Monday, February 09, 2015

From "Wild"

Watched "Wild" the movie on Saturday. Towards the end, this passage, in Reese Witherspoon's voice, came up. Her voice, quiet, gentle, so precious:

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”

There's probably going to be quite a lot of "Wild" posts these days, in bite-size.

Some thoughts, and a Song from the "Wild" Movie Soundtrack

I'm re-reading this article from The Atlantic, about Annie Dillard and her writings - The Thoreau of the Suburb. I read the article while the afterthoughts of my recent readings was slushing around in my brain. Without quite being that conscious of it - although, perhaps being subconsciously aware of it - I have been picking up books related to the idea of women and retreat and journey. I recently read Rebecca Solnit's Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, where she mentioned the bizarre controversy about Thoreau's laundry: did Thoreau's sister do his laundry? (She probably did. *gasp*) I'm re-reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild, and that has been interesting, including reading about the controversy that arose that some of Strayed's worse critics seem to object to her casualness with her sexuality in the book. (Why is it even an issue?)

Which amused me (and annoyed me a little) when I read that Annie Dillard had considered writing her book in a male's voice, because she had the idea that readers could not reconcile with the idea that a female would venture "into the wild".

“It’s impossible to imagine another situation where you can’t write a book ’cause you weren’t born with a penis,” wrote Dillard in her journal. “Except maybe Life With My Penis.”

Somehow, reading this, I thought, "She wields a pen". Sometimes I have no idea why I think the thoughts I do. But I do. The whole idea that one type of narrative is more gender-appropriate than another is sadly archaic, yet persistent. Even as Cheryl Strayed made her journey (and oh, how she suffered along the way) hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, she's constantly behind reminded of how she was a woman, and how strange it was for a woman to do this. Perhaps this is why her book is so important, and it so speaks to me, for all the heartbreaking moments inside it. This is too, a woman's narrative.

Anyway, on an off-tangent note, I will end this post with First Aid Kit's cover of "Walk Unafraid" - taken from the "Wild" movie soundtrack. Catch it if you can. Reese Witherspoon is wonderful in the movie.

Monday, January 19, 2015

100 BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2015

This is the list in progress for my readings in 2015.

  1. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found • Cheryl Strayed
    [ 25/01/2015 ~
  2. What Days Are For: A Memoir • Robert Dessaix
    [ 20/11/2014 ~
  3. Barcelona the Great Enchantress • Robert Hughes
    [ 04/02/2015 ~
  4. A History of the World in Twelve Maps • Jerry Brotton
  5. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence • Rick Hanson
  6. Running and Being • Dr George Sheehan
  7. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom • Rick Hanson
  8. The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living • Stephen Cope
  9. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology • Chogyam Trungpa
  10. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism • Chogyam Trungpa
  11. Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery • Chogyam Trungpa
  12. The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them • Richard J. Davidson & Sharon Begley
  13. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers • David Perlmutter & Kristin Loberg
  14. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West • Dee Brown
  15. Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites • Kate Christensen
  16. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals • Michael Pollan
  17. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
  18. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation • Michael Pollan
  19. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History • S. C. Gwynne
  20. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child • Bob Spitz
  21. Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier • Sharon Salzberg
  22. Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste • Luke Barr
  23. Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team • Chris Lear
  24. The Round House: A Novel Paperback • Louise Erdrich
  25. The Road of Lost Innocence • Somaly Mam
  26. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present • Eric Kandel
  27. The Source of All Things: A Memoir • Tracy Ross
  28. No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva •  Pema Chodron
  29. Give and Take • Adam Grant
  30. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them • Joshua Greene
  31. The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom • Louis Cozolino
  32. Quiet: The Power of Introverts • Susan Cain
  33. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot • Robert MacFarlane
  34. A Tale for the Time Being • Ruth Ozeki
  35. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants • Malcolm Gladwell
  36. S. Rajaratnam on Singapore: From Ideas to Reality • edited by Kwa Chong Guan
  37. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice • Terry Tempest Williams
  38. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation • Sharon Salzberg
  39. Hild • Nicola Griffith
  40. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind • Shunryu Suzuki
  41. Lady Audley's Secret • Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  42. The Names of the Rose • Umberto Eco
  43. Dune • Frank Herbert
  44. The Stars My Destination • Alfred Bester
  45. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte
  46. The Windup Girl • Paolo Bacigalupi
  47. Regenesis • C.J. Cherryh
  48. Among Others • Jo Walton
  49. Ready Player One • Ernest Cline
  50. The City & The City • China Miéville
  51. Baghdad Sketches (1932) • Freya Stark
  52. The Valleys of the Assassins and Other Persian Travels (1934) [On Mazandaran, Iran]• Freya Stark
  53. The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut (1936)• 
  54. A Winter in Arabia (1940) [On Hadhramaut] • 
  55. Perseus in the Wind (1948). [Essays on philosophy and literature] • 
  56. Ionia, A Quest (1954) • Freya Stark
  57. The Lycian Shore (1956) [On Turkey] • Freya Stark
  58. Alexander's Path: From Caria to Cilicia (1958) [On Turkey] • Freya Stark
  59. The Zodiac Arch (1968) [Miscellaneous essays] • Freya Stark
  60. The Minaret of Djam: An Excursion into Afghanistan (1970) • Freya Stark
  61. Where the Stress Falls • Susan Sontag
  62. On Photography • Susan Sontag
  63. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 • Susan Sontag
  64. Against Interpretation: And Other Essays • Susan Sontag
  65. As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 • Susan Sontag
  66. The Histories • Herodotus
  67. Shantaram • Gregory David Roberts
  68. The Magicians • Lev Grossman
  69. The Magician King • Lev Grossman
  70. The Magician's Land • Lev Grossman
  71. Their Eyes Were Watching God • Zora Neale Hurston
  72. A Fine Balance • Rohinton Mistry
  73. Ancillary Justice • Ann Leckie
  74. Ancillary Sword • Ann Leckie
  75. Annihilation • Jeff Vandermeer
  76. Authority • Jeff Vandermeer
  77. Acceptance • Jeff Vandermeer
  78. Carthage Must Be Destroyed • Richard Miles
  79. This Changes Everything • Naomi Klein
  80. The Little Stranger • Sarah Waters
  81. The Paying Guests • Sarah Waters
  82. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace • Anne Lamott
    [ 04/12/2014 ~
  83. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption • Laura Hillenbrand
    [ 23/11/2014 ~ 
  84. The Trauma of Everyday Life • Mark Epstein
    [ 15/09/2014 ~
  85. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage • Haruki Murakami
    Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
    [ 12/08/2014 ~
  86. The Devil's Star • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 28/07/2014 ~
  87. The Ice Museum: To Shetland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland and Svalbard in Search of the Lost Land of Thule • Joanna Kavenna
    [ 09/02/2015 ~
  88. Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness • Rebecca Solnit
    [ 26/11/2014 ~ 18/01/2015 ]
  89. The Outsider • Albert Camus
    Translated from the French by Sandra Smith
    [ 01/10/2014 ~ 19/01/2015 ]
  90. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere • Pico Iyer
    [ 19/01/2015 ~ 25/01/2015 ]
  91. Station Eleven: A Novel • Emily St. John Mandel
    [ 23/11/2014 ~ 04/02/2015 ]
  92. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith • Anne Lamott
    [ 15/10/2013 ~ 09/02/2015 ]
  93. Travels with Herodotus • Ryszard Kapuscinski
    translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska
    [ 05/02/2015 ~ 15/02/2015 ]

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sleater-Kinney Returns

The articles on Sleater-Kinney's return have been coming. This is one of the more recent ones, by Pitchfork. It's no secret that I am a fan. Sleater-Kinney is on my bucket list - "Bands to watch 'live' Before I Die". Yes, some people have Bucket Lists like that. Their music carried me through some bad times. The growls of their guitars, Carrie and Corin with their vocal intensity, the invigorating drumbeats - their music makes me feel more alive.

When they announced the band was on "indefinite hiatus" - it was heartbreaking. Then they came back, sneaking a new single onto the vinyl collection of their old records last year. I was so excited, promised myself I had to catch them when they tour.

Life right now is making it hard to travel, so I will wait. If it is meant to be, it will be.

Then they went and did something like this with their friends, and they remind me again why I totally adore them:

Let's not forget their appearance on David Letterman's. A heart melting moment.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

QUOTE | From Tiny Beautiful Things

One of those quotes from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things that stayed with me. There were many memorable quotes in that tiny little book that was full of heart and loss - and so much hope. This one though - lingered most powerfully. Well, perhaps because it was at the end, but most likely because of what it had to say about getting yourself screwed up in a bad, self-hating place - and yet that there is something within us still worthy, still beautiful, and deserving of grace. Grace in the shape of a purple balloon. Such a tiny beautiful thing.

Everyone should read that book.

“One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Reading Goals for 2015:

#1: Finally Finish War and Peace

So it seems this month is sort of the 150 anniversary of the publication of War and Peace. Sort of.

According to Paris Review, the story was first serialized in 1805, and it was reworked later:

Well, sort of: the first installment of what was then titled 1805 was indeed published in the January 1865 issue of Russkiy Vestnik. It ran in serial form for the next two years. However, Tolstoy wasn’t happy with this version and reworked much of the book—which he called “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”—before publishing it as War and Peace in 1869.

Time to get to it. So, I declare, 2015 will be the year I finally finish reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Records for 2014

Books Read for 2014

  1. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence • Daniel Goleman
  2. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running • Haruki Murakami
  3. The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
  4. Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
  5. Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
  6. Nemesis • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
  7. Cave in the Snow • Vicki Mackenzie
  8. The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit • Helena Attlee
  9. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar • Cheryl Strayed

Friday, December 12, 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert's Advice on Traveling Alone for Women

Wanderlust has been hitting me hard the last few years. Perhaps it's an awareness of time, and how little I have actually done with my life, how little of the world I have seen. It's an affliction that comes with having aging parents, I suppose. I look at my dad, who was such an independent spirit, strong and self-sufficient - and I see him these days a somewhat diminished man, angry at losing his vigour and power. He, too, is aware that he does not have much time left. I have no children. All I have is now. So, I desire to travel, to wander before the ultimate certainty (because death is more certain than taxes) takes me.

I was on Facebook earlier (okay, I am on Facebook everyday - shoot me). Someone posted a question to Elizabeth Gilbert, asking for travel advice. I liked her reply, although, the question is: can you really just travel with carry-on luggage only? Really? I feel like a pack-horse now.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE? 
Dear Ones — 

This question popped up on the wall again this week, and I thought I should reprint this little essay I wrote about it on Facebook last year. And if you all have your own thoughts and advice on the matter, do yo you mind sharing? 

HERE GOES: 

I myself have always had great experiences traveling alone. While there are certainly dangers, I have found that the same factors that make you vulnerable as a woman also make you powerful. What I mean to say is, a woman on her own does not telegraph a threat to anyone—which means that strangers all over the world will welcome you and trust you. They will let you into their houses. They will let you play with their babies. They will tell you their stories. They will give you a place to sleep. They will offer you assistance, food, directions, affection. I feel that, as a female traveler, I have had much more intimate experiences with new people than any man could ever have. They know I'm not going to hurt them, and so they open up to me. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. 

That said, do be careful—or at least alert. There are places in the world I would not travel alone. There are places in my own state I would not travel alone, for that matter. If you don't see any local women walking around the streets at night, you probably shouldn't be walking there either. Other tips: 
DRESS MODESTLY. I keep this rule just about everywhere I go in the world that isn't Miami. In developing countries or more conservative countries, I am especially careful to wear long sleeves and loose clothing. It's more comfortable, for one thing. (Less sunburn!) It also tends to attract less male attention. But most of all, in places in the world where modesty still reigns, dressing carefully will win you the favor of local women—whose good graces you will always need. If you're walking around in what looks to a nice Indonesian woman like underwear (tank top and shorts) she will be too embarrassed to interact with you. Try not to make people of either gender feel either aroused or embarrassed. 
PACK LIGHTLY. I never travel with checked luggage...not anywhere, not for any amount of time. Carry-on only. Never bring more than you can comfortably carry. Being over-burdened makes you vulnerable in a thousand different ways. Stay light on your feet and you'll be safer and less conspicuous. Also, you don't really need it. Really, you don't! If you’re traveling from place to place and living among strangers, nobody will notice that you wore the same shirt today as yesterday. You will also be safer from people putting things in your luggage (drugs) or taking things out of your luggage (cameras) when you aren't looking. 
EYE-MASK, EAR PLUGS, PJ's, SLIPPERS. Bring good ones. Sleep is the most important thing. 
DON'T BE AFRAID TO LOOK STUPID. Try to speak some of the local language, even if it makes you sound like an idiot. People (except waiters in Paris) will usually be charmed, not appalled. Eat things you wouldn't normally eat. Ask questions. It's OK if you don't know what's going on — the whole point of being a visitor is not to know what's going on, and to be unafraid to learn. Good manners and friendliness trump sophistication any day. You can always apologize for mistakes later. 
DON'T ACT ENTITLED. I won't give any examples here. Just ask yourself constantly, "Am I acting entitled?" Then stop. Actually, this is kind of good advice for even when you aren't traveling. 
BE READY TO HAVE YOUR LIFE CHANGED. 
ONWARD!

Love, Liz

Sunday, December 07, 2014

BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2014

A new year is beginning, and it is time to get back to some tradition. I intend to read more in 2014. A long time ago, I started an annual list of 100 books that I would like to read in a year. While I have never actually completed all 100 books, I like how it directed my reading. I really do read more when I have an aspirational list.
So here is the 100 Books to Read List 2014 - it is still a work in progress - but past experience has taught me that the 100 titles will fill itself up in due course. As you start reading again, you will want to read more.
So here it is:
  1. A History of the World in Twelve Maps • Jerry Brotton
  2. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence • Rick Hanson
  3. Running and Being • Dr George Sheehan
  4. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom • Rick Hanson
  5. The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living • Stephen Cope
  6. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology • Chogyam Trungpa
  7. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism • Chogyam Trungpa
  8. Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery • Chogyam Trungpa
  9. The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them • Richard J. Davidson & Sharon Begley
  10. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers • David Perlmutter & Kristin Loberg
  11. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West • Dee Brown
  12. Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites • Kate Christensen
  13. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals • Michael Pollan
  14. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
  15. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation • Michael Pollan
  16. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History • S. C. Gwynne
  17. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child • Bob Spitz
  18. Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier • Sharon Salzberg
  19. Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste • Luke Barr
  20. Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team • Chris Lear
  21. The Round House: A Novel Paperback • Louise Erdrich
  22. The Road of Lost Innocence • Somaly Mam
  23. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present • Eric Kandel
  24. The Source of All Things: A Memoir • Tracy Ross
  25. No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva •  Pema Chodron
  26. Give and Take • Adam Grant
  27. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them • Joshua Greene
  28. The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom • Louis Cozolino
  29. Quiet: The Power of Introverts • Susan Cain
  30. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot • Robert MacFarlane
  31. A Tale for the Time Being • Ruth Ozeki
  32. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants • Malcolm Gladwell
  33. S. Rajaratnam on Singapore: From Ideas to Reality • edited by Kwa Chong Guan
  34. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice • Terry Tempest Williams
  35. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation • Sharon Salzberg
  36. Hild • Nicola Griffith
  37. Lady Audley's Secret • Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  38. The Names of the Rose • Umberto Eco
  39. Dune • Frank Herbert
  40. The Stars My Destination • Alfred Bester
  41. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte
  42. The Windup Girl • Paolo Bacigalupi
  43. Regenesis • C.J. Cherryh
  44. Among Others • Jo Walton
  45. Ready Player One • Ernest Cline
  46. The City & The City • China Miéville
  47. Their Eyes Were Watching God • Zora Neale Hurston
  48. A Fine Balance • Rohinton Mistry
  49. The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore • Edited by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang & Hong Lysa
    [ 01/01/2014 ~
  50. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith • Anne Lamott
    [ 15/10/2013 ~
  51. How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind • Pema Chodron
    [ 27/01/2014 ~
  52. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success • Carol Dweck
    [ 30/01/2014 ~
  53. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace • Tamar Adler
    [ 10/02/2014 ~
  54. The Goldfinch • Donna Tartt
    [ 14/03/2014 ~
  55. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace • Anne Lamott
    [ 04/12/2014 ~
  56. Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness• Rebecca Solnit
    [ 26/11/2014 ~
  57. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption • Laura Hillenbrand
    [ 23/11/2014 ~ 
  58. Station Eleven • Emily St. John Mandel
    [ 23/11/2014 ~
  59. What Days Are For: A Memoir • Robert Dessaix
    [ 20/11/2014 ~
  60. The Outsider • Albert Camus
    Translated from the French by Sandra Smith
    [ 01/10/2014 ~
  61. The Trauma of Everyday Life • Mark Epstein
    [ 15/09/2014 ~
  62. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage • Haruki Murakami
    Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
    [ 12/08/2014 ~
  63. The Devil's Star • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 28/07/2014 ~
  64. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence • Daniel Goleman
    [ 04/11/2013 ~ 01/01/2014 ]
  65. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running • Haruki Murakami
    [ 02/01/2014 ~ 27/01/2014 ]
  66. The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
    [ 31/01/2014 ~ 08/02/2014 ]
  67. Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
    [ 08/02/2014 ~ 09/02/2014 ]
  68. Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
    [ 09/02/2014 ~ 10/02/2014 ]
  69. Nemesis • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 19/07/2014 ~ 28/07/2014 ]
  70. Cave in the Snow • Vicki Mackenzie
    [ 18/10/2014 ~ 08/11/2014 ]
  71. The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit • Helena Attlee
    [ 13/09/2014 ~ 15/11/2014 ]
  72. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar • Cheryl Strayed
    [ 28/09/2014 ~ 2/11/2014 ]