Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Reading Update: A Memoir By Haruki Murakami

It's the last day of March. My goal for this year is to read 15 books. So far, I have finished three and a half (see links to previous posts below!).

"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami. The title jumped out at me from a display table at Barns and Nobel. I was there Christmas shopping. The word --running-- peaked my interest. So I reached for the thin paperback book and read the back cover: "An intimate look at writing, running, and the incredible way they intersect, from the incomparable, bestselling author Haruki Murakami."

I held the book tightly in my hands while my head was spinning. This book had everything. I love to read memoirs and biographies. It's that nosy side of me. And I run and write! And obviously the book was written by some sophisticated Japanese writer who won prestigious writing awards. As I am rather uncultivated in the area of fine literature, this book was perfect for me, educational and interesting!

So I started reading, existed to learn what writing and running could possibly have in common except being favorite activities of introverts like myself.

Page 10: "I'm no great runner, by any means. I'm an ordinary --or perhaps more like mediocre--level. "

I though: Cool! I'm mediocre. This guy is like me. But I quickly learned differently.

Page 11: "My peak as a runner came in my late forties. Before then I'd aimed at running a full marathon in three and a half hours, a pace of exactly one kilometer in five minutes, or one mile in eight."

And this is the book in a nutshell, a detailed list of mediocre accomplishments. Actually, his story reminded me of the movie Forest Gump. Everything Haruki Murakami tries, he is successful at.

Living in Japan, as a twenty year-old, he ran a successful night club. Then one day, while watching a baseball game, he had an epiphany-like experience.

Page 27: "I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first thought I could write a novel. It was around one thirty in the afternoon of April 1, 1978. I was at Jingu Stadium that day, alone in the outfield drinking beer and watching the game."

Six months later, he finished his first novel, and submitted the manuscript to a contest and won. The novel was published. His writing career was born.

After this, still running his night-club, he wrote a second novel, and on the side, began to translate some short fiction by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Is it just me, or is he spreading on a thick layer? Or do most club owners keep a frayed copy of The Great Gatsby behind the bar? (I don't mean to insult any bartenders!) But really! How can a person, especially an award winning fiction author, be so removed from the real world of average people? Does he have a terrible editor? Did nobody feel like telling him that he comes across as an arrogant name-dropper?

Okay, so after telling me about running a 62 mile ultra-marathon, and competing in seven Boston marathons, four New York marathons, four triathlons, he finally runs out of juice. As a 56 year-old, his body is no longer the machine it once was. And it can no longer produce distances in the same amount of time as earlier, no matter how much he trains.

Page 147: "So in the end I missed the four-hour mark by just a little. I did complete the run, after a fashion, which means I maintained my record of completing every marathon I've ever been in (a total of twenty-four now.) I was able to do the bare minimum, but it was a frustrating result after all my hard training and meticulous planning. It felt like a remnant of a dark cloud had wormed its way into my stomach. No matter what, I couldn't accept this."

This is it. Haruki Murakami refuses to accept that there is something called normal, mortal limitations.

Previous post: How Many Books Are You Reading 2010? February Update

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blogs Are Like Wild-Flowers

A skilled writer knows all the right words to produce a coherent story with perfect grammar. After this statement I have two questions: When will this be me? And, if I can't write well, should I keep writing publicly on a blog?

They are fair questions. Or aren't they? My view is this. I have recently realized that I like blogging because it's not elitist. Anyone can start a blog and express almost anything they want. The masses can choose to read it, or ignore it. But the best part is. In the blogging-world, there are tons of unskilled writers who are authors to super-popular blogs. Grammar certainly helps, but what rules in this genre is creativity and content.

Blogs are like wild-flowers. If you don't like them, you call them weeds. They don't conform. They poke up anywhere they feel like growing and expand into all shapes and sizes. This is why I like blogs. Because of their boldness and their imperfections. It is why I like to read blogs, and why I am a blog-writer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Am Not A Chicken!

When I was a kid I sometimes fantasized about being a bird. Especially at times when I was upset, or scared. Then I would close my eyes, spread my imaginary wings, and fly to my hideout in a leafy tree-top.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, my imagination never worked well enough to mentally transport myself to a tree-top. My ears just didn't want to collaborate on that level. They picked up on all the sounds of things going on around me.

As an adult, I sometimes catch myself looking up at the sky and wishing I could join the flock of birds flying above my head, especially on days when life is dishing out more than I can handle.

But only a weakling run (or fly) away from her fears. A strong woman face her fears, endure, and come out stronger, or something like that. Did I learn that in psych 101, or have I watched too much Oprah? Maybe it was Biggest Looser.

As I returned to the dentist this week and had my teeth cleaned, my dental hygienist encouraged me to face my dental phobia and have my cavities filled without sedation.

Actually, she said: "Nobody I know gets sedation during fillings."

Her comment made me feel embarrassed and hurt at first, but I was able to stay cool and not get angry and defensive. There was some truth in what she said. Sedation is an easy way out. Why am I choosing to be a such a chicken? It's not like I am going to be tortured. Well, just a bit, but I can handle it. I should be able to handle it --like normal people do. And more, I'll save a chunk of money!

Before I left the dentist office, I scheduled my first return visit to have a filling done traditional style! If I tolerate it well, I may find the courage to fill the remaining ten cavities the same way.

As I drove home in my car, I had mixed feelings of pride and fear. Did I make the right decision? Why do I have to face my fears? What's wrong with being a chicken?

I'm going to buy myself something real nice with the money I save, darn it!

Previous post: I Avoid Going To The Dentist

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Watch And Hear About Our Aquarium Fish

More video. This time, I am using a better camera. The video-post card, in my last post, was taped using my cell-phone. It didn't do a good job. I was really disappointed with the quality. And it got such good reviews! If you're shopping for a cell-phone and want a good camera, don't buy a Sony Ericsson C905a, it really bites!

Previous post: Video-Postcard. Spring Break 2010!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Video-Postcard. Spring Break 2010!

This is my very first video ever. Meaning, it's jumpy and out of focus. And yes, the title says Spring break, but there are no bikini-girls in this one, sorry!

Just a pretty Florida sunrise, the beach, and some birds...

Twitter. Not Just Oprah Does it!

Last Sunday night I showed my husband that I had joined Twitter.

"Look honey, see the blue bird button on my blog, now people can read what I tweet about," I said and pointed to the computer screen.
"Great." He continued feeding his fish without turning his head.
"But look, isn't it cool!" I tried again.
This time he came and sat down and gave me a sideways smirk. After a few quiet seconds of pondering if he was going to be nice or spicy, he chose the latter.
"Paris Hilton twitters about what dress she is going to put on her Chiwawa. What are you going to twitter about?"

Okay, so I am not Paris Hilton, obviously, and I am not sure yet what Tweets I'll compose, or who will read them, but I am always excited when I learn something new. Internet, blogs, social networking sites, they all fascinate me.

It's kind of interesting how programs like MySpace and Facebook are more socially acceptable than Blogs and Twitter. Tons of people have FB accounts, but very few Twitter. And yet, Twitter is a combo between SMS and FB!

Twitter and Facebook were launched at the same time in 2006. And my husband is partially right, Twitter has become known through celebrities who Twitter. One well-known Twitter is Oprah Winfrey. And we all know, whatever Oprah touches turns to gold.

But Twitter is not just a medium for famous people to share what they have for breakfast. It's a fun place like FB. Anyone is welcome, and lots of "ordinary" people are part of the community. Many of my blog and writer friends on Absolute Write Water Cooler Twitter. You can read what they say when you click on my blue-bird-button.

Finally a few words about the Twitter lingo. My AW friend Benbradley, typed me the following:
"---a Twitter post is a tweet, the verb form is to tweet and past tense is I/you/we/he/she/ tweeted."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Int. Women's Day. A Day To Be Grateful!

This International Woman's Day 2010,
I am grateful
for all the doors that stood open in my path,
and
for all the women who struggled opened them.

Last Sunday, March 8, was International Women's Day. It went by quietly, as it usually does every year, but I thought it deserved some reflection.

I don't think I am a hard core feminist. But I believe it is important that women are given the same opportunities as men. Over the last hundred years, many tough women from my grandmother's generation, and my mother's generation have fought hard for the rights I afford today, many of which I take for granted, like a higher education and a career outside the home.

My grandmother's life was very different from mine. She finished six years of a compulsory education, and she never worked outside the home.

When she turned sixty-five she received her first social security check. She belonged to the first generation of Swedes who received a national pension check. This was a big day in her life. A sum of money was given directly to her, and it came from someone other than grandpa.

This was the first time grandma had ever had her own money. Grandpa, a man who didn't part easily with his earnings, had always supplied her with an allowance for household expenses. But as they lived on subsistence farming, this meant she was given a small sum to pay for salt, sugar and coffee, or whatever else they couldn't produce themselves. These were the old fashion days of the 1930ies and 40ies.

Two generations later, I afford independence and choices that my grandmother had never even dreamt about: an education, a paycheck, a bank account, a credit card, a car, and so much more.

Previous post: What Should I Do With My Life?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Surface You Run On Matters!

Running on concrete is the worst thing you can do to the joints in your legs. Sadly, most sidewalks, where it is the safest to run, are all made of concrete!

Like an idiot, I used to curse when I drove passed people who walked or ran in the street. But asphalt, the black covering on most roads, is softer than concrete which makes it a much better running surface. The safest way to run is in the direction where you face the traffic. It means running on the wrong side of the street, but it beats getting run over from behind. At least you have a fair chance to jump to the side when a driver doesn't see you.

Running on hard surfaces can lead joint injuries. Read my post below about the importance of good running shoes.

A soft running surface is grass. Parks with soccer fields are perfect for running. The only drawback is if you don't live close to one. Then going for a quick run turns into a hassle where you first have to travel.

Finally, if you live close to a school with an outdoor track, it provides a softer than asphalt running surface, and usually an exact distance like 400 meters. The only drawback here is boredom. The scenery doesn't change, and it's boring to run in circles.

Source: "The Complete Book of Running for Women. Everything You Need to Know About Training, Nutrition, Injury Prevention, Motivation, Racing and Much, Much More." By Claire Kowalchik

Previous posts:
How Long Does It Take To Form A Lasting Running Habit?
Don't Fall For The Temptation And Buy An El Cheapo Running Shoe.