Battle of the Sexes

March 28, 2011

So Saturday we went out and about in what will be, in a month, our new neighbourhood. And on the windows of a few local establishments there were posters for “Free kittens!” with a phone number and a photo of a litter of kittens all in a basket. I think our reactions sum up something about the difference between men and women…whatever that something is.

Her: Ooh, I’d pick that one, I like his stripes.

Him: That one’s the cutest. Because he’s upside-down.

Man is an “unfinished animal. What sets him off most graphically from nonmen is less his sheer ability to learn (great as that is) than how much and what particular sorts of things he has to learn before he is able to function at all.”

Reading List

March 22, 2011

I have been incredibly neglectful of my poor blog, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading (it means I’ve been too busy doing the interior design for my new house in my head).

I’ve gone through a ‘hurt memoir’ phase (is there really any other kind of memoir?). There are, it seems to me, memoirs where the authors have been able to move outside themselves to see their lives from a broader perspective; and then there are some where they haven’t.

Linda Gray Sexton, older daughter of Anne Sexton, has written a very moving and important memoir, but I think that it’s one of the latter (Half in love : surviving the legacy of suicide : a memoir).

Tracy Ross, in The source of all things : a memoir, gains some perspective on the events of her life and how they affected her. And while at times the narrative depicts a more childish understanding, my reading suggests that this is done intentionally, to show the audience her own growth.

Finally, I tried to read Joyce Carol Oates’ A widow’s story : a memoir. Her style, which I enjoy in fiction, didn’t translate, for me, to memoir. I gave it up for now, but might return later.

Current reads are:

Graham Kerr’s Growing at the Speed of Life, about his first year with a kitchen garden;

David Brooks’ The Social Animal, about how important a role our unconscious plays (and should play!) in our decision making and the path of our lives–did you know that if you’re really stuck on a decision and you’ve given careful consideration to all the options, you should flip a coin? Not to follow the coin flip, but to then follow your immediate emotional reaction to the result. Your emotional reaction to the result of the coin flip (are you happy about it, or disappointed?) will show you what your conscious brain was too muddled to put forward;

And, thanks to the house business, Better Homes and Gardens’ New Decorating Book. Not really “new”, a new edition is coming out in September that I’ve preordered. Really good advice and ideas. This one’s a keeper, even if I’ll be receiving it after my house is “done” (since, as we all know, a house is never really “done”).



March 22, 2011

I don’t love all popular music…or lots of it, even.¬† I need the lyrics to a song to be at least somewhat interesting, and for the song to have that hook that makes something really memorable.

But those pop songs that are memorable…those, I think, take as much virtuosity to write as the most complex piece of music. The example I always come back to for myself is Carole King. Not all of the songs are great, but there’s something in them that shows that the writer really understands how music works and how we listen to it.

Semi-bold statement #2: for me, Kanye West is one of those artists. And, thank goodness, I think he’s showing signs of maturing (maybe not as much personally as in his music). His first few albums were characterized by flashes of brilliance (Jesus Walks, Diamonds from Sierra Leone, Stronger) surrounded by mediocre material. But I just gave My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, his newest album, a listen, and while it doesn’t have any of those immediate standouts, it’s much more listen-able, overall. No more of those stupid skits that I’d just skip over. A really solid, enjoyable album, with, even, some beautiful moments.

The Music Instinct

March 2, 2011

The conclusion of Philip Ball’s The Music Instinct:

“In the end we need to allow music to be music, with its own set of emotions and sensations that we have yet to name and perhaps do not need to. Music is not like other forms of art–it is sui generis, and therefore in some respects beyond words. And yet we cognize it using familiar neural apparatus–it is rather like an extraordinary occurrence for which our brains have¬† accepted the need for unprecedented collaboration between departments. Wonderfully, they have decided it is worth the effort.”