie. I saw it in the theatre (I cried). I bought it the moment it came out on DVD (still cried) I had no idea that it was a book before it was a movie (obviously I wasn't thinking about books as much last decade). Kidman, Moore, and Streep are powerhouse actors! I read about 60% of the book last November. Now that I've finished Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf) I think the book will be richer for me.

All The Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy) I grabbed the book sometime last summer--but have yet to crack it open. After reading one of his more "graphic" novels for a class, I have come to appreciate McCarthy, but fear his violence. I saw the movie a few months ago, watched it with a classmate who took the aforementioned class with me. I think we both liked it enough.

Evening (Susan Minot) *swoon swoon swoon* Was that enough? I wrote extensively about Evening (the film version) for a class several semesters ago. It is both deep and charming. Similar to The Hours in the emotional effect it has had on me. Even though I have read several short stories by Minot, I have yet to get started on the book. I have a feeling I'm never going to catch up with my reading (not a complaint).

Le Divorce (Diane Johnson) Even though I seem to be the only person in my circle of friends who actually liked this movie--I am going to continue to sing it's praises. I saw it in the theatre--it's both quirky and "realistic" as any Kate Hudson in Paris movie can be--well, even more so, which may be why it didn't do well. I just got the book...

Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding) has been semi-credited with bringing the genre of "chick lit" to the front of the bookstore shelves. Of course I saw the movie. Who hasn't seen the movie? (If you're male, your vote may not count on this one). I even saw the "second" movie for goodness sake. I've read snippets of the book; they are actually in diary format so it's quite easy to follow along (and was pretty innovative when it first came out).

And therein finishes my twelve book/film or film/book writing exercise (which took a whole hell of a lot longer than I thought it would).



Saturday, May 15, 2010

Adaptations (1)

Another trip to the bookstore (they usually run about $1 a piece) made me realize the amount of books I own which have also been made into films.

"Modern" books, let me rephrase this--because how many film versions are there of anything Shakespeare or Austen? Exactly. You could also include Little Women, Gone With the Wind, The Great Gatsby, Of Mine and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird in the realm of "classics" I own which have also been made into film.

And In Cold Blood was turned into Capote (recently read)...and then I have a few short stories which... OKAY...we're only talking about the twelve SIX pictured above!

Now here's a secret: I think I say 100% of the time that I read the BOOK first before seeing the FILM version. NOT TRUE! I only read TWO of the above books before the film came out.

Animal Husbandry (Laura Zigman) was turned into Someone Like You in 2001. I had read the book and had no idea about a movie until I saw a preview and screamed, "HEY! They stole that from the book I read a while ago!" Yeah, I was that passionate about it.

The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) was read several years before the (very) recent film. I even loaned it to someone so she could read it before the movie came out. I liked the book better, although I appreciated the film as well.

I learned via a somewhat terse conversation in a Film class that movies and books are to be seen as separate from one another. This is a hard concept. Readers don't want to see their imagined worlds "ruined" on the big screen. We're a very specific bunch. I've learned to handle/watch the film version with a grain of salt (so to speak).

(Films before Book for the remaining run down)

Little Children (Tom Perrotta) is one of my favorite films as well as one of my favorite "modern" books. It is a guilty little pleasure for me (personal reasons) and even though the laundry room/basement scene in the movie is beyond amazing (hot hot hot), the chapter entitled "Reasons it Might Be True" is just as gripping.

What Was She Thinking? (Zoë Heller) was turned into Notes On a Scandal (2006). I was highly "into" the film, but have yet to read the book. It is one of the $1 finds of the day. The ephebophilic relationship is a commonly written about subject. I learned a new word today--click on the link and you will as well. (Edit: I'm 50 pages into it now)

Girl With A Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier) is a historical novel written/based on a painting by Vermeer. I have seen the film and I have studied Vermeer (officially, for a class) and so I felt it was time to grab the book. Again, it was hiding in a $1 box; glad I went shuffling through it.

The Reader (Bernhard Schlink) was one of those thought provoking films. It really had me. I bought the book in hopes of digesting it. It still hasn't happened. It was translated from German. As someone who has a deep understanding of the language, I can't stand reading the translation. I need the original (in German) I think. This is the same reason I can't read Kafka.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Just Got SCHOOLED!





Irene M. Mead

Look at the picture.
Look at the bottom.
Look at the date.


I am now the proud owner of a 110-year-old book.

Previous owner? Wm S. Hall

Never have I ever owned an older book. An antique, as some would say. And it's in my "field," of course. I'm as giddy as...(too easy, so I won't finish the cliché, but it is so very appropriate).

"Modes of Expressing Ideas.-- Ideas may be expressed by symbols, called words or by groups of these, called phrases.

Words.-- Ideas may be grouped into two great classes, those which represent things and those which represent attributes of things; i.e., into substantive ideas, and attributive ideas. But, as has been shown, the mind in thinking detects relations existing between these ideas, hence symbols of relationship are needed.

A word, then, is a sign, oral or written, of an idea, or of a relation, and words may be logically classified as follows..."

As I sit here practically drooling, all I can think about is the conversation I had with a friend over lunch yesterday. He said Grammar was something "not" able to be discussed in college classrooms--at least at one particular university.

It's a "hot button" issue. GRAMMAR is a hot button issue?!? It is politically motivated?

There are differences in spoken and written grammar, yes. Misusage in spoken grammar hardly makes communication difficult. Poor grammar when it is WRITTEN though...Different story, altogether.

I've read (or have had) enough student fiction to tell you this is a fact. There have been sentences that are so nonsensical that the reader would have a difficult time telling you what exactly is occurring.

I guess that's what "editors" are for...which is a piss poor excuse, thankyouverymuch!

I don't know the difference between complete and incomplete verbs. I don't know the difference between root infinitives and gerunds. I am no "Grammar Nazi"...

"The Gerund, which is always formed by adding ing to the root, and which therefore looks precisely like the progressive participle, but differs wholly in origin, meaning, and use."

I had an extremely "active" school situation when I was growing up. Army Brats transfer all the damn time:

  • Kindergarten through Second grade, one school (in one country)
  • Second grade through Fourth grade, one school (in a different country)
  • Fourth grade (different school, again)
  • Fourth grade through Seven grade (another city, another school)
  • Eighth grade through Tenth grade (another country, another school)
  • My Junior and Senior year of high school? ANOTHER city, ANOTHER school...

But guess what? I can almost always manage subject/verb agreements. A comma splice is rare. I like to use dashes and semicolons too. I have a degree in English, I've worked on it...and it is natural to assume that if someone plans to be a Writer:

One who is engaged in literary composition as a profession; an author; as, a writer of novels.

They would study grammar, writing, form. They would be reading everything under the sun. They would not be turning in horribly crafted sentences that leave the reader wondering, "What just happened!?!?"

But let me slink off my soap box and say this again: I have a (old) NEW BOOK and I am going to study it thoroughly (and I'm going to love every minute of it).


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Did You Remember Your List?

So maybe I'm a nosy person. There! I said it.

I like to tell myself that I have to be in order to be good at my craft.




I'm going to keep on spying and warning the stars as far as I'm concerned. That's how it goes.

I started collecting "lost" lists at work sometime last year. Yes, I work in a pharmacy--but the pharmacy is located within a grocery store.

You'd be amazed at how many people discard their list after they've gotten everything (or you assume they've gotten everything).

95% of the time these lists are relatively mundane and contain nothing too funny except for the occasional misspelling:

pissa rolls
100 cal pack cheatoes

You catch my drift. Simple. To the point.

And definitely nothing to be judgemental over--you should see my handwritten notes sometimes. But it is interesting to see other people's handwriting and wonder what the local serial murderer is having for dinner.

Then there are strange combinations like: Children's Tylenol, lotion, KY Jelly

hmmmmmmm...I want to go to that house.

Then I got THIS list last starts off normal enough:

409 SPRay
tall kitchen bags
Shrimp Boil
hash brown patties
Fresh mushRooms
Get mom a Bird
at Flea market
Brownie mix


"Get Mom a Bird at Flea Market" So I laughed and laughed. I read it to co-workers. Line by line just as written...they were pretty bored and didn't understand my reckless laughter until I got to the "good" part.

Random! So random. It was the week before Mother's Day and I guess Mama need a new bird, but how did "fresh mushrooms" remind the Note Writer of the bird? And how can you just continue on to Brownie mix and Sugar after that?

This makes my previous "winner" list seem stupid. It was "CHERRY PIE filling" written on the front of a torn off box of generic sudafed. That was it.

Whew! So who got a bird for Mother's Day? Fess up....


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Short Story Month!?!?!

Who knew? I didn't.

Thanks Tara Mae.

It is still in its infancy, apparently. The Month of May as Short Story Month (following the Month of April as Poetry Month)...

As a reader and writer of short stories, I am more than happy to participate in any way possible!

I have a little blog set up...which started as a project to read all the works by F. Scott Fitzgerald...(and I will complete that feat one day)--but all I managed was 12 short stories and a handful of essays.

Now I wrote detailed responses to the aforementioned F. Scott short stories--so I kept the blog and just changed the focus...Janet Reads (and opines about "short" literature).

I read five stories out of one collection this morning to write about...OVER THERE. So that's what I'm going to do.

*But first, I'd like to point out that just because a story is "short" doesn't mean it is easier to "write." I think that's the biggest misconception. I know I "thought" the same thing at one point.

You have to strip away all of the "filler," but include the same depth in fewer words. Not easy.

I think that choosing your words so carefully--makes the "moment" or "truth" of your story the focus. I like to digest the entire "thing" when I have the chance to sit down and read.

Face it, it's hard to find time to just sit down and read. I know. So with a short story you can actually mull over it all and let it wash your brain with its magic.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

--For she was there.

(obligatory BlackBerry shot)

One of my "summer" books from last year was finally completed yesterday afternoon. I sat outside with my copy, looking at the flowers and sometimes reading aloud to both Buttercup and the sun.

It was an experience.

My Virginia Woolf "trick:" Don't stop! Keep going. I had put the book down one day last year, left it alone and when I came back I couldn't "get" into the right frame of mind again.

Stream of Consciousness as a narrative mode gives great insight to each character, but once you "lose" the train of thought, it's hard to hop back on (so to speak). Where was I? All I can imagine now is a train. Oh yeah. So the internal monologue aspect of this "writing style" is effective even if it can get confusing.

It has scared me away from Faulkner--(and Woolf, actually--at least for a very long time).

I would like to add Mrs. Dalloway to a special list though: "Don't Read This or You Might Jump"...I need to think about other books to "add."

So I also had a pencil with me, to mark lines and make marginal notes. I underlined many sentences and alone they don't seem to be as remarkable, or maybe they I am going to make paragraphs for you--IN the order they appear in the book, but together:

He had never to this day forgiven her for liking him. The crush was terrific for the time of day. When the sentence was finished something had happened. But they beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive. The spaces between them were as significant as the sounds. To love makes one solitary, she thought. Her words faded. Change the world. No one kills from hatred. Make it known (he wrote it down). He waited. He listened. She heard the click of the typewriter. It was over – the moment.

She had rushed off in passion. Read Plato in bed before breakfast; read Morris; read Shelley by the hour. Indeed she did shock people. No, the words meant absolutely nothing to her now. She could not even get an echo of her old emotion. But nothing is so strange when one is in love (and what was this except being love?) as the complete indifference of other people. The whole world might have turned upside down! “Star-gazing?”

She stood there: she listened. She heard the name of the stars. Fear no more, says the heart. She moved; she crossed; he followed her. Such are the visions…They had always this queer power of communication without words. She knew directly he criticized her.It was the way their quarrels often began. She shut the door. He had twenty minutes of perfect happiness…And in a second it was over. She did not move.

"Tell me the truth, tell me the truth,” he kept on saying. He felt as if his forehead would burst. She seemed contracted, petrified. She did not move. “Tell me the truth,” he repeated. And when she said, “It’s no use. It’s no use. This is the end.” He went away that night. He never saw her again. He knew all their thoughts, he said; he knew everything. He knew the meaning of the world, he said.

Could it be that he was in love with her then, remembering the misery, the torture, the extraordinary passion of those days? It was jealously that was at the bottom of it—jealous which survives every other passion of mankind. But she had to write. Love and religion! How detestable, how detestable they are! Love destroyed too. Everything that was fine, everything that was true went.

Virginia Woolf


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Secret Life of Books:

(or Watch Me Entertain Myself sans Reading Anything)

The amount of “pre-owned” literature currently jammed into my bookshelf, sitting next to me on my desk, or occupying the “other” desk in this room is ridiculous impressive.

Great deals? Of course. The average price for aforementioned book(s) probably averages out to be about $2 each. We all know that a “regular” full-price book starts at $10 and goes up.

Lest not forget the anthologies which average $50.

I’m the perfect recycling bargain-shopper.

I have yet to READ all of these choice books. I plan to do so. I am picking out classics and if anything ever goes wrong in the world—as long as I am trapped in THIS room (and have sunlight and water) I’d be entertained for…YEARS!

Just seeing “Atwood” and “Minot” staring back at me from their respective spines is inspirational.

One of my favorite thing about “pre-owned” books (aside from the bargains) is imaging the life they led before they belonged to me….Germ-a-phobes need not continue reading:

I think of the students, specifically. I look for underlined passages and marginal notes. I wonder if they made it all the way through or if they just skimmed the surface.

Were they busy hating their teachers or falling in love with Orlando?

Did they want to throw the book against the wall or tattoo lines across their skin because they represented their heart?

Jennifer from Ypsilanti, MI, recently became my imaginary friend. I ended up (unknowingly) grabbing two books (not even the same author) that once belonged to her. Did she go to Eastern Michigan University in 1992?

What about E. B. Spence? I have an address of a dormitory, but it could be at any number of universities. The handwriting seems to be from the 1950s or maybe earlier (very prestigious).

A couple from Kentucky read (or received), my hardback Fitzgerald finds before I was even born.

I don't know what to say about the books with inscriptions. They seem so personal and passionate that I can’t believe they found their way to a used bookstore. I've even started a short story based on one of them.

For she was there.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Devil Woman--

She`s just a devil woman
with evil on her mind
Beware the devil woman
she`s gonna get you...

(1976 hit for Cliff Richard)

Lately I've been listening to all sorts of music. Well, I always listen to all sorts of music.

And just so you know, I'm that (former) girl who wins (won) things via the radio on a regular basis.

CDs, DVDs, casino packages, breakfast, tickets to concerts, a trip to New Orleans...How?

Usually it was my ability to know the artist, song, and year it was a hit faster than anyone else. There was no "cheating" involved. My secret was my "army brat" childhood and the ability to remember WHERE I was living, which gave me the "time" element quickly...

What was the point of telling you that? I have no idea.

I really wanted to talk about the "current" music I've had on repeat via iTunes. Specifically three songs that pre-date me, but I listen to backtobacktoback anyway:

"Witchy Woman" by The Eagles (1972)

"Evil Woman" by ELO (1975)

"Devil Woman" by Cliff Richard (1976)

It started as a joke by my boss. He played "Devil Woman" one day and told me the song was about me. Wow! Have you heard the lyrics? I'm damn powerful if it's "about" me. I'm gonna get you (from behind), even!

I took it all in stride, of course. Then I really started thinking about it, jumped on iTunes and downloaded the three aforementioned songs. In other words, "academic" Janet has a hard time separating herself from "regular" Janet.

I took a class last semester (outside of my major) because I needed a few more credits to finish my undergraduate degree. Women In Music seemed to be right up my alley and fit into my schedule nicely.

These three songs would've been perfect to examine for the final project. They span four years, during the turbulent 1970s--smack dab during the Second Wave of Feminism in the United States.

I've warped into a history lesson. (Somewhere out there one of my professors is smiling):

---The women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s was the largest social movement in the history of the United States. Its impact has been felt in every home, school, and business, in every form of entertainment and sport, in all aspects of personal and public life. Like a river overflowing its banks and seeking a new course, it permanently altered the American landscape.The “second-wave” US women's movement emerged in the late 1960s in two separate streams, with two distinct sets of roots.---

Woman + Knowledge = Witch (or) Woman + Power = Bitch

The biggest irony of this is the power given to the woman in each song. She's high flying and nothing by trouble (mainly sexual trouble, of course). But for all the power she possesses she is still disrespected politically (especially during the time of the songs, but even today).

But at least she makes a good song?

Honestly, I think the best way to go is to "flaunt" it...or "own" it...use, flip, and reverse it! A nice night out complete with howling at the moon is in order. As long as there is good music playing.



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