Weekly Rundown

The week that passed was a long one, I’m not going to lie. The fourteen-hour car ride back to Florida was a bit exhausting, and the trip itself wasn’t as restful as I would have liked. Nonetheless, here’s some things that I spent some time with this week.

What I’m reading: Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams. Just cozying up to this book as the weather is getting cold. Thinking about my summer in Alaska, and what the future holds.

What I’m listening to: Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9. Also known as the New World Symphony, this makes me feel like it’s Thanksgiving. I enjoy this recording from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.

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What I’m spending time on: Dog training.

My 60 lb. boxer is nearly seven years old, partially blind and deaf from an invitro stroke, and ultra-hyper. Breaking him of some bad habits will take a good deal of time, but I’m certain that he and I are up to the challenge.

 

Other things of interest:

  • Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson. Wow, I loved this movie. I thought it was well-written, well-directed, and well-acted. With names like Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Christopher Plummer, it was an excellent ensemble movie. The premise – wealthy suspense novelist dead by apparent suicide following birthday party with suspicious family members – may seem trope, but it leaves you guessing until the end.
  • Where to buy books online from a website that isn’t Amazon. From Anya Zhukova, here are seven recommendations that include B&N and BAM. I also like AbeBooks and Easton Press for more obscure or special edition volumes. And I go to eBay as well. As I was linking Tip of the Iceberg, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to recommend Amazon for every book I like. So I went with GoodReads, though it is owned by Amazon. Its positives include that it links to retailers other than Amazon,  and is enhanced by its users and readers.
  • Why can’t every workweek be four days? I mean, seriously?
  • Nat Geo story on the death of the male white rhino, and the species’ coming extinction… An extinction brought about by man’s overhunting of the animal.

“Watching a creature die—one who is the last of its kind—is something I hope never to experience again. It felt like watching our own demise.” – Ami Vitale

Weekly Rundown

And here it is, my Black Friday edition of the Weekly Rundown. As no one will be reading this today I’ll go ahead and post at 2 am. Good morning!

This Black Friday I’m taking REI’s suggestion of getting out into the wilderness. #OptOutside. I’m up in Pennsylvania, hanging out with the Amish. No, really I am. I’ll put up some pictures later this week. But here we go!

What I’m reading: Not Dracula! Finally finished it. After finishing it, I spent some time with Austin Kleon’s Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. I’ve had the book for a while but hadn’t finished it. I dug it out while putting my notebook together, and figured I’d finish it.

What I’m listening to: Audiobook version of Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. I listened a lot of the way up to PA. The author’s first book for adults, we have occultism and Ivy League, homicide and mystery. I’d read at least one of Bardugo’s Grisha books before, and this one has much the same flow and tonality; if a bit darker.

What I’m spending time with: Routines. If you’ve read this week you’ll notice that it was a theme. I decided to fix my routine earlier in the month, and as a result I had a few thoughts that popped up. Four posts later, I’m not sure I’m done talking about routines. But that’ll be for later entries.

Other things of interest:

In case you don’t believe me about my skill, here’s one example…

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…and it’s one of my better sketches. But, as I always say: Fail again, fail better! 😉

Spooky spooky books

Spooky

October 2019

Books Bought:

  • Meet me in Atlantis: Across Three Continents in Search of the Legendary Sunken City – Mark Adams
  • Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around WILD ALASKA, the Last Great American Frontier  – Mark Adams
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Pine Barrens – John McPhee

Books Read:

  • The Final Solution: A Story of Detection – Michael Chabon 
  • Riding the Bullet – Stephen King
  • Joyland – Stephen King
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – Mary Roach
  • Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life – Terry Brooks (unfinished)
  • Book of Sketches – Jack Kerouac (unfinished)
  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender – David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. (unfinished)
  • Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel – Rolf Potts

Ahh, October. For nearly a decade I’ve said that October is my busiest month of the year. I usually seem to be involved in a theatre production, working on my own projects, and making time for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. My first Horror Nights was in (oh dear lord) 1993. I’ve only missed a couple of years since, and most years I go multiple night.

So, onto the reading. Final Solution and Riding the Bullet were both short reads. Not much more than stories, really. I took on Joyland next. Having finished Joyland, I have this notion about Stephen King. What he writes are human stories about growing up and loss. What he uses to relate to his reader is horror and suspense.

I’ve not read many of King’s books (Salem’s Lot; It; Desperation are three that I remember reading previously), so this assessment of mine is based only on what I have read. But it seems to me that King’s writing focuses on the human connection between his characters in the face of immense horror. Joyland didn’t have immense horror, but enough of the supernatural element to provide a chill. And the serial killer’s identity is one that leaves you guessing until the end.

Mary Roach’s Spook was something I had seen at Barnes & Noble in the Science section last year I think. Good overall, it was a quasi-historical examination of how we’ve been looking for proof of the afterlife for centuries. Proof is something that, when used to speak of afterlives, can only be used in a loose sense.

Various experiments were described, such as weighing the newly deceased. audio recording, sensory experiments in high-risk operations, etc. I learned about the Society for Psychical Research, whose focus is the study of events and abilities classified as paranormal or psychic in nature.

Her determination at the end was really the only place it could go, given the research she did, but I suppose it does leave you wanting more. Assuming you are interested in afterlife studies.

Other than that I perused a number of books. I read a bit of Kerouac, Ferriss, Hawkins, and Potts, as well as Terry Brooks’s Magic. I like books on writing craft, and since reading Draft No. 4 by McPhee, I decided to look to some other writers. I also made it through the first couple of pages of Mark Adam’s Meet me in Atlantis, as well as a book Seven Schools of Yoga, by Ernest Wood. Both will likely be on November’s reading list, time permitting.

Of the four purchased books, three came in used. Into the Wild and Pine Barrens I got at a library book sale. Tip of the Iceberg was new, but discounted. Again, I’m counting my pennies. But, it speaks to my love of the last American frontier – Alaska. Sadly I no longer see mountains in the clouds when I look up at them. I suppose that means that it’s time to go back…

And with that, another Halloween season has closed. I carved a pumpkin this year, the first in many years. I also ate candy intended for trick-or-treaters. They still had plenty though. And I read. They weren’t all that spooky, but they were fun.

 

What I’ve Read

Time frame…?

Books Bought:

  • Plato: Complete Works – Edited by John M. Cooper
  • NORTH: Finding Place in Alaska – Julie Decker, editor
  • Raven Steals the Light – Bill Reid & Robert Bringhurst
  • Travels in Alaska – John Muir
  • Nature Writing – John Muir (Library of America edition)
  • 100 Tough Questions for Japan – Itasaka Gen

Books Read:

  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir (unfinished)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • On National Parks – John Muir (unfinished)
  • Lycanthia; or The Children of Wolves  – Tanith Lee (unfinished)
  • The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel
  • Emerson: Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson (unfinished)
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Well, who knows. It seems like April was the last time I wrote about my book purchases and reading. So… Here’s a list. It is probably incomplete. I look at a lot of books.

During the months of May-July, my work was highly demanding. But not the real work. Just the work for a paycheck. And the pay wasn’t even that good. Sometimes it’s about trying things – picking them up, seeing if you like them. If not, you put it down and walk away.

Highlights – Alaska was the big one. I purchased two books in Alaska: Raven and NORTH. The latter was published by collaboration with the Anchorage Museum and University of Washington Press. It includes works of art in the museum collection and essays about the Last Frontier.

To say that I was moved by Alaska would be an understatement. It was magnificent, and I cannot wait to go back.

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I like to pick up books when I travel. They’re not the lightest souvenir, but I’ve always had a connection with books. In Ireland, I purchased a used copy of On the Road. In Germany, a Lutheran hymnal. While in Prague, I got a handmade notebook.

Raven Steals the Light is a collection of Native myths from the Haida people. The Raven is a trickster, and a spirit, and a god. “The Raven, who of course existed at that time, because he had always existed and always would…” It recounts many native tales of the beginnings of things, and reasons for things.

I had a lot of false starts with books. Oscar Wao, for one. I tried, but couldn’t quite bring myself to read it. Same with Emerson. Same with Lycanthia. With Muir and Thomson. I just could not bring myself to read much.

Partly I think it’s owed to my having a lot on my mind. Hence I’ve been reworking my routines. I have now been reading each night before bed, settling into Name of the Rose for about 30-45 minutes a night. Sometimes less, if I’m really tired. Umberto Eco is interesting. I remember trying to read this book shortly after graduating high school, while sitting in a wing backed cushioned chair at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t get all that far into it.

It throws you Latin, and Italian, and maybe a splattering of French. Monastic terms I’m only vaguely familiar with, and some that I’ve never heard. Under all of that though, there is mystery and intrigue. A young monk has died mysteriously. If suicide, how did the window close behind him? If murder, is the assailant man (and thereby monk?), or something infernal? The Sherlockian monk William of Baskerville will use all his reasoning to get to the bottom of it.

It led me to discover the Italian mini-series, so I’m trying to find somewhere to watch that – with subtitles, preferably.

I added the two Muir books to my collection – I had been reading some essays by him before going to Alaska. I hope to finish at least one collection of his this year. Also the writings of Plato. I found this book used, and the fact that it was edited by Edith Hamilton caught my attention. I had done some myth research two years, reading over Hamilton as well as Joseph Campbell, and I wanted to see what sort of commentary was included in this book. I haven’t gotten around to opening it though.

I did just pop open Tools of Titans. I had picked it up on sale in December, and was just reading about Ferriss’s compulsion to record data.

I’m a compulsive note-taker. To wit, I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so. Roughly 8 feet of shelf space in my home is occupied by spine upon spine of notebook upon notebook. That, mind you, is one subject. It extend to dozens. Some people would call this OCD, and many would consider it a manic wild goose chase. I view it simply: It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

I too take many notes, and have amassed a pile of notebooks. Not like Ferriss – not to that extent – but I’ve been jotting things down since I was in high school, and I’ve got notebooks with varying degrees of use on my shelves, in the garage, and in storage. If I had my way, this is what my house would look like:

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Maybe my next house…

Week’s (or weeks’) highlights

Some of the things that caught my attention over the past few weeks.

  • How to use a knife. One of the things I picked up in Alaska was a scrimshaw knife carved on fossilized moose bone. It’s ended up being my favorite souvenir, I suppose in part because I get to carry it with me every day. But also because it feels like I’m in touch with the land. This video popped up a couple of weeks ago, and I thought it was kind of fun to watch, even if it’s about kitchen knifes…
  • Quit drinking altogether? Sarah Sloat’s article on casual drinking gave some interesting stats, like, “On average, the mental well-being of the women who quit drinking approached the level of lifetime abstainers within the four-year period. There was, however, very little change in the mental well-being of the men who quit. These results were persistent even after the scientists adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, body mass index, and smoking status.”
  • The NYTimes mapped the major American artists of the past century, and it’s pretty damn neat. I also have an affinity for maps.
  • Where are our Park Rangers? I briefly considered taking a Ranger job at a National Park. The salary was $22,000/year. It wasn’t feasible at the time. Upper management in some larger parks can make close to $100,000/year, which is comparable for Government positions. But with budget cuts and increasing park attendance, make sure you’re staying safe.

Watching: Stranger Things
Reading: Call of the Wild 
Listening to: Oklahoma! 2019 Revival Cast Recording

Where’d you go?

Took a few extra days (false start) after my trip. There was a lot going on, and some things I’ve been thinking about. 

For instance, why posting every day is a silly strategy. Now I’m not necessarily using this blog to drive traffic or strum up business, but the thought did occur to me – what am I writing for?

The answer I came up with is I write because I have to. So if no one reads it, or doesn’t follow the latest post, it’s not really a big deal. When I started writing, it was about being accountable. Going to the daily (until the Alaska trip) postings, that was about accountability and productivity.

Getting back into the swing of being productive hasn’t been easy. I realize that everything I say in defense of not writing daily becomes just an excuse. That I could find time to sit and post. I could make time.

The truth is, though, sometimes you need to step back. It’s impossible to just keep moving along, everyday. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Always do your best… Your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self judgment, self- abuse, and regret.”

So I can start each morning stating I will do my best.

I can end each night asking Have I done my best?

And that’s all anyone can ever really do.

Denali

About 10 days ago I was on a tour through Denali National Park, showcasing views of Mt. Denali; wildlife (moose mostly); and a sprawling landscape that disguised distances to the naked eye. Back only a handful of days, I just started looking through photos of the trip.

The beauty and grandeur of Alaska is something I cannot recommend enough to everyone – for them to see it for themselves.