Saturday, August 07, 2010

An American Childhood, Annie Dillard

I have been poking away at this book club selection for a couple months.  It's a memoir and I am just not a good memoir reader.  I have two problems reading memoirs:  a) typically, there's not enough story arc (because real life doesn't necessarily work that way) to sustain my interest; and b) as I've mentioned before, I'm not comfortable with the posing.

Annie Dillard is a writer (and artist) who has written more non-fiction than fiction. AAC is Annie Dillard's story of her growing up years, childhood through high school.  It reminded me a bit of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, though DW is fiction and is set earlier than Annie Dillard's life by a couple decades.  Both AAC and DW paint childhood/adolescent years with a respectful and romantic brush.

Annie Dillard descended from some old money families, so her early life included private school, dancing schools, coming out galas, second summer homes.  Her immediate family lived a more middle-class existence, but her grandparents were well-heeled, so that culture trickled down.  Sunday evenings were spent at the country club.  She of course was aware enough to observe the privileges available to her and she was not particularly invested in that world.  She was much more interested in learning, drawing, reading, writing, science, exploring, baseball,  and so forth than in her place in social hierarchy.

Annie Dillard has mad writing skills; she can turn a phrase.  Describing the light that passed occasionally across her bedroom walls at night, after having figured out that it was a car that generated the moving light, but still enjoying the story she could make up about it:
When the low roar drew nigh and the oblong slid in the door, I threw my own switches for pleasure.  It's coming after me; it's a car outside.  It's after me.  It's a car.  It raced over the wall, lighting it blue wherever it ran; it bumped over [sister] Amy's maple headboard in a rush, paused, slithered elongate over the corner, shrank, flew my way, and vanished into itself with a wail.  It was a car.
And I appreciated how far-ranging her interests were in her childhood and the way she incorporates them into her memoir.  Example:
The awesome story of earth's crust's buckling and shifting unfortunately failed to move me in the slightest.  But here was an interesting find.  Only a quirk of chemistry prevented the ground's being a heap of broken rubble.  I hadn't thought of that.  Why isn't it all a heap of broken rubble? For the bedrock fractures and cleaves, notoriously; it uplifts, crumbles, splits, shears, and folds.  All this action naturally shatters the crust.  But it happens that the abundant element silicon is water soluble at high temperatures.  This element heals the scars.  Dissolved silicon seeps everywhere underground and slips into fissures and veins; it fills in, mends, and cement the rubble, over and over, from age to age.  It heals all the thick wounds on the continents' skin and under the oceans; it solidifies as it cools, uplifting, and forms pale veins of scarry quarts running through everything; it dominates the granite bedrock on which we build our cities, the granite interior of mountains and the beds that underlie the plains.
She grew up in Pittsburgh, so she touches on Pittsburgh's steel history.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Wanted: Secretary

Karma the Dog seeks to hire a full-time secretary to support her agility career. Responsibilities include:
  • Maintaining Karma's calendar
  • Keeping memberships and dog registrations current for all sanctioning bodies (NADAC, CPE, AKC, etc) by tracking deadlines for renewals, filling out forms, mailing checks
  • Investigating upcoming events to identify appropriate competition opportunities
  • Docketing due dates for entry registrations and for "move-up" registrations
  • Preparing and submitting competition entry forms within deadlines
  • Storing and being able to find Karma's permanent height cards for each sanctioning body; scan/print the right one to accompany each competition entry
  • Verifying accuracy of and maintaining database of her competition results
  • Staying abreast of competition rules for each sanctioning body
  • Packing her tools and belongings for competition (DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT forget the water dish)
  • Maintaining her website
  • Broiling chicken and cutting the chicken, and lowfat hotdogs, into teeny-tiny pieces for training
  • Ironing her ribbons and polishing her trophies
The successful candidate will be:
  • Crazy
  • Well-organized
  • Dedicated to Karma's successful career and without any other interests or commitments
  • Proficient in Word, Excel, Filemaker Pro, Google Sites, and Adobe Acrobat
  • Type 60 wpm
Salary will be commensurate with experience and will be paid in slobbery doggy kisses.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Either this or I have to buy new pants

I think it'd be a really good thing if it was deemed socially acceptable to call in "fat" to work a few days a year. "I can't come in today; I woke up too fat to fit comfortably in my pants." No one gets anything done when their pants hurt, anyway, so you might as well stay home.

In conjunction with this idea, I'd like to see emergency fat-fighting (EFF) centers that would provide acute weight-control assistance. You wake up heavier than you've ever been, make your call to your workplace to say you won't be in, and then go to the EFF where a professional trainer would put you through an intense workout and send you out for a bike ride and then for a run and then for a swim. A professional chef would serve you low-cal meals. At the end of a day or two or three of this, your pants would fit and you'd return to work.