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February 24, 2012

Elizabeth George

I have been reading Elizabeth George since she wrote her first novel in 1988, "A Great Deliverance," introducing Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton and an Inspector with Scotland Yard. Along with his Detective Sargeant, Barbara Havers, we have traveled all over the English countryside together solving crimes and becoming friends. I have her 17th and newest mystery, "Believing the Lie," sitting upstairs next to my bed to be read after I finish the newest Sara Paretsky.

We had a falling out in 2005 when she decided to kill off Helen who had been wooed, won, and married in the novels during the previous 17 years. To make it worse, she was pregnant with Lynley and her first child. And, to make it really bad, she was simply standing on her doorstep when some idiot came along and shot her. It was out of the blue. It was violent. It was totally unexpected, and it was a mean thing to do to her readers.

Now, I do believe that since Helen was in George's imagination, she should have the right to do what she wishes with her characters. But, it was what she did to her readers that I totally disagreed with. We really liked Helen because George made sure that we liked Helen. She was part of our imagination, too. And, I have been gratified by the fact that many of my friends were angry with George and, after listening to literary podcasts, I'm convinced that many, many people in the literary world thinks she made a huge mistake.

After she killed Helen off, she wrote a book entitled, "What Came Before He Shot Her," which I refused to read. But, I have picked up the sagas in the next few books mostly to follow poor Lynley as he wanders, broken, through the countryside (and solves a few mysteries on his walkabout). But, I'm still mad.

Which brings me to the fact that George chose her 8th novel to be the Whatcom Reads book of the year where all of Whatcom county (bookgroups and individuals) read the same book and the author gives lectures and book talks all over the area. Last night she spoke to a large audience at Whatcom Community College and, of course, during question time someone asked her why she killed Helen. George is a smart and sometimes humorous speaker, so she went into this long, drawn out explanation about how she thought the character was expendable because, after all, what can you do with a baby in a mystery novel and their marriage wasn't going anywhere, and blah, blah, blah. She got lots of laughs about explaining what she could write about babies and diapers and spitup, etc. But, it all sounded like a excuse she had made up to cover her error.

I don't think she'll ever live it down. I know I won't ever forgive her (well, just enough to keep reading). I still think she was dead wrong. I just finished reading Henning Mankell's final Kurt Wallender mystery and he does a masterful job of taking Kurt into old age and having him solve his final crime. I haven't been following Wallender over the years, but I did appreciate how he closed off the character for his fans. Authors have a responsibility to their readers. They simply cannot take several volumes to insinuate their characters into your mind and then cut them out with an assassin. There is enough of that kind of thing in real life, and when that kind of gratuitous violence happens on a favorite television series, I immediately cease watching that show. When L.A. Law threw Roz down the elevator shaft, I never watched again.

After all, I read and watch television for pleasure!

Of course, that could be a whole new blog post!

Posted by Marilyn at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

I Work for Free!

I'm working for Skagit College for virtually nothing at the moment. I was asked to teach the hybrid (1/2 in the classroom, 1/2 online) Child Development class again (it didn't go last year for lack of students which is another story), and I said yes before I found out that they have moved from Blackboard to something called Moodle for their online classes. I have no idea who named it Moodle which sounds more like something you would eat than teach. I could understand Module or Modern or Master, but Moodle????

In any case, the good news is that they had recovered my old materials from Blackboard and the bad news is that I'm going through many training videos to learn how to manipulate those same materials in this new platform. It isn't rocket science, but it is slow and methodical.

To make matters worse, I find that the person teaching the Child Development class before mine, has been teaching part of my curriculum which explains why the last time I taught the class, students complained about overlap. Not all my students take the first class, so I guess I'll just have to make do the best I can. She has been nice enough to let me lurk in her class online so I can see how she uses the program. And, to be fair, my class is an unusual one for the community college. About five years ago, it got tucked into some odd place in the catalog in a section reserved for aids in the classroom who need to work on a paraprofessional credential. Since that time, I've lost the four year students who used to take it before they went on to Central or Eastern. I don't think they even know it is available at the community college since it is normally an upper division class.

All this said, I look out of the window and it is drizzly and dreary today so what else do I have to do? However, being an adjunct instructor means that I always have to stand, walk around, and calculate the size of the horse before climbing back on. Once I start riding, it will all come back to me. Once I have my email set up again, the course all organized on Moodle!!! and students in my classroom, I can ride into the sunset happy as a clam.

Posted by Marilyn at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2012

It Might As Well Be Spring

I must have spring fever because I'm organizing up a storm. After finishing my mystery cataloguing, I have gone through about 50 CD's that Don left behind. They are mostly backups off his previous computers. I've glanced through them before, but this time I went through and put aside those that archive pictures from church and those that have family pictures on them. Most of the other stuff besides photos, I can't open because I don't have the requisite programs. I'm going to work to put the church photos on just a few disks (since there is quite a bit of overlap) and put them at church. I find it easier to pitch stuff this many years after Don's death.

I have also been going through some old tapes of sermons and other events to keep those that the family might want and throw away things that are not of interest to anyone. Yesterday I listened to a sermon on patriotism that Don preached in his early Bellingham days. I smiled at the few sentences that were simply out of date. He always said that sermons were to be listened to in the moment and would agree that old sermons don't always stand the test of time. He didn't like to be judged by his past sermons. Once he had to send a tape to a pulpit committee, and he agonized over it because it was not fresh and new. Heck, if he wrote a sermon at the beginning of the week, he'd have it rewritten by the next Sunday. I was still moved by the sermon. The theme of being a citizen of the earth, cherishing and taking care of our planet and all those who inhabit it, instead of spending so much money defending our little piece of earth from our supposed enemies who are also God's children was still fresh. I don't know what he would make of our recent political warfare. Well, actually, I do. And, to think, we used to be Republicans and both of us came from staunch Republican families who, I'd like to think, are probably now turning in their graves at the recent state of the party.

I've been going through old magazines and forcing myself to throw all those neat ideas in the trash can. I invited our old friends, Gordon and Molly Verplank, to come down from Canada for church and a Sunday luncheon. Gordon was the pastor of our neighborhood Presbyterian church when we first came to town. Then, he and his wife separated and he moved to Canada, met Molly (also a pastor) and they have both recently retired. It was nice to see them.

Now I'm into organizing a curriculum for a three session parenting class for church and learning something called Moodle for my Skagit class in the spring. Unfortunately, I said I would teach the class again before anyone told me that Skagit has left Blackboard for a whole new platform. Now, I have to learn how to navigate Moodle. However, they did save all the curriculum from my old class and can reload it. I had hard copies, but it is nice to know I don't have to put everything in by hand.

It's dreary today, and it was dreary yesterday. I tried to walk but the damp and cold bothered my knee so I just got halfway around the park before I returned to my car. I'm meeting a friend for lunch, and I had a nice Valentine call from my lovely daughter, Jeni. Life is busy, and life is good.

I'm off to organize some more. I love to organize. Happy Valentine's Day!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:31 AM | Comments (2)

February 9, 2012

I Did It!

Last night I finished cataloguing my entire mystery library -- all 1200 books according to author and series. I used two sources. The first is Delicious Library which has a handy scanner for books that have ISBN numbers. Unfortunately, it does not take kindly to paperbacks as well as hardcopies. I usually had to enter those ISBN numbers by hand. But, then, up popped all the relevant data. The categories on Delicious Library had to be tweaked a bit to get them to record the data that I wanted to remember. Unfortunately, since I began collecting in the late 50's, many books did not have ISBN's so I had to enter everything by hand.

Second, I used a web site that I have gone to forever called, "Stop, You're Killing Me." It is a wonderful anthology of all mystery writers by alphabetical order. You can also look up characters (ie. Poirot) by alphabetical order and it gives you the author and books where they appear. Over the years, I (as well as other mystery fans) have added to their data base which is how they have become so comprehensive. I was pleased to add two new authors from my collection that they were missing. They didn't have Martin's friend, J.J. Hendersen or Bellingham author Linda Mariz. I would print out author pages for each of the writers I collect and check those against my collection to see what books I was missing.

Sadly, I lent books out over the years and didn't keep track of them. I still have some collections intact such as Ngaio Marsh, Christie, Dorothy Sayers because I rarely lend those. But, doggone it! Who borrowed the first Maisie Dobbs? I have all the rest, but my favorite volume is gone. OK, so next came my list. I made a complete list of all the things I'm missing so I can carry it around to used book sales (which is one way I originally built my library) and try to fill in the holes.

I don't have a clue why I am doing this. I don't think the library is actually worth much. I know that first editions are rarely worth anything these days if they are in the popular genre. Oh, I may have a few hardbounds that would bring a few bucks. But, I don't have anything really wonderful like a leather bound first British edition of Dorothy Sayers. Most of my complete collections are a hybrid group of volumes I picked up here and there. I love some of the old paperbacks that were printed in England in the 60's. The pages are golden and they are so fragile. I treasure the vintage art and the muted colors.

I will probably never ever go back and read the majority of books. Over the next years, I'll keep giving some of the lesser authors away. But, for now, I like to be surrounded by 50 years of reading pleasure. Many of these authors are very old friends. I have followed the characters throughout their series as closely as I have followed the lives of some of my acquaintances. I grieved for the loss of Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion, Roderick Alleyn, and dear old Maigret. I railed at Elizabeth George for killing off Helen. But, I thank these talented authors for hours and hours and hours of reading pleasure. And, I am thrilled that I can also look forward to many more hours with Monk and the Pitts, Inspector Montalbano, good old Rutledge, silly Stephanie Plum, and the wonderful Mailsie Dobbs!

A reading life is a good life indeed!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)

February 2, 2012

Raindrops on Roses...

I was walking around the house singing "My Favorite Things" which got me to thinking what are my favorite things? Certainly raindrops on roses would be lovely to include but I'm not sure whiskers on kittens makes my list. Warm woolen mittens are also lovely, but I didn't grow up with mittens in California and I don't wear them now. I'm thinking they might be cozier than my leather gloves however. I certainly do love packages tied up with string but i don't dream of them when I'm feeling glum. So what, Marilyn, are your favorite things?

Ice cream is one. I absolutely love ice cream. I am addicted to ice cream and when Katie buys ice cream and then leaves on Wednesday to go back to Seattle, I always have to replace it before she returns because I cannot, simply cannot, avoid eating the rest every evening, even when she buys her favorite mint chocolate, and I am not crazy about mint. There is something about her mint chocolate that I like. Maybe it is because it is the only flavor around.

Of course, good black British tea is my favorite drink. I'm also addicted to Diet Cola but I try not to drink it because I imagine what it is doing to my insides. I love chocolate chip cookies. I must not have these in the house, in the freezer, or anywhere else because I will definitely eat them all up. I absolutely do not eat dough -- they have to be baked. But, they are so delicious!

Of course, food is not the only category on my favorite list. My favorite physical experience is nuzzling the nape of a small grandchild's neck. My favorite activity is strolling over the water at Boulevard Park listening to podcasts. My favorite restaurant is a no brainer - Abbey Garden Tea Room. My favorite outfit is jeans and a white t-shirt. My favorite hymn is "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go." My favorite book has always been "34 Charing Cross Road," although there are lots that would vie for the top choice. My favorite color is blue and my favorite number is 3.

Once you get started, you cannot stop. Your mind flits back and forth to all the wonderful things you love to do, the things you love to eat, the experiences you crave over and over, the beauty that makes life worth living. Of course, there's not enough room in a blog to name all your favorite and special friends and you could go on forever about what makes each of your children and grandchildren so very, very special.

The idea of the song, however, is how thinking about these things can change your outlook, make the sadness disappear and bring out the sun on a dreary day. I wonder why I don't think about chocolate chip cookies when I am in the middle of feeling sorry for myself? Why thinking about kissing Lionel's sweet neck does not take precedent over staying up half the night mulling over something that has annoyed me. Why do we sometimes wallow in negativity when our lives are so filled with things that we absolutely love to death? We humans are such queer creatures. Nature or nurture? Did I get all my anxiety from my upbringing or am I just programmed to worry? Isn't that what original sin is all about? We have within us the ability to dwell on the dark side or the ability to walk towards the light.

Who knew that such a silly and fun little song could evoke such philosophical musings? I'm going to close up this computer and go get a cup of tea.

Somedays the park in my favorite park is just magnificent!

Posted by Marilyn at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)