Thursday, February 28, 2019

You Can Read Anywhere You Go

Dinner at Sunset ~ Bay of Bangkok

The Modern Thai Philosophers
Speak to us of Reading:

If your mind is happy then you are happy anywhere you go.
When wisdom awakens within you,
you will see Truth wherever you look.
Truth is all there is.
It's like when you learned how to read,
you can then read anywhere you go

Ajahn Chah (1918 - 1992)

Suttas are not meant to be 'sacred scriptures' that tell us what to believe. One should read them, listen to them, think about them, contemplate them, and investigate the present reality, the present experience with them. Then, and only then, can one insightfully know the truth beyond words.

Ajahn Sumedho (b 1934)

To believe straight away is foolishness, to believe after having seen clearly is good sense. That is the Buddhist policy in belief; not to believe stupidly, or to rely only on people, textbooks, conjecture, reasoning, or whatever the majority believes, but rather to believe what we see clearly for ourselves to be the case. This is how it is in Buddhism.

Those who read books cannot understand the teachings and, what's more, may even go astray. But those who try to observe the things going on in the mind, and always take that which is true in their own minds as their standard, never get muddled. They are able to comprehend suffering, and ultimately will understand Dharma. Then, they will understand the books they read.

Buddhadasa (1906 -1993)

"There is a sun within every person." ~ Rumi

Monday, December 31, 2018

End of Year Book Migration

An Early December Segment of Kitchen Counter Books,
including titles by Leonard Orr and Leah Orr.

As 2018 draws to a close, I share the New Year's Eve dilemma described so aptly by my friend and colleague Len:
Classes begin next week. I must follow the urge I have every semester to make a massive move of my books from upstairs to downstairs, from downstairs to upstairs, from home to campus, and from campus to home. What had been alphabetically arranged before may be arranged now by chronology or sub-sub topics. Since I promised my doctor I would no longer attempt to carry armloads of books up and down the stairs or boxes of books, I bought extra sacks to carry the books safely. Perhaps these book-move patterns are similar to the return of salmon or the great migrations of birds. Perhaps thousands of English professors are subject to the same seasonal patterns.

Next, our mutual friend Kathie explained her system:
Indeed, this English professor seems to be subject to those very patterns. My challenge is that I seem to be hauling them from one continent to another repeatedly, though with regional variations, depending on the destination.

As for me:
The pattern I'm subject to is that every single book I have come in contact with throughout the year ends up on my kitchen counter, next to my laptop: recently read, purchased but not yet read, started but not yet finished, received as gifts, retrieved from shelf to track down remembered or forgotten references, needed for further analysis in near future. And so on so forth, until I end up with a collection 2 stacks deep and 6 or 8 stacks wide that need to be dealt with and re-shelved ideally on December 31st, but oftentimes not until well into the month of January.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Dawn or Doom ~ Player Piano ~ Westworld

Opening Credits from Season One of Westworld

How about this for a timely combination:

1. HBO's Westworld

2. Purdue's Dawn or Doom Presentations:
Past: November 5 - 6, 2018
Future: September 24 - 25, 2019

3. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s first novel (1952): Player Piano
Does Vonnegut predict the future in this dystopian
study of automation? Indeed he does!

So Many Doom - Filled Passages:

6: "It was a vote of confidence from the past, he thought -- where the past admitted how humble and shoddy it had been, where one could look from the old to the new and see that mankind really had come a long way. Paul needed that reassurance from time to time."

12: "Paul . . . suddenly realized that most of the machinery would be old stuff, even to Edison. The braiders, the welders, the punch presses, the lathes, the conveyers -- everything in sight, almost, had been around in Edison's time. The basic parts of the automatic controls, too, and the electric eyes and other elements that did and did better what human senses had once done for industry -- all were familiar enough in scientific circles even in the nineteen - twenties. All that was new was the combination of these elements."

14 - 15: " . . . the First Industrial Revolution devalued muscle work, then the second one devalued routine mental work. . . . Do you suppose there'll be a Third Industrial Revolution?"

"A third one? What would that be like?"

"I don't know exactly. The first and second ones must have been sort of inconceivable at one time."

" . . . I guess the third one's been going on for some time, if you mean thinking machines. That would be the third revolution, I guess -- machines that devaluate human thinking. Some big computers like EPICAC do that all right, in specialized fields."

280 - 81: "What have you got against machines? said Buck.

They're slaves.

Well, what the heck, said Buck. I mean, they aren't people. They don't suffer. They don't mind working.

No. But they compete with people.

That's a pretty good thing, isn't it -- considering what a sloppy job most people do of anything?

Anybody that competes with slaves becomes a slave, said Harrison thickly, and he left."

301: " . . . the divine right of machines . . .

During the past three wars, the right of technology to increase in power and scope was unquestionably, in point of national survival, almost a divine right. Americans owe their lives to superior machines, techniques, organization, and managers and engineers. For these means of surviving the wars . . . I thank God. But we cannot win good lives for ourselves in peacetime by the same methods we used to win battles in wartime. The problems of peace are altogether more subtle.

I deny that there is any natural or divine law requiring that machines, efficiency, and organization should forever increase in scope, power, and complexity, in peace as in war. I see the growth of these now, rather, as the result of a dangerous lack of law.

The time has come to stop the lawlessness in that part of our culture which is your special responsibility.

Without regard for the wishes of men, any machines or techniques or forms of organization that can economically replace men do replace men. Replacement is not necessarily bad, but to do it without regard for the wishes of men is lawlessness."

~ Here's the entire speech ~

314: "'The sovereignty of the United States resides in the people, not in the machines, and it's the people's to take back, if they so wish. The machines,' said Paul, 'have exceeded the personal sovereignty willingly surrendered to them by the American people for the good government. Machines and organization and pursuit of efficiency have robbed the American people of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'”

~ Additional Player Piano Quotes from Goodreads ~

"If there's the slightest connection,
it's worth thinking about."

~ from Player Piano, 54

Additional Blog Posts:

O Ya - Ya of Little Faith
A Title Like a Book
Dawn to Doom
How Do You Say Home
Take This Quiz
Comic Strip
Final Exam

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bush Lectures

Mother - Daughter Goodwill Ambassadors:
Jenna ~ Laura ~ Barbara
Thursday, October 18, 2018

All partisanship aside, it was most edifying to spend an evening listening to tag - team family anecdotes, heartfelt advocacy for worthy causes, and witty repartee shared amongst the Bush women for the benefit of the audience.

It was fun to receive a couple of autographed biographies:

Laura Bush:
Spoken from the Heart


Sisters First:
Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life

Some highlights from Laura's book:

In contrast to the worrisome border stories that currently fill the news, it was almost enchanting to read Laura's early memories of the good times to be had south of the border:
"My mother remembers how everyone parked in El Paso and then, all dressed up, paid six cents to walk across the footbridge into Mexico. Juarez was a glamorous place. . . . The clubs had exotic -- exotic at least for West Texas -- floor shows and orchestras for dancing" (10).

As the years pass, some apprehension creeps in:
"For years, every visit to El Paso included a . . . trip to Juarez. . . . Mother and Daddy would go over at night for dinner . . . In the daylight, it was my turn to cross into Mexico . . . We'd drive to El Paso, park the car, and walk across the barbed - wire - laced bridge with the river draining below. On the other side, [my grandparents] would stop for a Mexican beer; then we headed for the open - air market, which beckoned with baskets, embroidered cotton tops, hand - hewn guitars, and wooden puppets. The pottery was my favorite. I ambled from stall to stall, comparing brightly painted birds and red and green leaves on miniature tea sets, carefully selecting my purchase...

"Afterward, we'd make our way back across the bridge . . . But before we could reenter El Paso each of us had to speak to a U.S. Customs officer. Grammee and Papa made me thoroughly rehearse 'I am a citizen of the United States,' so I would not suddenly go mute and say the wrong thing. As much as I relished those excursions, the returns aways seemed a bit perilous, with the specter of being stuck for days on that bridge, in a concrete and barbed - wire limbo betweeen the United States and Mexico"
(36 - 37).

On a humorous note, Laura describes her earliest dinner parties, from the days right after she finished college and moved into an apartment with a friend:
“In our little apartment, Janet and I would host dinner parties and fix King Ranch Chicken, a famous casserole of tortillas, cheese, chicken, and three different cans of soup. Janet’s mother had sent her off with the Abilene Junior League Cookbook, and we thought it was a good cookbook, since most of the recipes called for several cans of creamed soup" (89).
I had to laugh because it reminded me of myself and my friends during the same era. As my friend Katy recalled: "My first and best recipe right out of college was from a church cookbook. It used two cans of soup and a cup of mayo. All it needed to be the perfect late mid- century recipe was a box of jello. I I actually googled the recipe for King Ranch Chicken, and it seemed more complicated than I would have thought. But maybe I’ll try it sometime!

You have to admire -- or at least enjoy -- a First Lady who keeps her sense of humor:
"Barbara and Jenna love to tell the story of the time we were standing in a checkout line at Walmart in Athens, Texas, near our little weekend getaway lake house, and a woman kept staring at me, fnally, she said, 'I think I know you,' and I replied, 'I'm Laura Bush,' as if, the girsl liked to point out of course she would know who I was. Her anwer was 'No, guess not.'" (145)
I read that passage aloud to Gerry, and I know we'll be saving it to tell repeatedly along with some of our favorite Royal Family Funnies!

Here's Gerry, upon an earlier occasion.
Security was tighter for this event, thus
only Gerry was allowed near the dignitary.
Perhaps news of my bad attitude preceded me! Ha!
October 2015 ~ Dana Point, California

Friday, September 14, 2018

From Island to Island

A souvenir from my sister Peg! Look closely and you'll see that the boxed set includes not just a "headshot" of one of the famed ponies -- but also a blue dolphin! A perfect pair of cookie cutters to accompany a perfect pair of island animal books.

Is it just a coincidence that after reading a novel set in the metaphorically named store -- Island Books -- I then read two novels set on real, geographical islands? The time was right! These inspiring stories of brave children and beloved animals were somehow overlooked in my own childhood -- and then, even worse, omitted from summer reading with my kids. I finally decided to rectify the situation, working from a long - ago Middle School Reading List.

You will learn lots of history and geography and gain a renewed appreciation for the islands -- at one time wild and mysterious -- on either side of the Continental United States.

Misty of Chincoteague
written by Marguerite Henry in 1947
& illustrated by Wesley Dennis
~ the mostly true story of young Paul Beebe ~
(1936 - 1957)
The "ringing neigh" of "the Pied Piper . . . seemed to awaken some force within her [Misty's mother, the Phantom] creating a curious urging in her mind. A shudder of excitememt went through her. She twisted her body high in the air as if she were shaking herself free -- free of fences that imprisoned, free of lead ropes, free of stalls that shut out the smell of pines and the sound of the sea" (166 - 169).


"In a short time Rontu [Karana's dog] rose to his feet and left the spotted dog [Rontu's vicious, wild, and now vanquished attacker] where it lay. He walked to the top of the mound and lifted his head and gave a long howl. I had never heard this sound before. It was the sound of many things that I did not understand" (108 - 109).
Island of the Blue Dolphins
written by Scott O'Dell in 1960
& illustrated (in 1990) by Ted Lewin
~ the mostly true story of young Juana Maria ~
(1811 - 1853)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Books About Books

The Old Book Building
on the San Antonio River Walk


So sad but true:

"If this world were anything near what it should be
there would be no more need of a Book Week
than there would be of a Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children."

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

"Something important and literary
is about to happen here" (183).

This is a clever book about books -- and about children -- set in A. J. Fikry's bookstore "Island Books" where "No Man Is an Island; Every Book is a World," and where one snowy evening a baby is abandoned in the "Children's and Young Adult section" (8, 48).

"A. J. can be opinionated -- " . . . he doesn't believe in random acts. He is a reader, and what he believes in is narrative construction, If a gun appears in act one, that gun had better go off by act three" (59) . . .

but also malleable, as he undertakes to raise the baby and respond to her needs: "As he is reading, he finds that he wants to make a new list of short stories for Maya. She is going to be a writer, he knows. He is not a writer, but he has thoughts about the profession, and he wants to tell her those things. . . . the longer I do this (bookselling, yes, of course, but also living if that isn't too awfully sentimental), the more I believe that this is what the point of it all is. To connect, my dear little nerd. Only connect" (246 - 47).

Each chapter in the novel begins with a blurb of reading suggestions and personal opinion, literary references and summaries of great works, background information and so forth. It turns out that this commentary, taken all together, is A. J.'s writerly legacy to Maya, a scholarly sample of his storied life.

See also

1. Complete list of literary allusions

2. Fortnightly Post: "Advancing and Receding"

3. Speaking of Island Books,
next up on this blog: "From Island to Island"


4. Two more clever books about books and writers.
both by G. Neri

Tru & Nelle

Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale
For fans of [Nelle] Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, or for anyone who wants to learn more about the childhood connection between these two classic American authors and how their early friendship influenced the writers that they grew up to become.

In other reading news:
Take a look at
James Trevenio's Book Art

And this one ~ thanks Joni!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Queen of Cats

"Cathy who is queen of cats has cats and cats and cats.
Baby cats, big cats, skinny cats, sick cats. Cats asleep like little donuts.
Cats on top of the refrigerator. Cats taking a walk on the dinner table.
Her house is like cat heaven."
(12 - 13)

from "Cathy Queen of Cats"
in The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros

What Pine & Fuqua
Have Been Reading This Summer!

More favorite lines from ~Mango Street~

About her apartment on Paulina Street:

Norma: "You live here -- alone?" she asks.
Sandra: "Yes."
Norma: "So -- how did you do it?"
Sandra: "I did it by doing the things I was afraid of doing so that I would no longer be afraid." (xxiii)

About writers working together on their projects:

"We do this with no capital except valuable time. We do this because the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning. . . . we had no idea what we were doing was extraordinary." (xvii - xviii, xxiv)

Such beautiful imagery:

"The sky absorbs the night quickly - quickly, dissolving into the color of a plum." (xxvi)

Black Cat Reads Book About Black Cat!

When asked to name a favorite book, I always say
The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov!

Fuqua is always ready for a good book --
especially if someone else is trying to read it!
~ Thanks to Cathleen for this photo! ~