12 April 2014

Weekend wisdom from Eddy

 I am in upstate New York this week, but Eddy has something rather nice to pass along:

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.

~Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being

08 April 2014

Random thoughts

This pheasant at a local game farm looked strangely familiar, and I just figured out why.

A tree shaped like T. Rex! I sometimes park in front of this when I go to classes.

Did you know that the word "does" is spelled the same as the word "does?" And also "doughs" sounds like "does" and "duhs" sounds like "does?" The other door just said "bucks" which did not result in such a long and confusing train of thought.

01 April 2014

новорожденных Kerry Bliss

Usually you have to be a zillionaire to get a hospital wing, a football stadium, or a library named after you. If you aren't fabulously wealthy you have to wait until you die, and then maybe you get a city park, or perhaps a street done up in your name, but only if you've been very very good.

It's a rose. Not many peonies here in Oregon.

But let's say you have a choice in the matter. I wouldn't mind a flower, maybe a peony, white with pink edges. A bridge would be great, but it would have to be extremely small, because little bridges are the best, and also because you have to be quite important to get a big bridge in your name.  Let's say the military needs a name for something; like, you know, they name their weapons after people...Howitzers and Sherman tanks and so forth. They could name a parachute after me and I would be happy. Not a gun though.

A small room in a big library would be nice, but the single window would have to have panes in it, and a cushioned window seat for lounging.

Anyway. Those are all daydreams. Shockingly, my son tells me that something has actually been named after me:

Yeah. A freakin' Russian doll-thing. Or whatever that is it's wearing. See for yourself:


I'm the mom. I should have been googling his name, the youngest son. Looking him up on Google images, seeing what he's up to. Instead he was googling my name, ostensibly giving his girlfriend a preview before she has to meet me in two weeks. So, I wonder what she thought.

Конверт для новорожденных Kerry Bliss - отзывы

I bet she really really can't wait to meet me now.

I do get 4 1/2 stars on a Russian "Target" website though. Not bad. You better google yourself and see how you're doing.

29 March 2014

Weekend wisdom from Eddy

From the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra:

Look lovingly at some object. Do not go to another object. Here in the middle of the object—the blessing.

28 March 2014

Cephalopod Coffeehouse book review: Skios

farce  /färs/:  
a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations. (Google definition)

This month I read Skios, a farcical novel by British author/playwrite Michael Frayn. It's not a book for everybody. Don't attempt this one if you:

1. always avoid sitcoms, even Seinfeld.
2. want deeply-drawn characters.
3. believe plot twists should be plausible.
4. are reading in a waiting room and don't wish to wreck the somber atmosphere by laughing out loud.
5. never walked off a plane in a foreign airport tired and dazed, wishing someone was holding a sign with your name on it.

After the hapless con man, Oliver Fox, sets off a chain of events beginning at a small Greek airport Skios careens into slapstick, coincidence, and silliness.  It makes fun of pretentious academicians, wealthy patrons, a young career woman and her bff, Greek taxi drivers, a writer at a retreat...let's see, did I forget anyone?  It was very funny, but easier to take in small amounts: reading for 15 minutes at a time was plenty. Then I found myself switching to serious nonfiction (The Presidents' Club to be exact.) Back and forth, serious, silly, serious, silly. This strategy helped me through both books.

My favorite parts of Skios were when the reader is taken inside the thoughts of Oliver Fox as he pretends to be Dr. Norman Wilfred:

In some ways he was more Dr. Norman Wilfred than he had ever been Oliver Fox. He had had many negative feelings about his old persona; he had none at all about his new one. He enjoyed his distinction and importance. He was proud of his achievements, whatever they were. He felt as if he had moved into a spacious new house, where there was room for extra furniture and new pictures on the walls, where there were roomy attics and cellars in which the unwanted lumber of the past could be dumped. It was what the real estate agents called an imposing residence, and living in it was a perpetual adventure, a challenge that brought out the best in him.

The closest things I've ever read to Skios are the silly side plots, coincidences, and mix-ups that lighten so many of Shakespeare's works. Most fiction avoids using buffoonery as a device, a sort of foil set against darker themes. The conclusion of Skios is a scene that seems like it could have been concocted by middle school boys, but you know what? I forgive Michael Frayn for that, and thank him for the good time I had reading this book, implausible as it all was. Sometimes you just gotta go along for the ride and enjoy it. Kind of like Oliver Fox himself:

Well, he would work it out for himself as he went along, he wouldn't be able to stop himself. Sadly. Because for the moment he was a living metaphor of the human condition. He knew not whence he came not whither he was bound, nor what manner of man he was, nor why he was here at all. He was being taken somewhere for some purpose, but of what that purpose was he remained in innocent ignorance.

For more book reviews, visit The Armchair Squid.

27 March 2014

The courthouse

Friday Shoot-Out's assignment this week is to photograph the oldest building in your town. I'm not sure what that is for my town, so I went to the most obvious: the courthouse. Built in 1888, this is the oldest courthouse still used for its original purpose in Oregon.

Appearing on the city logo, it's an iconic image for Corvallis, a town of 50,000.

The 19th century architect described his design as "an Italian villa with a military influence." What was he thinking? There were so few Italians here, and almost no military at the time. Oh well, it is a pretty neat old building.

Here we go up the front steps.

And under the carved stone face that is just over the entrance.

As you step into the building the first thing you notice is how much wood there is.

There were no proceedings on the day I visited, so the benches were all empty.

My favorite room was this small chamber for the circuit court. These days the circuit court meets in a larger room and this one is used for jury deliberations. It also houses some cool old stuff.

I love this typewriter.

And these well-used chairs.

Time to head out. That white postal-style box that you see is a ballot box. Oregon has a mail-in voting system, but if you're a last-minute voter you must drop off your ballot to make the deadline.

And that, y'all, is our little courthouse.

For more pics of historic buildings in other parts of the world, go to Friday My Town Shoot-Out.