Thursday, August 14, 2008

He Loves Books

     About a month ago I read a book review on Larry McMurtry's version of an autobiography. ( He is most famous for authoring the books "Terms of Endearment", "The Last Picture Show" etc. which were subsequently made into successful films and has co-authored many screenplays including "Brokeback Mountain" which won him an Academy Award, of course.) I can't remember the last time I read a review on an author's autobiography, in fact, this may be the only one I've encountered.
     I think what really struck a dissonant note with me about the piece was lack of understanding between two writers. Let me count the ways:
            1. The title speaks for itself so we don't have to wonder what it might contain.
            2. Instead of getting a glimpse of how Larry feels about his subject (i.e. books) we are given a character assassination over his reluctance to write about himself or his relationships to the point that he is accused of being bitter because someone (not necessarily himself) is supposedly jealous because others "have achieved more than he has."
            3. In the last two run-on sentences the reviewer, Ms Margolin, takes him to task for not illuminating his life for the reader with the same artistry as his fiction works. This ignores the fact that much of fiction contains a certain amount of fact about the writer. It may be a little or a lot, depending on how private the writer can be in any given situation.
     I, like Larry , tend to avoid revealing much of myself in my non-fiction writing almost to the point of reticence. Further, it is not a deliberate avoidance but more a professional tendency. My introspection is saved for my hand-written journals which are only written for and read by one person; myself.
     You see, writers traditionally are like this by nature. Most of us are not media journalists or moguls and our natural habitat is a library, bookstore or just a quiet place to write.
     I would be willing to bet that if we really want to know Mr. McMurtry a little more than what he revealed in his book, "Books : A Memoir", it may be best to go back and read one or more of the 28 novels he's written.
Twenty-eight kisses from The Castle Lady ! ! !  
He that loveth a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor,
a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. - Dr. Isaac Barrow
( on a plaque at the Upper Montclair, N.J. public library )

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Museums are a trip !

     Last Saturday I went on a little foray to The Denver Museum of Nature and Science as a little break from my usual of working on a day that everyone else on this planet takes off. It was well worth the trip. It has been so long since the last time I visited- probably to see a show at IMAX. This complex encompasses IMAX and our Gates Planetarium, also, so it's always worth it to go! I spent the entire time in the gift shop which is often as fascinating as the museum itself because there are many interactive displays along with gifts and specimens you can buy. I found lots of stuff without breaking the bank, too!
     As a child I remember that, among much smaller dinosaur fossils, this huge T-Rex fossil which dominates the big room and reaches all the way to the ceiling. Even as an adult it can make you feel so small and insignificant. Most of the fossils exhibited were found in Colorado which is one of the most fossil-rich areas in the world. They have thousands of fossils dating back at least as far as 500 million years, according to their claim. Even if I don't believe they're that old it's still an awesome sight to see these bones put together to form the skeletal remains of an animal I'll never actually see. Most of the important part of the collection, Prehistoric Journey, is on Level 3 and the exhibition is well tagged along with explanations of how Earth evolved. What does it matter how long I think it took as compared with their time line which is more years than I believe the earth has even existed ? It's all there and worth contemplating. There is an adjacent lab where you can watch researchers at work- cleaning and preparing fossils for study and to place on exhibit.
     Even though castles are not and never were a living, breathing entity I feel the same way about these edifices as people feel about paleontology and all its variables. There are many aspects of these fabulous monsters that we may never know. In the case of castles, it is how mere men were capable of moving and placing stones without any of the equipment we use today in the form of earth movers, cranes, tractors, mobile shovel loaders, scraper loaders or by making use of straight-line link mechanisms in the case of siege engines. Obviously they are every bit as fascinating if you take the time to really study them in the proper context.  
     Most medieval castles today are museums and are a way of tracing more than human life. Forming and reforming our current mode of existence, castles are a real study in the survival of the human species. I will be writing more on this subject in an upcoming entry on my Live Space blog in August, so keep checking in @ to find out more than maybe you ever wanted to know about castles. As for myself...
love castles, The Castle Lady !

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Smart Pill

Interestingly, a few days after I wrote my last entry I came across an article in USA Weekend which expounded on new research showing how exercise has direct biological effects on the brain and functions controlled by the brain. According to this article written by Dr. Tedd Mitchell, a researcher, John Ratey ( who wrote Spark : The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain ) among others- talk about brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a protein that builds and maintains the brain's cell circuitry. According to Ratey,

"Researchers have studied how exercise affects things like improved memory, academic performance and executive function at work. The connection is powerful. As our nation ages, we'll be concerned about preventing neurological disorders like Alzheimer's. Kids ability to remain focused for learning is critical and for active adults everyday stress paves the way for a need for achieving mental calmness. Exercise plays a strong role in raising these BDNF levels which are essential for our well-being in these areas and can be used as a medicine- a 'smart pill', if you will," Ratey says.

Put all this together with what I already wrote and you can see that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining health in many areas besides weight control. As we move into the 21st century I believe exercise will be relied upon more and more as technology advances and we would be likely to become more and more sedentary. For my money it's the best and most economical way to maintain my health- both mental and physical. There are most likely many benefits that don't get mentioned because studies remain centered on our most pressing issues in the modern age. I can vouch for the way I feel after a good walk and taking thirty free shots at our basketball court in the local park. There's nothing that can take the place of that !

Keep your happy feet walking !
The Castle Lady
The preservation of health is a duty.
Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality.
- Herbert Spencer