Showing posts with label reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reading. Show all posts

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Maryanne Wolf, an expert on the science of reading, was worried—as perhaps you have worried—that she might be losing the knack for sustained, deep reading. 


She still buys books. "But more and more I read "in them rather than being whisked away by them," she wrote.


Wolf told herself that it wasn't the style of her reading that had changed, only the amount of time she could set aside for it. 


So, she decided to set up an experiment on herself.


She decided to set a time every day to reread a novel she had loved as a young woman. It was Hermann Hesse's Magister Ludi. (Hesse received a Nobel Price in Literature in 1945.) It was precisely the sort of demanding text she once loved.


The experiment went yuck!


She hated the book. She hated the whole so-called experiment. She had to force herself to wrangle the novel's "unnecessarily difficult words and sentences whose snakelike constructions obfuscated, rather than illuminated, meaning for me." 


The book's narrative was intolerably slow. She said she had "changed in ways I would never have predicted. I now read on the surface and very quickly; in fact, I read too fast to comprehend deeper levels, which forced me constantly to go back and reread the same sentence over and over with increasing frustration." 


She had lost the "cognitive patience" that once sustained her in reading such books as Magister Ludi


She blamed the internet. 


Remember how English teachers admonished us to "develop our paragraphs?" Now, most all paragraphs need to be about two sentences long. In fact, large blocks of text soon lose their reader.


And now I read that the GPT-3 equipment they are installing in cell phone prompts will give our phones the quality everyone pretends to but does not actually want in a lover — the ability to finish your thoughts.

 Have you ever written a message where the damn messenger writer decides what your next word ought to be? For crying out loud, now it wants to write for us. 


The GPT-3, instead of predicting the next word in a sentence, as our messaging appts do, would produce several paragraphs in whatever style it intuited from your prompt. 


If you prompted it Once upon a time, it would produce a fairy tale. If you typed two lines in iambic pentameter, it would write a sonnet. If you wrote something vaguely literary like We gathered to see the ship and all its splendor, like pilgrims at an altar, it would continue in this vein: 


If you wrote a news headline, it would write an article on that topic, complete with fake facts, fake statistics, and fake quotes by fake sources, good enough that human readers could rarely guess that it was authored by a machine.


OMG, is this true?


But then I come upon this quote by Geralyn Broder Murray. He greatly anticipated the arrival of a new bookstore in her neighborhood: Good News!


 "And, for all the traumas bookstores have faced, they don't appear to be going anywhere, which to me means there is hope for everything and everyone."


Remember when bookstores started having coffee shops in their facility? 


I was in heaven.


I miss bookstores. Oh, we still have Barnes and Noble in town, for which I am grateful. However, when I read Geralyn Murray's thrill at having an independent bookstore move into her neighborhood, I was taken back to how I felt walking into a bookstore—all that adventure, all that knowledge, all ability to spin yarns. We used to have a wonderful Metaphysical bookstore in town that had a sign, "You want a book about what?"


"So, writes Murry, "the next time I feel the world crashing down around me," I know exactly where to seek refuge: through the doors of my very own neighborhood bookstore, where the beauty and promise we all have within us is waiting to be picked up, purchased, and brought home in the form of a book — reminding me that all is not lost. Far from it."--Geralyn Broder Murray Sep 22, 2021. 


We used to frequent Libraries when we were kids. (And remember Ray Bradbury said he educated himself by reading from one side of the library to the other. And then, look what a writer he became. And he reveled in it. "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." ― Ray Bradbury)


But think of a bookstore and how thrilled you were with your new purchase. You couldn't wait to get into it. You would carry your book home, and it would be yours. And you wouldn't have to pay any Library late fees.


And then when the coffee shops arrived, well imagine, you could choose a book from the shelf, sit at a table and gently peruse the book—careful to keep it pristine, no coffee drips or anything.


In the days of bookstores, I would plunk down twenty-five bucks on a book and think nothing of it. Now I'm used to the $2.99 prices of Kindle, and even with my own book, The Frog's Song, I feel it's overpriced, but it is what the publisher demands. (Hey, they have to make money; otherwise, they will not stay in business. Which was the reason bookstores closed.)


I read on my Kindle. I order books online, but there is nothing like the thrill of walking into a bookstore where the air zings with the excitement. It's a feeling not present in a library.


Oh, I take that back—some libraries. I went into the Oregon State Library in Corvallis, Oregon, once to research the horse's brain and was overcome with their beautiful building--windows along one side, floor to ceiling, lots of light, a small food court, and a restroom. I could live there.


After reading Ms. Murray, I thought of the first book read to me by my mother, Anne of Green Gables. And in the second grade, there was a special reading time where we put our heads on our desks, and the Sister-nun read Heidi. That was the best time of being in the second grade. In the middle of the year, I had entered a Catholic School, a new kid, and was thrust into academia--I was embarrassed when asked to read aloud and stammered over my words. And you had to stand beside your desk. Horrors.


Before that, what I remember from the first grade and half of the second was that we played, and I was a darling because I could draw. In Catholic School, I made a special friend, a non-Catholic who was there because her mother, a doctor, thought it was the best school. 


The point I'm getting to is this, those first books we read as children are etched into our soul. Perhaps they help form who we are. How I loved The Black Stallion series. I have read many books since, but none are as special as those first reads. 


See ya. I'm going to have a glass of wine and pick up my current novel. (I just completed: Where the Forest Meets the Stars, by Glendy Vanderah Loved it.)


"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." --Ray Bradbury


Do you have any comments, feedback, gripes, or suggestions on improving my service? (Yeah, Joyce, open a Bookstore—in my dreams.)





Wednesday, May 5, 2021

When Did We Become Weird?

Many people have taken on religious fervor, the very thing we have championed against in earlier years. 

We have global warming where we can divide ourselves and beat each other with our viewpoints. Some say, “Pollution has done it.” Others say, “It’s the natural earth cycle.” Oh yes, there is another: it doesn’t exist.

 We have vaccinations where one side says it will save us from this blasted pandemic. We have another side that thinks the vaccination will turn us into zombies, implant devices into our bodies to be controlled by whoever has their finger on the button.

 We seek out material, especially on the Internet (Well, that’s where we can find it), that supports our point of view. In the process, we become enmeshed into a rock-solid belief system.

How far can we go down that rabbit hole?

 If we watch the news on TV, we will be swayed by rhetoric that deliberately slants toward the horrific, the fear, and the desire to keep us watching--thus ratings. (Do you see any bias here?)

 We know some of these things like fear sells, that’s common knowledge, but still, we can get pulled in. I don’t know why that is so; it’s something about our makeup. We hate that car wreaks happens, but we can’t help but look if there is one.

 We’re drawn to the drama, the excitement, the adrenalin rush. I guess we need it. Our lives are too enmeshed in the minutiae of life. (I suppose there was more value in the hunt than bring home the bacon. Perhaps the thrill of the hunt kept the hunters hunting and the village fed.)

If we continue to be stimulus/response individuals, we will be programmed.

 We need to get back some healthy debate, to consider that maybe, just maybe, we are driving our own evolution, and we have a choice as to where it is going. 

 Perhaps the “truth” lies somewhere in the middle.

 Maybe you do have a point that the earth is naturally warming.

 Maybe we are driving it faster with pollution, emissions, hair sprays, aerosols, and etc. 

 It scares me when I see a picture of the earth from space, and it shows how thin our atmosphere is. Heavens, we can’t climb the highest mountain on earth without carrying oxygen with us or heaving and puffing, with little energy to climb to the top. I remember being a kid where our family would drive up toward Mt Hood in Oregon for a picnic. I would get out of the car and wondered what was happening to me that I could hardly climb the embankment. After I acclimated, I was okay. Doesn’t that tell us something? Like maybe we should all work together to ensure that thin film stays surrounding us. (Like not exploding bombs in it.) and we ought to make sure those life-giving elements continue at a ratio beneficial to all life.

 Would you prefer to look at a desolate planet like Mars and consider a colony there when we can play on this gorgeous planet?

 If we pollute the oceans, we’re goners. 

 If we don’t look at the coral reefs and realize they are telling us something, we are stupid. There is a phenomenon in corals caused by the warming ocean and the pollutants, where the coral blanches white. If it stays white, it will die. However, in its desire to survive, corals can produce a sort of sunscreen to help them recover. It will recolor. But given enough stress, that will fail.

 Not interested in coral reefs? Not into scuba diving? The purpose of corals to not to provide us with beautiful photographs but to support life. 1,500 species of fish live within the coral reefs. 

 They are called “Barrier reefs” because they form a barrier to protect the live-forms that live within the reef and are protected by it. Reefs stabilize the ocean floor so grasses can grow. Those grasses feed large creatures like manatees who nurture their babies within the protection of the reefs. 

 Over 500 million people depend upon the reefs for their food. Not only is food sustained there, but medicines have been made from the coral to treat heart problems and for human bone transplants. 

 You know about the food chain. And we ought to know about the ocean. For example, plankton provides 50-80% of our oxygen. One photosynthesizing bacteria within the plankton, Prochlorococcus, produces a whopping 20% of the earth’s oxygen. 

 While we are speaking holistically, dust from the Sierra dessert blows across the African continent, is dropped into the ocean, and fertilizes the plankton that grows there. 

 I notice, this year, that while the flowers are abundant, they came, flourished beautifully, but are gone within a day or two. I’m not sure the apple tree kept its blossoms long enough to be pollinated. No flowers, no bees, no apples. It could be that we have drought conditions, and they know it. And strange that one of the first things affected by change is the reproductive cycle. If we don’t have enough food or water, we don’t have babies or fruit or vegetables.

If a polar bear doesn’t have enough food to grow her young, she holds a fertilized egg in her body until such a time that conditions are right. Better to not have children that to have them starve.

 In our lack of having a holistic approach, we forget that one thing affects another. Even doctors will treat that one booboo without thought of how it is affecting the entire organism. (Some insurance companies will forbid the doctor from addressing more than one issue.) Now, I ask you, is that good doctoring?

 There is pollen in the air,” you say, “It gives me sniffles and itchy eyes. Take an allergy pill, and get with the program. (See, technology can help us be more comfortable. It can cure diseases and thus make our lives more enjoyable. Maybe that’s why God gave us a big brain. It’s up to us the help make life easier for its inhabitants. And don’t get after me for using evolution and God—I believe in both.) You know the grasses need pollen. You like grass-fed beef, don’t you? You like corn and grain, and pasta, and muffins. You like fruit and many other foodstuffs that require pollination. 

 I’m an earth child, as you can see. I want to see it thrive. I’m not waiting for aliens to come and save us or to find another planet to colonize. (Living on Mars would drive me crazy.) We need to focus on our own home. Oh yes, the earth can outlast us—it’s gone through a molten stage and evolved into the beauty we now enjoy, but we don’t want to go back to barren moltenness. (I make up words too.) 

 What about walking around, breathing clean air, drinking pure water, laughing with our neighbors no matter where they came from, what color their skin is, or how rich or poor they are? 

 We are primates—sorry, all the creationists that will be offended by this, it is no insult. I’m honored to be an animal. They have a loving side like us, but they can fight and kill--like us.

 We are getting smarter now. We know some of these things, and we can dialogue with each other too. And why in the world, when we lighten the pandemic controls, crazies go out and shoot somebody? We’re not taking care of the crazies either—but then that’s another story.

 It used to be the printed word was the way people attained knowledge. They found the news of the world in the printed word. And perhaps you stopped reading after the first paragraph—that’s common in books—but then maybe they are boring. 

 Now, most information is presented visually. (Maybe I need to get with the program—maybe I’m old-fashioned.) I know that we are frenzied, angry, upset, nervous, and taking tranquilizers—well, Jo, you have a glass of wine in the evenings. Yep, I do. 

 I also know that reading is a quiet venture. It gives us a moment to pause. You can rail back at the printed word, throw the book, disagree or cry over the wonder of it. However, it gives us time to do that. Have you ever laid your book on your chest and looked out the window and thought of not much, simple things. You look to the horizon and give your eyes a rest. You come back to the book to feel a warm glow encircle you.

 When we try to keep up with a talking face, we are deprived of that moment. Another frenzy to add to our discontent.

 I know I laid out a lot here, and I thought I had nothing to say.

 Probably I have not said things you do not know already. If you’re anything like me, though, a reminder once in a while works wonders. I’m taking a course where I know most of the information, but it can get me fired-up.

 Do I meditate when I know it is good for me? Not much. Do I stay positive when I know that is the best way to live? Ha.

 I want the earth cared for, such as the seventh generation the Native American’s spoke of. We thought they were ignorant savages. Ha.,

 I want happiness for the people. I want them to see that we are little energy packets walking around affecting their surroundings and each other, and that snowballs to all of us. I’ve heard that we are all together in this, but many times people won’t even give you the time of day. Of course, I don’t meet those people.

 Our attitudes, thoughts, actions have some effect on our electrical/magnetic field. We are in touch with the Great Force that surrounds us, sustains us, and is affected by our wishes. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

 I heard a wonderful story last week. There is an elderly man working at one of the Retirement communities who escaped Germany during WWII. He told the story of 300 Jewish people who escaped a concentration camp. They overpowered the guards, confiscated their weapons, and left. Not all the prisoners left, they were afraid. And they were all killed.

 This is true story that was hushed up by the ones who wanted to maintain control. My daughter verified in on the Internet.

 Be courageous.


 Here is my week in pictures. I am grateful to see all of them.

This old pink dogwood, in our backyard was chopped back to a stump and basic limbs when we moved here. I didn't know what sort of tree it was. Now, look at it. 
Apple blossoms
Duckies at the Farm Store

One coon hound who knows how to get his inspiration..

Lilacs in back yard

Crains in Coburg, Or.

I tried to show the humungous moon we had about a week ago.

How did you read this? On the side of a Pub in Springfield, OR

Live long and prosper,

P.S. What in the heck is "Low Fat Half and Half?" The store caught my husband trying to buy good old high fat half and half. Daughter inadvertently opened in. I can't take it back. Yuck.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Are You a Writer, Reader, or Both?

 I’ve heard that there are only three rules for writing.

Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.

So, there you have it, folks. If you want to be a writer, make your own rules. If you want to write, write your little heart out.

Or write and read. Stephen King says if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.

I know people are attuned to a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. That doesn’t happen so much with blogs, but it ought to. Follow the Hero’s Journey, and it will stand you in good stead.

I think the concept of the hero’s journey began long ago when a storyteller stood at the campfire with the people eager for entertainment.

The hunter who brought home the bacon would get attention, but the one who embellished the story got more.

The one who died on the hunt was popular, too, for he met a consequence that didn’t bring home the bacon. The trouble was, someone else had to tell the story for him. That’s where you need a great obituary writer. Gosh, when I think about it, most obituaries I’ve heard were boring. Now, that doesn’t do the person justice. They’ve had a life. They loved, wept, had children, hardships, victories. (Born somewhere, educated somewhere, married, survived by.) I’m feeling sad for them.

People want to hear how the hero/heroine got kicked out of Paradise and had to find herself in the world. He/she had to endure hardships, and the stakes were high, the consequences extreme. He/she would, hopefully, come home victorious and bring honor to the tribe.

Let’s hope this happens now.

The following is a copy of my Newsletter, Jewell’s Happy Trails.

I intended that this Newsletter be only for people that request it, for I don’t want to junk up people’s email boxes without invitation. I placed it here to let you know it exists.

Those links aren’t live, so I will place them here:


Books: Books leave a trail don’t they?

Store: Remember that store has “Happy” in it.

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