Resilience: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 30 December 2016

  • Let’s close the year by celebrating people, places, and objects that endure.

— Ben Huberman, The Daily Post

Self picked three places that helped her find peace in the midst of a chaotic year:

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The de Young Museum Sculpture Garden, Golden Gate Park: The piece in the foreground is Louise Nevelson’s Ocean’s Gate,

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Capitola-by-the-sea: On the Bluff, a Rainbow (Look Closely)

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The Beach at Capitola-by-the-Sea: Practically deserted in December

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Accident Story, “Dust”

It was sunny, a glorious day. April was sometimes cold but Jocelyn thought she could sense summer coming, around the corner.

The girl who clipped them, that afternoon in April, was just 18. Driving her red Ford mustang at a speed that was just short of criminal, she’d gotten her driver’s license only that month.

The Ford Explorer rolled over and over and over. For almost two years, she saw the image flash into her mind, often just before she lay her head down to sleep. Then she had to get up and pace the bedroom, or take two Ambien if there was something important to do the next day.

By the time the vehicle came to rest, by the center divider on the southbound 101, her son was dead. It had happened quickly. Jocelyn was glad.

A Mother’s Grief

A daughter should never die ahead of her mother.

It’s so not right.

This was probably what Debbie Reynolds was thinking as she started making arrangements for her daughter Carrie Fisher’s funeral.

Self is still not okay. Self will probably never be okay.

“After Us, the Deluge”

The Force wasn’t enough today.

RIP, Carrie Fisher.

2016, self is so done.

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Vanishing Point, Capitola-by-the-Sea

2nd Favorite Movie of 2016

Office Christmas Party!

It will be evident by now to dear blog readers that when it comes to movies, self goes both ways: high-brow and low-brow.

Quote: “You’re a janitor. What the hell do you care where you live?”

Stay tuned.

2nd Quote of the Day: Will Schwalbe in WSJ, 25 November 2016

We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends.

— Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living is just out from Knopf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Hell or High Water

From one of self’s favorite movies of 2016, “Hell or High Water”:

  • “I don’t know how you’re going to survive without someone to outsmart. You need a hobby, quick.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mind Cleanse for the New Year

Self stopped reading In Cold Blood even though she was 100 pages from the end. She had not expected to have the murders described in such detail, starting on p. 237. Of course, since none of the victims survived, the crime is told from the murderers’ point of view.

The one she ached for most particularly was the 16-year-old, Nancy Clutter. Alone in her room, listening while the killers dealt with first, her father, then her mother, she decided to show herself when they dragged her younger brother from his bed. She had taken the trouble to get fully dressed. She came out of her room smiling at the two murderers, as if to charm them. She faced them.

What. A. Brave. Girl.

So, because of that, self stopped reading at p. 240.

Instead, she browses through one of her poetry books, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. It was the assigned text in a class on Chinese poetry in translation, taught by James J. Y. Liu in the Department of Asian Languages at Stanford.

Here’s a sample:

I Say Good-bye to Fan An-ch’eng

by Hsieh Tiao (464-499)

In the usual way of the young
we made appointments
and goodbye was easy.
Now in our decay and fragility, separation is difficult.

Don’t say “One cup of wine.”
Tomorrow will we hold this cup?
And if in dreams I can’t find this road,
how, thinking of you,
will I be comforted?
And if in dreams I can’t find this road

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Lures You In Just Like a Multi-Chapter Fan Fiction

The murders unfold. P. 237.

Even though self swore — swore — when beginning In Cold Blood, that when she got to an account of the murders, she would stop reading, the more she read, the more complacent she became, the more she became invested in the characters. Especially in the character of the lead detective, Alvin Dewey.

Just when Hickok and Perry have been caught, it’s at that point when (just when self is patting herself on the back for having finished reading In Cold Blood without once flinching), what do you know: we do after all get the blow-by-blow. But by this time, self has already read 236 pages. How can she stop now? She does the only logical thing: she keeps reading.

It would have been less gruesome if told clinically. But unfortunately, that little perv Perry, the short one, the one who likes it whenever Detective Dewey has to light a cigarette and put it between his lips, he feels emotional connection to the victims (even as he destroys them), so he describes their looks of shock etc etc etc.

And. Still. Self. Just. Cannot. Stop. Reading.

Because she is already so fully invested in the story.

She is reminded of fan fiction, how it lures you in, chapter by chapter (Fan fiction is ALL about serialization). You live with the characters a while (In the case of Mejhiren’s stories, for years), you get to know them, you are completely at the mercy of the author.

Just like what’s happening to self now.

Capote. So sly. If the murders had been recounted any earlier than p. 150, self probably could have closed the book without a second thought.

It’s when poor Mr. Clutter offers to write the murderers a check in exchange for his life that they really go ape-shit on him.

There is so much horror in this story. Readers, self is sparing you much anguish. This is your trigger warning. P. 237. SKIP SKIP SKIP

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

IN COLD BLOOD, pp. 232 – 233

It’s the day after Christmas, for heavens sake, George Michael has died, and self is barreling through In Cold Blood.

It’s a great book. The characters — the two murderers and the four detectives whose seven weeks of patient chasing down of all manner of clues finally led to the arrest of Dick Hickok and Perry Smith for the murder of the Clutter family — are like players in a Greek tragedy (The fact that they arrested the right men: what a piece of luck! Seven weeks is not a long period of time, especially since Hickok and Smith had traveled over eight-hundred miles in the twenty-four hours immediately following the murders, and had no personal connection to either the victims or the town of Holcomb, Kansas, where the murders took place).

Self wants very badly to be able to picture these men, and is disappointed by the absence of any photographs. Isn’t this book nonfiction? Wouldn’t the inclusion of photographs have helped the book’s authenticity?

Instead she has to go googling on the web. She finds a New York Times obituary for Alvin Dewey, lead detective of the case. There is no photograph. Self decided not to google the faces of the two murderers.

Dick Hickok struck the detectives as intelligent and attractive (a Ted Bundy type?), well spoken.

His partner, Perry Smith, was so short that when sitting his feet didn’t touch the floor. And his feet were delicate, the size of a child’s. Yet this is the man who Dick Hickok claimed committed all four murders.

The two men are handcuffed but Perry Smith is a chainsmoker so, during the ride to Kansas, when Smith wants a smoke, Detective Alvin Dewey ends up lighting it for him and placing “it between his lips, a task that the detective found ‘repellent,’ for” it seemed “such an intimate action — the kind of thing” Dewey had done “while he was courting his wife.” (p. 233)

The only reason self quotes the passage here is because, a page later, Perry Smith says to Dewey, catching him off guard: “You hate handing me a butt.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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