Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day nine years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.
All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…
It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)
With this being my first semester of teaching, I had absolutely no idea about how to plan time for the past few months, and so it’s been a 4-month learning process for me. But I’ve just wrapped up the final grades, and I’m winding up a few things at work before taking a Christmas break. I am very looking forward to the time off, let me tell you.
So – what’s been going on apart from teaching? I’ve been working on my home office, and Superhero and I have been valiantly completing a large new desk for this new space. The desk arrived flat-packed through the post, and oh. My. God. I had no idea that this desk was going to have so many pieces, bolts, and all the other things required to put a piece of furniture together, so we’re working on it a few hours a day. (The Superhero and I are somewhat challenged in DIY skills and patience, which makes it an interesting proposition.) Luckily, the desk has arrived with some pretty good instructions, all the pieces are labelled appropriately so far, and things seem to be lining up nicely, so it’s on schedule for completion in the next week or two.
(I’ll get a photo of the completed desk up when it’s done. Until then, it’s just a pile of deconstructed white wooden pieces on the floor waiting to be called into action…)
Quick trip to Santa Fe with some friends provided a lovely break, and an opportunity to visit a great local bookshop, Collected Works… (See image above.)
My ankle surgery was done last Wednesday, and so, as it’s no weight-bearing and my right foot, there’s no driving for me, but Superhero is being a super hero and chauffeur-ing me around when it’s unavoidable. I’m lucky to have such an understanding partner, or otherwise I would be under the equivalent of house arrest. :-}
I do have one of those scooter-things (called a knee-scooter) which helps me zip around, and once I got over the sheer awkwardness of having to lug this thing around, I am becoming more proficient at driving it and a routine is developing. Good Lord. I have another month or so of this, so we’ll see if we’re still married at the end of this medical situation. :-]
We’ve just finished watching the HBO show, The Deuce, with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco that details the early history of p*rn movies in 1970’s New York, and I enjoyed it once I had learned to decipher the really heavy NYC accents. Holy schnikeys. That’s a tough dialect for me to catch – even more so than the accents in Peaky Blinders (if you’ve seen that show). Don’t be put off by the word “p*rn”. Obviously, it’s not a children’s or family show, but more about the small group of characters (and there are some naked people), and along the lines (and the same writer as) The Wire.
Next up – a complete change of pace: Season Two of The Crown!
Reading has been happening but more at a glacial pace than anything. I’m halfway through one of Judith Flanders’ always interesting books, this one called The Making of a Home: The 500-Year Story of How our Houses Became our Home (2015). Flanders is a historian who studies social history, especially in England, and recounts the rise of how people lived in buildings that went on to become “homes”. Fascinating, I must say, but then I am a social history nerd.
For fiction, I’m sort of reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a mystery about a missing wife and the whodunit behind it. It’s good, but I’ve not been completely sucked into it just yet. I’m finding the characters to be unlikable at the moment, but we’ll see how it progresses. If it doesn’t suck me in soon, it’s a DNF.
The end-of-the-semester-busy also meant that a couple of books have slipped by without a formal review on the blog, one of which was a biography about Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith (called Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life ), and which was amazingly interesting to me (well written, fairly balanced, an interesting life, and dry humor). Definitely a more well-rounded picture of the Prince than I’ve learned before (and, of course, Lady Diana who sounds as though she had a mental illness – but again, who is to know these things?). Not me, but it was entertaining all the same.
And now I’m catching up on the blog writing in a coffee shop as I was desperate to get out of the house. I had no idea that coffee shops could be soooooo noisy, but it’s a happy noise of people coming into town for the holidays and catching up with friends.
Oh, and I mentioned that our wonderful cool cat, Futz, died the other day. He had such a wide fan club of people who walked by our house and who chatted with him every day that I ended up drafting a short letter to the neighborhood to explain his unexpected disappearance… (Too much? Not for our Futz!)
Well, phew. That’s been a busy few weeks.
Sorry about the complete blog silence, but work keeps me more than busy sometimes. Plus, I have been stuck in the literary wasteland of not being able to choose a good next title to read. I know that there are literally thousands and thousands of books available to read, but I was just very stuck in not being able to find a book that I wanted to read (and then keep reading). (Ahh. The vagaries of life.)
So, not wanting to bore the pants off you, here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on for me lately:
- One of the coolest cats ever died on Thanksgiving Day which was rather sad. His name was Futz (above photo), and he was the kindest and most friendly cat that we’ve ever had. He usually greeted everyone who passed our home, taking on the mantle of unofficial Mayor of the Block, and so he had a lot of fans. We’re going to miss this little guy.
- Grading, grading, grading…
- Nothing very exciting, except that we volunteered to help with the holiday lunch at the local homeless shelter. A good experience, and if you’re ever wondering whether to do that sort of thing or not in your own community, highly recommended that you go.
- Reading. (Well, I’ve already mentioned how that went in general.)
- Movies: had some luck with this category: watched the 1959 suspense/thriller called North by Northwest (with Carey Grant, James Mason, and Eve Marie Saint)*, and we loved it. Recommend this even if you’re not that big into older movies. Entertaining, and the fashion!! Never a hair out of place even when being chased by the bad guys. 🙂
- Got a final date for my ankle surgery (middle of December) so before then, I have to get loads of working out and errands completed, as I’ll be hobbled for about 4-5 weeks. Lots of reading and movie time, right? 🙂 Plus, Super Hero has agreed to ferry me about until the cast comes off.
- Finished up my piece of a local community project with a non-profit agency that provides stockings stuffed with toys et al. for local kids who may not otherwise have a very good Christmas. (Total fun for me to do, and I hope that the kids like what my choices are…)
- Volunteered at the local food bank (again, total fun for me). I’m not some perfect angel, by any means, but do believe that, if one is not happy with the state of the world or one’s country, one should do something to try to improve it for you and the others who live in your community. [Rant is now over.]
- Caught up with some friends.
- Had quite a few really good naps. 🙂
- Did actually read two books. More to come on those.
- Read some of the more intriguing Christmas catalogues which have been pouring into our mail box lately…
So, Thanksgiving was rather a random selection of things, but we enjoyed it tremendously. Just a few more weeks until the end of the semester, and then three weeks off for Christmas. Not a bad life, I must say. I’m very lucky.
- Just found out that this old 1959 movie has been remade with George Clooney, Charlize Theron, and Alan Rickman. Wonder how good that one is….
The Superhero and I went to the movies last weekend to see the latest release of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (with Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe et al.), and although I knew mostly what to expect just from reading quite a few of her novels, the film still took me by surprise at the ending. (Either I have read the novel and was paying ABSOLUTELY no attention whatsoever to its conclusion, or I just dreamed of doing that.)
Regardless, the film was really good, especially as it was set in a cold and snowy remote location which I was ready for as it’s still quite hot in Texas.
To the plot. A small group of fairly wealthy passengers are traveling from Istanbul to London, each passenger having a different reason for why they bought their tickets. M. Poirot is unexpectedly called back to the office in the Smoke, but the train is sold out and only has a cabin free in second class for the world-famous detective. It looks like it will be a smooth return, except that during this trip, one of the other passengers is murdered – but by whom?
As usually happens in a tapestry film (where you have multiple characters with various story lines who gradually intermesh as the narrative progresses), the characters are all disparate and yet with one thing in common. And does yet this one thing add up to clearly show who killed the man on the train?
Lots of period clothing from the 1940s (? Not sure) and some typical Christie players (rich old grumpy lady, questionable servant, etc.), it’s murder-with-a-cup-of-tea set-up, but these don’t detract from the movie in any way, and it’s rather nice to have comfortable set characters so that your focus is kept on the murder-mystery more than anything. And it’s a good one to solve, because despite handing out clues left, right and center, I still didn’t figure out the murderer until they told me at the very end, but it was so well done, it was fine.
So, if you’re looking for a good escapist movie of murder done well and all wrapped up by the end with a lovely ribbon, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re more of a gore and horror type person, you may leave unsatisfied, but any Christie fan will be happy.
Here’s an interesting article at Bustle delving into the true crime story that was thought to inspire Murder on the Orient Express, and here’s what Rotten Tomatoes says about the film.
(Oh, and I found out this little nugget: when the book was originally published, it was titled “Murder on the Orient Express” in 1934 in the UK, but was re-titled to “Murder in the Calais Coach” for the U.S. market. I don’t know about you, but the Calais coach reference just conjures up an old dirty smelly bus coach from the 1980’s with full ashtrays and a broken toilet, but maybe that’s just me going to an away game for a hockey match during school.
Perhaps it had a different reference for the ‘Mercans back then. 🙂 )
As I’m of the many who enjoy prowling through thrift shops, I had an hour to spare last weekend, so off I went to one of our local (and biggest) ones. I went with the intention of looking for things to put on Cowboy’s head. Found several objects which will help with the project, and heavens to Betsy, if I didn’t also accidentally on purpose find some books which were looking for a new home.
(Well, I had to buy them, right? Don’t want to be rude…)
So, as can be seen in the photo above, here is what made it home with me:
- The Iceman Cometh – Eugene O’Neill (play)
- The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (F)
- The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery (nature NF)
- Full Catastrophe Living – Jon Kabat-Zinn (NF on meditation etc.)
I’ve been itching to read a play lately. We went to a local playhouse to see a version of an Agatha Christie murder-mystery, and it was surprisingly good for a local am-dram, and so I ended up with the O’Neill. I read him during my classes in graduate school, so I’m curious to see if if the experience will be similar or whether it will be radically different. I’m a very different person now, so I’m interested to find out how or if this impacts the reading of this play.
The Girl on the Train – loved the movie, so am v interested in reading the book the film was based upon.
The Soul of an Octopus – I rather like octopi and have heard only good things about the nature writing of Montgomery.
And the Jon Kabat-Zinn book is just going to be a good reminder about living a principled life through a Buddhist perspective.
So, I have some good finds there, and am glad that I can add them to the TBR pile, ever-growing as it may be. It’s good to have choices!
(This one is beyond BEARABLE… 🙂 )
Since I seem to have a small break in the busy schedule of teaching and tech writing, I thought it might be nice to have a little catch-up and see how things are, now that we’re at the beginning of Autumn – my favorite season!
Speaking of autumn, here in West Texas, we’ve been having a great break from the close-to-100 degrees days. It’s been cool (60’s) and pretty rainy (lovely), and generally given us a rest from the never-ending summer heat and sunshine. I like the warm weather generally, but at this point in the year and after having about six months of solid mostly non-stop heat, I’m ready to pull out my cool-weather gear and enjoy some cooler temperatures. In fact, it was so awesomely cool that we even thought about having the heating on at night. (Didn’t actually end up doing so, but still – nice treat and signals, perhaps, the beginning of the cooler days).
And – I found some leaves on the ground (as in they fell there since it’s almost Autumn, not that they got blown off in the near hurricane-winds we’ve been having with this stormy weather). Yahoo. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful for temperate weather, but summer gets a little weary at times. But – sunshine!
I’ve been making progress on the new office set-up in the front spare bedroom. Sold the bed the other day, so that’s freed up a lot of room. Next step, call the contractor to see about pulling up the carpet and redoing the wood floors. (Big job for someone apart from me!) After that, will be the new blinds for the front of the house, and then, baby steps for the remainder of the office furniture and space ideas.
One rather looming goal is that we received two big packages of pieces with which to construct the new desk. We’re a bit challenged (in terms of patience) when it comes to building furniture, so we’re psyching ourselves up for this. Hopefully, it will be pretty easy. (Fingers crossed.) Have to get the floor finished first, though.
Teaching and working are going really well and keeping me busy. Both of the courses have some good students in them, and I’m looking forward to working more closely with them as the semester progresses. My back’s been bothering me, so I’ve got two upcoming back procedures to help to sort that out. Face is still annoying, but I’m learning acceptance as it’s not going to go away, it seems. It certainly could be a lot worse, so grateful for something so manageable for the most part.
Did some culture last night, when we went to a new event called 10×9 (or similar) which is a storytelling event. Nine people have ten mins each to tell a true story from their lives, all on one particular theme. Last night’s theme was courage, and so that was fun to go to. Well attended as well, which I was happy to see. I wonder when the next one is…
And then I’ve been gloating over my new-to-me titles from the FOL book sale the other week. Now to find the time…. (Hollow laugh.)
Life is good. Hope you can say the same!