Friday, September 16, 2016

Do I like myself on goodreads?

I noticed on my Goodreads account that so far this year I have merely favored three books with a rating of five stars, as opposed to last year’s total of 14 books earning five stars.  I wonder if I am on rocky ground.  In a fit of enthusiasm I entered our new book A Sample of Gouda on the site and am waiting for Every Person Reviews.  Fearing critics may be as harsh as myself, I ask myself “Do I like myself on goodreads?”  My criteria for giving five stars to a book has to do with many things, such as is the moon in Jupiter, or did I have to clean up excessive hairball regurgitation this week and what I mean by this is, what is the novelty of the item to my eyes? What pleasure does it bring me? Generally I see on goodreads that books, famous books, less famous books, quixotic books, boring books, all of them tend to hang around the three stars rating.  That I may expect-fear-observe that our book be rated on average three stars would, all in all, be a good thing.  I feel that kind of relief overcome me that people who worry about whether they are having enough sex to be like everybody else feel when they realize they make the cut, and everything pans out socially okay, in theory: I am therefore reasonably attractive, and people may like me. And my book. Our book, photographs by Vinita Salomé.

Average, I repeat to myself, realizing that in the four previous years I tended to average rating ten books (out of the 40 or 50 I read annually) a year as five star stuff.  The boxes of books littering the corners my apartment have been unpacked, the volumes roughly shelved in a vague system of order as per continent (fiction) and then nonfiction (general). A great deal of items have been disposed of, yet still there is a remainder of books I haven’t read and before I chuck more, I mean to read or attempt to read them. The simple autobiography of George Washington Carver, for example, in which I waded through twenty pages before deciding that I would happily read a more academic work on the historical figure; the enormous Complete New History of Scotland whose mandatory sentences, chunky, of the bronze age era were so poorly formulated that I quickly came to the conclusion that I would gladly read a more precise subject within the topic of Scotland; the relating of early settler experiences in North America which were so racist, self-righteous and downright antagonist that I would prefer a more modern depiction of life other than the war path or be confronted with the Pseudo Make America Great Again Club.  I had expected that I would enjoy the book on Scotland and the book on early eyewitness accounts of America, thus I was slightly disappointed that I with such great clarity of mind resigned them into the “resell” corner of my closet near the front door.  No five stars.  I didn’t review them, as I didn’t finish them, and, in all fairness, it is also why I am not so fond of checking the “uninteresting” box or category on goodreads.

Obviously I started my little Read In Entirety My Haphazardly Collected Library project by reading the more interesting items, and now I am digging around the dregs and give out less stars, although I do hold some hope for the book on the Vikings, or the one on the Holy Grail, or the one on Gregory of Tours, and rereading Vanity Fair, a book I haven’t picked up since I was thirteen.  Not so sure about the Letters of Pliny.  Does any of this sound like five star material?

The book I picked up out of the trash across the street, just to note that there were several boxes of books set out as trash and that I did not pick my way through cucumber peelings to access the books, unsoiled, has appealed to me most of the last five books I have read.  Short stories by Martin Hart, written in Dutch, that remind me of Gouda.  Apparently his works have been widely translated and are popular abroad.  In the book I am reading he describes rural Dutch life: water, bikes, barns, church services, brown cafes, and so forth.  I touched upon such matters for the texts of our book A Sample of Gouda but with my own twist to the topics.

Popularity, the angst we all have about this topic is itself story making material. Acquaintances have been kindly trying to get our book promoted by way of a presentation at a social club I joined upon moving to Amsterdam.  The season has just started up, and having gone to the first meeting at the social club, publicity for the next event was revealed to feature two bloggers with businesses in Amsterdam.  Genuinely I was happy for the ladies who will be presenting because I am sure that they will pull in a good audience and, for the first time, a moderator will be attending.   It’s just that the event organizer looks at me with some queasiness every time I see her as if she thinks I expect her to ask me to speak.  I admire the organizer’s choice because she chose a topic that has a wide appeal, food.  And people like to read restaurant reviews, for they like to eat.   I certainly don’t expect her to invite us, although I would be honored, and in the meantime I am happy to report that we have gotten two thumbs up reviews in the media for the book, which is not for everyone, as one reviewer said, “this is not the top ten items to see list” type of book about the Netherlands. 

As I sat there looking at the promotion of the two bloggers that will be presenting I asked myself once again what the heck should one blog about? It’s true the few food blogs I wrote were picked up and circulated by other people in mainstream media and gained more readers, but funnily enough the one titled The Richness of Life is Not Material, Even a Child Understands This, has been the most popular blogs I ever wrote.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Dissection of a Service

Halfway through the church service in the Begijnhof I felt a bit like analyzing the program. I looked down. I looked up.  I looked all around. Why not? I asked myself. So be it: an analysis of the Sunday Service last week as per the program.

The program said: Call to Worship and Approach to God

Considering the approach, a yellow brick road perhaps, the question departed from within, “But wasn’t God already present?”  Is God present when I am not present? Is God removed from bonding? Is God as such, to my mind and body, an extension or process of proprioception?  Is God that far away? Am I in the wrong place?

Yet the answer soon came, further down on the paper:

The program said (congregation replies in bold)

The God of heaven has made a home on earth;

Christ dwells among us and is one with us.

The highest in all creation lives among the least;

Christ journeys with the rejected and welcomes the weary.

Come now all who wander in the wilderness

And be led by God your liberator.

Come now all who seek

And be filled with good things.


Communion was imminent; guilt implied (if not already sustained). I never get the wilderness part and I don’t like camping enough to even consider hiking someplace remote. Dire sin aside, first up Hymn 128 “How shall I sing that majesty?”

First verse (text J. Mason):

How shall I sing that majesty
which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie;
sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.
Thousands of thousands stand around
thy throne, O God most high;
ten thousand times ten thousand sound
thy praise; but who am I?

That’s not the wilderness?

The program said: Prayer

During this section I began to ruminate on what I could possibly say about myself to someone I know who didn’t particularly understand my needs. I could feel myself get a little irritated. I started to understand that this was also a form of prayer, this surmising of hostility with equal hostility. The congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer.  I know it by heart. Suddenly I wanted to learn a different poem by heart.  I always do this, I think I never learn poems by heart but it is not true, I memorize lyrics to songs all the time.  I just don’t recit them much without singing.  What poem could I learn by heart?  Maybe I should take a poll of my friends on FB.

Or I could simply choose something on my own.  Like a big girl, no primary ground clearance needed.

The program said:  The word of God

Presentation to the Sunday School and Junior Church, and introduction to today’s Scripture theme

A small group of just barely rolling into the teen years boys were presented with the Authentic Youth Bible, the teal colored version. Authentic Youth Bible?  I looked it up.  The Authentic Youth Bible features: 164 pages of additional Bible study material, 24 colour topic based inserts covering subjects such as relationships, peer pressure and trusting God, 275 'Insights' help explain the meaning and context of key passages, translation specifically designed to be read and understood easily, suitable to be used across all denominations.

I eyed the volume, from afar safe within my pew, with suspicion.  I have always been suspicious of Sunday School. I never attended Sunday School or read youth bibles, authentic or not. By the way what does the non-authentic youth bible have to say? Somehow deep inside I feel I should read a children’s Bible and make up for lost time, and implant grade A bare bones under my insecure skin. 

The program said: First Lesson Philemon 1-21 (New Testament)

Right off the bat, the English pronunciation of Philemon threw me.  Mainly because I only know the French version from having sung a duet out of Gounod’s “Baucis et Philemon,” a very under represented opera. What, I wondered, was the King James version of this text, because so far, not so good with the deliverance of goods.

I looked it up and realized that the word “bowels” in the King James was more than once replaced by “heart” in the modern version.

The program said: Music in worship “Now Beseech we” by D. Buxtehude.

Buxtehude pretty much set down a great spicy argument among old men into music.

The program said: Second Lesson Luke 14: 25 – 27

The ending came about as, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Again, I just had to look up the King James version, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

I personally feel there is a great difference between the two.  I feel more prone to bowels and bear than heart and carry. Just putting in my two cents here.

The program said: Sermon

It all boiled down to How to Liberate from Slavery? Apply the Christian fantasy of the body and blood of Christ.

And then it was time for Communion. After a month of deliberation and by consensus of the congregation, the children were allowed to take communion for the first time. They opted for the alcoholic wine in mini beakers and happily chinked each other in front of the altar.

To end it all we sang a rousing rendition of “God the Father of Creation” and left the premises for the tourists to view the building.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Email of the Week

Emails are the best.  We were being told this at the mini seminar, send them. People appreciate emails. We, small business entrepreneurs, were being told this, they will thank you. Content is King, send the email.

I decided to write an email of the week. It’s my new thing, and I won’t call it a blog post. Nope, it’s now an email of the week, an incognito electronic missal randomly aimed at the public via a blog. Am I so hopeless at advertising?

When I was a student I used to review and consider jobs advertised in the newspapers. A month in the north of the Netherlands as a lab rat.  All expenses paid, and a salary.  It seemed suspect. First off, who would want to spend a month or even two months in the north of Holland being observed roaming about in a medical facility in the dead of winter? I imagined that participants would have to wear white shoes, or in any case white shoes were involved in the experience. The ads would indicate that you need to be in such and such a shape. Despite being poor, I never wrote in for an interview. I would fantasize about staying in a medical facility in the north of the Netherlands reading books and eating canteen meals.  Most of all I wondered who would be there; hobos, or wrecks of people who signed up for experiment after experiment, making a living from being a medical lab rat pumped full of substances and monitored as they experienced violent reactions to cocktails of medications. Did I want to join them? Exit the world? Play Russian roulette with my organs?

Content is king we were told at the strategic meeting of how to launch a successful internet business.  You must not talk about yourself, everyone does, and instead you must deliver your expertise.

What expertise?  If I talked about vocal expertise, everyone (i.e. all the singers I know) would jump on me and pontificate their own ideas. Same with the use of self, and frankly I’ve long given up on caring to spout some gospel truth on the art of singing. I sing now better than ever in my life and I’ve learned a lot.  Amen. So….

I once mentioned, way back then, as a joke, that a friend of mine might want to earn some money being a lab rat. “Are you out of your mind?” She replied shocked. Obviously that person did not share my fascination with Spartan surroundings and institutionalized meals. I don’t know how to justify this but in some ways that cheap plastic, plywood, glue smelling environment is desperately comforting to me, an un-sturdy oasis or a delicious void.

“What are they going to do?”

I couldn’t remember. I’d read the papers the hospital sent three months ago. And here I was sitting drinking coffee with colleagues this week while I modeled a giant sticker across my upper arm.  Underneath the sticker four degrees of substances were busy doing something to my skin. I’d been approached by a medical research team because I’d been operated on less than a year ago.  When I went back for the final control a few days later I was told what was happening. Three of the four patches spots were rather irritated.  The research team examined my arm.  “Your skin is highly sensitive and your scar tissue is dense.”

“Are you going to develop a cream for scar tissue?”

“The research is for scar prevention and this is the tip of the iceberg. First we need to understand what makes different people scar differently.” They measured skin moisture for quite a while using hand held machines.

Sounded like this was going to be years in the making. “Have you been part of a research project?” I asked one of the researchers.

“I am one of a set of identical twins.  I’ve been followed since birth.”

She had some fascinating things to say. Loads of content. The morning was all quite cozy and enjoyable. I eyed their white shoes with a great deal of satisfaction while they took some blood.