Regina Futurum Sit Hodie Natus Est

Today, a future queen is born. Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was born today in 1533. So sure were Henry and Anne that she would be a boy that they had already drawn up birth announcements proclaiming a Prince. They had to be hastily amended with an additional S. You can see it in the third line down, about halfway: “…deliverance and bringing forth of a Princess…” Whoops. Little did they know that Elizabeth would go on to be one of the longest-reigning British monarchs, would unite her people in ways they hadn’t been in centuries, and would usher in an age of music, art, literature, and exploration. The Elizabethan Age was rightfully called a Golden Era.

elizabethbirthannouncement
Image courtesy of Elizregina.com

Everyone knows Shakespeare, but he wasn’t the only one who put pen to paper. There was also Christopher Marlowe, who I am convinced we would be studying instead of Shakespeare if he hadn’t been killed when he was only 29; Thomas Kyd; Phillip Sydney; Edmund Spenser; and Robert Ascher, to name a very few. There were plenty of women who wrote at the time as well. Aemelia Lanyer was the first English woman who wanted to support herself as a poet and sought out the support of prominent female patrons. One of Lanyer’s patrons was Mary Sidney, the sister of Philip Sydney, herself a famous poet. Mary Sidney influenced Shakespeare, and she completed her brother’s work on poetic meditations on the Psalms after he died. Elizabeth I herself was also a very talented writer and poet.

Some of my favorite music also came from this period. I ADORE Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, John Taverner, and Thomas Morley. I sang a LOT of these mens’ songs in chorus when I was in school, which I’m sure influenced my interest in them, but I genuinely appreciate the music for itself. I find it soothing and will put it on if I want to work on writing something. Tallis is playing right now as I write this, in fact.

Elizabeth may have had her flaws – a volcanic temper was reputed to be one of them – but she was also a huge patron of the arts and literature. She fostered diplomacy on a scale that makes my greatly missed President Obama look like an amateur. She was, in short, a shining example of what a leader is. I can think of one so-called leader who should read up on her, but alas, it seems he can’t read. 

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A Study in Scarlet Women

35009017A Study in  Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Kate Reading

Source: my own collection

Length: 11:00:00

Publisher: Blackstone Audio

Year: 2016

A Study in Scarlet Women is, in essence, a gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes story. Right there, I wanted to read it. The premise of this novel is that Charlotte Holmes is a brilliant woman and has no interest whatsoever in marriage. She’s told her father so and they made a deal – if she makes a genuine effort to find a suitor and let him make her fall in love with him and she still doesn’t want to get married, when she is 25, he will pay for the education she needs to set up shop as the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school. Charlotte holds up her end of the bargain; her father does not. So she takes matters into her own hands and has an affair with a married man, thus ruining her reputation and rendering her unfit for marriage. Yay, idiotic Victorian morality! She has no intention, either, of being imprisoned at their family’s country estate forever, so she runs away to London where she intends to support herself as a typist. Eventually she meets Mrs Watson, who hires her as her companion. Mrs Watson convinces Charlotte to take on clients as an investigator, pretending to be the sister of the bedridden man, Sherlock Holmes. The ruse works and Charlotte is able to support herself quite well by solving mysteries. She is called in on one case that strikes close to home when suspicion falls on her sister, Livia, who had publicly accused the mother of Charlotte’s lover of ruining her sister’s life, and hours later, the woman was dead. When two other people die mysteriously, Charlotte and an Inspector Treadles work together to solve the mystery and figure out how the victims were connected.

I enjoyed seeing a gender-flipped Sherlock. Charlotte is a woman who knows what she wants and makes plans to get it. She has good body image and isn’t worried about being stick thin. These are all good things about this novel. There are a lot of strong and independent women, even being set in Victorian London. I think that the mystery itself took too long to set up and get to, though, and once we got to it, was unnecessarily convoluted. It was hard to keep everyone straight and the ending was really complicated. I read a ton of mysteries and am really good at keeping track of who’s who and it still confused the hell out of me. I felt that the book’s strength was in the character development, which was excellent for nearly every character we meet. Though I didn’t feel the mystery part of the plot was terribly well done, the rest made up for it and I am still looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

Guest Post by Leslie Key: Looking and Seeing: Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography

51eje8r2i8l-_sx398_bo1204203200_Title: Looking and Seeing: Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography by John McQuade and Miriam Hall

I read it as an: eBook

Source:  Leslie Key’s own collection

Length: 6 hours/more if using as reference

Publisher: Drala Publishing

Year: 2015

 

A Poem

Staying in One Place

Could it be that we like to stay

where it’s comfortable even to our dismay?

What turns the tide to rescue us?

How many turns must we pass,

before we choose the Way?

Sea Sand Stone and Shell 1 CR LR .jpg (1 of 1)
Sea, Sand, Stone and Shell 1

This poem and image were created during the moments of reflection on an experience I had with contemplative photography.

The book Looking and Seeing was my first formal introduction to the idea of contemplative photography, which is a focused and mindful visual experience with intention. Looking is the moment of perception that takes you into seeing, creating the personal connection. With my camera as my tool, it is a Way of Seeing the world around me, a perceptual wonder. McQade and Hall describe a Way as a path or practice to perception (seeing) (2015). In the second section of Looking and Seeing the authors explain what it means to have “view, motivation and intention” as it relates to capturing images through experiencing them with mind, body and spirit. I have used and am using this concept for several photographic projects now.

For example, over the 4th of July this year I visited friends in San Diego, CA. Every year they head down to Ocean Beach and typically arrive around sunrise to ensure they land a good spot near the pier. This year I decided to commit to Ocean Beach on the 4th of July and join my dear friends Benny and Shari each year to follow. I’ve also committed to visually capturing Ocean Beach in each visit during the wee hours of the mornings of each 4th of July. The images I captured in July of 2017 proved to be different than what I saw during my July 2018 visit.

This year during these wee hours the sea shore showed me places that were soon hidden by the high tide. I had several hours to capture the shore at low tide. I titled this photographic project “Staying in One Place.” The first image below captures the crevasses and streams of sea, sand, stone and shell. In contemplative photography I take the time to experience the environment that I plan to capture with my camera. This year I spent about two hours walking, listening and standing still with my eyes closed to listen carefully to what this place could show me. This is when I can hear what I see. McQuade and Hall call this a mind-set of practice using “view, motivation and intent” to be “fully human and awake” (2015, p. 19).

My view or orientation of the scene is when I can understand the journey in capturing the image. This is how I captured the image below and my perception when I clicked the camera shutter. As I angled my camera and tripod securely on a mossy and somewhat slippery stone, I began to compare the elements of sea, sand, stone and shell to people; people (including myself at times) who have decided to stay in their crevasses and still water, passing every opportunity to move on.

How many times in life are we forced to move and change? How many times is our positive, yet painful change forced by circumstances we are in through choices we have made? This can sound dreadful yet is a natural path to discovery.

The following three photographs are from my photo project “Stay in One Place.”

Sea Sand Stone and Shell 2
Sea, Sand, Stone and Shell 2
2 Sea Sand Stone and Shell CR LR .jpg (1 of 1).jpg
Sea, Sand, Stone and Shell 3

 

Tidal Force CR LR .jpg (1 of 1)
Tidal Force

Another recent photographic project I titled “From My Car Window” gave me a new Way of Seeing.  I focused on using contemplative photography on a recent road trip to Ottawa, Kansas. Because of a short time-frame and urgent need to get to my destination, I realized my car window was my only chance to capture some incredible scenes with full intention of using the “discipline of relaxation,” which McQuade and Hall describe as a moment of contemplative practice or intent. Here are a few images that I captured from my car window. The experience offered me a “Way of Seeing” while moving fast enough that if my camera settings were not perfect, the image would not display what I saw. In other words, I synchronized.

The following four photographs are from my photo project “From My Car Window.”

Cumulus LR .jpg (1 of 1)
Cumulus

Traces CR LR .jpg (1 of 1)
Traces

Two Horses CR LR .jpg (1 of 1)
Two Horses

High Desert CR LR .jpg (1 of 1)
High Desert

McQuade and Hall frequently refer to a “flash of perception” through synchronization or creating a state where eye, mind and world all come together at the same time (p. 21). To prepare for this experience, I ensure that my camera and equipment are ready to be put to use, a time when my logical, organizational mind begins to prepare for the contemplative photographic event.

In the final chapters of Looking and Seeing the authors give me a chance to put the concept of contemplative photography into practice. McQuade and Hall bring me into a world of new perception and thinking about what a miracle vision really is. The authors call it an unconditional miracle of “sheer manifestation” (p. 32). For example, we see color every day, right? Using the concept of contemplative photography, I first contemplate the color by first looking, then seeing (perceiving) the color, to making an image of the color. This same exercise is applied to light and shadows, texture and patterns. This is a process, an exercise in contemplative photography.

In closing I would like to say that I love capturing what I see and feel. I love the idea that sharing images for the sheer pleasure of sharing, is my goal. This book is for all types of photographers, from film and digital, to iphone, to the snapshot wonder. Looking and Seeing is a form of mindful meditation through a Way of Seeing and capturing the world we live in.

***

Leslie Key is, by profession, a full-time faculty of higher education. By hobby, she is a photographic hobbyist who loves to capture what she sees and feels, with intentions of becoming a professional nature photographer.

As a full-time faculty with the University of Phoenix, Leslie teaches courses in critical thinking, and general life and study skills to first year college students. She finds that she connects well with these students who are either returning or new to college. She identifies well the struggles to balance family, career, and college because this is what she did.

Returning to college at 45 years was interesting and scary, but Leslie achieved her goals and earned a master in adult education and learning theories. She then began her second career in higher education and has worked in student services, academic affairs, administration and now as full-time faculty.

Her background in photography started at age 5 when her father introduced her to a point and shoot camera, so she could take photos alongside him. Her interest continued through the years photographing people, places and things. Today, her intentions continue, and her focus deepens.

Leslie hopes you enjoy her guest blog post and photographs. She is in the process of creating her professional website, which is now under construction. In the meantime, please check out her Photography Profile

Old Man’s War

51tnlj8xnbl-_sx342_Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: William Dufris

Source: my own collection

Length: 9 h 58 m

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Year: 2007

In the future, the Colonial Defence Forces don’t want young people with no experience to join up. They are too green, too excitable, too likely to do something stupid. Instead, the CDF takes recruits when they turn 75. They give them a shiny new, genetically enhanced body, teach them how to be soldiers that would be the envy of the most badass Marines or SeALs, or astronauts ever. And then they send them off to the front, where they will do battle with all the aliens in the galaxy who surround all the human colonies, and who want to kill humans, often for food. Neat!

This first entry in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series is some of the finest sci-fi I’ve read in years. It was full of action, excitement, adventure, and a shit ton of sarcasm. Scalzi is one of the funniest writers around at the moment, and his humor colors nearly every page, from boot camp to even the goriest of battles. Who knew it could be hilarious to read a scene where an entire unit dies but one man, who gets his jaw ripped off and kicks himself in the uvula in the process? I wouldn’t have thought that, but indeed I laughed out loud. It’s either excellent writing, or there’s just something wrong with me. Jury’s still out on that one, I reckon.

The narrator for this was also excellent. I am used to Wil Wheaton narrating Scalzi’s books, but this was read by William Dufris. It was a good choice because he sounds older, or made himself sound older at any rate, than Wil is. He was able to do some terrific crotchety old fart voices, and had a bunch of different voices and accents and overall just really played up the already terrifically fun story.

I have universally loved all of Scalzi’s novels so far, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the Old Man’s War series.

Fire Catcher

Fire Catcher  by CS Quinn

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Napoleon Ryan

Source: my own collection

Length: 14 hrs 29 min

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Year: 2015

In this second installment of Quinn’s Thief Taker series, Charlie Tuesday finds himself on the hunt for a sea chest which contains papers that have the potential to bring civil war back to England. He and his reluctant new sidekick, a young Gypsy woman name Lily, have to race to find the papers before they burn in the Great Fire of London.

I cheerfully confess that I began reading this series because the first installment, The Thief Taker, was all about the bubonic plague. We all know I have an unhealthy fascination with plague. But this book was kind of a meandering mess. Charlie and Lily run from one clue to another, the fire destroys stuff, the bad guy Blackstone gets badder and crazier, and eventually they find what they are looking for and figure out the mystery. It was actually quite long and rather boring for what could have been a much more interesting story.

I don’t know a ton about that time period – I’m a medievalist, so the 1660s are too modern for me! – but I think this was not a very accurate book. The descriptions of the city didn’t mesh with what I know of historic London. I also don’t know about the Duke of Clarence.

Also, it’s magnum opus, not magnus opus. Jesus.

The pacing was another problem for me. While I enjoy a fast-paced book as much as anyone, things happened in this book too fast and without any real purpose. It was like that movie Speed, just too much going on and most of it was eye-roll worthy.

The narrator, Napoleon Ryan, literally was all that kept me listening to this. He did a fantastic job, doing different voices and accents. I could listen to him narrate a lot of things, even if the story isn’t all that compelling.

12 Rules for Life

412z30w2n-l-_sx330_bo1204203200_12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

I read it as a: hardback

Source: my own collection

Length: 448 pp

Publisher: Random House

Year:  2018

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist, and this book is his formula for things to do, or not to do, to be a successful human being. He covers, as you may suspect, 12 basic rules, ranging from things such as stand up straight to make your kids act like civilized humans to tell the truth. Generally, it is a fairly standard sort of rule book. 

This is quite long, so I’ll put the rest behind a cut.Read More »

Watch “Patrick Stewart Gets Emotional Announcing Return To Captain Picard Role – 8-4-18” on YouTube

This made me so happy, I cried. TNG was such a big part of my life and there were times when seeing a new episode was the only thing I had to look forward to each week. The characters were not characters, they were real people. Maybe that makes me a geek, or a loser, but I don’t care. I love Star Trek, and I love these people, and I can’t express how happy I am that Patrick Stewart is going to reprise his role as Jean-Luc Picard.

Artemis the Loyal

61tdlmrcvll-_sx334_bo1204203200_Artemis the Loyal by Joan Holub

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 288 pp

Publisher: Aladdin

Year: 2011

In Artemis the Loyal, Artemis is on a mission to convince Principal Zeus, King of the Gods and Ruler of the Heavens, that it is not fair that the Olympic Games are for boys only. She is an excellent athlete and wants to compete, as do many other girls. Artemis goes on a mission to convince Zeus to change his mind and allow girls to have their own girls-only Olympics. Simultaneously, he twin Apollo is determined to take on the Python of Parnassus in a battle of wits. Artemis is concerned because the python can read minds and she knows Apollo can’t tell a lie, so she thinks he will lose. She tries to discourage him from entering the contest and inadvertently causes a rift between them, which is heightened when Apollo utterly scorns her attempts to get Zeus to sign off on a girl Olympics. Artemis has to learn when to lean in and when to let others learn lessons on their own in this latest installment of Holub’s GoddessGirl series.

This was a fun and quick read with my daughter at night for a bedtime read. It was a little more progressive and feminist than the other books in the series thus far in that it had a lot of focus on gender equality. I also liked the theme of figuring out when it is ok to be pushy and try to help and when you need to back off and let others figure things out for themselves. That is something a lot of people need to learn.

I still think the books in general are too focused on what other people think and on hetero-normative crushes, but it wasn’t AS big a focus in this one as in others and it provided a couple times to have a good chat with my daughter about a few things.

A Man Called Ove

18774964A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 337 pp

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Year: 2012

Ove is a stereotypical curmudgeon, which is a terrific word anyway, isn’t it. He is cranky, he feuds with his neighbors for not following the posted signs or the rules of the neighborhood association, and he just wants to be left alone. Really, what he wants is to die, and he has his own reasons for wanting that which are no one else’s business. But things keep happening that piss him off just enough to keep him engaged and living, and he knows from long experience that if he doesn’t handle it, it will never get done right. Such as teaching the new neighbor how to back up a trailer so he doesn’t run over his mailbox. Again. Or teaching the neighbor’s wife how to drive because the neighbor fell off a ladder and broke himself and needs someone to drive him around. Or teaching the local barista how to fix a bike so he can give it to his girlfriend. Or do battle with a corrupt White Shirt (Ove’s version of two by two, hands of blue) determined to forcibly remove a neighbor with Alzheimer’s to a nursing home against the wishes of the family. Along the way, even though Ove is a cranky old sod (he really isn’t), it becomes clear that he has a deep and painful past and that it’s always the quiet ones who are the most interesting, the ones you have to keep your eye on, and who care the deepest even if they don’t make a spectacle about it.

This was such a touching book. People who say nothing much happened didn’t pay attention. The people who disliked it just because Ove didn’t like the cat (or Jimmy, or the kid who couldn’t repair his own bike, etc) totally missed the point. I feel bad for those people. Ove looked past the exterior of people and saw the good in them, despite not being able to do things he thought they should be able to do for themselves. If they didn’t know something, he taught them. He was rough on the outside, but at heart he was a true teacher and went out of his way to help people when he didn’t have to. In the end, the community realized they were the ones who had been wrong about Ove all along.

Also, this book made me miss my grandad, even though he wasn’t a curmudgeon. But in a lot of ways, Ove reminds me of him anyway.

Some of my favorite lines (behind the cut in case of spoilers):Read More »