Friday Five

1. Promenading along the Promenade. We’ve been having some beautiful fall days, so I recently went down to the Brooklyn Promenade for a stroll. The Promenade is a kind of boardwalk which runs along a the East River almost to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Follow along with me, if you don’t mind my herky jerky camera movement. We start by looking at the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. You can see her in the harbor just across the bay. She looks so small from here! The area to the immediate left with the abundance of trees is Governors Island. Then the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan come into view. Moving north along the East River (don’t go in there), you’ll see the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground and the spires of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building just beyond. On the Brooklyn side of the river (in the lower part of the screen) you might notice all of the construction on the old piers. These piers were in use for years to transport people before bridges connected the two islands, then as a port for cargo and then as active shipyards during WWII. They’ve sat in disrepair for decades. Now they’re being remodeled as multi-use areas for recreation similar to what was done at Brooklyn Bridge Park.





2. Strut Your Mutt.
Last weekend along the Hudson River Walk was the annual fundraising event called Strut Your Mutt, hosted by Best Friends Animal Society. Local pet rescue groups raised money for their cause by pledging to walk. At the end of the day the NYC walk raised $270,000 for local groups with The Toby Project, a free/low-cost spay/neuter provider, coming in with the top honors of $72,000. The morning was cloudy and drizzly but dogs of all shapes and sizes came out (with their people of course).

The bulldogs


The Yorkies (Yes, they are in a stroller. Yes, they are wearing sweaters. Yes, they have bows in their fur. Yes, the bulldogs made fun of them.)


The shelties

The mutts


After the walk humans and dogs made their way to the pier with food vendors (including a truck selling “pup-cicles”) and other fun giveaways. I spent most of the morning handing out free treats to the pooches. How fun is that?

My favorite part of the day hands down was meeting a very special guy. He’s been through a lot in his life, but he’s come a long way. His name is Cherry and he was one of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring. Despite being used as a bait dog and still bearing some of the physical and emotional scars of the trauma, Cherry now lives happily with another dog and two cats, and his people told me that he loves, loves his new human baby sister. He watches over her. I see how far Cherry has come from a dog who cowered in the corner of his kennel, hoping to disappear, to being part of a loving family, able to come out in public and accept pats from well-meaning strangers, a testament that every dog (and human by the way), regardless of circumstance, is an individual.




3. The Age of Miracles. Now I know why I don’t read dystopian novels often…they freak me out so much that I lose sleep. They pose “what if” questions of an altered world that cause my pulse to race and make me want to dig some kind of fortified shelter in the basement. The Age of Miracles poses a very simple question with very complex (and disastrous) answers: What would happen if the earth’s rotation slowed so much that each day became more than 60 hours long?

At the Brooklyn Book Festival, I had the chance to sit in on a panel discussion with Karen Thomson Walker, the author of The Age of Miracles. She said her story was “enhanced reality” and that it was important for authors of dystopian fiction to make the impossible seem possible by always serving the story. Meaning that the “out there” elements should not be absurd for absurdity’s sake.

The story is narrated in first person by an 11-year-old girl who must make sense of the ever-changing world order while also navigating everyday life: the disintegration of her parent’s marriage, her first crush, boys taunting her at school. I appreciated the spare style and straightforward, un-neurotic storytelling. The author certainly has great control over her prose. I did wonder why this story wasn’t classified as YA. It certainly has all of the necessary elements, and I’ve read racier subject matter in plenty of YA novels. I suppose that was a marketing decision, rather than an authorial decision. While there aren’t any hard and fast solutions to a situation like this, the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been. I think my qualms about the ending were a byproduct of the retrospective narrator. Had the narrator been in the present moment, I suspect I would have felt more at ease. Some folks seem to be frustrated by the lack of sophisticated science of it all. This wasn’t an issue for me, maybe because I’m not a rabid dystopian, but if you are, I could see how this could cause you some annoyance. (Walker did have the manuscript vetted by an astrophysicist, she noted at the festival) Again, I think this is an issue caused by the retrospective narrator. If the narrator is looking back on this story, she knows more now than she did then. She could go into more details.

Walker said she’d gotten the kernel of the idea for the story from an article she read following the terrible 2004 tsunami which said that the inciting earthquake was so powerful, it altered the earth’s rotation ever so slightly, by just a millisecond or so. That was enough to get her mind wandering. What if that happened but in a major way? What if the earth slowed so much as to make our very existence uncertain. But then the reader realizes through the well-crafted subplots that life is uncertain. There are no guarantees, and that was the most haunting aspect of all.

Do you read dystopian thrillers? Which ones would you recommend?


4. Choosing passion.  I came across this quote by author Susan Orlean and it reminded me about an opinion piece which appeared in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago.

The reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty but full of possibility.—Susan Orlean


5. Stop seeking your passion. That’s what Cal Newport says. In an essay that appeared in The New York Times, he thinks it’s folly to try to figure out your true calling. “Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.” In other words, if you put in the effort and give yourself over to your job, your passion for it will come.

Hmm…I’m not sure I agree with his take at all. There are many people who are good at what they do, yet not passionate about it at all. In fact, I think being good at a job that isn’t your calling may do the exact opposite of what Susan Orlean pointed out in the quote above, making the world feel overwhelming and empty.

What do you think? Can you learn to be passionate about a job simply because you’re good at it? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 


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19 comments

  1. No way. I’m very good at my job but have zero passion for it. I tried everything, “the thrill is gone” and I will have to move on.
    I love dystopian novels. And YA novels exactly because of the daring questions they ask. I haven’t read all that many though apart from The Hunger Games and a very good Zombie novel. Oh the marketing/labelling of the YA novel. I’ve read and reviewed one – not dystopian – a while back and thought it was a pity it had that label and the author commented on my blog and agreed. She said she was sure she would have more readers because for a YA novels, it’s far too lyrical and understated.
    That mutt festival is so cute. I’d be a bit scared to have a dog who used to fight. I’m happy someone gave him a chance and it works well. Oops – I’m wordy today.

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    1. It does seem that YA novels have more freedom to push the envelope by asking the important questions that need to be asked. What a great point!

      YA novels aren’t just for teens any more. In fact, I just read an article in Publishers Weekly 2 weeks ago that said 55% of people who buy them are over 18.

      Thanks for stopping by Caroline. Have a great weekend.

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  2. First, I had to look up the word “dystopian”, and I’m still not sure I understand the meaning. (Side note: I do remember reading/hearing the rotation of the earth was altered by the earthquake. Fascinating.)
    Second, I love this, “Yes, the bulldogs made fun of them.”
    Third, while the story of the pit-bull tugged at my heart strings and makes me happy she found a forever healthy home, I let out an audible “aw” when I saw the mutt. Why are mutts so lovable?
    Forth, the video of New York was lovely. The sky was a wonderful blue.
    Fifth and final, I always enjoy your Friday Five.
    Have a great weekend!!

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    1. I agree, Lenore! Those mutts are so lovable. The event was so much fun for me because I got to give them all the doggie biscuits they could eat. And let me tell you, those bulldogs can eat a LOT of treats!
      Thanks so much for your kind words!

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  3. Oh, poor Cherry. I’m so glad to learn he is having a better life with a loving family. It’s hard to imagine the horror of being a bait dog. MV got off too easy for all that, IMO.
    The Yorkies are adorable, I don’t care what the Bulldogs say. 😉
    I agree with Walker that elements should not get too far out in dystopian novels and should serve the story. I’m curious to read this novel now. I don’t read much YA, but love a good dystopian novel. My favorite is probably McCarthy’s, The Road, though many say they find it too disheartening. I just dig the heck out of the father’s determination that springs from his deep love for his son.

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    1. I am so with you there!

      Yes, I remember that you liked The Road. I did, too — another dystopian novel that freaked the beejeebus out of me. In that case I think you’ll enjoy The Age of Miracles which is also a story about the characters first and the alternate reality second. If you read it, let me know your thoughts. I wonder if you feel it should be classified as YA or adult. (And I wonder how you would feel about the ending.)

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  4. Great video, Jackie. Nothing like autumn on the East Coast!

    That poor dog. Just reading Vik’s name made my blood boil. Thank heaven he’s been rescued and is doing well. I hate to admit it, but I’ve considered a stroller for Rocky. He tires out pretty quickly now, and I’d like to keep walking with him. This way he could. I have to draw the line at sneakers and bows, however. 🙂

    Some are predicting that the Earth’s poles will reverse in a year or two, so Walker’s book may not be so far-fetched after all.

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  5. I loved your movie, very cool. And I did read an excerpt of The Age of Miracles on amazon… I really enjoyed the part I read (and the voice was incredible) but I’m afraid I get too freaked out with the subject and premise. As for passion, I think you can develop passion for something just because you’re good at it and I also think it’s possible to be good at a job without havng passion for it.

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    1. I’m so glad you liked my little movie. 🙂 I’m certainly not going to give Steven Spielberg a run for his money any time soon!

      I think it’s interesting the idea that Susan Orlean put forth that having passion for your work makes the world feel like a smaller and more manageable place.

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  6. Could the answer lie in the intersection of the passion quotes? Be ready for the passion to find you, and pour yourself into it when it does?
    My passion at work is one I really have no reason to have believed was my calling

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  7. Have been waiting for your thoughts on AGE OF MIRACLES. That ending haunted me for weeks. Still does, really. So much unsettled and uncertain . . . HOWEVER, that I’m still thinking about that book now makes me think it will be on my personal top ten of 2012 list. There are books I read that I can hardly remember the next day. You know what I mean? This sticking-in-my-brain piece counts for a lot.

    I like what you said here: “Again, I think this is an issue caused by the retrospective narrator. If the narrator is looking back on this story, she knows more now than she did then. She could go into more details.”

    Very astute and I agree 100%.

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    1. This was definitely a book that stayed with me, too. I give all the credit to the author’s character development. That scene with the boy at the bus stop? That was so poignant no matter what other reality was presented in the story. I still think about the characters and what life was like for them after the slowing. How did they fare?

      I was reading on the subway and I would get so unsettled that I’d look up from the pages and wonder why no one else was as freaked out as I was. I think this will make my year end list too.

      I had to wrangle one of my co-workers to read this so I could talk to someone about it! So I’m glad to now have you who knows about the book too.

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  8. Oh, the Yorkies in the stroller crack me up–that said by somebody holding a bow-headed Maltese in her lap! At least, Lucy doesn’t have a stroller! YET! LOL

    Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend, as well!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

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    1. You just reminded me of a Seinfeld episode where Kramer decided to swim in the river every morning. He stank to high heaven and all the friends couldn’t stand to be around him. LOL!
      Though I hear the river has improved. If you consider 3-eyed fish an improvement.

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      1. It seems like I’ve seen that episode…
        except right now I’m managing to mix it up with the golfing into the water / low-flow shower head episodes (at least there’s a similar element there, I guess)!
        🙂

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