January 31, 2010

January Reads

A new year is upon us and with that brings a new year filled with adventures in reading. What I love most about embarking on these literary explorations is the complete and utter immersion into a world other than my own, and meeting people I otherwise wouldn't have the chance to meet. And all without ever leaving the comfort of my chair. There's a bookmark I've had for as long as I can remember that echoes these words and captures why I find reading so magical: "Books are the tickets to faraway places, to adventure and friends everywhere. And the best part is that you can travel the world without ever leaving your chair." Friends, this January, I traveled to one of my favorite places in the world: England. And the travel fare was next to nil.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Adventure. Friends. Far-off places. The tales of Sherlock have all that in spades. Curling up with these stories is the literary equivalent of luxuriating in front of a crackling fireplace. They're that cozy. And Sherlock Holmes is probably one of the most singular, fascinating characters I've ever come across on the page. "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb", "The Five Orange Pips" were some of my favorites of the short stories. Some people complain that reading short stories isn't very fulfilling, that the reader never really gets to know the characters, that the story is over before it ever has a chance of being fully developed. I disagree. I think short stories can be completely compelling and dare I say it, better written and more compact than a heftier novel that takes itself too seriously (and devotes too many pages doing it). Plus, short stories are great for diving into when you have 20 minutes left on the elliptical at the gym. Just sayin'.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. As you can see, I've been on something of a Sherlock kick this month. One of only four Sherlock Holmes novels ever written, Baskervilles appeared in serialized form in The Strand in 1901-1902. The story takes place in England's Dartmoor, a part of the country rooted in prehistoric history, where legends abound with myths of the magical spirits who dwelled there. This enchanted territory acts as the ideal backdrop for a little mystery. A man is found dead on his Dartmoor estate and the suspect is none other than a spectral, diabolical hound who has haunted the environs, cursing the dead man's family along with it, for centuries. I read this during a particularly wet and dreary week in Los Angeles at the end of January. It was heaven.

Next up for the month of February: re-visiting one of my favorite classics ever.

January 22, 2010

Pledge to read the printed word

Don't have to tell me twice. Read books, not computers, people!


January 21, 2010

Rainy day LA

Torrential rain has hit Southern California this week, and yet my commute to and from work has remained blissfully civilized in spite of it all (LA drivers are known for not handling rain very well). Kudos to the California Highway Patrol and my fellow drivers for maintaining calm and order on the roads! Although I can't say I'm especially fond of driving in the rain, I absolutely adore listening to it. Lately I want nothing more than to listen to the sound of it drumming against my window as I snuggle up warm and safe inside, book in hand. Preferably a Gothic or mystery novel that somewhat reflects the somber, gray weather outside.

I think the following poem by 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho captures the current state of things brilliantly.

First Winter Rain by Matsuo Basho
First winter rain--
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.

January 13, 2010

It takes but a moment....

My heart goes out to the people of Haiti. Catastrophes such as this just boggle my mind. You can help in the relief effort by texting the phrase “Haiti” to the number 90999, which will donate $10 to the Red Cross. That amount will ultimately be charged to your cellphone bill. I just did it and you can, too. Learn more here.

January 10, 2010

Scenes from the holidays

There's nothing quite like reflecting on a recent vacation to make you yearn for yet another. Here are some highlights from my Christmas spent in San Francisco and New Year's in Santa Barbara.

Staying at the historic Fairmont in San Francisco was precisely the old school Christmastime-in-the-city experience I was hoping for. Check out that gingerbread house.

Tea tasting in Chinatown was a new and rather awesome experience for this tea-drinker. I highly recommend.

Wine tasting in peaceful and blissfully warm Santa Ynez.

Toasting to a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2010. Salud!