Les Semaines

January 2, 2005

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


On With the New

Sorry to miss a week again. I'm finding life intervenes with this a lot, and have decided that sometimes it just has to. It's amazing how many projects I have on the go at once and how few of them I make progress on, especially if I divide my attention so much between them all. Often one of them just slides. Like this one.

Mom and Dad and the dogs, Charlie and Ben arrived the Wednesday before Xmas about 1:00 and the house has remained full for a week. Friday finally decorated, with the assistance of a dear friend who liberated some neighbourhood cedar boughs for us to decorate with. Since she dropped them off I've been trying to think how to repay her. Shoplift? Walk across some DO NOT WALK ON GRASS grass? Pick flowers out of a park? I will have to think. In the meantime I have jam and bay leaves and cookies and lavender sachets for her.

The dog-cat détente worked fine. Sophia only hid for fifteen minutes, which is amazing. I guess she's used to them. The first year they came she hid for a day and a half. The second time a few hours, then an hour and a half. She has really shaved it down. The dogs even came out for a while each night to sit with my parents on the chesterfield. There was some staring but Sophia always curled up somewhere in the dining room and went to sleep. The dogs shook for a while but finally calmed down.

So what do we do over the holidays? We sit around a lot talking and reading and eat too many cookies and other treats and nap. We take the dogs for wee walkies. Someone makes dinner and someone cleans up. We make laps for Zach and occasionally Sophia or a dog, and we watch movies. It's funny how quickly the days zip by.

Too quickly.

Mom and Dad left on Tuesday, then we met some friends from Coquitlam for lunch (at our favourite pho place) and a couple of hours of catching up. I worked Wednesday and Thursday (while Jim's off till this Tuesday). Friday I roasted a leg of lamb and a chicken (Jim doesn't like lamb) and Tamar and Zac came over. We drank (beer, lemon drops Tamar made, pear cider for me, champagne and fizzy apple juice) and got very silly and chatty. While Zac went to pick up some friends from the airport, Tamar gave us our Xmas present, a concert in our living room. It was mighty fine.

My computer catching up got sidetracked by my attempts to figure out how to turn videotapes into DVDs to take advantage of the DVD burner Jim and I bought for each other for Xmas. The answer isn't clear as I thought I'd worked out the bugs only to find that the files I had to create in System 9 (because the video convertor hardware I got only works with that) play just fine in 9 but jerkily when I try to play them in X. Dammit. So I still haven't tried the burner.

Went for a seriously lovely walk this afternoon. It was a clear, cold day, and we went to Carkeek Park and walked north into the bits of afternoon sun, through the woods to a meadow overlook then wandered down to the railroad crossing and along the water for a ways. So got everything: sun, trees, ocean views, wind, beach, waves, sunset, and a train. Just delightful.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Listening to year's end stuff still. Stuff that knocked me out this year:
  • Bjork — Medulla
  • Regina Spektor — Soviet Kitsch (though it was available in 2003 I didn't get it then because it was out of stock)
  • Jesca Hoop — Sketch Work Songs (an unofficial demo release)
  • Inner — lovetheonlyway (is this 2003? No year listed)
  • Fiery Furnaces — Blueberry Boat
  • Gabriel Yacoub — je vois venie (live)
  • Lais — Douce Victime
Stuff I liked a lot:
  • Rasputina — Frustration Plantation
  • Mudville — the glory of man is not in vogue
  • PJ Harvey — Uh Huh Her (not quite as great as her other albums)
  • KUMA — The Moment of Silence Before a Disaster
  • Elysian Fields — Dreams that Breathe Your Name
  • Fiest — Let it Die (uneven, but with great moments)
  • Kristeen Young — X
  • Emily Bezar — Angel's Abacus
  • Chloe Day — the return of...
  • Katell Keineg — High July (some great moments, but parts of it I'm not wild about)
  • Kathryn Williams — Relations

last week's listening § next week's listening


I thought Maeve Binchy had said she was going to stop writing novels. Hmm. In any case, she has a new one, lent to me by a friend so both I and my mom could read it. This one (Night of Rain and Stars) is set on a Greek Island, where four young people (from Ireland, England, Germany, and the U.S.) converge at a restaurant while a tour-boat from the village they're in burns below them. Watching the accident from a distance where all they can do it watch unites them in a friendship with the restaurant's proprietor. All of them are running away from something relationship problem, and all are at a crises. Like all Maeve Binchy novels, everyone learns something and the major crises are solved, but as always the characters are so human, you're happy they've come to some accommodation with life and their problems. Enjoyable, and hard to put down. (See my January 14, 21, February 25, 2001, and May 4, 2003 entries for comments on other books by Maeve Binchy.)

I read two biographies of Jean Harlow. We've been on a kick watching her movies and so I decided to read these (and look at the pictures). One, David Stenn's Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow was kind of trashy and played up the scandals and made judgments about her character. The other, Eve Golden's Platinum Girl: The Life and Legends of Jean Harlow was more detailed and considered and I suppose better researched, and actually a little more interesting. Oh, and had better and more pictures.

Jennifer Vanderbes' Easter Island weaves three tales together: a German naval commander who is trying to make his way home through the seas full of British vessels after the declaration of World War I; a woman in the same time period who marries a colleague of her anthropologist father's so that she could look after her problem sister (perhaps autistic? unclear); a botanist in the 70s trying to pick up the shreds of her scientific career after the death of her husband, a famous botanist who died shortly after a horrible academic scandal. how their stories overlap is a tale that I enjoyed.

Sarah Micklem's Firethorn is definitely an intriguing fantasy. The main character is a young woman in a feudal society who breaks away from it, spends a year living wild in the king's forest, then after she rejoins village life, falls in love with a nobleman on his way to war. For her there is no choice, she has to follow him. She's insecure — understandably, as he's married, war-like, related to the king, and his frames of reference so different from hers. But they're bound and she's bound to follow him to war. There were times when I got a touch annoyed with the level of detail — meaning that the big events hinted at at still in the future at the end of the novel and there's a lot of attention to day-to-day events that while interested in themselves seemed only to inch the story forward. Still, I really enjoyed its different approach and the unusual main character.

James A. Hetley's The Winter Oak is the sequel to his The Summer Country (see my February 9, 2003 entry for my comments on it). I was less impressed with the sequel as both the characters and the plot seemed to be spinning its wheel a lot — I think because there are five plus characters to follow here and it's not that long a book. There's not much of a summary I can give that won't have spoilers for the previous book, but suffice it to say that the rewards earned in the previous volume are being tested as time passes. Each of the characters has to learn more about themselves and their resolve and their strengths to persevere.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Hard to do with houseguests and holidays. I did have two productive sessions at the coffee shop with Karen for which I'm extremely grateful or I'd have nothing to show for the last two weeks. I haven't thought about my poetry at all.

I made really serious progress with the revision of my novel this year, starting with my sessions with Karen, which I think began in May, and continuing through the Write-a-thon this summer. I'm almost halfway through a series of several difficult and major revisions of the first half of the novel. I'm calling this the second draft, but it's really about the 10th through 15th on part of it. And I know I've made it a much stronger novel and that this is the best fiction I've even produced. Whether or not it's good enough for publication in today's market or not I don't have a clue; I only know that I am proud of the work I've done.

As in the first paragraph, I've spent much less time this year on poetry. I think I only wrote two new poems this year, though I did some serious revisions, especially in the spring when I drastically re-worked several poems. Some good work, but not nearly enough progress here.

I made 11 poetry submissions this year (sending out a total of 50 poems, some of which were repeats of course), which is 1 less submission than last year, but 10 more than 2002. Of those, 4 are still out, 6 were rejections (3 with send again or "close" notes), and 1 place (The Alsop Review Anthology One) took 3 poems.

I only sent out 3 fiction submissions this year (2 total stories), which is half what I sent out the year before, but they were all of 1 story. One of those is still out. One got a nice note, the other just a standard rejection.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Yes — still on hiatus. I know how boring this has gotten. For me, too. I did hope to re-start this with the new year, but didn't. I'm sorry. Sidetracked again.

last week's old journal § next week's old journal

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