Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fahrenheit 451: A 'Review'

Near the original Emerald Queen Casino, Tideflats area, Tacoma, WA by Shelley McElhiney*
How does one review a classic? A 'banned' book? A controversial book, even now, more than 50 years after its first publication? I don't think you can or maybe shouldn't, but it should be discussed & thought about, so here are some random thoughts & answers to a few questions:

  • What was the book about? The book is about burning books (Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn), but more than that it is about destroying independent thought, about the pursuit of happiness through ignorance, about allowing technology to take over our thoughts & lives, something that Bradbury wrote often about, one of his favorite topics. It starts as the story of a fireman, not the kind of fireman we see today, who puts out fires & saves buildings & libraries, but the kind of fireman who starts fires, destroying 'dangerous' books & subversive literature, saving the public from old knowledge that might make them sad & unhappy, unable to carry on with their mundane lives, in the face of wars that they know little to nothing about, saving them from the knowledge that they are wasting their lives on meaningless frivolity & mundane tasks
  • Did you like or dislike it? I loved it, which is up from my original feelings. I originally read this as a child & I liked it, but there were depths that were lost on me, not because I couldn't read the words, the text & even some into the subtext, but because I hadn't experienced enough to read into the depths & richness of the novel.
  • Who was your favorite character? Most were interesting, who should I pick? Clarisse, the catalyst that changed Montag's perceptions, his reality? Faber, the old man who helps Montag after he realizes that the world is not what it once seemed? Montag, the main character, whom I disliked immensley, at the beginning, but who moves toward redemption, in the end.
  • What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite? My favorite part is not a part at all, but the subtle progression of the themes, throughout the novel. Least favorite, maybe the scene where Montag reads bits of poetry to the women who have gathered with his wife, for an evening. The women represent the worst of the society that has formed, lead by the 'pictures' of their 'families' that stream through their homes, on an almost constant basis, pictures that take the place of reality & thought. What bothers me, is that the women in the novel & this scene in particular, seem to be more reliant on their 'families.' This probably has more than a little to do with the era in which the book was written, where few women worked outside the home.
  • Have you read any other books by this author? Many
  • Would you read any others because of this book? I have & probably would again,
  • Were there any situations or characters in the book that you identified with? How? I identify with Clarisse in that she can't help thinking outside the box. This is where creativity & inventiveness live. The box is often synonymous with stagnation & oppression. In the book, her way, her families way leads to both freedom & danger.
  • Did you like the book from the beginning or did it take you a while to get into it? At first, it was difficult to get into, Montag's character was not likable & the reality he lives in is frightening
  • Would you change anything about the book? No, I don't think would. 
  • Would you ask the author a question if you could? What would you ask? I'm not sure what I would ask Bradbury, such a prolific & interesting writer.
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers? Yes, definitely!
  • What surprised you the most about the book? The depths of the storyline & characters
  • What is the significance of the title? Would you have given the book a different title? If yes, what is your title? Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn & fire plays a huge role in the novel, I couldn't think of a more perfect title. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, in a shorter version, under the title "The Fireman," I think the change to "Fahrenheit 451" is a far more provocative title. 

Have you read "Fahrenheit 451?" Was it recently? Did you re-read it later? How have your perceptions changed? SAM

*Original photo by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved

Sunday, July 6, 2014

55 Book Related Questions

Inside The Nearsighted Narwhal, independent bookstore, 6th Ave. Taoma, Wa by Shelley McElhiney*
I thought that today I would share with you my answers to the "55 Book Related Questions" swap in the Carpe Librum group on Swap Bot. It's always interesting to read how each one of us answers these questions, how we're similar & how we're different, even how we differ each time we answer the questions. How would you answer? I know I have slightly different answers each time, so here are my current answers to our "55 Book Related Questions:"

1 Favorite childhood book? I'm not sure, I loved books: Horse books like Black Beauty, etc, there was a great series of fairy books that I discovered at a school library, each book was a different color & they were fairly old, I was in 4th or 5th grade & I loved them, I read an anthology of Ray Bradbury stories & Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, these got me into science fiction & related genres...

2 What are you reading right now? Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, I'm reading it for a book club. I read it long ago & I'm glad I've revisited it, as an adult, there's such a different perspective you have as you get older.

3 Do you go to a library? If so, what do you currently have checked out there? If not, is there a reason? I haven't gone to a library in many years, maybe not since college. I've worked in a couple of bookstores & it was easier to get books there. I also like to keep most books & with libraries, I have to give them back :)

4 Do you collect any authors/series or certain types of books? I love Neil Gaiman works & I have collected a few Haruki Murakami books. Also, Chuck Pahulniak & Christopher Moore. I used to collect sci fi books & have a huge collection of those, but lately I've been reading more modern lit & non fiction.

5 Do you have a yearly goal on amount of books you want to finish? No goals, just read what sounds interesting, when I can

6 Do you have an e-reader? I can read books on my tablet, but I don't have a dedicated e-reader.

7 Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I'm generally reading several at once.

8 Do you have a blog where you post about books? Do you follow any blogs about reading/books? Which ones? I have a blog, but it's about everything & occasionally about books or little stories I've written. I have followed a few blogs on books, but I can't remember any names right now. My blog is Random Stuff by SAM on Blogspot.

9 Least favorite book you read this year (so far in 2014)? Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, it was meandering & long, though the language was beautiful.

10 Favorite book you’ve read this year (2014)? Maybe Fahrenheit 451, even though  it's a re-read.

11 How often do you read out of your comfort zone? I try reading new things that look interesting on a regular basis, but if they don't engage me, I stop. I've never been able to finish an actual romance or western.

12 What is your reading comfort zone? Modern literature, non fiction, sci fi/fantasy

13 Do you read for enjoyment or to gain knowledge? I do both & the most enjoyable books I've read have generally been one that I've learned something from.

14 Favorite place to read? At home, I find it hard to get into reading when there are other people around.

15 What are your thoughts on book lending? I don't mind it

16 What are your thoughts on pirated books? The same as pirated music, the original authors, artists & writers should be the ones who earn something from their work

17 What are your thoughts on "Banned" books? I don't think books should be  banned as no one should be able to dictate what another person can or can't read. Books with 'difficult' subjects should be openly discussed

18 What are barriers you have to reading more? (work, family, ect) All of the above: Work, family, etc...

19 How many books have you read in the last six months? 3 or 4

20 What makes you love a book? Books that have something to say & say it in an engaging way

21 What will inspire you to recommend a book? If it was well written & I think that the other person will enjoy it

22 5 of your top read genres Literature, Science Fiction, Non Fiction, Classics, Humor

23 5 authors you read a lot Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Kafka, Calvino

24 Do you read non-fiction? Biographies? Yes, I enjoy both (if they're not to dry, if it's interesting enough of a subject to write a book about, it should be interesting enough to write the book so someone will want to read it...)

25 How many times do you read a week?  I read sporadically, unless I'm reading for a book group, so I can go a week or more without reading anything that is not on-line.

26 Do you feel you read better with or without noise? I used to read while listening to music, but I don't like to read around people who are talking (It's really hard to read at work, during breaks)

27 What influences your book choices? Book blurbs, cover art, recommendations

28 Favorite reading snack? Kettle Korn

29 Do you literally judge a book by its cover, title, or author? Sometimes...I don't generally pick up books with creepy or gory covers or covers of traditional romance novels

30 What is the longest book you have ever read? The shortest? Maybe "Gödel, Escher & Bach" for the longest, not sure about the shortest, I can't remember any titles right now.

31 How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I don't mind it, if it's done in a constructive, 'the book just wasn't for me' way

32 Do you make up stories, or ever think about an alternate ending for a book because you want to? Occasionally I think of ways I think the book could have ended better. I've only created original stories, I haven't written any fan fiction or alternate endings, except in school

33 Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? House of Leaves

34 Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? I was nervous to begin Winter's Tale, because it was so long & I wanted the author to get to some point, rather than just reading meandering descriptions of things.

35 What book do you try to steer people away from? Any Harry Potter book, even though the movies were thoroughly enjoyable & the books were written for a young audience, many adults enjoy them. I'm not one of those adults, I thought that a lot could have been cut from the first book, without affecting the storyline & they just got more & more verbose from there.

36 What book do you recommend most to others? Fight Club, but it's definitely not for everyone

37 Do you ever re-read books? Yes, sometimes. I am re-reading several books through the book club that I read as a child & I'm glad that I have

38 Favorite fictional character? Tyler Durden

39 Favorite fictional villain? Cruella DeVille

40 Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? I'll bring most anything that I'm reading on vacation.

41 The longest I’ve gone without reading. Several months

42 Name a book that you could/would not finish. The Harry Potter books

43 What distracts you easily when you’re reading? People talking

44 Favorite film adaptation of a novel? Fight Club, practically word for word the same as the novel

45 Most disappointing film adaptation? Most film adaptations are bad, since they don't match your imagination or the author's intent. I can't think of any specific titles right now. The only thing I can think of is Judge Dredd, which was not a novel, originally but a great British comic strip/series of graphic novels socio/political commentary, no romance involved. The film turned it into a boring, but strange romance. Sylvester Stallone did at least look the part...

46 The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? A couple hundred dollars, during our Borders employee holiday discount events.

47 How often do you skim a book before reading it? Almost always

48 What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? There has been no point made, just lots of descriptive language

49 Do you like to keep your books organized? I like to, but they aren't...

50 Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I usually keep them

51 Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? I avoid romances, westerns & rarely read mysteries

52 Name a book that made you angry. An Ann Coulter book, also Rush Limbaugh books. It's ok if you're conservative, but these two seem like they are trying to insult others who do not believe the same things they do & their evidence often leads nowhere. (I don't hate others that like these writers, but they are not for me)

53 A book you didn’t expect to like but did?  Clan of the Cave Bear, it was presented as more of a romance series, but Jean Auel did a great deal of research that made these books fascinating

54 A book that you expected to like but didn’t? The Harry Potter books

55 Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading Christopher Moore books, so funny

I hope you enjoyed reading my answers & thinking about your own...SAM

*Photo by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Storytelling Saturday: Objects that tell Tales The Sun King

The other day, we were lucky enough to stop by a little Tacoma, right of way park, where they were just finishing up the installation of the Sun King sculpture, which had been stored away, far from public view, since the 2006, just waiting to come back into the light & shine upon the city:

Installed in such a way that there is a different view from every angle

This is the side that faces the main street & the side with the most detail

Commissioned in 1976, by the city of Tacoma for $37,000 the Sun King sat in front of the Sheraton Hotel until the Sheraton was made into the Murano, the Sun King was stored away in 2006

Where the statue is now set up, gorgeous views of the sun can be seen as the sun sets, between the parts & carvings of the statue

The Sun King by Thomas Morandi
The 'newest' in a long list of thought provoking art that can be seen throughout our little city...

Have you stumbled on any interesting art in your city?

*All photos the property of Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Walk Tacoma: Brewery District

On Wednesday we attended the Walk Tacoma Tour #4: Brewery District, for a little glimpse into the history of Tacoma...

Start of the walk: Standing on the UW Tacoma Campus stairs
Ghost Sign on one of the UW Tacoma Campus many repurposed historic buildings. These are the original building signs that have been uncovered, but not removed or repainted, to preserve their antique character
The next campus building to be repurposed. The UW Tacoma campus is comprised of original, repurposed buildings & new structures designed to blend in with the historic area.
Our first stop was by the old railroad tracks that still run between the campus buildings
More ghost signs along our walk... This building has been many things over the years, including a coffee shop & an auto clearing house.
Old Tacoma Brewery District area...

Brick building at our last stop in the Brewery District
Now filled with micro breweries, Tacoma was once a very large part of of the brewing industry, before the advent of refridgeration. The Northwest had the perfect environment for brewing, after refridgeration there was no need to brew in specific environments, it could be done anywhere & the industry suffered in the Northwest. Microbreweries have breathed new life into the area & the industry.

Walking back toward The Hub (one of Tacoma's micro breweries, restaurant & gathering place) where the tour ended in a beer tasting for those who wanted to attend.
Hope you enjoyed this little tour. I think there are three more of these planned, in different areas of Tacoma, a great way to get a little excercise & learn a bit more about this city. SAM

Does your city have anything like this?

*All photos the property of Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved. If shared, please share with credit to Shelley McElhiney & this post. Please contact for any other desired usage.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Puyallup Farmer's Market

Peonies are abundant right now, so beautiful!
Market Banners & Fish Sculptures at one end of the Puyallup Market
The farmer's markets are back around here & yesterday we spent a lovely day at the Puyallup Farmer's Market, the first one I've been to this year & one of the biggest in the area...

Street Musician

Filled with music: A local farmer, selling flowers & regaling us with this interesting, traditional musical instrument an erhu. There are two strings, the bow actually rests between & behind the strings...


The ever elusive sasquatch...
Pretty jewelry & the stuff to make your own (love those aquamarine crystals)...



Fun handmade goods: Trios of wood cut woodpeckers...
Funny Aprons: I'm not an apron person, but maybe an "Ape-Ron..." Who couldn't use more sock monkeys in their life?


Local Baked Goods: Yum!
Local Produce: It is a farmer's market, after all & what's fresher than locally grown produce?
Fuschias: A Northwest Garden Staple

Plants (& flying creatures)...
Beautiful bouquets & the components for making your own
Even the lovely plants in the park: Rhododendrons, another Northwest gardening staple
Are the Farmer's Markets popping up in your area? What kind of local goodness are you seeing there?

*All photos the property of Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved. Please share only with credit. Please contact for any other usage.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sneak Peek :)

Just thought I'd give you a little glimpse of the piece I've created for the Seattle Handmade 14 Artists show coming up on May 10, 2014:

Detail of "Infinite Moons" by Shelley McElhiney
Distressed Canvas, Tea, Acrylic Paint, Postcards, vintage "Logic" textbook pages, embroidery thread

Join us on Saturday, May 10, 2014 from 7 to 10 PM at Luther's Table in Renton (419 S. Second Street) to see more!
The show will remain up for 1 month, if you can't make it to the opening

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014