2020 Reading non-challenge

Read Chart 1

I enjoyed my non-challenge so much last year that I decided to do it again. Rather than trying to read books of specific genres, I’m just reading what interests me at the moment, mainly from my to-be-read bookcase. 

Now for the disappointing news. At this time last year I had already read 22 books; while this year I have only finished 10. I can give you reasons why there are so few. Many of my waking hours were spent following Presidential politics, which turned to almost non-stop coverage of COVID-19 updates. Plus, I had a few false starts, starting books that looked interesting, but couldn’t hold my attention. I may go back to them later in the year. 

Since I am a retiree and am hunkering-down-in-place, I’m finding more time to read, so I hope to get a few more books under my belt read. But who knows. Yard work will soon be calling.

The Colors of Spring, an N-N-1 experience.

This picture and words came from Natalie at Wild Rivers Run South .

A very small section of Grandma & Grandpa’s library

Grandma and Grandpa have a wonderful library.

I think they have every book they ever bought,

And some of my aunts’ and uncles’ as well.

It is an added benefit of living with them.

 

I can read what they read when they were my age.

Literature, science, biography, mysteries and more.

I see what influences they have had up ‘til today.

I know why they are like they are with me.

 

And they talk to me about life today,

With all of the problems in the world,

And how they see things. They say,

“It is Spring today. We can renew our hope.”

I love them so much.

Lauren, in Valencia, sent this to us. My hope is that she will start her own blog, or at least continue to participate.

Laurencian Tales -Lockdown in Valencia.

My frying pan now lives on my balcony, and brings me hope.  Just over one week ago, on the 13th of March 2020, Spain declared a state of ‘Lockdown’ in response to the Coronavirus epidemic.  Overnight, an entire nation was asked and obliged by law to change their lives, to stay indoors or “quedarse en casa”, for the greater good.  The streets are now deserted, shutters are down, and the city has been put to sleep.  Not even a walk in the park is allowed. Going to the supermarket (the one thing we are allowed to do) feels like a dangerous and depressing mission that you should avoid.  Our lives are now “en casa”, and I appreciate more than ever the freedom we had before. 

But every day at 8pm (and sometimes more often), there’s a powerful symbol of hope.  The whole city, and country, head out onto their balconies to applaud the inspirational health workers, who are devoting everything they have to fight this epidemic.  We clap, cheer, sing, play music and bang our pans together in admiration and appreciation.  Banging these pans has become a form of communication, unity and of supporting one and other through this difficult time.  And every day when I hear that sound, I know I am not alone.  We are in isolation, but we are together. And despite being under Lockdown, from my balcony this week I have witnessed the Valencian spirit blossom and shine in a way that I never imagined.  

My dear friend cupitonians sent me this beautiful picture from England. She can be found at This Labyrinth I Roam.

River Aire, Leeds. Even with social distancing limits, I found this view right near my new house.

The first day of Spring was meant to be the symbolic start to a new phase of my life, especially after the stress of the last few years, and the write-off that was 2019. But it seems the universe has other plans for us. As well as teaching us to celebrate the little things, it’s a reminder to stop waiting on a magical time when everything is perfect so you can finally go after what you really want. Pandemic or not, the skies are still blue, and the rivers still run wild. Trees that imagined their lives were over are suddenly budding with the promise of new life. Life is a cycle. No matter how hard it gets, there’s comfort in its predictability. And so, we live to fight another day!

And finally there is my contribution:

Spring is here!

Like the other participants, I took my photo on March 19th, which was the first day of Spring (also known as the vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere. And so I went out looking for a sign that Spring had sprung. Oh, I could have taken a picture of the daffodils and tulips that had popped up through the earth in our front yard, but I think that I have done that before. Instead, I went out into the country, alone, ensconced in my auto, searching for the first sign of greenery.You can look at the picture above to see how that turned out. It was a dreary day. Sorry this photo isn’t more upbeat.

 

N-N-1 call out Spring 2020

Sherlock? Is that you?

I wasn’t looking for Sherlock Holmes when I went to the library the other day, but…

***

About a week ago I noticed that our daffodils had poked through the soil to gather some sunlight. It was a sure sign that Spring is almost here. In honor of that event, I feel that it is time to have another N-N-1 collaborative event. For those who don’t know what N-N-1 is, let me attempt a brief explanation.

N-N-1 is an event where a group of people from various parts of the world take a picture at a specific time, write briefly about the picture, and share their photos and words in one post on one blog. This time around we will be taking a picture on the March 19th, the vernal equinox. Of course, if you live or find yourself in the southern hemisphere on that day, it will be the autumnal equinox. 

Everybody is welcome to join in. If you or any of your friends or family would like to take part, just take your picture, write briefly about the picture (prose or poetry), and send it to me at houseman@comcast.net no later than March 22nd. I’ll compile everything and post it on this blog, Classical Gasbag. If you have a blog, include a link to it so that I can add it to my text.

If you have any questions you can send me an email and I’ll do my best to answer them. Feel free to post this call out so that others are aware. Thanks!

My 2019 Reading non-Challenge Final Update

I quite liked this year of reading without specific goals as to type of content. While I drought periods of reading this year, I was still able to read 65 books. Below are the final fifteen that I read this year. You’ll probably notice the typo in the title of number 64. It should read Song of Blood & Stone.

51 through 65

If you are interested in the entire list, you can find the first 25 here and the second 25 here.

Included in my complete list are two excellent works of non-fiction, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham, and Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. There are a few graphic novels and many spy thrillers. I also re-read the first two novels of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian Quartet, Justine and Balthazar. I plan on reading the final two this year. There were only a few books that I was disappointed in. They have already been donated to our county library.

If you read my first post (see the link above) you remember that I called this a non-challenge because in past years I limited myself to specific categories of books and had trouble meeting the challenge. This year I read what appealed to me when I felt like it.  As a result I read about three times the number I read last year; enjoying the experience more and clearing room on my TBR bookcase. I plan on doing the same this year.

Oh, and among the books I read in 2019 were enough to meet the challenge if I had gone ahead with it.

If I had challenged myself

Happy reading in 2020!

This is why I haven’t been writing…I think.

Birds on a wire

I took this picture from our car window (Cindy was driving). And when I saw the birds I immediately thought of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire. Yes, I know there is more than one bird up there, but I thought of the song rather than Hitchcock’s bloody film.

***

If you have been reading this blog with any regularity, you know that I haven’t posted anything truly original in long time, which makes it difficult to read with regularity. But if you had read it in the past you probably noticed that I have attempted to keep my posts somewhat lighthearted. Sometimes I fail, and that bothers me.

It is difficult for me to find the humor in events around me when there is so little humor or good cheer in current events. Yes, the late night comics can me me smile, but the underlying events are too somber. I can’t sustain an upbeat mood. When I’m not upbeat I cannot write worth damn.

I have at least half a dozen posts that I’ve started but haven’t been able to finish. I started one of them two years ago and haven’t been able to frame it properly. I know that I’ve scrapped it and restarted it at least four times. Others I’ve started, gotten about half way through, but have been unable to finish. 

Today or tomorrow the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on articles of impeachment for President Trump. No matter how you feel about his possible impeachment, it is not a day to be happy. I find that this is just one drop in an overflowing bucket of sadness. School shootings have become common; environmental change proceeds with little or nothing being done to halt the damage; hate crimes are on the rise; and these are just a few of the problems we are facing. 

These topics make me angry. So until I can find a way to address these issues with balance, I won’t be writing much. Oh, I’ll occasionally post about non-controversial things like my reading non-challenge, or N-N-1 (anybody want to volunteer to host it?), but nothing heavy. I just can’t do it.

And that’s the reason I haven’t been writing, and I shan’t be writing much in the foreseeable future.

My 2019 Reading non-Challenge Update #2

The second 25

As you can see, the pace of my reading has slowed down. That happens every July and August. Blame it on the occasional good weather we have had.

In this group of books I read a non-fiction book which is the best I’ve read in a very long time, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. I highly recommend this book.

I also re-read Justine by Lawrence Durrell. It is the first book in his Alexandrian Quartet. I first read the quartet in the early 1970’s, shortly after I was released by the army. Each time I re-read it I once again fall in love with the language. I hope to read at least one more of theQuartet before the end of the year.

I had the biography of Thelonius Monk on my bookshelf for a number of years. Finally other things didn’t get in my way, and I read it. I wish I could have gotten to it earlier. I caused me to go on to a listening binge of his music. If you are one of those people who disparage jazz, I can only shrug my shoulders in wonderment.

I hope you’ve had a good summer. Now on to my autumn reading.

An uplifting dream

Is that the mailman?

This is a picture from the last time we doggy-sat Macon. He is staring out of the picture window, trying to decide if what he sees is bark worthy. It was.

***

I had a strange dream late last night, or perhaps it was early this morning. It’s hard to tell what time it flickered in my mind. I just know that it was unlike any other dream that I can remember having. This is the way it went:

I was part of a crew working in a high school setting up a computer lab. Not only were we working on the computers, we were also painting the room black. Definitely a bold color choice. Our work crew was mostly young Hispanic immigrants. Being an old white guy, I’m not sure how I was able to get the job. But I enjoyed working as part of the team.

While we were working the door burst open and a Kiss tribute band came into the room. Here is an unbelievable part: The band was not only in full makeup, but they were also on stilts. They struck a wild chord and shouted, “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!” They went on, “OUR LORD, JESUS, DOESN’T WANT YOU HERE!” They advanced menacingly.

While most of our crew cowered in fear, a Hispanic girl in her teens stepped forward and kicked the stilts out from under one of the band. She was inspiring.

I found the courage to step forward and start preaching to the band about how un-Christ like they were being. I don’t remember any of my exact language, but it must have been a moving oration because the band was humbled and deeply ashamed. It was like the ending of many movies where the townspeople slink away, chagrined, when they realize how wrong they have been about…well, somebody. 

Now, I am not a religious person, nor do I have any spiritual leanings; but I know it is usually pretty easy to lay a guilt trip on another person. My mother taught me.