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Archive for November, 2008

a book a week…

At the beginning of every year I resolved to finally, finally read one book a week for the duration of the year.  I have yet to stick to my goal.  This year is the closest I have gotten since I started counting.  With 10% of the year (and 16 days off work) left I have read 30 books.  Which is only 58% of the total, but 10 of those were over 400 pages (one @ 584 and one @ 768) and the 30 books add up to a total of 10,525 pages – so I think I have done pretty well. 

Among them: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, A Quiet Belief in Angels by R. J. Ellory,  Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (finally), The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and lastly The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger which I finished today. 

The Secret Life of Bees is one which I have been wanting to read for a few years now and I am wondering if I would have read it differently a few years ago.  Even a few months ago.  Read it for yourself and see if you know what I am talking about.

The Time Traveller’s Wife gets 6 Stars out of 5 in my book.  I couldn’t read it fast enough.  I wish I had stopped halfway through, though, because the ending hit me hard.  “Had we but world enough, and time,” Marvell.

The list of books I want to read does not think to stop growing to let me catch up.  It is 45 strong today, but probably 50 by tomorrow.  Kate seems to be the only one who recommends books to me these days, so I don’t know where the list comes from.  Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England,  A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Pillars of the EarthStardust.  Many, many others.   None of the Classics are included – that list is 40 strong in and of itself.  Of Human Bondage, or Their Eyes Were Watching God.  The list does not include a single novel by  Dickens and if you have to ask why you do not know me very well at all.

Next I think I will read something by Terry Pratchett even though it is not on the list.  Niffenegger’s poetry and rawness has hollowed me out and I want to cuddle up with the literary equivalent of a big mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows on top – I think Soul Music will do wonders.

xoA

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Thanksgiving was on Saturday.  Ours was, anyway.  The 4th Annual Glasgow Thanksgiving at Laura’s flat.  It was a lot of fun – the best ever, maybe.  There was a lot of food and even more laughter.  Amy and I discovered that we like some of the same music, which is unnerving considering she’s 8 years younger than I am.  One of us is doing something wrong and it is probably me.

Lately I have been wondering about the timings of life.  Crucial and not quite so crucial.  I have two friends who have only recently met and have begun a swift romance and I wonder if it would have happened sooner if I had thought to introduce them.  Or, whether their meeting earlier would have made their romance impossible for any number of reasons.  Or what might have happened if they had never met at all.

There is no sense pondering it for too long, though, because everything happens as it was always going to happen – I don’t feel there is anything much you can do to prevent that, even if you know in advance.  Which is a depressing thought, really.

A week ago last Saturday I banged my head and have spent the past week struggling to get over what the doctor called “quite a bad concussion, really”.  I have had a headache since about 11am on the 15th of November excepting an hour or so on Sunday right after I woke up.  Apparently I’ll have a sore head for another week and a half yet which, at least, gives me something to look forward to. 

I’ve noticed my short-term memory is playing tricks on me.  I will write something down on the to-do list and then 30 minutes later I’ll see it has been crossed off, except I haven’t done it yet.  And if you want me to remember something or write it down you are going to have to talk very slowly and I’ll probably make you repeat yourself a few times – especially if it involves numbers.  I go back and forth between feeling like I am underwater (slow movements and comprehension) where I can’t really hear or understand what you are saying without really concentrating on it and extreme clarity where everything is harsher and louder than it should be.  I am told this is all normal.  And then there is the dizziness and nausea which I don’t want to think about as I have just had my lunch.

Last Wednesday the doctor said the only thing for me to worry about would be if I fall asleep and no one can wake me.  Oh, really?

I am very happily waiting for all these consequences to go away.  If I had thought about the timing of things before I bumped my head I would have bought some stock in aspirin.  But I didn’t, because I already would have and I haven’t.  Oh, my head!

 

xoA

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an open letter…

Dear Rob, Paul, Adam, Kyle and Brian,

I’ve written about a million versions of this letter in my head because it is very important that I get this right.  Because this is where it all started – The Beginning.

April 7th, 1997 at The Odeon – opening for Jackopierce.  And 51 days later, at The Grog Shop. For $2.  And again in August, October and then March of the following year.  And then August 1998 at Blossom for $30.  Meteoric rise?  Understatement.

Matchbox Twenty – the first band I loved

And imagine how different it all could have been.  If the music wasn’t just so or if the lyrics hadn’t seemingly been written specifically for me. If Paul wasn’t so damned adorable playing those drums with his bare feet.  If Adam hadn’t been so unbelievably nice to me. If Kyle wasn’t so good looking, Brian so quiet or if Rob didn’t have that certain something that oozed of stardom…

I was 16 and phenomenally uncool.  I listened to your album, Yourself or Someone Like You, every day for over a year.  I had a cassette taped copy of You & I & I recorded at radio station 99x and I’m pretty sure it was my most prized possession. I quoted you in my yearbook.  My best friend Betsey and I named our Uniracers bikes after you guys on our SNES.   A startling confession to make but it is the truth. Like I said, phenomenally uncool. 

Me & Adam, 1997

Me & Adam, 1997

“Well everyone here hides shades of shame
yeah but lookin’ inside we’re the same.
We’re the same and we’re all grown now,
yeah, but we don’t know how to get it back to good.”
– Matchbox Twenty , Back 2 Good

 It all has to do with that very first show in 1997.  We were front row at The Odeon – my Mom had driven us down to The Flats for the show and, I think, waited outside in the car the entire time.  I am certain I stared adoringly at you all as you played and sang the songs; I must have, anyway, because Adam came to the edge of the stage and handed me his guitar pick.  Me!  Little phenomenally uncool me in the front row.  Amazing.  I don’t think I stopped talking about it for months.  (Years?)

And I was hooked on live music and the thrill of getting some silly acknowledgement from a the band that your love of their music and their art was appreciated. A drumstick here, a guitar pick there.  A photo with the band after the gig (in the freezing cold, usually, at 1am).  As I grew older and got my own transportation it was the recognition I craved.  For one of them, any of them, to remember my name.

Allison, hello!  Good to see you again. Isn’t Chicago a little far from Cleveland?

“While you were sleeping I was listening to the radio wondering what you’re dreaming  when it came to mind that I didn’t care.  And I thought, hell, if it’s over then I had better end it quick or I could lose my neve. Are you listening? Can you hear me?”
– Matchbox Twenty, Rest Stop

 But I couldn’t keep up with you guys.  Before I blinked, it seemed, you were selling out shows at ticket prices I couldn’t really afford.  Even those who were there at the relative beginning for shows at The Grog Shop got lost amidst the massive crowd being reeled in by chart-topping hits (one after the other). 

I never forgot you, though, or that first guitar pick I ever received from a band at a live gig  which I still have in a safe place.  Or the way it felt to get your autographs and see you smile at me!

It is because of you guys, and the fire you lit inside me, that I have followed live music so obsessively over the past 11 years.  I’m not as avid as those who make a living by it, but I have been to 275 concerts and some of my closest friends are people in the industry.

“Some things in this world they don’t make sense.
Somethings you don’t need until they leave you,
They’re the things that you miss.
Oh, baby, baby, baby when all your love is gone
Who will save me from all I’m up against out in this world?
And maybe, maybe, maybe
You’ll find something that’s enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don’t receive you,
You can turn yourself around and come on home.
-Matchbox Twenty, Bright lights

You and your music inspired my love of music and it was partially my love of music that led me to study abroad.  Which led me to a band who, when next touring America, led me to another band who eventually led me here to Scotland where I wouldn’t be if it weren’t, in a roundabout way, for you guys and your  music.  Convoluted, I know, but the idea is there.

So.  Thank you.  For lighting the fire.  For making such good music that I still listen to rather more often than I’d like to admit.  For putting out a Live DVD so I don’t have to cry when you come and play my city and I can’t make it to the gig.  For continuing to strive towards that goal.

Without you five and your music none of this would have happened.  And I really sincerely mean that.


Matchbox Twenty, How Far We’ve Come – Live from Abbey Road Studios

“I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world
But it’s feeling just like every other morning before
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it’s gone.”
-Matchbox Twenty, How Far We’ve Come

So, thanks guys.  I grew up listening to you.  How far we’ve come, indeed.

Keep up the good work. 

Come and play Glasgow.  Somewhere small (my house?).  And please don’t charge me £30 for the ticket. Remember, I was there at the beginning.

xoA

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my november 11th

I’d like to raise a glass, if I could, to chance meetings.

S & I met 3 years ago, by chance, and that is something for which I am very thankful.

xoA

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lest we forget…

Glasgow Cenotaph
Glasgow Cenotaph

It is Remembrance Day here in the UK, otherwise known worldwide as Armistice Day.

The 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month is the symbolic anniversary of the end of World War 1.

Here in Scotland everyone wears bright red Poppys to show their support, as elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Remembrance day has been generalized to mean remembrance of anyone who fought in any war, including those which are ongoing.

So, observe your 2 minutes of silence if you can – a small sacrifice for those who paid a big one. 

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England.
– Rupert Brooke, 1914

xoA

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a very busy weekend…

DIY is not fun.

Maybe it starts out fun at the very beginning when you look at all you have to do and see only possibilities and what it is going to look like when you are done. About midway through the DIY everything changes and instead of seeing possibilities you can only see what is left to do.

I reached this point about a week ago halfway through re-decorating the downstairs bathroom.  The carpet was ripped up and S was tiling the floor when I decided I’d had enough with this DIY rubbish.  So S was left to finish the room on his own.  Which he didn’t mind because, after all, I’d done the kitchen on my own anyway.

So the weekend drew closer and we were deciding what to do.  DIY?  Again?  Yes.  Except with bit of a break on Sunday when we drove down south to Galloway Forest to the shores of Loch Doon and Loch Doon Castle. 

Built during the late 13th Century, Loch Doon Caslte was besieged, surrendered and re-built throughout history until 1936 when it was re-located from an island in the middle of the loch to the embankment so the level of the loch could be raised via Loch Doon Damn for Hydro Electric purposes.

The castle is an irregular shape, a polygon with 11 sides, and as you can see from my photos below and HERE, there is not that much left of it. 

double doors, originally uploaded by holepunchintheshapeofastar.

 What is left of it, though, looked more like a jungle gym than a castle.  So S and I decided to climb and clamber over it.  A great idea, really.  Especially since it was raining and very windy.  I did not want to climb it in the first place because, even though you can’t really tell from the pictures, it is about 7 feet high in its shortest place.  And I am not.

Long story short is that after S gave me a leg up and I walked about 2 feet around the perimeter I decided that I’d had enough and all that was left was the getting down part.  Easier said than done.  Very much easier said than done. 

S did not have a problem, because at 6’2″ it is not so hard to get down.  But any shelf of rock or outcrop that he could reach was a foot too far down for my legs.  So after five or six Holding On for Dear Life attempts I finally was able to lower myself down with the use of a still-standing door frame.  S stood by me, climbing back up to help me get down more than once.  Sweet, really, if he hadn’t been laughing at me the entire time.

I was filthy and freezing cold by the end of it so we decided notto stop at Turnberry for tea on the way home.

On the way out we stopped so that I could photograph an old burnt-out Land Rover which had been left at the side of the road.  The picture below is my favorite from the set, which can be found HERE.

bent & broken, originally uploaded by holepunchintheshapeofastar.

After stopping off for hot chocolate in Girvan (lovely, and less posh than Turnberry) we headed home.  With a stop at B&Q to get more supplies for the DIY.

On Saturday we’d ripped up the carpet and S had laid down the vinyl tile flooring while I painted the tiles white.  Sunday I painted the walls while S replaced the taps on the bath and sink. 

Which, of course, led to disaster.  And us having to go to his parents’ house a 10pm to have showers because we couldn’t turn the water back on at ours.  It is a long story that involves sawing through copper pipes to remove old taps and then suddenly realizing, at 8:15pm on a Sunday, that we don’t have the part we need to re-connect the copper pipe and that B&Q is closed for the day. 

S says he’s fixed it today and I believe him, but I am remaining pessimistic and psyching myself up to have another shower at the In-Laws’.

Once we finish the family bathroom it only leaves the hallway and the master bedroom en-suite bathroom to re-decorate (renovate, really, because the bathroom needs to be gutted).  For having only lived in the house for just over 6 weeks and having already decorated three bedrooms, one bathroom and the kitchen, I’d say we’ve done pretty good for ourselves!

Next weekend?  The hallway.

Will wonders never cease?

xoA

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Finally…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence.  The colonies of America were sick of paying unfair taxes to a king 3,000 miles away who did not represent them.  They were tired of being repressed and oppressed for their religious beliefs and practices.  They wanted freedom.  They wanted equal rights.  To an end.

 

The hypocrisy of the Declaration of Independence has been a stain on the fabric of America for the past 232 years.  Admittedly that stain has grown less obvious over the past half-century through the work of the Civil Rights Movement but not until November 4th, 2008, did it seem as though that stain was finally removed.

 

America’s Founding Fathers began the United States Constitution with a fervour that is still admirable, to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  With those words they set into motion a series of events to move their country towards a deeper understanding and practice of freedom then they could, at that time, imagine. 

 

Because, of course, they wanted freedom then, and liberty for America, but only so long as it was white, male America.

 

Almost 100 years later people finally caught on.  In 1863 a truly divided America was either fighting for or against a freedom which was only assumed possible because of the ideals of America – that all men really might just be created equal regardless of the color of their skin. 

 

In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln famously proposed the following:

 

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1865, put an end to legal slavery in the United States of America.  It would be almost another 100 years before equal rights were further achieved.

 

And still it is only all “men” who are created equal.

 

In 1893 the first states granted voting rights to women.  In 1919 the Federal Woman’s Suffrage Amendment,  originally written by Susan B Anthony in 1878, is passed in the House of Representatives.  On August 26th 1920 women are granted the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  The road to equal rights is long and seemingly insurmountable.

 

In 1954, 89 years on from the abolishment of slavery, the Supreme Court rules that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.  December 1st 1955 is the epic moment when Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus which ignites a fire underneath the oppressed African American community and their sympathisers. 

 

Riots and protests follow, both black and white hatred grows stronger.  Those voices advocating peace and unity are drowned out by the overwhelming melee.   On August 28th 1963 an unyielding Martin Luther King Jr delivers his infamous speech proclaiming “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”   

 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed by Johnson on July 2nd prohibiting discrimination in voting, education and the use of public facilities.  The federal government now had a way to enforce desegregation. 

 

In 1968 Martin Luther King Jr is shot dead for having the audacity to believe that when the Founding Fathers said equal rights, they meant it.

 

The Civil Rights Movement carried on strongly across the terms of 3 presidents, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson.  To this day people are still being tried and accused of crimes committed against African Americans during these tumultuous years.

 

The road to equal rights is long and seemingly insurmountable.

 

And now it is 2008 and look where we are.  Look how far we’ve come.  A woman made it through to the primaries of a Presidential Election and an African American is going to be the next President of the United States.  It took only 232 years.

 

I know that race is not and never was a big issue for Obama during his campaign (which is astounding in and of itself). I know that equal rights for all peoples in the world are still a very long way off.  I know the economy is failing in countries all over the world and I know that no one is infallible. 

 

But.

 

We have seen many a politician stumble and fall under the unending pressures of Presidency, and I fully understand that I may yet be proven wrong, but I stand behind President-elect Barack Obama.  I stand up for what he believes in.  I stand up for change which is desperately needed and woefully overdue.  Let us persevere with the hope that now, 232 years later, the stain of hypocrisy and prejudice; the walls which have divided the country will fall and allow us to truly become The United States of America.

 

I am 27 years old.  I am a white girl from suburban Ohio who grew up far from the roughness of stricken cities, far from racism and bigotry and far from poverty, but these past 8 years have been a struggle to me.  I have struggled for my National Identity amidst worldwide growing scepticism about American politics and policies.  Now, once again and finally, after many long years I can look people in the eye and say that yes, I am an American.  I am an American.  And after January I can finally begin to feel that the American President represents me, my beliefs and what I stand for. 

 

Yes, we can.  We can change.  As one and as many.  We can change America.  We can change the world.

 

Yes we can.

 

We can change.

 

And now, again and finally, we can hope.

 

xoA

 

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
 
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.  
 
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
 
It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
 
It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.” 

– Barack Obama, the President-elect.

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