Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reviewing books

Is it possible to feel sorry for a book who's only reviews online are by Harriet Klausner?

Just started reading a book with an excellent first chapter and tried to hedge my bets by trying to find reviews of it. Does it live up to the first chapter? Does the writing die off?

So I guess I'll have to suck it up, throw away my internet crutch and actually read the darn thing my self.

Interesting that I didn't know that I had gotten into the habit of reading reviews of a book I'm reading. Don't do it for all books--does it mean that the book didn't hold my attention as much as I though it did?

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 30, 2005

It's still raining...

and there's not much more to report.

Although I will be ever so glad when my adorable children find themselves back in school during the day.

{sarcasm} Locking them in their rooms until school starts again is wrong, why?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go away

Someday soon the rain will stop.

Gotta love sunny California--rain, mudslides, landslides. Mmmm Hmmm.

When it really starts pouring like this, we also have problems with "vermin" coming into the house to stay dry and warm. (Hey! It's MY house, you guys!) So far, no ants, but last night husband saw a mouse skitter across the bedroom floor.

So that means sweeping, vacuuming, clearing out the pantry, caulking one more time around the furnace vents where they usually squeeeeeze in, and setting traps.

On the other hand, the house isn't threatened by mudslides, so I guess I can deal with one confused mouse.

Edited to add: It's only ONE mouse, right?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Once again, not about romance novels, but about horses.

Lovely boy.

But what does this cartoon have to do with him?

Well, without the cartoon, that horse's ancestors wouldn't have come to America. The whys and wherefores are detailed, but the short version is that a political cartoonist named Homer Davenport drew a sketch of Uncle Sam with his hand on Teddy Roosevelt's shoulder saying, "He's the one for me."

Teddy credited that cartoon as helping him in the presidential election. Davenport went to the new president and said that he would like to go to the desert to import Arabians. The president wrote a letter of introduction for Mr. Davenport. The original idea was to bring in breeding stock so as to improve the American cavalry, but some of the "Davenport" Arabians were bred to each other. (Davenport made an interesting mistake in protocol and ended up being given a prized war mare by a grateful tribal leader. This was highly unusual--Arabs would part with the superfluous stallions, but the mares were useful animals and not so easily given up.)Here's a very detailed article if you're interested in this story.

One of the horses which came over was Muson. Here he is with Buffalo Bill--I have this feed calendar lithograph hanging in my guest bathroom. (The image comes from the Buffalo Bill Museum.)

And here is his great-great-grandson, bred in all lines to Davenport Arabians:

Another of the Davenport stallions ended up at Mr. Kellogg's horse ranch in Southern CA. (Yes, that Kellogg, the cereal baron.) Being close to Hollywood, a lot of these horses ended up in early movies. The most famous being Jadaan, who was Rudolph Valentino's horse in The Son of the Sheik. Here's a picture of Jadaan with Rudolph Valentino. (Heh Heh. Only a horse person would credit the photo with the horse's name first!)

When Rudy suddenly died before the film was released, the public became insane for anything associated with Rudy. Jadaan was dressed in his movie costume and brought out riderless (sniff!) for the Sunday morning horse shows at the Kellogg ranch. He was trailered to Valentino's shrine for publicity photos. He led the Rose Bowl parade. When he died his skeleton was mounted, and (apparently) is still used as a teaching tool for the UC Davis vet school.

Another of Mr. Kellogg's horses (not a "Davenport", not that it matters) was also used as the model for Prince Charming's horse in Disney's Snow White. His name was King John.

Kellogg had an almost metallic chestnut Davenport stallion, Antez, who was among Mr. Kellogg's favorites. (Another famous "golden horse" who is related, although barely, to Antez is Bamboo Harvester, whom you may know as Mr. Ed. One of Clayton Moore's Silver's was related to Antez too. Antez was so prevalent in CA pedigrees at one point, that it wouldn't be surprising at all to find him show up in a lot of trained horses' backgrounds.)

There are a number of old American lines of Arabian horses--Davenports and part-Davenports start showing up in many pedigrees once you start looking for them. They were and are very useful animals, built for work and war. They are intelligent and long lived. And their stories are interesting to me, as they involve presidents, politics, movie stars, and American culture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Crankyreader wrote:

I apparently missed out on the whole "Ban Christmas, call it Winter Holiday/Festivus" thing that's raging this year. Although I seem to recall it happening some years back, as well.

What amuses me is that Christmas has pagan roots---Christianity at first banned pagan winter festivals or holy days, then when that didn't work, tried to take over the pagan holidays (by placing, for example, Jesus' birthday on Dec. 25, the birthday of the Persian god Mithras, who also had the magical number twelve around him), and covering the pagan winter solstice holy days with Christian festivities.

And I was going to comment there and then got wordy, so Hecka. My own post.

My grandfather was born in northwestern Iran (but he always called it Persia). He was Armenian. Armenia was the first Christian country and the Armenian Orthodox Church is, obviously, very old. At some point in the early 1900s my grandfather's village was visited by Presbyterian missionaries--he would say later that they converted the village. I don't fully believe that. I think the villagers were very polite and happy to get the attention and the bibles, but really, after the missionaries left? I think the village just went back to whatever it was they were doing before the nice ladies from Smith College showed up.

When he was about nine, my grandfather's family was warned by their Muslim Kurdish neighbors that the Turks were coming to level the village. They hid in the grape vineyards that night and eventually made their way to America. In Connecticut Grandpa met a very stern Yankee woman whose mother was a fire-breathing Methodist. (Well, she breathed fire AND she was a Methodist. I don't think Mr. Wesley made her breathe fire per se.)

Here's a bad scan of a picture of him when he was in High School--See why the Methodist ladies liked him?

Suddenly Grandpa was a Methodist, and he went on to become a pillar of the Methodist church: building fund, Council of Churches, etc. Except he traveled back to the Middle East every year to trade and never fully left that culture. (He often visited Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and went into the Soviet Union to visit Samarkand when such things were not done.)

In his heart of hearts, he was a Christian, and I think he enjoyed singing hymns. His laissez faire attitude about the details of religion combined with his dedication to the emotions or the spirituality of the practice of religion is, I think, both an ancient and a modern phenomenon. It's almost New Agey. He prayed, but he carried worry beads. He was Christian, but he carried blue beads to ward away the evil eye. Covered all bases, I guess.

He was run from his home by Muslims, but he was grateful to the Muslim Kurds who warned him. He would point out Rosicrucian and Mithraic symbols on various Persian tribal rugs. (My daughter's named for a Mithraic goddess.) And he would gleefully point out the five legged goats on tribal pieces to demonstrate that a tribal mindset isn't interested in ripping out to correct and mistake to make it perfect. Miscounted? Medallion too short? Oh well. (His other theory was that maybe the five and six legged farm animals ran faster.)

I think Easter was his favorite holiday. He loved the flowers, the Easter music, and the Spring Lamb. He once told me that after a winter of eating mutton fat mixed with rice and no vegetables at all that the feast of the Spring Lamb was what he, as a child, imagined heaven was like. His village didn't celebrate Christmas--Orthodox traditions focus on the Epiphany. I remember him saying that the women would sew their gold coins onto their dresses for Epiphany, but I don't remember him saying much else about winter holidays.

Anyway, all this to say, I get deeply confused when people get up on their high horse about some aspect of religion. We have to fight against the secularization of Christmas! (Huh? Where were you on The Day of Annunciation?) We have to make sure that all Christians believe as we do! (Huh? Go practice your own stuff and leave the rest of us out of it.)

Holidays are traditions and traditions are cultural. (Ever hear David Sedaris riff on the giant chocolate bell which delivers chocolate to good little French children on Easter? No Bunny? What are you guys, nuts?) Please, everybody go hunker down around your own tree, real or plastic, and let us Mithraic, Christian, Jewish families figure this season out on our own.

Happy Holidays!

Edited to add: I had to edit this about six times to get the spelling, the picture, and the formatting right. Blogger! I raise my fist at YOU!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The New York Times

I live in California, but my mother gets me a daily subscription to the New York Times. (My parents are completely addicted to this paper. Stories abound of them spending $5 and up for a two week old version when they travel.)

Somehow I don't have the same amount of time to absorb the paper as they do, but if they call about an article on page B24, I at least know which article to read before we continue the conversation.

Since Sunday my paper carrier has been tossing various newspapers on my driveway--a different one every day, and none of them the New York Times.

Um. Excuse me? Can I have my paper please?

[Called the 1800 NY-TIMES number and they said they would send out an email requesting that I get my proper paper. I have every faith in the NY Times customer ervice dep't, none in the local distributor/delivery service.]

May be this is a new holiday program, "Get to know your neighbor!" Everyone stands outside in their bathrobe auctioning off the paper that is not theirs. We all meet and greet until the correct newspaper finds its way home. Or maybe the delivery person is stupidly lazy and just chucks whatever paper is at the top of the pile out her window.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Debbie's Petland

When I was a kid there was a petstore not too far away from us. My mother has a very well developed "rescue complex" (my term). She sees an animal in distress and it comes home with her.

We got a black toy poodle, Patty, when I was about 3 (I think?). On the night Nixon was elected, my parents started getting annoyed at the TV as election results started coming in. (We drove around for years in a brown Ford LTD with the license plate, "Don't blame me! I'm from Massachusetts.") So we all piled into the car to go look at an orange Pomeranian puppy my mother had seen earlier in the day at Debbie's Petland. Father: "We have a dog." Mother: "I know, but let's go look."

The petstore worker put the puppy in my arms and led me into a small room where we could play together. After a while she came back and asked to hold the puppy. I said, "Sure!"

She put the puppy, MY PUPPY!!, back in the green fiberglass cage with the silver bars in front. I started shrieking and hiccuping at the same time. (I was 4 at the time.) Apparently I shrieked all the way home. I vividly remember lying in bed that night crying while my father's voice boomed from his bedroom, "Not ANOTHER word about that dog!"

The next afternoon, without explanation, my mother brought me home from daycare and in the kitchen was MY PUPPY! (We named her Sprite and she lived eleven years and had two litters of pups. The pick of the first litter went to my best friend--she named her boy, Pepsi. He became the neighborhood character--showing up on people's porches and demanding to be let in to sleep in the kitchen. Sprite was categorically my very best friend.)

As years went on, we acquired more and more animals (mostly finches and budgies) from Debbie's Petland. The most famous tally was the year we had 2 dogs, an iguana, a chameleon, a canary, 8 finches, 3 budgies, 3 rabbits, a descented skunk, and three ringnecked doves in the house. The crickets and mealworms were never counted. (At one point we took care of an orphaned raccoon--what a disaster! And during the same period of time we owned two horses, but they weren't in the house, so kind of didn't count?) My dad built huge chicken wire and wooden enclosures for all the animals, and dutifully dug trenches for their handmade coffins when they died. (Except for the horses--we didn't make him built cages for them either.)

My aunt had seventy horses, four dogs, and 15 cats when she died.

My mother currently has three Yorkshire terriers and I-don't-remember-how-many-but-last-time-I-asked-it-was-between-ten-and-twenty parrots, two finches, and a canary. (She doesn't have the huge macaws, and some of the parrots are actually parotlets and cockatiels, so they're not big, but they ARE LOUD!) (The third Yorkie came in as a puppy when the first Yorkie suddenly developed kidney failure earlier this summer. Then the elder Yorkie rallied--still needs daily subcutaneous doses of fluids--no one knows how she's still alive.)

Large numbers of pets run in the family. I think we all have a barely controlled tendency towards hoarding. No one lives in squalor; we've always accepted ridiculously high vet bills as part and parcel of this contract with the animals. So probably hoarding is a harsh term, but the numbers of animals we're talking about defy an easy explanation.

I go towards the "rescue complex." I know how to take care of these guys, I know they'll have a good home with me, I'll take 'em home. The others at home will just have to learn how to adjust.

This tendency terrifies my husband. We have one dog.

But there was a period a few months ago where I was trying to set up fish tanks in every available space. (Short story--we have weird water. Had it analyzed and everything. Went on internet forums--eventually everyone said, "Whoa. You have weird water." Algae grows in our Brita pitcher, let alone in our tanks.) So I ditched the tanks.

Then on Friday I started looking at guinea pigs on the internet.


These two are a bonded pair:

And this one is so sleek and cute!

All weekend I've been scouring internet forums, learning about nutritional requirements (They need fresh veggies. Duh.), cage requirements (They need big ones but there are detailed instructions on how to build a piggy palace. Aren't there detailed instructions on how to build everything these days on the net?), and rescue organizations (These two are adoptable from a reputable guinea pig rescue.).

Omigod. I really want a guinea pig cage in the family room. I want pigs. Smooth shiny little Wheep! Wheep! Wheepers!

And then there's the voice of reason saying, "Hey! Knock! Knock! Remember how on this blog you've repeatedly written that you NEED to vacuum and you HATE to vacuum, but you'd better do laundry RIGHT NOW?! You need more pets in your life?"

And then the other voice whispers, "Please?"

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Made these for my two nephews.

Apparently I CAN finish a knitting project. It's so infrequent that I had forgotten that I had the ability.

Went to a meeting as an audience member and brought a ball of yarn and two needles. (I gave up on the Madame Defarge sock--I need to start counting rows and I can't do that in a meeting.) Friend behind me keeps leaning forward and whispering in my ear, "I love to watch you knit. It's so wonderful. Can I put in a request for something?"

"Well, no, dear friend. I just can't seem to finish anything, If you'd like a scrap, a rectangular piece of knitting, maybe for a washcloth, I can give one of those. But really, I never finish."

Four hours later I looked in my lap and I had a serviceable scarf. It was a little narrow, and the yarn was a little glittery for my friend behind me. But he's married, so maybe he'll gift it to her. Anyway, I wadded it up in a ball and tossed it over my shoulder.

Made me happy to have finished something. Made him happy because he thought I had been kidding earlier in the meeting. Made me happy again, because now he won't keep asking me for a piece of my "gossamer art."

Must. Buy. Tree. Today.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Or Not.

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:

1. Learn how to blow glass.
2. Go on Alaskan cruise all by myself with no guilt.
3. Go on a knitting retreat.
4. Live in a cabin with lots of cats with a view of the sea and a woodburning stove.
5. Sit on a cutting horse.
6. Fully understand the similarities and differences between these Arabian horse strains: Abayyan, Dahman, Hadban, Hamdani, Kuhaylan, Muniqi, Saqlawi, etc.
7. Plan the songs for my own funeral. (OK, maybe that's gross, but it is something I should do at some point.)

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

1. Clean without getting angry.
2. Cook a meal.
3. Be spontaneous. (Sorry Megan--I stole yours because it works for me too.)
4. Shut UP at a party.
5. Smile and be nice to someone I think is stupid.
6. Be on time for more than a few days at a time.
7. Give advice and then not be hurt when that person decides not to take it.

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Spouse (or Significant Other, Best Friend, etc.)

1. "F*ck em if they can't take a joke."
2. Being a good Dad.
3. He actually (no really!) has grey eyes.
4. He loves me.
5. His sense of humor, sick though it may be.
6. He cooks.
7. He listens to me blather on about whatever subject I'm currently obsessed with without blinking.

Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often:

1. Eh, Yeah.
2. My brain is like a sieve!
3. not only..., but also....
4. Wait. Stay with me--I'm getting to the point. Soon.
5. (After trying to get a child's attention) "What IS your name?"
6. (After noticing that my children's clothing doesn't match or hair is uncombed) "Who's your mother? And how did she let you out of the house like that?"
7. When are you coming home?

Seven Books (or Series) I love:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Nine Horses by Billy Collins
3. Tredana Series by Joyce Ballou Gregorian (Castledown's my favorite)
4. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
5. Silver Birch by Dorothy Lyons
6. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Drinkers of the Wind by Carl Raswan

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again

1. Notorious
2. My Favorite Year
3. To Kill a Mockingbird
4. Captain Blood
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
6. His Girl Friday
7. Young Frankenstein

Seven People I Want To Join In (Be Tagged)

1. Kate Rothwell
2. p. Devi
3. KristieJ
4. crankyreader
5. Jay
6. Renee
7. Ummmm. I'm running out of names (whine) OK, Douglas Hoffman.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Would have written something shorter yesterday, but I only had the time to write a long post....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Circus schmircus

Photo copyright Andrew Dunn, October 28, 2004
A photo of Billy Smart's Big Top

Edited to add: I had to change the time--blogger still doesn't like me. Maybe because I go slightly off the deep end in this post?

I just got into a cat fight on a newsgroup this weekend when I took someone to task for calling poor horse training, "Circus Tricks."

"Hey," says I. "Don't denigrate what you don't know. Those guys work for generations to get their horses to do that in performance. It's not a trick."

"Hey," responds Idiotic Dressage-inista. "We'll call it what we want because that's what it is, a Circus Trick. Not all of us have run off to JOIN the circus. Some of us live less interesting lives." She tried to call circus training obvious, while her dressage work was mystical and difficult. (Also said she could do it sitting down)

Gloating--Moment of victory came when I asked, "If it's so obvious, then how do you propose to have a group of six horses enter a ring, split into two groups of three, have one half change direction and then weave in and out through each other as they race towards each other in a 38 foot ring? I can't lunge one horse while seated, and you can train six?" Ah...Sweet Victory...She backed down.

That stupidly long preface is to say that I get a touch defensive about either belittling or glamorizing the circus. Circus folk are just like that.

Half of the stuff you see in the circus is based on tons and tons of really hard work. The other half *is* really only a trick, a pig fetus in a jar pretending to be something else. I get ticked off when someone presumes it's all one or the other. And I really don't know why it's so personal to me. I was only at one circus for eight months--that still makes me a "First of May", someone who shows up for the first day of the new season and leaves before "Green Night", which is the last day of the show. My husband stayed for more than a year--he qualifies--I'm mostly a pretender.

Why do people end up at a circus? Well, you're either born into it or you join. Born into it--whole other kettle of fish. Those of us who have lived in houses with cars and yards and commitments to society (school, taxes, laws, etc.) are never going to get our head around those guys. Really. Take my word on this. Born-circus are their own separate society, and they like it that way just fine. You can marry in, and they will gladly accept you and treat you as born-circus, and your children will be born-circus too. They will be polite to those who are not born-circus, but they are separate.

Sometime in the 1980s the Federal Gov't realized that they hadn't included Ringling in their census for some time. (Ringling has three separate shows, Blue, Red and Gold. Blue and Red alternate in North America and Europe. Gold travels in Japan. Ringling is HUGE.) Gov't asked the Front Office permission to take census. Front Office (Stupids!) said, "Sure. Go right ahead." Census takers showed up at the lot and were greeted by four roustabouts holding tent stakes. (Another aside, sorry. Ringling hasn't performed under a top since the Hartford Fire, but apparently they kept the tent stakes around. Lot bosses like to threaten tired roustabouts with them. They are about 4 1/2 feet long 4" diameter iron rods with a flat pan head for driving into the ground. Mean things.) Roustabouts told the census takers there was no one on the lot who had any interest in talking to the American Government. They could go to the front office to see if anyone left the lot to go talk to them there, but not to hold their breath.

This story rings so true for me. Circus folk are SO protective of their own. No townie anywhere is going to harass a circus performer. No one is getting behind the yellow fence to wander through the back lot.

Circus life is male and violent. Guys get drunk and play chicken in bars. (Two forearms held together with a lit cigarette held between them. First to move their arm while the cigarette burns loses. Knew a guy with trails of burns down his forearm. Sick shit.)

But women are protected. Guys, even husbands, aren't allowed to beat women. But they are allowed to run a woman off the lot if they've gotten bored with her. Our cookhouse cook gladly called the roustabouts Niggers and Hebes--but when a townie threatened a black circus worker, the circus rednecks cleaned his clock. Some townie makes goo goo eyes at a circus girl: look out.

OK, this is devolving into some gross rant. Like I said, some of the circus is really twisted and really violent. But it is what it is.

I read Kiss an Angel. And I can't make it work for me. A lot of it was OK, but the attitude of the lot was wrong.

The hero pissed me off, make no mistake. He got better over time. The grovel scene was good, but I do not think that any girl would put up with his behavior for a minute. Then when she got to the circus, I couldn't get what in the world she was doing. Trying to make a marriage work? Trying to have circus performers *like* her? Eh?

No one's holding you to the circus, making you stay. People bug out all the time. A fellow groom left the lot one day to do laundry and never came back. The entire crew shrugged their shoulders and said, "No sawdust in her veins," and went on about their business. The heroine in Kiss an Angel kept wondering if people liked her. Oh, get over yourself. It's not about finding acceptance or love or approval. It's all about what's going to make the top go up and the show go on. You don't want to stay? Fine. Leave. See if we care. No one tells you while you're there that you are a valued part of the system. Because really? You aren't. There are fifteen more just like you waiting to join up. And maybe they'll work harder than you ever did.

The plot thing where the jealous biddie convinces the hero that the heroine has to be made part of the act? NO WAY!! NO HOW!! That show is sacred and separate, Separate, SEPARATE from anything else in the back lot. No one goes in front of the audience just because. Putting her in the "spec", the first parade-like portion of the show where the performers are introduced? No freaking way. (We called it the charivari, for what it's worth.) Putting her to work with the elephants? Who belonged to another performer? No freaking way. Putting her to work with the menagerie. Oh good lord! Please. NO WAY!

No. No. No. NO.

You join up, you work grunt stuff (or if you're a performer's wife, you don't work at all). You work the sub-tent crew, checking the top in the middle of the night during storms to make sure it doesn't blow away. You work a butcher's gig, shelling out popcorn. You work the ticket window (Although that's pretty cushy--usually reserved for a pregnant wife of a performer.) Mostly you sit around and wait and clean while the circus is performing and then you work a 48 hour shift straight through, no sleep, no rest, tearing down the top, loading it, driving to the next spot, unloading it, and resetting it. Then you sleep for 4 to 5 hours, get royally drunk, and start the whole thing over again. Unless you work for the trainer, you don't work with the animals. Ever. (You think trainers want drunken rednecks around their animals?)

(Kiss an Angel got load-out wrong too. They would tear down and then rest, and then move the tent to the next spot. Um. No. You take that tent down, the owner of the property wants you off. NOW. Sometimes if you get to the next lot fast enough you can grab a few hours sleep before dawn and set up. If not, tough luck. You'll sleep when that tent's up and the ring's set. I'm not kidding about the 48 hour shifts--there are tricks, none of them pleasant, for keeping you moving. Performers leave before tear down, sleep at the next lot, and sleep right through set-up. Tent crew thinks performers are bunch of pansies and performers don't bother with tent crew.)

When I joined the circus (to work for the equestrienne) I was wildly angry with my family. I was sure I was deeply unloveable, that maybe I had even been marked with some secret symbol on my forehead which made me, The Unloveable, instantly recognizable. I went to the circus and spent a fair amount of time complaining to the first guy I met about how hard the work was, and how angry I was, and how miserable I was. Without batting an eye he would say, "So?" Whoa.

If I complained about the equestrienne yelling at me he said, "She's a jerk. We all hate her. But if she hated you she'd never bother to notice you. You just need to work harder. Do it or leave." Whoa.

The circus is very sentimental and very brutal. Families are honored above everything. Mothers are worshipped, friends are loyal, and the violence and passive-aggressive defensive attacks never cease. And this just didn't ring true for me in Kiss an Angel. Everyone who was mean was either a villain, or a wounded tiger waiting to be healed by a woman's love. No, circus people are both really mean and really supportive, often in the same sentence. I knew one really awful "villain" in the circus--could have been a character in a book. But then he got drunk one night, picked a fight, and a "First of May" tried to come after him with a cleaver. (I never saw it, only heard it from across the lot.) And I suddenly felt so protective of him. How dare that guy threaten one of us? Didn't he know who he was dealing with? That rush of protective love scared me terribly.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips got a lot of the lingo right--donniker, for sure. (Circus guys, if they get in trouble with the law while in town often give their names as "Donny Kerr" or "Don O'Kerr" or "Don Acker", just as an FU to the townies. Made you say it. Made you say it.) But why, oh why, does the heroine win over the crew with telepathic communication with animals? Pul-eese. Circus folk are suspicious. Telepathy? Good night. See you later.

And then suddenly at the end of the book we discover that the hero is actually privately wealthy, and a professor???? No!! Just killed the whole set-up in one extra fantasy-fulfillment plot device. You're circus? Fine. Be that. But you cannot be born-circus and flitting about teaching courses somewhere. On another schedule? Like, you just show up in the summer? Once every other year or some such thing? Poser.

Circus workers just hate the front office and those silly people who work a desk job and get all excited that they "work for the circus." (Your advance man is your friend. But the twits who get corporations to donate money to your educational foundation? Please.) We had a picnic once on the lot for the Front Office. One of them saw the Bobcat and asked who drove it to the next lot. I thought the tent boss was going to get violent. Someone else pointed out that the Bobcat wasn't rated for highway travel, and that it was loaded onto the prop truck. We never had another picnic for the poor fools. If the lot boss were also an art professor on the side, I don't think he'd survive this level of hatred for incompetent people who "think they know circus."

I think I get mad about circus stuff in the same way magicians get mad at psychics. The pyschics are gleefully tricking the public while the magicians are screaming, "You idiots! Open your eyes! Don't you know ANYTHING?!?" There's a strange level of contempt for people who get fooled, especially when your job is to delight and confuse them.

The guy I met in the circus went on to become a chef, and found himself in familiar territory. If you know Anthony Bourdain, you'll not be surprised to hear that a lot of kitchens hate the very customers they are serving. Somewhere in the back some very talented people are burning themselves on the grill, bleeding into your food, and muttering, "Think I'm here to entertain YOU? Don't you GET it?"

After all that, I didn't hate Kiss an Angel, but I did find myself muttering, "Ugh. You don't GET it, do you?"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weekend Update

Spent a little too much time doing stuff which was unecessary. Like tracking down this cutie pie picture from hunt in Virginia. Such a Peanut!

Anyway, read Anne Stuart's Black Ice and am partway through LaVyrle Spenser's Morning Glory

Black Ice. Whoa. What a book. Wow.

Will try to be more articulate later.

Also read Chistina Dodd's Move Heaven and Earth. Quite nice.

Edited to Add: Finished Kiss an Angel. She got a lot of the lingo right, but true to the circus? Eh. Not so much. Kind of like reading about a sixth grade girl and thinking, "That would never happen in MY school." She had these hangups about being accepted. Who accepts you in a circus? You show up, you work, you get drunk, you go to bed. Not necessarily in that order. And he's got another profession on the side and they accept HIM? No freaking way. Uh unh. Nope. I think I'll end up writing about that one though--she almost got it and I want to figure out where it clicked and where it slipped. (Except that I could have totally doen without the threatening hero and the plot set-up. She couldn't just be down on her luck and joined a circus to escape an identity? That's what everyone else does--why a forced marriage? AGHHHH!) End of edit.

Jehosiphat? Did I read all that in one weekend? Gulp.

Here's a few more to take you out...."Mommy? Can I have one? Pleeeeese?!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just for Cindy (Neener Neener Neener!)

I have a thing for farm names. Broad Hill Farms. Upland Farm.

It's a very poetic enterprise to sit around thinking up names for a farm. When I was a little girl, my Breyer horses all lived at Sky Meadow Farm (which really is an embarrassingly little girl name). I had a riding instructor once who said you could always tell the horses owned by kids--they all had names like Snowflake, Pudding, or Hershey's Kiss. Sky Meadow Farm has that over the top feeling to it. {But my horses were named good strong names--Rustem (Persian Hero), Onyx, Fairfield, and Sea Foam.}(Alright, that one blows, I admit. And she wasn't even green....)

I think I'd get too silly if I had to name a house. The English tradition of naming a house, Manderley, or some such thing, can get really dumb really fast. I think I'd default to Lilac Hill, or something Nancy Drewish.

Here's some other farm names I like: Minglewood Farms, Firehouse Farm, Evergreen Farm. And here's one which Cindy might like: a little dairy farm in New Brunswick called Sow Cow Farms, Inc. No, really!

(Not to be confused with a Salchow or any such thing.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Does this book get better?

No, really. I got to page 17, turned to my husband and said, "I have never hated a book so much in such a short amount of time."

Presently I'm at page 24. It's sitting on the kitchen table daring me to pick it up. And I found myself actually sneering at it this morning as I poured coffee into my mug.

I actually want to read about the circus in this romance but I cannot stand either the heroine or the hero, or the plot device which throws them together. This makes it hard to read. Sigh.

In other news: Blogger is finally letting me onto my own blog. I kept getting an "access denied" error--essentially that I didn't have the requisite authority to visit my own blog. (You know life is bad when you Google the exact name of your blog, click on the link, and Blogger STILL won't let you on the page....) And along this same line, I finally installed a new printer the other day. Funny, I opened the box, followed the installation instructions, and the computer wouldn't talk to the printer. It "knew" that new hardware was installed, but it couldn't find the driver--which I was sure I had installed a number of times from the handy dandy CD which came with the printer. I just find it so amusing when the installation instructions don't work. So I went to the Control Panel, selected Add New Hardware, inserted the CD one more time, and this time the computer downloaded about 15 minutes worth of software. Wha???

OK, but it works, and the internet is allowing me access to my own blog. Count your blessings. Count your blessings.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lost post

Wait. I lost that post. How come when I came to the blog this morning it was on my page?

I remember sitting down Sunday to dash it off, losing it, and thinking, "Oh well. It wasn't that important anyway."

So how come it's here on Monday morning???? The love/hate with technology continues.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


OK, after much sorting through backlists, I have found the two Judith Ivories I like. I think I can see why she is so admired--her writing is very well done. I'm still not sure these are not my favorite books of all time, but I have found the ones which resonate with me.

Untie my Heart and Beauty

I'll see if I can fill in the details later, but these two worked for me as I read them. Others of hers have impressed me with their structure while I read them, or made me think about them after I finished, but I wasn't really involved with the experience while I was reading. Having found these, I'm interested that I have no interest in continuing to read her though. (Man, that's just mean.)

Books I'm waiting on from PaberbackSwap: Black Ice and Prince of Magic by Anne Stuart, Morning Glory by Lavyrle Spencer, and Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christmas, eh, Holiday Thoughts

Who's brilliant idea was it to put Hanukkah on Christmas night? People? Get a plan here.

So after rummaging through the stockings and opening presents, after the inevitable let-down of the afternoon, we're supposed to start right into 8 days of Hanukkah? Gah!

My husband still remembers the Hanukkah he was 10 as the worst one. His parents gave him socks as gifts. (Well, they were small--there is a tradition of small gifts for Hanukkah--but I think their utilitarian aspect was a bit much for him.) I'm remembering the story badly--it's too early in the morning--but I think there was one big gift and the folks supplemented with socks. The thing is, Hubby only remembers the horror of the socks.

A cool site with lots of make it at home ideas for funky menorahs.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Scheduling nightmares

I looked over my schedule for December. Excluding the "let's meet for coffee" appointments I have during the day, these are the dates for which I have evening commitments this month.

2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, Xmas Eve, First night of Hannukah (Christmas night).


If anyone sees me bumping into walls, it's only because I haven't had any sleep.

(By the way, only two of those are Holiday parties, the rest are business, family, or political commitments.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Going once....

I'd really like to sell my kids.

I know that would be bad and everything, but really, I think I need a break.

Today I'm sure will be a good day, but yesterday my funny, intelligent, athletic, and handsome son refused to go to school. He's doing this power struggle thing where he tries to run away from home (made it to the end of the windng cul-de-sac), or he tries to leave the school campus. He's too big to mandhandle, and too young (seven) to let loose.

Yesterday he stayed in his room, cleaning it and vacuuming it. I took his toys out and he could either read there or come downstairs to eat. By the end of the afternoon he was royally bored and ready to talk about why he refused in the morning. Very articulate boy--it was a great talk. He's got a great sense of humor too.

So I took him to karate class to work off the excess energy he had from hanging out all day. Within 5 minutes he had convinced himself that a kindergartner had cheated at Red-light, Green-light (which the kids play on the mat while waiting for the lesson to start), so he grabbed the kids by the shoulders and started to push him. I lept up and yelled, "Hey! Let go!"

This got my son embarrassed and, sigh, angry at me. So then he ran out the door of the studio, barefoot, and walked briskly to the other end of the minimall. I got him back to the studio on the promise that we could immediately go home, but first he had to get his shoes. We walk in the door and my son starts yelling AT THE INSTRUCTOR (Yeesh) that he shouldn't let kindergartners cheat. The instructor very calmly asks son to calm down, son yells again, and makes a beeline for the door.

I grab him (See a pattern here? He grabs, I grab, le sigh.) so he won't hightail it out the door again, and we end up on the floor. The female instructor comes over, takes his ankles onto her lap, and says, "Whoa. What's going on, kid?" He spent half an hour mildly wrestling with her; she wouldn't release him until he said he would get his shoes on, he wouldn't say that. But he was laughing the whole time.

OK, there's a lot of therapy which needs to happen here, and he and I both see therapists. I know where I screwed up yesterday, I know where he made some odd decisions, and we'll all have lots to talk about later.

But for right now, what I'm left with is that this is so damned exhausting. Setting up his environment so that nothing's abrubpt or spontaneous, making sure he eats properly, giving the other two kids some amount of attention, conferencing with teachers & principals, keeping myself calm, and doing my own stuff (politics, writing, reading)--I'm running on fumes here.

And it's cold and raining today, which means ::shudder:: indoor recess. He's at school, so I do get some break, but I feel so guilty for dreading this afternoon when he comes home. I love my children. I love my children. I love my children.