Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Ray Bradbury, You Old Goat!

Today is Ray Bradbury's 87th birthday. I've loved everything I've read by him, and Mr. Bradbury has the special distinction of having begun my love for audio books.
Several years ago Chris and I lived an hour and a half apart. We visited each other most weekends. One particular Friday night I was driving out to visit Chris and was especially tired of the NY State Thruway, especially the bit between exits 47 and 50. I was driving rather fast to get the trip over with as quickly as possible, which didn't work, since State Troopers like to really take their time when giving out speeding tickets. I'm pretty sure that's intentional.
I decided that the best way to take the same old trip more slowly was to make the trip itself more enjoyable, or at least interesting. Thus entered my first book on tape borrowed from the Rochester Public Library: a collection of Bradbury short stories. I had always sneered at books on tape as being "not really reading" and got a short story collection because it was just for the car, and just for 3 hours. What a great collection! Bradbury read it himself, and it was so compelling that what I didn't finish on the ride I brought into the house with me to finish reading right away--I couldn't wait until the next trip to finish it.
Of course I realize now that audio books are still reading. I'm still using my imagination, and the language centers of my brain, I'm just taking in the information auditorially instead of visually. If I was blind I would read either auditorially or through touch--both still count as reading. Also, I'm now back to reading two books a week, whereas previously in my post-college adult life it was more like 2 books a year. Now some nice person reads me a story while I cook, drive, clean, or the like, and I don't even need to make them a cup of tea.
More recently, my friend Bruce introduced me to an excellent science fiction pod cast: Escape Pod. Every week I download the podcast for free and again, some nice person reads me a short story and doesn't even ask for a sandwich in return. Escape pod is created and run completely by one guy who manages to post a story, complete with well thought out intro, every Thursday. I've been really impressed with the quality of the stories especially two recent ones by Nancy Kress*. There are very few I don't enjoy or get some good thought or mental stimulation from. Only a very small portion of those I don't care for could really be called bad stories. I think that's partially because a good short story has to have a good idea, no copping out on just following around a few well written characters for 200 pages. When it can be read in 30 minutes, there has to be a good idea and a decent plot, you can't get by on charm alone. Also, good science fiction or good speculative fiction has to have a strong underlying idea to work. Short science fiction is the best of both worlds.
I'm a little afraid that other short fiction pod casts won't measure up. Does anyone out there have others to suggest? I tried a few knitting pod casts and they almost killed me. I know that other folks like them, but the ones I tried were either so boring they reminded me of the Saturday night live episodes that spoof NPR, or they were frustrating because I had to listen to two people talk about their knitting that I couldn't see. Plus I don't like to listen to cackling on headphones.
So a huge thank you to Ray Bradbury for his excellent fiction. Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of the best discussions of good and evil I've ever read. I think he's put his finger on something that one of my other literary heroes, C. S. Lewis unfortunately missed when writing his Space trilogy: if you attempt to fight evil, evil has already won. That's what makes the ending of Jedi so great. Also, go out and get a hold of the animated Halloween special "The Halloween Tree," written by Ray Bradbury. It's sort of a "true meaning of Halloween" story that my pagan friends would love.
* Nancy Kress was sort of the terminal guest of honor at a science fiction convention that used to happen annually in Niagara Falls. I hadn't read any of her writing at the time, and was sort of negative about it being "oh, her again," every year, not realizing that she is a really great science fiction author who happens to live outside of Rochester. My apologize for my young ignorance, Nancy--I hope to run into you in the grocery store some day.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I Finished!

I've been home for a week and finally finished the last Harry Potter book today. People have been really good about not giving away anything in public and so on, so it was a real shock when Voldemort told Harry he was his father.

The Best and yet another Jayne hat

I had been warned that weddings can be stressful. Had been warned about the things that can go wrong, funny and not so funny. For Chris and I, this wasn't a big worry. Our goal was the same, our tastes are similar, and neither one of us can work ourselves up over the color of napkins, even if we tried. However, there were still loads of phone calls and schedules and logistics to get through, plus orchestrating the very specific ceremonies that happen around the actual wedding day. Early on (within a week of the proposal) we got to choose 2 people to keep track of us on that day. Two witnesses to the vows we made who will be more than willing to remind us what we promised, should we ever need reminding. I just finished reading an English novel in which they were referred to as "best man" and "best woman." I wish I had found that wording a few months ago before the bulletins were printed, as it's a better description than "maid of honor."

Lots of women choose a maid of honor who's good at throwing parties, or picking out clothes, or running down the groom. I picked the best woman who I wanted at my side on that day, who would keep me in the right mindset and keep me calm as we finished making table favors and ran around to rehearsals and such. She did not disappoint. For instance, getting to the rehearsal in rush hour traffic and going the wrong way on the highway (I was the driver) meant that I was half an hour late for my own wedding rehearsal. As we pulled in and I was freaking out over that fact, Lisa turned to me and said, "a bride is never late, nor is she early, she arrives precisely when she means to."
She also got me into the dress, explained the laws of crinolines to Aaron, packed the emergency kit, and wore something with a pocket in which she stowed a handkerchief that I believe the entire wedding party used. And she sent me a
morbid bunny as a shower present.

Our best man was Chris's best friend from college. He was by far the best choice to make a speech at our wedding. I was really moved by what he said about us and our relationship. That all left me feeling really pleased that Chris had talked me into knitting him a thank you gift. Behold, yet another Jayne hat (from the too soon cancelled
Firefly series) on the internet. There are several patterns already out there on the web, and Chris and I re watched the full episode, pausing every time the hat was on screen. Man, these new-fangled DVD thingys pause mighty purty. Too bad the show has dramatic moody lighting or we could have counted the stitches.
The hat was mailed to the roughest character on the ship, the one who may mutiny in any episode, by his mother, and no one has the nerve to tell him how silly it looks. It was a bit of a challenge in that it's intentionally made badly, so I had to copy the bad knitting. Not being able to help myself, I still did a "jogless join" where the stripe color changes, which is a good thing since I accidentally put the join in front when I added on the ear flaps. Andras loved it so much he brought it to the wedding and made it part of his speech. Phil loved it so much that he keeps trying to take it from Andras.

Chris packed the hat as it was packed in the episode, complete with a copy of the letter from Jayne's mother laying on top. Here it is in a still from the actual show, you can judge how close we got.

Thank you to both of our best!