Cows and Charities and Links and Books, oh my!

Happy Monday! Today’s grab-bag  post:

First, for those of you who made it here via Nathan’s blog, I am in for the Heifer International comment=$1.00 charity extravaganza. Leave a comment, I’ll donate a buck. If there are too many comments, I’ll cap it at a level I can afford. But let’s try not to invoke that unless we have to, shall we? By the way, I did this last year, and gave Heifer $50. I can do better than that this year. Oh, and if you have a blog and want to play along, let me know, and I’ll link to your blog.

Update: I cribbed Nathan’s elegantly formatted list, and pasted it here. It didn’t paste so elegantly, but it is complete.

  1. Practically Twisted
  2. Ink Spells (also a pledge to match your donation!)
  3. First Person Irregular
  4. Daily Awesomeness by Louise Curtis
  5. Jenn Hubbard (Blogspot)
  6. or Jenn Hubbard (LiveJournal)
  7. Minus equals plus giving blog
  8. T. H. Mafi – LET’S MAKE SOME MONEY.
  1. Missed My Stop by Robyn Bradley
  2. Tera Lynn Childs
  3. Anna Saikin
  4. Audra Krell
  5. Life and Literary Pursuits of Alexia Chamberlynn

If I may wag my finger for a minute, you really aren’t in the spirit of the holidays if you just give gifts to your friends and family. In the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof makes this point quite well: “One of the paradoxes of living in a wealthy country is that we accumulate tremendous purchasing power, yet it’s harder and harder for us to give friends and family presents that are meaningful.”

Kristof’s comment comes at the end of an excellent column, “The Gifts of Hope,” where he describes eleven organizations that are exceedingly worthy of your charitable giving. And before you go pleading poverty, visit the Global Rich List to see where you really stand.

Second, I propose John’s Yule Law, which states that children’s excitement and anticipation for Christmas is inversely proportional to parent’s frantic panic to get ready. (This is apropos of nothing, of course, except for the daunting status of my to do list.)

Third, I’m noticing that thanks to my social media friends, I often have more good links than I know what to do with. Case in point are a few good stories I haven’t managed to regurgitate on Facebook and Twitter.

Mental Floss had a list of “10 Works of Literature That Were Really Hard to Write,” which is interesting even if you haven’t struggled to write anything lately. One work is Gadsby, a 50,000-word novel without the letter “e” (yes, really). Another is Finnegan’s Wake, which James Joyce dictated to Samuel Beckett, with some unexpected results.

Another is a book I read and highly recommend, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby, which was made into a critically acclaimed film in 2007. You should read this book. Why? For no other reason than to honor this man’s determination:

In 1995, at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a major stroke and slipped into a coma. He regained consciousness two days later, but his entire body—with the exception of his left eyelid—was paralyzed. Still, Bauby was determined to write. Using only his lucid mind and one eye, he began working on his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Each night, he’d lie awake editing and re-editing the story in his mind, memorizing every paragraph as he hoped to relay it. By day, his transcriber would recite the alphabet to him over and over. When she reached a letter Bauby desired, he’d wink. Each word took about two minutes to produce, and during the course of a year, Bauby managed to tell his story of life in paralysis.

Fourth, I want to chat a bit about Paul Quarrington, a Canadian author who died earlier this year. The Torontoist blog ran a nice appreciation of him today: “At his best, Quarrington filled his pages with whimsy, and then pulled out the rug at the last minute, revealing the dramatic, even tragic, story he’d been building underneath all along.”

My favorite book of his is Whale Music (also made into a movie), which was one of the many reasons I decided to write a book about musicians. Here’s the description of Whale Music:

Des Howell is a former rock ‘n’ roll star who never leaves his secluded oceanfront mansion. Naked, rich and fabulously deranged, he subsists on a steady diet of whiskey, pharmaceuticals and jelly doughnuts and occasionally works on his masterpiece, “Whale Music.” One day, upon awakening from his usual drunken stupor, Des discovers on his sofa a young alien from the faraway universe of Toronto. This girl has made the trek to Des’ hideaway because she believes in the “Whale Music” and she’s crazy enough to think that Des can make a comeback hit with his mad magnum opus…

Fifth, thanks for reading!

33 thoughts on “Cows and Charities and Links and Books, oh my!

  1. OK, here’s your comment. I always read & enjoy your posts, which are alternately entertaining, thought-provoking, and informative. SO much better than canned media. Thanks for making them available. And thanks for the donation. Heifer is a good organization.

  2. The company i work for did heifer this year too- beehives…. Pretty cool organization. 🙂
    Merry chrismas to you, Carmen, and the kidos!

  3. Good for you and heifer, and thanks for the bag full of christmas goodies in the form of points one through five. Whale Music is,the only book ever that I finished reading, picked up immediately, and read it again. Since then, I have read it twice more.

  4. Yay Heifer and Yay You! I enjoy your blog – I’ve been browsing and it’s lots of fun. 🙂

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  5. Yuletide Greetings John !

    Compelled by an overpowering sense of guilt and dare I say… shame, I am posting this comment on your Blog to ensure you follow through with your commitment to donate monetarily to your chosen cause. Albeit I have no idea why you are hellbent on donating funds for the preservation of heifers I trust you have their best interests at heart, no doubt to save them from a re-“veal”-ing demise. 😉
    You’re a good man John and your efforts are noble – any non-profit organization such as Heifer International, whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance & sustainability, is alright in my book ! Merriest of Christmases to you and yours from me and mine 😉


  6. LOVE that quote! I’m going to subscribe to you and I am going to go pray more people comment!

    (I got your link from Nathan).

    I’m Writing A Book!

  7. Hey, John – Merry Christmas to you and yours. . .We’re back from South America having been nearly lost at sea. A story will emerge. ALL the family is here now – the house is full. Wish you guys were closer. This year Christmas was reduced to two days, but next year will do our own Heifer project, as we have done before. xoxo gail and you-know-who

  8. I’m here at Nathan’s suggestion. Thanks for supporting Heifer International.

    I’m struck by your recommendation of Butterfly & Bell Jar. I agree it was incredibly hard to write, but it’s the best argument I know of for detailed advance medical directives, as in “If I were paralyzed with no prospect of recovery and could only move my left eyelid, PULL THE PLUG.” I find the possibility of being locked-in terrifying.

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