One of the things that I really liked about my house when I moved in was the trio of trees out front which flowered every January. These trees are ubiquitous in Silicon Valley (there are a whole bunch of them at work), and their flowers are very fragrant. Sometimes I’d read the paper in my front room with the windows open – even though it was 50 degrees out – to get a whiff of the tree in the morning. (Most of these trees in the area flower in March, ours always flowered early for some reason.) And at Christmas time Debbi and I would decorate the tree, wrapping cords of lights around the leafless branches, and attracting many kind comments from the neighbors.
The trees were put in when the complex was built, in the late 70s, and I guess they have a well-known lifespan. The tree in front of our house died last winter, and one of its two companions probably has only one more season left. (The third tree, which is much smaller, living as it does in the shadow of a large pine tree, seems to be in better shape.)
This morning the tree trimmers came and cut down the tree in front, pulling out the large ball of the root, and they started trimming the dead branches off the second tree.
So, I’m sad. I really liked that tree. We’re going to try to put in a new tree of the same type, but it will probably be years before it grows to full size.
One thing I hope to do in this new journal is to become a better reviewer.
I’ve been writing reviews for some years now, and lately have felt like I’m stuck in a rut. My review format is pretty standard:
- One or two sentence introduction.
- One-to-three paragraph plot summary.
- A few paragraphs of what I thought about the book.
After a while this format has made me start feeling as if I were Harriet Klausner, only slightly more insightful and a lot more cynical. (For those who don’t know, Klausner is the #1 reviewer at Amazon.com. It’s been conjectured that she’s actually a pen-name, perhaps for multiple reviewers. I don’t know that there’s any evidence for this, and there’s some evidence against it. In any event, her reviews are invariably positive – 4 or 5 stars – and have the consistent format of 2 paragraphs of plot summary and one paragraph of opinion. In other words, I find them bland.)
For me, the challenge in reviewing is that I both want to urge people to read books I enjoy, and discuss books I think are interesting. The former suggests that I keep my reviews spoiler-free, while the latter often requires that I include spoilers. (And both suggest maybe I shouldn’t review books I don’t like and don’t find interesting.) The solution to this, I think, is to write a review using the former approach, and then put any comments in the latter vein behind a Read More tag. (For the most part I hate it when people use things like lj-cut tags, but I think spoiler info is one of the very few legitimate uses of such things.)
And I’d like to break out of a standard reviewing format and get a little more creative.
Anyway, that’s the goal. I think it will take some thought and practice before I can properly execute it.
My sister’s comment on the journal’s name is that it makes her “think of Sesame Street”. That might be inevitable when you have a 2-year-old, though.
Hi there! I’m Michael Rawdon. Welcome to my new journal, Fascination Place.
I imagine that most of you reading this have come over from my old journal, Gazing Into The Abyss, at least at first. Fun as that journal was, I was getting tired of living on my little home-brew software which powered it. I wanted categories, and comments, and a domain name, and a format in which it would feel more comfortable to write small posts, and more often. And I wanted to stop feeling like my journal was living in 2001.
Over the summer I started casting around for what to use instead, and to my surprise it was just about unanimous that WordPress was the state-of-the-art blogging software out there. So that’s what I’m using, having spent most of September learning the languages that drive WordPress and customizing my set-up to get it the way I want.
Is it worth it? Time will tell. I’m pretty happy with the result, but no doubt there are some kinks to work out. You can comment or e-mail me if you see anything serious that needs attention.
I’m a little self-conscious about the title, “Fascination Place” (with no “The” – it’s like a street name), as I’ve always thought that I’m terrible at coming up with titles for things. Someone once pointed out to me that “Gazing Into The Abyss” seemed like a poor title for my journal, probably because my “abyss” is about two feet deep. So I wanted a title which was descriptive but not cynical, and that’s what I came up with. (It was hard. I told you I was terrible at coming up with titles…)
That aside, I’ve been chomping at the bit to start writing content for Fascination Place, and I set a deadline to launch this thing by this weekend, because spending any more time preparing it was just spinning my wheels. Like any new commitment, it’s a little scary (even if it’s replacing an old one which was just about the same), but it’s also kind of a relief to get started.
I hope you enjoy it. Welcome!