Book Plan

Via Clarissa's Blog I found the Classics Club where people choose 50 or more “classics” and set a goal to read them in 5 years.

I've decided to join the club so I just took their suggested list and pick ones that caught my attention, regardless of whether I had read them or not.
Here is what I came up with.

Title Version On Hand
Achebe Chinua Things Fall Apart
Adams Richard Watership Down Book
Borges Jorge Luis Ficciones Book
Bronte Charlotte Jane Eyre Kindle
Bulgakov Mikhail The Master and Margarita Book
Burgess Anthony A Clockwork Orange Book
Camus Albert Stranger Kindle
Carroll Lewis Alice in Wonderland
Cather Willa My Antonia
Chopin Kate The Awakening
Conrad Joseph Heart of Darkness
Dostoevsky Fyodor Crime and Punishment Book
Dumas Alexandre The Three Musketeers
Eliot George Silas Marner
Faulkner William As I Lay Dying
Fitzgerald F. Scott Flappers and Philosophers Kindle
Forster E.M. Passage to India
Gibbons Stella Cold Comfort Farm
Gogol Nikolay Dead Souls Book
Greene Graham The Power and Glory Kindle
Hardy Thomas Jude the Obscure Kindle
Hawthorne Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter Kindle
Heller Joseph Catch-22 Kindle
Hemingway Ernest A Farewell to Arms Book
Hurston Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God
Irving John A Prayer for Owen Meany Book
Irving Washington The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Kerouac Jack On the Road
Lee Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
London Jack White Fang
Melville Herman Billy Budd Kindle
Miller Arthur The Crucible
Mitchell David Cloud Atlas
Nabokov Vladimir Pale Fire Kindle
O’Brien Tim Going After Cacciato
O’Connor Flannery Wise Blood Kindle
O’Connor Flannery A Good Man is Hard to Find Book
Orwell George 1984 Kindle
Pamuk Orhan My Name is Red
The Trial and Death of Socrates
Rushdie Salman The Satanic Verses Book
Scott Sir Walter Ivanhoe Kindle
Shakespeare William Hamlet
Shakespeare William King Lear
Shakespeare William Macbeth
Silko Leslie Marmon Ceremony
Steinbeck John The Grapes of Wrath
Stoker Bram Dracula Kindle
Thoreau Henry David Walden Kindle
Turgenev Ivan Fathers and Sons
Twain Mark A Tramp Abroad Kindle
West Nathanael Day of the Locust
White T.H. The Once and Future King Kindle


Patiot, Traitor, American

Burr: A NovelBurr: A Novel by Gore Vidal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I totally dug that the founding fathers may have all been arrogant imperfect jerks who somehow managed to place the foundation for our current country. AND the thing is, BURR shows us how the future course of the country was really an unknown.

In the popular mind we see those early years though the lens of what is the destiny of our history. Therefore what we became was inevitable from the actions of the revolutionaries. Aaron Burr's story reminds us that the winners write the history and also that the U.S. is pretty freakin amazing since Burr was a true Revolutionary hero, almost a President, was the third Vice President, was accused of murder and treason. Yet still ended his days in New York city as a “normal” citizen practicing law.

The feeling I got was that Gore adopted an SOB attitude of Burr but actually let some endearing patriotic motivations come through. Maybe that is why Gore found Burr an appealing subject. They were both SOBs who under it all had unconventional virtues at their core.

Anyway. Read it.

View all my reviews

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Detective

Tonight I visited J.K. Wong Kungfu Tai Chi Academy and watched a beginner Tai Chi class. Short answer, it was good and I could see myself there.

The place was clean and no rusted swords. It too was a “Wu” style like the place I went to last week, although it was a Wu Hao style of which I am not quite sure what is the difference. BUT, it passed my first test, it looked cool. I gather the Yang style is more expressive but the teacher tonight looked pretty centered and elegant in a reserved manner.

I didn't get to meet the big kahuna, the “sifu” . But the teacher and the guy who talked to me were convincing.

It may be that this place would have more immediate and in depth analysis of your technique than Taoist tai chi. The other guys seem to have a plunge ahead and sort it out approach in the beginning. And for me that kind of feels right just now.

So I think I will continue where I am going, but remember the place I saw tonight and maybe go back there later. I felt like the Toaist Tai Chi with its modified Yang style would be a good place to start. I may be wrong but for now the informal vibe of my first try might work out now.

Of course I may be slightly influenced by the fact that JK Wong would be twice as much money a month that the system at Taoist Tai Chi. (about $90 a month paid 3 months at a time)/

Overall a good vibe though


Tai Chi Detective

Last night I stopped by Lee's White Leopard Kung Fu to check out the Tai Chi Class. Their website spoke of the many levels of Tai Chi to work on and the soundness of the lineage. They teach the “Wu” style of Tai Chi and break it down to varying number of steps in the form, starting with 17 I think and up to 108. Plus there is a “Saber” form where the Tai Chi person makes the moves with a sword in one hand.

The first half of the hour class is a standing meditation where everybody holds their hand out from the waist and very slowly moves their fingers. Master Lee sat by me as they did it and explained how each finger is connected to different body parts and body functions. So that slowly moving them increases circulation and Chi flow. He was quite adamant about Chi's relationship to a healthy body.

He also teaches at least two types of Kung Fu and commented on how fortunate he was to have such great teachers.

After the standing meditation he lead the class in a short form of a set of moves, after which people broke into groups to work on whatever they were focusing on. Some die the 42 steps,others the 17 and then some brought out the swords.

I am pretty sure it is all totally legit and it was very interesting and I am glad I went. BUT, there were a number of things that just didn't pull me in, although most of them were by no means disqualifying (well maybe one).

1. This may be the most superficial, but it just didn't look pretty or graceful.

It could be I don't have the eye to judge it but, whereas some people might think (incorrectly I believe) that Aikido might not “work” in a fight, I don't think any open minded person could watch even an average Aikido class and not think it was beautiful. You can see moving from their center, and you can see when they don't, but you get the idea of the way it is supposed to be.

It looked like people were all concentrating on just moving their arms. Not completely, but that is the feel I got from it

2. When they were doing the standing meditation even I could see the many of the people were slouching or leaning forward or backward. When I used to go the Zen center, while you were sitting a monitor or teacher would sometimes walk the room quietly correctly posture for a more effective session. It just seems strange that something that obvious was not addressed.

Of course I am the newbie and may not know what the plan is

3. When they got the sword from the rack, they were rusty on the flat of the swords.
It wouldn't affect the movements at all but it just caught my eye

4. As I was reading the brochure for the place there was a comment about you couldn't be released from your responsibility unless you were moving or had an illness. I thought it strange since all you would have to do was stop paying for the class. I thought.

5. Then when I left I was told I could try two lessons for $20, and when I asked what the fee was after that I found out you have to sign a one year contract and pay 3 months up front which I think figured around $100 to $110 a month. Then I remembered noting there were no prices on the website or the brochure.

None of the things would have prompted me to discount the place immediately, except maybe the contract, but all added together I was less enthused when I left than when I first came in. I even could have stomached a contract, if that is how these things are done, IF I saw something that totally grabbed me and made me feel like I HAD to get into it.

In comparison, the Toaist Tai Chi I went to on Tuesday and participated in still strikes me as graceful and I think I get a sense of its purpose.

Next week I continue with the DFWToaist Tai Chi class and plan to check out J K Wong Kung Fu Tai Chi in Richardson, which  I notice has a FAQ on their website that says the do not have a contract to sign.


A New Step in a Different Direction

Tonight I tried out some Tai Chi.

I am taking a break from Aikido but don't want to go totally to seed. Plus one of my frustrations was that after almost 6 years of Aikido I still could never seem to relax when I should. And as I understand it, Tai Chi is to be practice from start to finish in a relaxed state. I was a little surprised there wasn't more Tai Chi around town to choose from and there are 3 places so far I am checking out.

Tonight I took the first class of the beginner series at Taoist Tai Chi in Dallas. It is a non profit org and the teachers are all volunteers getting no pay. There is a larger organization behind it that has some sort of certification process. They explicitly state they are for the health aspects NOT any martial aspect. The vibe of the place is nice, very low key and meet at a church and I am well within the average of the group and maybe at the younger end of the spectrum. Most Aikido dojos are non-profit so this was reassuring in that you felt confident you were not entering into some sort of money making scam.

I had to do a lot of Googling to find some Tai Chi online forum that criticize the organization. Nothing shocking, basically they thought it wasn't REAL Tai Chi. So I will give the 4 once a week class a try.

The first class was good, and with only learning the first few steps it was still amazingly difficult.

Tomorrow I visit and observe Lee's White Leopard Kung Fu. Review to come afterwards.


Photos and Prints

I spent a few hours in my makeshift darkroom tonight. And this whole analog world is a lot of work. Was it worth it? Maybe. One picture is a photo of a print and the other a photo of a negative and then tweaked with software. Is one better? Does it matter? By the way, I lost track of the number of turns to use on the old camera so There is a bit of double exposure on both sides of the group picture.