Archive for ‘Bibliophilism’

January 6, 2016

Do you ever wonder?

by Janie Jones

So I have a class this spring where I have to read some historical fiction novels about epidemics. To hopefully ease into the spring semester, I read one of the books already. It is “Nemesis” by Philip Roth.

As literature goes, it was okay. Not great, but okay. I liked the first half pretty well, but then the author does something with the main character I did not particularly like. Whatever. It was a short book and read quickly.

What did stand out though was that throughout the novel, which is set in during WWII, the characters refer to Frigidaires. Not refrigerators, but Frigidaires. Now, where I come from we pronounce Frigidaire as fridge-id-air. However, though I am familiar with the brand, I don’t recall ever actually seeing a Frigidaire brand refrigerator in anyone’s home before. Weird? Yeah, probably.

I have often wondered why where I grew up people called refrigerators “fridges” despite the fact that it’s not really short for refrigerator. For as long as I can remember I would try to phonetically spell refrigerator as refridgerator even though there’s no “d” in refrigerator. Although I know this now, I still sometimes try to spell it that way. But, since reading this book I wonder if the slang “fridge” didn’t come from a bastardization of Frigidaire instead of refrigerator.

So, are you all wondering why the H-E double hockey sticks I am babbling on about this?

Good question.

I have no good answer. I’ve just been thinking about it.

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April 21, 2015

Tuesday Titters: If Einstein wrote poetry

by Janie Jones

I’ve read in the bowels of Google that Einstein’s favorite limerick was:

There was an old lady called Wright
who could travel much faster than light.
She departed one day
in a relative way
and returned on the previous night.

April 3, 2015

Guess it’s going to be a Howie day

by Janie Jones

Arrgh!

Earworm.

So, to make a simple tale convoluted, when I bought my “smart” TV, it came with some streaming links to things like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu.  Stuff I recognized.  But it also came with a link to iHeartRadio.

Well in my enthusiasm for my new TV I tried out the iHeartRadio and found the Coffee Shop Radio station.  I liked it.  I found out that I can listen from my little netbook that I take to school every day, too.  So, I’ll put it on low volume while I’m at work measuring seeds; it’s great soft background noise while I’m doing mindless work and it won’t offend anyone else in the lab who happens to not have their own headphones on (I tried headphones, but I do have to move around a lot and so the cord kept getting in the way).

As it would happen, it plays the song, Collide, by Howie Day, quite often.  I find it very catchy, and I rather like it so it’s no hardship.  But, eventually I decided I had to know what Howie was actually saying as the first verse and the chorus was about all I could decipher.  Now I can’t get the tune out of my head.

One might say, my lab was quiet, you know.  It’s made a first impression and I find I’m scared to know it’s always on my mind.  Although not all the song words rhyme.  Out of the doubt that filled my mind, I some how find, Howie Day and I collide.

Collide

-Song by Howie Day

The dawn is breaking
A light shining through
You’re barely waking
And I’m tangled up in you
Yeah

But I’m open, you’re closed
Where I follow, you’ll go
I worry I won’t see your face
Light up again

Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
I somehow find, you and I collide

I’m quiet, you know
You make a first impression
I’ve found I’m scared to know
I’m always on your mind

Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the stars refuse to shine
Out of the back you fall in time
I somehow find, you and I collide

Don’t stop here
I’ve lost my place
I’m close behind
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills your mind
You finally find, you and I collide

Don’t know the song I’m talking about?  Check out Howie on YouTube.
March 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Frankie

by Janie Jones

Or perhaps we should say happy re-animation day.

Happy B Day Frankie

You’re 197?  Wow.  You don’t look a day over dead!

Well, I don’t know if this is true, but Holidays for Today claims it’s true.  And, it’s just weird enough for a random Wednesday post.  Apparently March 11, 1818 is credited as being the date Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was written.  You know, I bought a copy once many years ago but found it so dull I never got very far into it.  Perhaps I should try again.  Anything sounds like a worthwhile endeavor compared to studying.

What’s more, it seems to me I remember watching a black and white Frankenstein movie when I was a kid.  Mostly I remember it being sad for some reason.  Sad, but also boring.  And I remember watching the Mel Brooks/Gene Wilder Young Frankenstein more recently.  And when I say more recently I mean that as in I last watched it about 25 years ago.  That version I found sad too, but in the sense that someone actually wasted film on it.  I can’t say I found it any more riveting than the classic flick or the book.  I had some friends who adored the flick, but all I can remember is the Teri Garr roll-in-the-hay bit, “Would you like to have a roll in ze hay?  It’s fun!  Roll, roll, roll in ze hay!”

Sorry folks.  That’s all I’ve got today.  Microbiology midterm at three pm today.  Need I say more?

March 2, 2015

Before I caught the plague…

by Janie Jones

Hello all.

I am feeling much better, and even though I’m still clearing out the congestion, overall I consider myself over the cold.  Thanks to everyone for the well wishes, I was miserable, and it was nice to have some kind words.

But, before I became ill I had been meaning to share a book referral with you.  You see, the Friday before I became so dreadfully sick, I stumbled upon a book.  The campus often has these clearance book sales where you can find new books for next to nothing.  So, passing by one day I stopped for a quick browse to see what was on offer.  And this is what I found:

“A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life” by John Kralik

I don’t know why it caught my eye, except perhaps because I am a thank you letter writer.  I always write thank you letters when people send me gifts, and I make my daughter do so, too.  Despite my habit, I get very few thank you letters.  I remember being a kid and being made to write thank you letters, but the expectation was you only had to write if you weren’t actually handed the present face to face.  It was implied you didn’t need a thank you letter if you thanked the person when they handed you the gift.  However, as I got older, some times I felt compelled to send thank you notes for things given when it wasn’t my birthday or holiday, regardless of whether I was handed the gift in person.  Sometimes I do get angry when I send people things and I don’t get a thank you or any acknowledgement of the receipt of what I sent.

So, it seems in our society today there is a distinct lack of the need or even the duty to say thank you.  And, seeing that title perhaps I was curious to know what Mr. Kralik had to say on the subject.  I bought the book, which was on sale for less than I pay for a soda at the school store, and read straight through it that Friday night.  I found it touching and thoroughly engaging.

Apparently Mr. Kralik’s story has motivated lots of other people to enter a campaign to write a thank you note every day.  While I think it is a little extreme perhaps to write a thank you note to the Starbuck’s clerks, it does bring up the subject of just really recognizing how you affect the world around you.  If you notice people and their actions, just maybe they will start paying more attention to you.

Even though I am a very private person and don’t much enjoy living in a crush of other humans with constant companionship every hour of the day (I don’t have Facebook, or Twitter, and most days I don’t bother to turn off the sound on my phone because it’s pretty unusually I get an unexpected call or text) I do still think it is important to have a community of people who you belong to, and who you can count on.  As my life has changed over the years I have always felt frustrated that I didn’t feel I fit into the communities I found myself immersed in, and what I think I’m realizing is that there are a lot of phoney people out there.  They want you to dote on them but they have absolutely no interest in you or gratitude for your thoughtfulness, or even any knowledge of how much it might cost you emotionally, mentally or spiritually to be there for them.

Sure, I don’t always thank everyone every day.  But the communities of people who I do care about most I try to acknowledge their support and what they mean to me as often as I can.  Perhaps I should work harder at doing that.  But, I might be more inclined if they reciprocated.

Of all the communities I belong to, I have to say the blog community has been one of the most important in my life these last several years.  You come back to read my drivel, you leave uplifting comments, and you seem to care for no other reason than you care.  And for this I am so grateful and honored.

Perhaps though it is easier to be humbled and grateful to blog friends, people who only see the true self.  In my day to day life I end up wearing only certain faces.  I build walls to protect myself.  I portray qualities and beliefs that will smooth my interactions and limit confrontation and chaos.  So, people I see in school see the organized, intelligent, striving, scholarly self, most times masking the panicked, neurotic one-step-away-from-nervous-breakdown self.  Closer friends see mostly the panicked, neurotic one-step-away-from-nervous-breakdown self and the fun-loving, snarky, self-confident Janie has been withering away.  Or some times I just pull away so they see nothing and there is no pity or disgust over how I’ve changed, because even people you love sometimes get tired of your drama.  And, let’s face it, a lot of times that is what dominates the blog as well.  But, I can also share more intimate feelings and somehow know even if they aren’t fully understood, I won’t be abandoned or judged.

Well, in any event, there’s some serious food for thought.  Writing thank you notes should be a duty, but, what I think we can take away from Mr. Kralik is that if you put just a little effort into going beyond the duty and thinking about that person, thinking about what it means to have people in your life that do actually contribute to your happiness, your health and your well fare, then you should pause and acknowledge that.  And, when you do tell someone thank you, even for a little thing, it can mean a whole lot to everyone.  When people sense you value them, sometimes that makes people want to continue to feel valued and respected and so they value you back.  It can be a wonderful catch 22.

I think there are a lot of things to be grateful for.  Although, somewhat shamefully, I must admit, I lose track of them every day, because let’s face it, life is hard.  Life is not fair.  Life is full of those unexpected events you can’t always be prepared for.  But when you have a community around you that notices you and how hard you work, even on the simple things that everyone expects, well, it makes some of those trials just a little easier to face, and it can definitely make the ordinary a little more extraordinary.

So, if you have the opportunity to pick up this book, I would recommend it.  It’s a quick read, and a slog through Mr. Kralik’s personal dramas, but as I said above I found it riveting and felt that there was something refreshing in his honesty about his failings and his effort to better himself.

And now my friends, I have to go to school.  May you have a good Monday.

Thanks for reading.

August 11, 2014

An unusual observation

by Janie Jones

So there I was, in the dark, dingy, dilapidated laundry room doing laundry.  At first I spent as little time in there as possible as it stank to high heaven from having been the resident weasel’s toilet.  Shortly after I moved out to the farm I coaxed Leif into helping me remove everything from the room and I very literally hosed the whole room down.  Not to worry, the laundry room is built basically over wooden decking so there’s no basement or crawl space below and, as there’s a hole in the floor, what water I couldn’t mop up drained through the cracked linoleum tile out of the room and into what’s likely a weasel condo below.  After an equally liberal application of Pine-sol, the room was passably clean, but despite all that scrubbing I still only gave it’s ancient decor a cursory inspection.  It appeared to have some faded colonial/cottage-y wall boarder.

Then, out of the blue, yesterday, as I sorted laundry, it occurred to me that there were images of flying witches on the wall boarder.

Odd, I thought.

The more I thought about it the more odd it seemed that someone in the past would have decorated the laundry room with a witch wall boarder.   At length I finished sorting and stood staring directly at the boarder thinking, now why didn’t I notice those witches before?

So, I got on the step stool and got a closer look.

Blame it on my wonky eye, or blame it on the faded colors.  Or even blame it on the fact I just finished reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe, which I enjoyed very much by the way, but what I thought were witches flying brooms over a colonial New England town were actually angels with itsy bitsy nearly invisible wings in dark robes blowing trumpets.

Now I don’t know what’s more strange:  that I thought they were witches, or that someone would like wall boarder with the ugliest angels I could imagine.

I always say, there’s no accounting for taste, and this my friends is a case in point.

January 2, 2014

I’ve had to do a lot of inanely boring tasks in pursuit of my $8/hr, but this one is really killing me

by Janie Jones

So my boss is teaching a creative writing class this spring.  Apparently she used to teach one but she says it’s been about 20 years.  I don’t know why she was given a creative writing course this semester after all those years.  I didn’t ask.  I don’t really care and I’m really not one bit curious.  I get paid no matter what she teaches, and as she’s generally a great person to work for, and is grateful for all the boringly tedious jobs I do in her stead, it’s basically all the same to me.

At first I thought, “Oh, creative writing.  This should be interesting and fun.”

The class hasn’t even started yet and I am now so sick to death of it I hope with all my soul that I will have as little to do with it as possible.

Surprised?  Me too.

Curious as to why?  Well, I’ll assume you are or you would just stop reading.

First, the textbook is absolutely written to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Now, having helped for 5 semesters with the basic freshman composition classes, I know there’s a lot of people out there who manage to make it through high school who couldn’t write a clear, coherent, grammatically correct account of pouring a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast, much less make it interesting.  These people need textbooks which write in three and four letter words and studiously avoid anything exceeding two or three syllables.  They need to be told the ridiculous basics such as a complete sentence must have a noun and a verb.  But most of these students are just hoping to get through the class because it’s required for pretty much every “degree” and certificate program under the sun.  They don’t aspire to be writers.  However, this class is one students freely choose to take, presumably because they want to be writers. So, I feel they deserve and also need a higher caliber textbook; one that is going to challenge their intellect, make them think harder, one that assumes they are more than just mouth-breathing vegetables whose only experience with writing thus far is what they recently tweeted about, they need a class and a textbook that goes beyond the blatantly obvious.  This book is supposedly teaching people to be better creative writers. It kinda makes me vomit a bit in my mouth when the book is telling people things like how it’s important to use specific and descriptive words instead of vague, boring words, or how your work must exhibit tension and energy or it will not hold a reader’s interest.  I’m really sorry, but seriously?  Isn’t this kind of like saying the sky is blue?  If you really are someone who wants to be a creative writer shouldn’t this be something you instinctively understand?  In my mind it seems like if you had to be told this, you probably don’t belong in this class.  Naturally I see there is real value examining these concepts and practicing building your skill at these things, but if you don’t already realize their importance you’ve missed your calling.

Secondly, it seems to me that this author chose to write this textbook on how be a creative writer because she couldn’t hack it as one herself.  Her text book is boring to read, none of the pieces she uses as examples are remotely interesting to me, and she rambles and beats the dead horse of her various points into hamburger as if she was getting paid by the word.  Furthermore, both she and her editor seem to love incomplete sentences and, while I am definitely not an expert on comma placement, even I want to gouge my eyes out at all the superfluous commas not to mention all the dashes and miscellaneous and unnecessary punctuation sprinkled with great abandon throughout the text.  As my “job” over the holiday break was to type all the practice assignments and exercises in the textbook so my boss will be able to upload them to the online classroom, both myself and Microsoft’s grammar checker are having bona fide conniption fits at all these grammar and linguistic inconsistencies.   I have four more chapters to transcribe.  I hope the grammar checker doesn’t decide to crash and take MS Word with it, but, on the other hand, then I’d be able to get out of finishing this project.

The only thing worse to me than imagining what kind of assignments the students might conceive as a result of “learning” from this textbook is imagining that they might actually suppose that it gave them a good education on the creative writing process.  While I’m up on my soap box, I’d just like to say that if this textbook is the drivel that passes for a solid primer in training new and upcoming authors, then it is plain to see why 90% of them aren’t worth reading, much less the razing of entire forests of trees to produce the paper their “work” is printed on.  I don’t think it is necessary or even stimulating to read modern creative writing that is chock full of pattern pieces, initiations, and slang.  As I consider the classics, there are many authors who had exceptionally engaging works that still upheld the traditions of solid grammar and freely and unapologetically used multisyllabic words that engage one’s intellect whilst still entertaining.  I can’t help but feel this textbook does a sorry disservice to aspiring writers.  It implies that conventions of grammar and intellect in writing are not necessary, that you can hide behind “creativity” and ignore what makes a good writer stand out:  How to use the English language to it’s fullest potential.

If I ever find myself in a post apocalyptic world in which I have to stay warm by fire, I would seriously cry having to burn books to keep warm.  But, that said, I’d not loose one ounce of sleep flinging this textbook on the fire.  Heck, I might just burn it for the fun once the semester is over.

I’ll get down of my soap box now.  I still have to brave my way through 4 more chapters.

Someone please pass the Pepto.  I just read the first assignments in Chapter 7, and I feel sick.