January 14, 2011

February 2010

It was a circle of friends on a snowy night at the yacht club the other day.  I'm so glad Anne was able to join us and that Tom played music during his presentation. We're getting so professional!
  Earlier that night we saw a blue heron walking on the frozen river.  Worried he's supposed to be south, it turned out he was an early sign of spring.  Eggs are probably in his rookery and will hatch in six weeks.  Has anyone ever seen a baby blue heron?

Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures - various authors
The Secret Life of Eva Hathaway - Janice Weber  (I've borrowed this book from Tom and am only on p. 5 but love it!  She writes like Helene Hanff.  Read 84 Charing Cross Road if you have a chance.)
The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny
Heart's Desire - Laura Pederson
Stones into Schools - Greg Mortenson
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan  (Mom's book discussion notes from Old Woman Creek are below)
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Population on the Loose - Elmer Pendell
Carnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
The Boat Who Wouldn't Float - Farley Mowat
The Dog Who Wouldn't Be - Farley Mowat
Never Cry Wolf - Farley Mowat
All Creatures Great and Small - James Herriot
Lament for the Living - Dorothy Parker
The Queen Mother - William Shawcross
Personal History - Katharine Graham
Churchill - Paul Johnson
Modern Times - Paul Johnson
The History of the American People - Paul Johnson
(Look for Paul Johnson's short bio of Jesus coming out this summer)

Mary Lou from Maryland currently in Arizona submitted:
John Cheever, TheWapshot Chronicle (1954-57); The Wapshot Scandal (1959-64).  This two-novel series is no Forsythe Saga, but it is nonetheless an engrossing read.  It follows the fortunes and fantasies of the Wapshot family, community pillars of St. Botolphs. Mass.  St. Botolphs is a river town and once-busy sailing port in the days of the whaling fleets.  The various Wapshot premises are scattered with grotesque relics collected by ancestral travelers and inspiring digressions in an already episodic plot.  The chief delights of these novels are the ironic characterizations of several generations of Wapshots, caught between their ambitious, delusional fantasies and the bizarre and humbling realities of their lives. They are a masterful demonstration of existential humor.   Imagine, if you can,  laugh-out-loud Camus.  I don’t know why I’ve only now discovered these books.

Barry Unsworth, Morality Play (1995).  This is a fascinating historical mystery novel, set in 14th century England.  A priest joins up with a band of traveling players and they involve themselves in investigating and then acting out a murder that occurs in a small town where they have stopped to present some biblical plays.  One of the most interesting features of the novel is the description of the convention of hand signs that the players use to communicate with the audience and signal one another.  I will look for more works by this author.

No one has mentioned poetry.  It’s an important part of my literary life.  I begin each day with Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac on NPR and he always ends with a poem.  I have an old, slim, gray paperback anthology that I treasure.  It was my grandmother’s and it features oval cameo portraits of the poets.  It’s worth searching for in used book stores.

One Hundred and One Famous Poems, An Anthology Compiled by Roy J. Cook.  Chicago: The Cable Company, 1929. 

I took two slim paperback volumes of poetry along for the ‘round-the-world cruise:

The 100 Best Poems of All Time, ed. Leslie Pockell.  New York and Boston: Warner, 2001.

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.  New York: Dover Thrift Editions, 1993.

I have three recent additions to my poetry collection.  I generally use these for browsing rather than reading straight through.

Ellis Felker, Boaz Moon.  Muscoda, WI:  Red Oak Publishers, 2004.  I picked up this book last fall at an artist’s consignment shop in Richland Center, WI.  Mr. Felker’s poems express his search for spiritual truth, with a wry sense of humor.  “In its essence/ my life/ has been about/ the battle/ between God and me./ At the moment/ I am still winning/ but that fact/ does not please me.”

Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies.  Boston: Beacon Press, 2003.  Garrison Keillor read one of these, about a flock of starlings, on Writer’s Almanac.  Ms. Oliver has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her poetry.  This volume of free verse and a few prose bits presents vivid and loving visions of birds and other aspects of the natural world, along with the occasional life lesson.  

Stanley Kunitz with Genine Lentine, The Wild Braid:  A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden.  New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2005. This one was a Christmas gift from a friend who is a master gardener.  Interspersed with color photos of the centenarian poet and his garden, this volume presents poems and prose reflections based on conversations during garden rambles, 2002-2004. 

I’ve read some more Susan Wittig Albert mysteries and some more of the Alexander McCall Smith Ladies No.1 Detective series.  They remain entertaining.

Taking to AZ (Assuming we can get there with all this snow):
Tony Hillerman’s memoir, Seldom Disappointed (2001).  Two mysteries NOT Leaphorn or Chee:  Finding Moon (1995); The Fly on the Wall (1971)
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968)
Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (2005)
Clive Cussler, Iceberg (1975)
Patricia MacDonald, Suspicious Origin (2003)
I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve read them.

Desire: Sweetness/Plant: The Apple
  • Johnny Appleseed/John Chapman
  • Apple trees: grafted      apple seeds: liquor
  • Chinese grafting 2000 B.C….Romans…England
  • Colonists imported honey bees
  • Settlers required to set out at least 50 trees
  • “Is sweetness the prototype of all desire?
  • (Fruit is never named in the Garden of Eden…too hot for apples…pomegranate?)
  • All cider was “hard” until refrigeration
  • Geneva NY Plant Genetic Resources Unit…2,500 varieties of apples!
  • Prohibition led to cutting down apple trees
  • The apple trees of Kazakhstan forest
  • Future of apples 

Desire: Beauty/ Plant: TheTulip
  • Tulips from Constantinople 1554
  • “tulip” sort of Turkish word for turban
  • Tulipomania/ Holland
  • Tulip was thought to be useless/ utility saved most flowers
  • Petals called “broken” were painted; money
  • “Painting” was delicate, not like today; gardeners would spread  paint powders on plants, hoping rainwater would take color to roots. Eventually found to be a virus
  • LOOK at a tulip, tulip Semper Augustus, “Before speculation came the looking.”
  • 1635, slips of paper rather than actual bulbs, tulipomania, ended 1637
  • Pg. 108 animals move genes around
Desire: Intoxication/ Plant: Marijuana
  • Differences?  TASTE   Plants that don’t want to be eaten taste bitter. Bitter plants:intoxication
  • Pollan’s concern about gov’t and Supreme Court rulings effecting the Bill of Rights
  • Drug War led to creating new powerful plant.
  • Growing went “underground”…Amsterdam, where the Cannabis Cup is held.
  • “Homegrown” crop ($500 an oz. America’s leading cash crop) had to adapt to artificial environment.  Complex indoor gardening methods
  • Question: “What is the knowledge held out by these plants and why has it been so strenuously forbidden?”
  • Desire to alter consciousness may be universal. (Eskimo example)
  • Psychoactive plants and fungi in religion (K. Marx…)
  • Meme---unit of memorable cultural information

  • Brain: What marijuana affects, but NOT THE BRAIN STEM. No one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana.

  • Pgs. 152 to 157: THC, protect C. plants from ultraviolet radiation? Pain relief, biochemistry of emotion, also exhibits antibiotics which may protect plant from disease, defense against pests.

  • Marijuana may over stimulate the brain’s built-in forgetting faculty, exaggerating its normal operations

  • The Assassins story/influence to the West

  • 1484:  Pope Innocent’s ban on witches, etc. who used it in place of wine; therefore, anti-church

  • The plants: cannabis, opium, belladonna…medicines use by Swiss alchemist Paracelsus, often referred to as father of medicine

  • The essence of time: refer to quote about what cocaine does and what marijuana does. M. = now    C&C = future; therefore drug wars.

Desire: Control/ Plant: The Potato
  • Monsanto story/ New Leaf potato  “current agricultural technology is unsustainable”
  • 1st spud: Andes…different spud for every environment
  • Existentially different from the rest of his plants
  • Natural selection…man can produce variability
  • What man has done to plant
  • Potatoes and milk=mashed potatoes…all a body really needs 
  • Monsanto using a 22 to shoot the genes
  • UNCERTAINTY…What are we introducing into the environment and food chain with millions of acres of genetically altered plants?  What is the fate of the pollen being carried by the bees?
  • Genetically modified Bt toxins do NOT break down.  Monarch butterflies and the pollen in the corn field…hmmm
  • Biological pollution   p. 213
  • Pages 217-225, the story of chemically grown potatoes plants vs the organic ones
  • Monoculture  p. 225
  • The terminator  p. 231
  • Monsanto and the gene thieves   pg. 233
  • FDA doesn’t recognize the NewLeaf potato as a food, but a pesticide, therefore putting it under the jurisdiction of the EPA.

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