Monday, November 12, 2007


We went to Alcudia, a city at the northern tip of the island of Mallorca tow Sundays ago. It's a beautiful old Roman city. In the picture you can see a section of the old city wall. The narrow streets are mostly of Spanish architecture, with buildings ranging from the modern to the pre-gothic.
On Sundays, there's an open market where they sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to clothes. After a stroll through the market, we went for a walk along the beach. It was a warm sunny day and the sea was a smooth as glass. There was a light breeze and further out in the bay, people were out boating. While the water is too cold to swim in, it is still warm enough to take off your shoes and wade in the water on the shore. At this time of year, there are virtually no tourists. Those that are there tend to be retirees from England and Germany. During the summer, this beach would be packed with tourists, windsurfers, kite surfers and boaters.

We then took a stroll along a back country road to see the old Roman ruins of Polentia. Here is a picture of the girls along a country road and another of the Roman ruins. After visitng the riuns, we walked back into Alcudia and had lunch at a pizzeria on one of Alcudia's smaller plazas. After lunch, we hit the playground and headed home for a nap and to play with the girls at the Huerto (orchard) where we live. A brilliant day, all in all!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thoughts on George Saunders' books

I’ve read several for George Saunders’ books by now. I started reading Saunders because he was touted by critics and book reviewers as being funny, absurdist and dark. He’s all those things. Certain themes come up over and over in his short stories. One is the themed microcosm. In “Civil War Land In Bad Decline,” which I’m reading now, there is a civil war theme park. The park is being vandalized by gangs. The solution is hiring an employee to be a sniper and shot the gang members. Another story is of a medieval village. In this story, some plague has hit the country and a section of the populace, flawed by one characteristic or another, becomes second class citizens. These flawed people make up the staff/actors in the village. They are relatively well off in the village, but live under the constant threat of being expelled and sent out into the “real world.” It’s not clear which is better. This brings up questions about euthanasia. Do you prefer to live a live of relative comfort, knowing it to be a mirage, or live a much more difficult one, a shabbier one, let’s say, but know that its “real”? This is the question the movie “The Matrix” explores.

In “In Persuasion Nation,” the first story is about a group of people who live in a controlled environment testing products for marketing. In each case, the protagonist is seeking a better life, often expecting that being out in the real world, however tough, has got to be better than where he or she is.

The characters in these stories have to be in character for their theme park or act as expected in their microcosm. The public who comes to see them are almost always portrayed as boorish or worse. Most of the characters co-workers are miserable people too, often mocking the protagonist.

In virtually every story that runs along these themed microcosm plots, the protagonist is concerned about the employee evaluation form. The protagonist, in each story, is just getting by, and afraid of losing his or her job. They often do, at the end, for better or worse. Every protagonist is down on their luck and over time, it makes for some pretty depressing reading. In most stories, the job and some part tragedy, such as losing a loved one, or having a love relationship go sour, seems to be what defines the character.

I sense that Saunders could be comic on other plains. I will continue to read his books; I still love the absurdism in his books, the way the bizarre microcosm seems to exist as part of the real world. I wish that he’d explore mining a new vein of plots though.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Excerpt from "A Hsitory of Love" by Nicole Krauss

My mom sent me this excerpt below which resonated with me: “Feelings are not as old as time” from The History of Love, Nicole Krauss. It's particularly poignant, in my mind, when the author talks about how surprise comes from a deviation from the feelings we already know. It's also interesting how we are addicted to feelings, ever seeking to feel greater happiness (and sorrow). It's also interesting how art came into being. Finally, it's hopeful in that there are new feelings to be experienced.

Feelings are not as old as time. Just as there was a first instant when someone rubbed two sticks together to make a spark, there was a first time joy was felt, and a first time for sadness. For a while, new feelings were being invented all the time. Desire was born early, as was regret. When stubbornness was felt for the first time, it stared a chain reaction, creating a felling of resentment on the one hand, and alienation and loneliness on the other. IT might have been a certain counterclockwise movement of the hips that marked the birth of ecstasy, a bolt of lightning that caused the first feeling of awe. Or maybe it was the body of a girl named Alma. Contrary to logic, the feeling of surprise wasn’t born immediately. It only came after people had enough time to get used to things as they were. And when enough time had passed, someone felt the first feeling of surprise, someone, somewhere else, felt the first pang of nostalgia.
It’s also true that people felt things and because there was no word for them, they were unmentioned. The oldest emotion in the world may be that of being moved; but to describe it- just to name it- must have been like trying to catch something invisible.
(The again, the oldest feeling in the world might simply have been confusion.)
Having begun to feel, people’s desire to feel grew. They wanted to feel more, feel deeper, despite how much it sometimes hurt. People became addicted to feeling. They struggled to uncover new emotions. It’s possible that this is how art was born. New kinds of joy were forged, along with new kinds of sadness: The eternal disappointment of life as it is; the relief of unexpected reprieve, the fear of dying.
Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist. There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.