23 Jun

On Reading

Yesterday, I heard a brief segment of the NPR program “On the Media,” which included an interview with Ann Kirschner, a woman who set out to read Little Dorrit in four different formats: paperback book, audio book, Kindle, and iPhone.

Now, just to clarify: she didn’t read the entire book four times, which is initially how I was envisioning this crazy project. No. Instead, she would start in her house with the paperback version, and then she’d pick up at that point with the audio book while traveling to work on the subway.

“I didn’t set out to be scientific, I set out to be practical,” she explained. Which is to say that it wasn’t so much an experiment as it was a method of fitting in 1000 pages of reading with an otherwise busy life.

But the experience still provoked questions about various methods of reading (and whether they all can be called reading). I don’t think there was a clear winner in her estimation, but the Kindle seemed to be the clear loser. She didn’t like “having to make a conscious decision to take it with her.” And she also cited the annoying black screen transition that animates every page turn.

I’ve seen this annoying black screen myself. Last week, one of the members of my writing class brought a Kindle to lunch and passed it around. When you “turn” a page, the writing turns white, and the screen turns black just for a split second. It’s jarring.

Ms. Kirschner said she spent the most time listening to the audio book version, and she disagrees with those who say listening isn’t reading. She admits that with an audio book, you’re at the mercy of the narrator; you can’t go backward or forward; you can’t dog-ear pages or underline or write in the margins. So it’s a relatively “passive” experience, she concedes. But is it still reading?
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22 Jun

Meal Possibilities for the Coming Week

(We’ve frozen 8 pounds and we turned another 8 into jam, but we still have about 15 pounds left, so we’re planning accordingly.)

1. Strawberry and spinach salad.
2. Strawberry pancakes.
3. PB&(strawberry)J.
4. Fondue (with strawberries).
5. Strawberry-encrusted salmon.
6. Strawberry au gratin.
7. Strawberry kebobs.
8. Cordon strawberry.
9. Strawberry sandwiches.
10. Strawberries and rice.

20 Jun

My God, What Have I Done?

Eileen and I went strawberry picking today. We ended up with almost 31 pounds. We actually didn’t have enough cash to pay for them, but the nice people at Carandale are allowing us to send the rest. This is embarrassing on so many levels, not the least of which is that we have no idea what we’re going to do with our 30 pounds of strawberries now that we have them. I think I’ve already consumed two pounds today.

19 Jun


In-class exercise from Day Four. The assignment was simply to incorporate metaphor. If we’re getting technical about it, though, I incorporated symbol and simile, but not metaphor. However, I’m inclined to label all comparisons of two unlike things metaphor.

The eviction notice came on the 15th. She didn’t think McCreary would follow through with his threats. But he had, and she was forced to call Mary for a place to stay. In her bedroom, packing clothes into black trash bags, she found two and a half five-dollar bills at the bottom of her underwear drawer. They were ten years old, from the days she’d worked at the diner.

A man – tall, dark, and Canadian – had come in for breakfast on a Tuesday. He was down for a funeral or something equally sad. But his “good morning” was cheerful, and when she took his order, he looked her in the eye. He asked her questions about herself with an accent just slightly different from hers.

After the meal, he’d left a five-dollar bill ripped in half and a note saying, “I’ll bring the rest tomorrow.” They flirted shamelessly all week and then Sunday came; he was gone. She had two and a half bills. He never returned.

Now, back in her half-empty apartment, with a half-empty garbage bag of clothes, she sat on the floor and shuffled the five pieces of torn bills, fanning them out like a sad poker hand.

18 Jun

Men at Work

Exercise from Day 3: Create a dialogue between two characters who want very different things. This was fun. I got to pick on a certain TV show.

Ted tried the bell, hoping no one would answer.

Brian opened the door. “Hey, man. Thanks for coming.”

Ted threw his tool belt on the floor. It thunked against the wood. “Sure. No problem,” he muttered.

“Um, so,” Brian said, glancing at the tool belt. “I was thinking about this space here.” He pointed to a blank wall. “Do-able?”

Ted examined the area and shrugged. “Seems pretty ambitious to me.” He sighed. “But sure. I mean, it’s not gonna be cheap exactly.”

“Oh, that’s not a problem. Carrie wants it this way, so, you know.”

Ted didn’t mind giving up the occasional weeknight to help out a friend, but did it have to be Thursday? He was missing his favorite TV hospital drama.

“So what’s the first step?”

Ted looked at his watch. 7:00. Maybe he could get out of here quick enough. “Well, you want a floor-to-ceiling unit, right? That’s a lot of wood.”

“Oh yeah. I got more than we could possibly need.”

Shit. “All right. Cool.” This was no small project. The space was about 8 by 12 feet, and the floor was likely unlevel. These old houses were nightmares to renovate. He ran his hand along the wall. It too seemed uneven. “You got a level? I left mine at home.”

“Sure.” Brian disappeared into the basement while Ted sauntered into the kitchen. A miniature TV rested on a countertop. Ted turned it on. Pretty good reception.

Brian returned with the level.

“Hey, you mind if we bring this in the other room and turn it on?” Ted said.

“Sure, no problem.”

Ted got to work measuring the space, snapping chalk lines, and framing the shelving unit. An hour passed quickly, and when the opening credits rolled, Ted fixated on the TV.

Brian followed his gaze. “Oh, this show is the worst. Here, I’ll change it.”

“No, no. Don’t.” Had he sounded too desperate? “I mean, the stupider the show, the better I’ll work, you know? I won’t be tempted to watch. You put on that Terminator show, and pretty soon I’ll be eating chips and staring at the TV instead of installing your bookshelf.”

Brian shot him a knowing smile. “Oh, I know. Terminator. That chick is so hot.”

“Which one?”

“You know, the robot. What’s her name? “

“Oh, right. Yeah. I can’t think of her name right now, either. But yeah. She’s a hottie.”

The hospital show was opening with the typical sentimental narration: “Sometimes in life, you’ve just got to buckle down. Whether it’s studying for a board exam, telling your best friend she’s got AIDS, or sitting through your father’s 12-hour surgery to remove his brain tumor, there’s just no way not to get your hands dirty. And other times, you’ve got to eat chocolate.” On the word chocolate, the scene cut to four college girls in their pajamas having a pillow fight.

“Dude?” Brian said. He hadn’t been watching the TV, but he looked now. “Dude!”

The two of them stood transfixed for the next five minutes. At the commercial break, Brian snapped out of his trance. “Well, we’ve got a bookshelf to build.”

“Yeah.” Ted grabbed some boards and a box of screws and completed as many noise-producing tasks as possible in the next two and a half minutes as the commercials aired. Then the show came back on, and he did a lot of measuring. Quiet measuring. He was hoping to buy time till the next commercial break, but it eventually became absurd. So he readied his drill and lined up the next screw. That’s when he heard the main character shout, “He wants a divorce?” He dropped the drill.