Ice Skating to Classic Literature – Friday Thoughts

Medvedeva’s Anna Karenina, from an earlier competition.

I don’t usually watch a lot of TV, but that changes as soon as the Winter Olympics comes around.  It feels like the world is just a little (tiny) bit saner when the Olympics goes well, and, of course, I get a thrill out of watching skiing, snowboarding, and bobsledding, which are all pretty close to flying.

But figure skating has that extra special piece to it – the story.  This evening we watched the intense, final showdown between the top two skaters, both hailing from Russia and studying under the same coach.  Oh – and they both skated to music with a classic literature connection!  Alina Zagitova, who won gold, skated to the ballet based on Don Quixote, by composer Leon Minkus.  Evgenia Medvedeva came in a very close second place with her performance to the Anna Karenina soundtrack by Dario Marianelli.  [Marianelli is more famous for his Pride & Prejudice (2005) score.]  

There were other skaters with bookish programs, too – Cinderella and The Phantom of the Opera, to name a couple.  Needless to say, classic lit was well represented at the Olympics. 🙂

Though not from a classic book, this program was one I wanted to share.  It’s Kaori Sakamoto, skating to music from the French movie Amélie.  I haven’t watched it, but it’s lovely to see the creative and whimsical story she’s telling through her skating.  This is from an earlier competition (YouTube is pretty strict about Olympics clips):
 

Friday Thoughts: Things I Do When I’m Not Reading

(What I really need to do: go outside.)

For better or worse, I’m one of those people that doesn’t procrastinate much on things I have to do – work, chores, running errands – but when the end of the day comes around, very often I don’t feel like doing what I really want to do (deep down): that is, improve my mind with reading.  My brain says it’s too tired to be improved and deserves a break.  I don’t really buy it, but I usually end up doing something else anyway, such as:

  • Play solitaire.  Currently obsessed with Scorpion.
  • Watch YouTube videos (sometimes while playing Scorpion.)
  • Watch a TV show with the family.
  • Find more books to read, on Goodreads (ha ha).
  • “Window shop” online.  (And occasional real shopping.)
  • Work from home.  Those pesky emails…
  • Take a nap. 

I have, at various times, experimented with a more rigorous schedule.  Last January (2017), I made myself do a lot of study reading, which was nice in retrospect but a bit wearisome at the time.  Nanowrimo 2016 saw me give up all my spare time – and I mean very nearly all – to building my own story, which was a great experience (it worked!) but not something I’ve whole-heartedly committed to since then.  

Right now I’m trying to find a good balance between “assigning” time to read and keeping reading fun.  Part of that is just including fun books to read in between more weighty fare.  Last night I started Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night and could hardly put it down, so maybe that will pull me away from the screen for a while.

Friday Thoughts: Do You Write in Books?

Sneak-peek at an upcoming review…

Recently I found these wonderful page/line markers at the local Daiso.  For those unfamiliar with Daiso, it’s a Japanese $1.50 store (only in a few U.S. states, unfortunately).  They’re just the right amount of sticky to be reusable but not damaging to paper.  I’ve found these work great for marking lines in a book that I want to return to later.

This method of line-marking has been my habit for quite a few years now, but sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out on something by being so careful.  Is it important to keep books looking pristine, or is part of the reading experience lost by not writing notes in books?

When I was a kid, I grew up on library books and family books, so being careful was ingrained in me.  I remember one particular horror story (to my perceptions, anyway) of my mom lending a book to someone and the book being returned in, shall we say, lesser condition.  I really intended all my own books to last forever, including paperbacks, and I was going to do all I could to avoid harm coming to them.  Even cheap, secondhand books I treated gingerly, as if to make up for the hardships they’d gone through…  I viewed highlighting and dog-earing and annotating as the height of “book cruelty,” because it meant someone else couldn’t read the same book without those things getting in the way.  (It never occurred to me some people actually enjoy reading other people’s notes, which I’ve since learned via the internet.)

Reading Jules Verne’s An Antarctic Mystery on the NOOK.

The coming of e-readers certainly changed the way I read.  I got my NOOK Simple Touch as a high school graduation gift, and from then on I found a new and liberating world of note-taking that didn’t damage any paper and could be easily erased.  More surprisingly, I found I had a lot to say, and it was quick to type down anything that came to mind as I read (including random gut reactions).  To this day, I love e-readers and tablets for reading, and I have grown used to the capability of highlighting and adding notes.

My mini note-taking notebook (any guesses what store this is from?).

Circling back to hard copies – I am starting to have second thoughts about writing in books. I have a little notebook which I have tried to use for note-taking when not using an e-reader.  It works, but to be completely honest, I’m usually too lazy to carry around two books, even if one of them is very small. Maybe I just need to make some concerted effort to do that.  Or, maybe I should just get a light pencil and start annotating.  I have the budget for replacement copies, so the only thing to prevent me from writing in books now is my aversion to it.

Fellow book readers and reviewers, what are your thoughts on this?  Do you “personalize” your books by jotting down thoughts and highlighting quotes in them, or are you like me, paranoid of your paperbacks becoming anything but well-preserved and speckless?  Maybe one of you can change my mind, or reinforce my existing feelings.  😉

Friday Thoughts: Building Bridges with Books

If you’re reading this, it’s probably Saturday already.  Being on the West Coast, I have a couple of hours of Friday left, so… “Friday Thoughts” it is.

There has been so much sad news lately.  The Puget Sound area lost a police officer last week, and this week was his memorial.  Through my job, I help and have met many emergency responders, so the loss feels personal.  There’s also the fatalities of the flu season…I can’t help but worry for the health of my family and friends.  Even the Hawaiian “missile alert” last Saturday was sobering (though joked about), because people believed it.  As usual, I’m very excited for the Winter Olympics – it’s one of my favorite TV events – but I’m also uneasy; is something political going to happen, like last time?

To combat these morbid thoughts, I’m striving to appreciate what I have right now and not get hung up on trivialities.

One thing I want very much to do is maintain the bridges in my life, whether that’s online or in person, at work or in free time, with hobbies or with people.  If there’s no good reason to burn a bridge, I see no reason to let it rot.  This week I had an opportunity to email a professor who had helped me a lot at one point.  Though some time has gone by, he remembered me and the belated thank-you was not lost.  It’s just little things like that…a bridge is a bridge, and who’s to say it has no value?

Even harder are the bridges that we cross everyday with the people immediately in our lives.  I try to be a good sister, daughter, and coworker, but sometimes I fall miserably short.  All too easily I fall into ruts in the bridge, and I don’t reach out to people when I should, or I don’t treat them with all the appreciation they deserve.  When I do, amazing things can happen.

In the last year, I discovered an older coworker of mine loves to read.  (It was Korda’s Lawrence of Arabia biography on his desk that spoke to me… kind of like Goodreads’s Compare Books “in real life.”)  Despite the generational gap, we have had some surprisingly deep conversations on books and history that we’ve read.  Though few and far between, those types of discussions are the best.  I am trying to keep that bridge alive, because the only thing more delightful than talking about books online is talking about them face to face.  Not only that, but we work better together now that we’ve found some common ground and understanding.

To carry the analogy further – maintaining bridges is literally going out on a limb.  You don’t always know how people are going to respond.  Sometimes you won’t know if it’s worth it till it’s…well, completed.  Still, I always find you gain something in the process of bridge-building, even if you can’t see the end outcome yet.  With books, you might not change someone’s opinion, but you could change their perceptions.

Friday Thoughts: Bookish Rituals

It was a big deal, getting my first library card.  I was about seven and could just sign my name, sort of.  My ugly scrawl wasn’t good enough for the library card, and embarrassed, I knew it.  I treasured the card anyway.

Dad took me to the little library every week on Tuesday or Wednesday for many, many years.  I always had a stack of things to pick up.  Some of them were icky, smelly books, but I saw stories inside them.  I had to go the library every week.  And when a closer branch opened up, I said I’d never go to that library because it wasn’t my library…

Fast-forward to the present.  I only go to the library if I absolutely have to (late materials and items to pick up), and I just stop by the closest branch (yeah, that one I said I’d never go to).  One reason is the local libraries are very small, and I read far fewer books per month than I used to.  Also, Overdrive and Project Gutenberg now cover most of the books I read, plus those sites cut down the wait time significantly.   I can also afford to buy new books anytime, too, which up till recent years was hardly possible.  Nevertheless, I sort of miss going to the library every week and probably should get back into it. 

Something I have started in the last couple of years is buying second-hand books… a hybrid of the above options, I guess.  At Value Village (aka Savers), I scour the shelves for gently used, cast-off college assignments.  There’s also a local bookstore, which, in spite of its not-too-subtle political agenda, has a pretty decent selection of used classics.  It’s an exercise in self-control, and fortunately I have limited space at home.  I enjoy just browsing, in any case, because there’s the element of surprise that I might stumble upon a gold mine. 

Do you have any bookish or reading rituals in your life?