Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Move along sister.

"Even as I lived it, that first autumn in the adult world felt as vivid as memory:  bright and breezy and so warm that I strolled bare-legged into October and a future that at last seemed mine to inscribe, thrilled through and through.  If he had felt something of that, we probably would have lasted a little longer, though I don't kid myself that we wouldn't have outgrown each other sooner rather than later.  Besides, I'd fallen for another -- my heart now belonged to boundless, inconstant possibility. Had I been seduced by the fickle idea that someone more perfect might be waiting around the corner?  I had, but it wasn't only that -- I also believed a more perfect me could be waiting there, too, just beyond the turn in the road."  ~Hephzibah Anderson, Chastened

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

"The Monster of Florence" is a 2008 true crime book by American author Douglas Preston and Italian journalist Mario Spezi.  When Preston chased a dream of moving his family to Italy, he discovered that the olive grove in front of their 14th century farmhouse had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known as the Monster of Florence (who coincidentally inspired the novel Hannibal by Thomas Harris).  Spezi spent much of his career tracking the Monster of Florence, and shortly after the two met, they decided to wipe the dust off the cold case.
This is the true story of their search for the real Monster, and their first-hand accounts of just how dysfunctional Italy's judicial system really is.  I mean wow.  Case in point:  while writing the book, both of the authors themselves became targets of the police investigation, their phones tapped, harshly interrogated, forcing Preston to flee back to the US.  Spezi ends up thrown into an Italian prison, accused of being the Monster himself.  Not only does there appear to be no rule of law in that country, but the masses and their leaders seem completely obsessed by "dietrologia" -- the Italian word for "the science of what is behind."  According to Preston, dietrologia is a toxic condition in Italy; Italians refuse to believe simple factual explanations and always search for something hidden behind the facts which they're convinced provides the real explanation.  This clearly infected judicial system in the Monster case, as attorneys, judges and police chiefs ignored rational explanations and patterns of the serial killings (at one point the FBI even took the liberty of sending a prototype of the killer which was ignored), and instead obsessed over fabricated satanic cults and implausible religious practices.  There were five different men arrested for these crimes, all at different times, all under different wacky theories, half of which were eventually released.  That would never happen in the US (thank heavens)!
Sound familiar?  Briefly mentioned in this book is the similar plight of Amanda Knox (a.k.a. "foxy knoxy"), an American student studying abroad in Perugia (ironically the same town where the Monster trials were held) who was convicted of murdering her roommate, despite the fact some African dude had already been found guilty and sentenced to what has ended up being less time in prison than Amanda and her boyfriend.  And to top it all off, the Italian government is now suing her for defamation as a result of her testifying she was beat up during her interrogations!
Great read, great dabble into non-fiction, and an important lesson:  be on your best behavior while vacationing in Italy for the love of everything sacred and holy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Resolutions

What a fantastic Florida holiday!  4 full days of ping-ponging around the sunshine state, visiting as many friends and family as humanly possible.  I couldn't see them all, but managed to see tons of wonderful Floridians who are all very close to my heart. A great way to end 2010! 

2010 was a superlative year:  29th birthday (yikes!), loads of travel, lots of old friends and even some new, more family time than usual (which is always a treat), a sweet promotion at work, tons of half marys along with another full marathon, tons 'o books under the belt, and a few special weddings, among other things.  But there is always room for improvement and one must continue to better oneself!  Thus the new year's resolution...

I have finally made mine (and reserve the right to add more between now and the stroke of midnight on the 31st) and encourage y'all to consider how you could make 2011 even better than 2010 was.  Life is way too short to regret not making the most of it friends!  So here are mine:

1.  A tad cliche, but I'm going back on the 'ol diet (please see picture of pecan bars and shortbread, only a few of my delicious, gluttonous holiday indulgences compliments of Mumsie).  My jeans are just a little tighter than I'd like after my serious running days of 2010 have passed, and I refuse to break out the fat clothes.  My last two months of eating and lounging was great, but I need to lay off the bubbly and get serious about boot camp and winter running!  Cold outdoor exercise or BUST.

2.  Maintain my new double-sided list of (1) "things I can control and will allow to bother me" (e.g., what I eat, how much I exercise, how cluttered my condo is at any given moment, what I accomplish (or don't) on my weekends and weeknights, etc.); and (2) "things I can't control and won't allow to make me crazy" (e.g., human resources (my GOD the incompetence!) and their thwarting the timing of my promotion, crazy people at work, crazy people anywhere for that matter, and other things that shall remain nameless that I just can't control).  This has been a remarkably fruitful exercise for me and it is most certainly worth bringing along into 2011.

3.  Breathe, let go, and move on.  This is very related to #2 and my issues with control, but deserves its own number.  I need to learn from what I'm still convinced was a big mistake as of late and move on with life.  Things happen for a reason, and sometimes you don't know the reason until much later (cue in Garth Brooks's corny-*ss "Sometimes I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers").  When you miss someone or something, and you can't control where or when they fit into your life, acknowledge it, send it positive energy, and let it continue through the universe to where it belongs.  No I am not on drugs and I still think hippies are weird.

4.  I'm tempted to put something here about running a marathon in record time (as in below 4:15), but I"ll pencil that one in for now.  I run best when I don't put massive amounts of pressure on myself, and it setting a tough goal can really take the fun out of a race. So I'm just kidding about the time, unless I've trained well in this awful cold and feel good on race day, in which case I'm totally serious.

Good luck with your resolutions - we've almost got another year under our belts!  xo

The present.

"What is it?  My dear?"
"Ah, how can we bear it?"
"Bear what?"
"This.  For so short a time. How can we sleep this time away?"
"We can be quiet together, and pretend -- since it is only the beginning -- that we have all the time in the world."
"And every day we shall have less.  And then none."
"Would you rather, therefore, have had nothing at all?"
"No.  This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began.  And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run.  But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere."

~A.S. Byatt, Possession

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Cursing Mommy

Reviewing the New Yorker's "best of 2010" rankings, I'm reminded just how much I love Shouts & Murmurs, a completely absurd column in the weekly magazine.  One of my favorite recurring characters is the cursing mommy, who - you guessed it - has a potty mouth and is probably saying what most of us gals are thinking during one particular week of each month. 

Treat yourselves to a laugh as the Cursing Mommy Cooks Italian.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Bonfire was named after a bonfire?

Who knew?!  Probably most of your brilliant, cultured selves.  But yours truly thought "Bonfire of the Vanities" was just a clever title from the dapper Tom Wolfe (and I just realized I never formally book reviewed Bonfire but only casually mentioned it in my Hamptons trip blog- shame on me!).  But as I was reading last night, I found a historical reference that indicated that the real bonfire wasn't a sketchy hit-and-run in the Bronx, but rather an actual fire that happened centuries ago in Florence, home of the Renaissance and birthplace of modern western culture.

Let me set the scene:  so I'm at home, having a glass 'o vino (from a box, no less) in my poodle pajamas and thumbing through my current book club assignment of "Hunchback of Notre Dame."  Well, I'm mildly ashamed to say that it happens to the best of us...I just WASN'T feeling it folks.  I didn't want to read Victor Hugo- I was in the mood for something juicy.  And Esmerelda and Quasimodo just weren't whetting my whistle as they were frolicking the medieval cathedral grounds in preparation for the Pope's next visit.  So in order to fulfill my longing for a steamy, emo romance, I decide to jump into a...nonfiction account of Florence, Italy's most famous serial killer?  Bingo!

I'll save the full book review for later, but come to find out there were actual burnings of objects that were deemed to be occasions of sin.  The most infamous one took place on February 7, 1497, when supporters of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects like cosmetics (GASP- not my Mearle Norman!), art, and books in Florence on the Mardi Gras festival.  The focus of this destruction was on objects that might tempt one to sin, including "vanity" items such as mirrors, makeup, fine dresses, playing cards and musical instruments, along with juicy books and manuscripts of secular songs.  Here's the 'ol sport now, livin' the dream:

And there's your history lesson for the day lovelies.  Hope you all have a very merry Christmas and enjoy the holiday with your families.  I am headed to Florida for a few days of celebration and can't wait to see Mumsie et al (as well as an interlude + midnight mass with the lovely Jessi-Anne).

Merry Christmas!  xo

Monday, December 13, 2010

One of many lessons it took me 29 years to learn

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost."    ~Anonymous

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marathons just got harder

Good news and bad news darlings.  The good news:  I've signed up for my third full marathon!  The bad news:  I'll be training through the winter, starting NOW.  As in this morning, when the temperature was 25 degrees with wind gusts exceeding 25 mph (not sure what that equals in a wind chill, but it was so cold and windy I ended up with a bloody nose!). 

Here's the course:

I've been taking some challenging but fun outdoor boot camp classes with the laaaaadies in the chilly weather lately, and I was feeling a little ball-sy, so I thought I'd challenge myself with to the ultimate test:  spending copious amounts of time outdoors during the winter months.  I hate the cold!  I'm from Florida y'all and Mid-Atlantic winters are NOT my natural habitat to say the very least!  So we'll see how this goes.  Either I end up with thicker skin during the colder half of the year from here on out, or I end up pissed off and in bed with pneumonia.  Either way I'll be cold!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Given the fact that I'm an active member of two book clubs, my reading list is not my own lately.  Granted one of the book clubs is solely dedicated to steamrolling through the classics, which I aspire to do long-term, but between classics that weren't necessarily on my short list (e.g., more Oscar Wilde) and my other book club which, bless its heart, hasn't led to the most satisfying lit, my personal reading list is gathering dust (neither here nor there, but to all of you who have recommended books my way, I promise I haven't forgotten!)  Though I will say my gossip/wine book club has salvaged some decent reads as of late (well, I chose Bonfire of the Vanities last month), including Colum McCann's "Let the Great World Spin."  Of course in typical fashion I'll have more negative than positive to report, but overall it was a thoughtful read and imparted a healthy serving of dog-eared pages and underlining on account of some introspective moments.

In one sentence:  it was a city-fied, second grade attempt at another Olive Kitteridge (see her book review here).  Emo vignettes that were out of chronological order and all somehow related.  Some of McCann's vignettes were well done - particularly of the brothers' childhood in Dublin and when he otherwise set the stage for the layers of his characters.  But the man should stick to subtleties (really, shouldn't they all?) because his attempts at drama were frantic and phony.  And he should've asked a woman's help on capturing and portraying the complexities of a female protagonist - it's pretty obvious the author is a dude trying to write for a bird.  Last, but not least, crafting a series of events around Phillippe Petit's narcissistic stunt (yet defended as a philanthropic act for humanity? Have you seen the documentary about this guy??) of tightrope walking between the Twin Towers is just...poor form.  Watch the documentary and you'll agree- Phillippe Petit is a talented nut who loves himself too much even to the standards of his fellow Frenchmen, yet swears he does it all for the greater good (if you find the connection, please enlighten me).

I will say there were touching moments that cut deep, and his portrayal of Irish men is uncanny.  You become unexpectedly attached to a few of his characters, like Tillie the hooker who explains that "sometimes I just felt like a needle in a jukebox.  I just fell on that groove and rode awhile.  Then I'd pick the dust off and drop again."  And you fall in love with the unlikely pair of brothers, the Corrigans.  It all ends in sweet tragedy and makes you want to pick up the phone and tell someone you love them.