Book Review: My Uncle Oswald, Roald Dahl

Fantastic fun for semi-grown-ups. Easy to read, quick paced romp about sex, prostitution, and making a living by keeping yourdahl mouth shut. Who would have thunk it from one of the world’s favorite children’s authors?

See the review on the Book Review page.

See the book here at Amazon.

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Ghostly and absurd, the works of Francesca Woodman

woodman2Something a little different tonight. While my first love is evolution and biology I was, for a time, an ardent art history major. True enough, the two disciplines are just about as far as you can get but there it is. For reasons that I probably shouldn’t explore my favorite photographer is Francesca Woodman. She died young and sadly and never really crossed the line into a professional art career. Her work spans her young life as a student beginning with a self-portrait at 13.woodman1

Somehow – and this is the wonder of art – she captures something for me. He photographs are typically of herself, often nude, often out of kilter and out of focus, and tinged with the absurd. Looking at her photos reminds me of watching The Blair Witch Project: though you know from the outset that it’s a ruse you are still drawn in and tempted with belief. The ghostliness of her photos carries the same theme of an in-between – is she moving or is the photo just blurred. She explores the theme again with photos of her emerging from the wall, the window, everything is caught between coming and going.

I don’t know how her vision ties to her illness. She attempted suicide, spent time in therapy, and then finally leapt from an upstairs window.

Here is her Wiki entry.

Here for a NYT review of her life and work.

A reminder: goals for the new year…

I had a Happy Birthday call yesterday from my daughter in Japan. She asked me what my goals were for the next year. Huh? She said that I always taught her that we should be trying to improve some area of our life and keep goals to track our progress. It’s good advice. Goals help us stay on track, keep us engaged in our own life, and remind us of a desired outcome. It’s common advice given for anyone wanting to be happy and healthy. They don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be grand. But they should be specific and measurable.

Here’s a few off the top of my head:

I want to ride in the Mt. Washington Hill Climb the summer of my sixtieth birthday. It’s considered the most difficult bicycle hill climb in the world and will remind me that sixty doesn’t have to mean decrepit.

I want to pass my Certified Health Physicist exam next summer and would like to join Sigma Xi and The Society for the Study of Evolution.

Mal and I had our first date-night in about two years last Friday night. We played a little tennis and had a nice time just being together. I think we should definitely ramp up the romance to at least once per year.

I have two papers I’m working of for publication, two longer projects that I want to have roughed out by next summer, and one other side writing projected to complete.

There’s talk of going to Disney World this year.

I might need a new car if my New York Rust Bucket finally snaps in half.

I am planning on running a couple 5ks this fall and would like to break 25 min for a 5k next spring. I would like to break the famous (at least for Mittons) seven minute mile barrier this fall.

There’s a start. Thanks for the reminder Rebe!

There are all kinds of sites to learn more about goal setting. I like Brian Tracy quite a bit. Don’t get too bogged down in the planning but focus on the doing. And have some fun.

Birthday thoughts on life and death.

In honor of my birthday here’s a short quote from Anne Lamont from a project I’m working on:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written, or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools or oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy, or you were so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen to you.”

Another, much more sobering, from thinker Ray Kurzweil:

The things we can do with life – have relationships, be creative, create knowledge – are what give life  meaning. We don’t need death to give time a purpose. We rationalize this great tragedy and convince ourselves that death is a blessing, but it’s a tragedy. It’s a profound loss of knowledge and skill and humanity and relationships.  It’s a loss of the things that give life significance.

Happy Birthday!