10 Inspiring Attic Libraries

I had to reblog this, because I could pretty much die happily in any one of these rooms. Thanks, Aspasía!

Aspasía S. Bissas

10 Inspiring Library Attics, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, book collection, decorating, decor, home, home library, attic, attic reno, attic design, aspasiasbissas.com, france, paris Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

I’ve never had a proper attic anywhere I lived, the kind where it’s a large, open space with a high, sloping ceiling and at least one window (in newer buildings “attics” tend to be windowless crawlspaces full of insulation). But I was always fascinated by these spaces. The ones I’d see on TV always seemed mysterious, full of treasures (and dust), maybe a little creepy. I didn’t really start coveting an attic of my own until I realized they could be renovated. The potential seems unlimited for these private bonus spaces, something these attic owners clearly got.  Here are some of my favourite attic libraries, as found around the internet….

  1. I love the floor, as well as the shelves reaching the ceiling. It also looks like there’s plenty of good light for settling in with one of those books.

10 Inspiring Library Attics, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, book collection, decorating, decor, home, home library, attic, attic reno, attic design, aspasiasbissas.com

2. With stained glass…

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The Unexpected Villains of Howards End

I saw a movie the other day with the most disturbing villains you could imagine: the hidden, subtle, even unintentional kind.

Nobody was locked in a basement. There were no knives or guns. There was no plot to rob the bank and steal the gold. Except…maybe there was all this and more. Executed in a much more sinister manner.

How else could you explain, in 1992’s Howards End (based on E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel) a dying woman bequeathing her family’s home to someone who’s not much more than an acquaintance?

As summarized in IMDB: The film juxtapositions the intellectual, emotionally unhindered Schlegel sisters against the restrained, imperious Wilcox family.

Helen Schlegel, the younger of the sisters, is definitely unhindered (and thoughtless) when she absentmindedly absconds with the wrong umbrella after attending a public lecture. Leonard Bast, a low-paid insurance clerk, has to literally chase after her to get his brolly back.

I understand how he feels. Years ago when I was living in NYC, a coworker asked to borrow a token. When she never replaced it or paid me back in the following days, I was annoyed, and embarrassed that I was annoyed, but I was actually so broke that I didn’t even have an extra $5 back then.  So I could completely relate to the poor insurance clerk.

Unfortunately, after Leonard reacquires his umbrella from Helen, his life will begin a relentless downward spiral.

Long story short: Ruth Wilcox’s dying wishes are ignored by her husband Henry, along with their children. Henry’s keeping the house.

Henry falls for Margaret Schlegel and marries her, so ironically, she ends up at Howards End anyway.

Following some fallacious information from Henry, Leonard quits his stable insurance job and accepts a lower-paying position in another company where, shortly after, he’s sacked.

Jack London called those of Leonard’s status the “people of the abyss,” which reminded me of Hillary Clinton calling Trump followers a “basket of deplorables,” although Jack London was speaking from empathy, actually having lived among the poverty-stricken denizens of London’s Whitechapel.

An outraged public scene from Helen on behalf of Leonard ultimately accomplishes nothing…especially when she later gets knocked up by Leonard. Yeah, Helen cared about Leonard. Apparently…a lot.

Later when Leonard visits Howards End to see Helen, Henry’s brutish frat boy son Charles assaults him (for knocking up Helen and for being poor while he did it) and lets a bookcase flatten him, whereupon Leonard has a heart attack and dies.

Once all personalities have been revealed and motives disclosed and the consequences have unfurled, it’s obvious that a lot of people are locked in a basement, Leonard among them, and all those incapable of fighting classism, much less breaking through to something better.

In the form of intellectual and emotional snobbery, whether intentional or not, we have metaphysical knives and guns and bombs galore causing great harm to the human psyche. Even Charles’s physical assault didn’t directly kill Leonard; his endless upward trudging on a downhill escalator weakened his resolve and his immune system, aiding in his demise.

And, of course, the bank was robbed of its gold when Henry disregarded his wife’s wishes (even if Mrs. Wilcox was a villain in her own right as a deluded martyr) and kept Howards End in the family.  When he reveals this to Margaret at long last, she says nothing.

Oh, the noble restraint, to keep from commenting on Henry’s dishonesty! Because Margaret, soft spoken, reasonable and so seemingly kind, is one of the biggest villains of them all, a member of the intellectual bourgeoisie who’s used to things like this happening all the time: having a few teas with a passing acquaintance who, before she expires, bequeaths her house to her without discussing it with anyone in her family.

A year or so later, as Leonard molders in the ground, Margaret and Helen play with Helen’s baby on a blanket in the fields encompassing Howard’s End, surrounded by endless beneficence and the perpetual belief that all is right with the world, because beauty reflects beauty, and an abundance of goodness only creates more. And watching them in the wild field, crowded with flowers and golden sunshine, laughing and happy, one is easily seduced by this dream, because they look so beautiful and pure, and that’s all that we can see.


For all you movie people out there (and even semi-movie/not-very-movie people) hubby and I were watching a fascinating commentary on Fight Club the other day. There was a huge twist, in his observation, that was NOT about Ed Norton’s and Brad Pitt’s character being the same person.

His claim was that Ed Norton’s character wasn’t just visiting support groups for “fun,” but that he actually did have testicular cancer, and it was Helena Bonham Carter’s character who actually did not actually exist, except as an extension of Ed Norton. She, instead, was a representation of his “feminized” side, the side he would fully come to accept later due to the imminent removal of his testicles.

Here’s the link for anyone who has time in the next five years or so to check it out, but in short, it explains a lot more, including theories of the house on Paper Street not really existing and basically everything that was simply conjured up in Ed Norton’s mind–which was a lot. And really, if anyone could come up with psychological twists like this, wouldn’t it be Fincher?

Fight Club: The twist that no one noticed.



Anatomy of Time

It took a while, a lot of time, but I finally got a place to accept my short story Anatomy of Ruin for publication. It’s called The Chamber Magazine and the link is under Other Stories. Don’t worry about reading it. I rarely have time to read anything longer than peoples’ posts as it is. I’m just letting you know that even though I don’t post more than once a month here (and even though you didn’t ask) I am still writing.

I do believe it was the references to zombies that turned most people off, and who can blame them? I stopped watching The Walking Dead years ago. How many different ways can you see survivors decimating the skulls and eye sockets of the shambling masses? How long can they keep running, and why are the human monsters always worse than the undead corpses?

Most places offered pleasant rejections. However, at one sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction magazine, I entered a slot of 700-something, meaning 700 people were ahead of me to be read first. But the next day, the story had been rejected in Submittable by this magazine.

So I found a contact number and asked if something had gone wrong; there were 700 people ahead of me. How could my story have been rejected already? Someone actually wrote back and said, “Your story was read and assessed.” That was it. The tone was so frigid, I thought I’d somehow been transported, sans clothing, to the middle of Eastern Siberia.

I couldn’t imagine that someone who held themselves in that high a regard had actually read past the first two pages. But who knows? I wrote back, “Ouch.”

I really don’t blame them, but it really is an example of judging a book by its cover. The story isn’t about zombies. It uses them and the situation as a doorway into other topics. But that’s okay. Not everyone’s gonna be into an almost-apocalyptic semi-horror existential comedy about life, suffering, and the nature of hope.

However, if you’d like to see a short movie demonstrating the speculative fiction magazine essentially telling me to eff off (represented by the cat) and my reaction to it, here it is. Note the cool, detached fascination of the cat.


This is what happens when a cat 🐱 slaps a dog 🐶

♬ original sound – Famous SuperStar


Something interesting and kinda strange happened while I was flipping through channels and came across a cartoon a few weeks ago.  An animated character decided to have a “perfect day,” but as events unfolded, more and more worry and fear began halting all progress toward this goal.

Everything the character starts to do—games, eating favorite foods, even walking—becomes fodder for an escalating anxiety which leads him, eventually, to an isolation chamber, after arriving at this startling conclusion: What if he eats the ice cream and it’s not as good as he imagined? What if he falls down while he’s walking? What if his friends, who are now carrying him so he doesn’t fall, trip and drop him? What if the music he wants to hear isn’t beautiful enough?

In the isolation chamber, where the character will now have a perfect day because he won’t have to see, hear, smell, taste or feel, I started having an out of body experience, thinking, wow, who wrote this episode, Rinpoche? The Dalai Lama? Richard Gere?

Because in Mahayana Buddhism’s Heart Sutra, the prevailing wisdom involves exactly that: no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.

Later, unsurprisingly, the character starts missing ice cream and walking and games and his friends, breaks out of the chamber, and goes back into the world. At first glance, someone, especially a child, might be confused by the reversal. If all those things were keeping him from having a perfect day, how could he have a perfect day now, when he’s back in the middle of it all?

In one short Buddhist tale, a person with a pack (burden) is climbing a hill. After a long time, they stop, remove the pack, rest, and look all around them, and become enlightened. Then eventually they put the burden back on and keep going.

And I guess that’s what this character did in this silly, simple little cartoon. Even kids would understand this, on some level, beneath the laughter. I felt lucky to have stumbled on this episode by accident, ’cause I’d forgotten about the story of the uphill walk. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time.

Continue reading


The essence of the closing monologue on Real Time with Bill Maher the other night was a rebuttal against “white people” being the villains of the world. Essentially diverting blame to all of humanity in general, he claimed white people may suck, sure, but so does everyone else. People are just horrible in general.

I kinda pretty much agree with that part. Take Texas, for example. Need I say more? Women charged with murder for abortion? Where were these righteous Texas lawmakers when fully realized human beings—Native Americans and Blacks and many others, not a clump of cells–were being erased from the earth? Where was the Texan uproar after George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight?

And what’s with book banning? Is everyone really that eager to rush back into the Dark Ages? Among the targets is an illustrated version of Anne Frank. Ironically, clueless students would miss out on Anne Frank reassuring us all that she believed, despite everything, that people were good inside. Whoa, somebody light the bonfire! God forbid that message ever gets out!

Unfortunately, Bill Maher and his writing staff were correct to say that, yes, we had slaves, but everyone had slaves. Disturbingly, surveys have shown that a large amount of students believe slavery was created in America. I don’t know why, though. What a strange perception. Surely teachers don’t begin teaching history starting from 1619 in the U.S.

But while slavery was practiced world-wide, I do think it’s a dangerous form of rationalism to try to diminish the type of slavery America practiced.  http://crab.rutgers.edu explains where skin color entered the picture along with the difference between the Colonies and the rest of the world succinctly:

By the 1400s and 1500s, the issue of color begins to enter the picture for Europeans, and gradually we get a new type of slavery based on race or color rather than religion. Once the African captive or the American Indian converts to Christianity, we can no longer use his “heathenism” as an excuse for this enslavement. It is at that point that apologists seized upon the difference of color and ancestry to justify the continuation of slavery.

In the Old World, the slave was a person with customary rights. They could marry. It was not always hereditary. In Moslem societies, a man would set free his children by a slave woman. Most often, a slave was like a house servant. Slaves could own property and have money.

The type of institution that developed in the New World was plantation slavery, and chattel slavery, in which the captives are worked in the fields from sunup to sundown. Chattel slaves were not thought of as people, but as objects, as property, like livestock. New World slaves had no rights. In the US they could not own or possess property. Families were broken up in forced sales.

And worst of all, slave masters sexually exploited slave women as concubines and did not acknowledge their children or set them free. This would have been unimaginable in African or Islamic (Moslem) culture.

The chattel slavery that evolved in the New World was an extreme institution that animalized and dehumanized (per David Brion Davis) the slave. This is why New World chattel and plantation slavery really cannot be equated with Old World slavery, and why it cannot be equated with African or Islamic or ancient slavery.

Just a thought. Just a reminder for when the topic comes up and someone blithely says, “Everyone had slavery.” On top of the fact that the ancient world is one thing. Recent history—a few hundred years ago—is pretty sad and unforgivable to have been shamelessly engaged in a brutal slave society.

I feel afraid for Texas and other states that seem intent on going backwards…and worried how many more will get pulled into their mire. People increasingly just don’t want to hear it, don’t want to know. But ignorance is binding, not freeing. What happened to the truth shall set you free?

Anne Frank thought that people were mostly good, even after everything she’d gone through. We’re all supposed to have a piece of divinity inside us, after all. But maybe it needs to be cared for, whatever “it” is–the light, the spark, the seed of grace–carefully attended to like a bonsai tree, and if it’s not, it shrinks and petrifies, frozen inside its desiccated landscape.

Thug Life

I wrote a blog a while back about Cats, Karma, and Christopher Walken, where Mr. Walken muses on the nature of cats:

“I like cats a lot. I’ve always liked cats. They’re great company. When they eat, they always leave a little bit at the bottom of the bowl. A dog will polish the bowl, but a cat always leaves a little bit. It’s like an offering.”

I think that’s true. But what about this video and what this cat is doing to this dog?

How does one balance the monastic behavior and offerings of cats with their shameless hooligan nature? (lol)

When Dying Feels like Living

I was dying. At least that’s what it felt like. We were moving downhill, but that didn’t matter. It took focus to not stagger or drag my feet. The backpack felt like it weighed 3,000 pounds, not 30. I had no moisture left in my mouth but an ocean streamed from every pore on my body.

What am I talking about?

I’m talking about the time my husband and I (his idea) hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River.

We started at 6 am and had intended to arrive at the bottom well before sunset.

We ogled the soaring cliffs. We peered into the dusty crevasses.

Due to the fact that I thought I’d been drinking enough water but it ended up had not been drinking enough water, I became dehydrated and we barely made it to the campsite before sunset.

Cue: earlier description of my zombie-like behavior.  At that point, I did not even have the strength to ogle anything anymore. I just focused on not stopping. Because we did not have $10,000 to helicopter me out of there.

One might be surprised to know, however, that there are cabins and a restaurant at the bottom of the Grand Canyon called Phantom Ranch. (And amazingly, flush toilets, too).

After we set up camp, we attended a hearty stew dinner that we’d signed up for months ahead with a room full of other guests, the majority of whom had ridden down to the bottom on mules.

In the morning, we headed back up, hiking halfway out, and camped. The next morning after that, we hiked the rest of the way to the top.

Fast forward to several years later.

A couple of years older but none the wiser, we fought to get into some kind of shape again, this time to summit Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 at nearly 15,000 feet.

The first attempt took place in the fall, around September. Thinking we’d skirt the crowds and still avoid winter, our gambling did not pay off, and we got stuck with dangerous snowy conditions at the higher elevations.

Please forgive my horrible edit job on my husband in this photo; he doesn’t want to appear anywhere in my blogs (or online) so I “deleted” his head. But that’s a shot of the narrow thruway bordered only by a thin wire railing that leads to the switchbacks that are higher up.

We had already slipped on the icy snow there, grabbing at the rail, our walking sticks useless, surprised by a sudden loud silence. What was the silence? Our hearts had stopped beating. At that point, due to the near-death experience and a descending hiker informing us of storms ahead, we abandoned ship and headed back down in defeat.

By the way, in this photo where I’m crouching on the snowy trail, what looks like little puddles of water way down below actually are huge, full-sized lakes.

At the camping site that night, the temperatures got to about -14 farenheit with frigid winds blasting through our tent. My husband and I, fully clothed, with our sleeping bags zipped together, clung to each other…and never once that night were we able to get warm.

Who had suggested avoiding the hiking crowds? What kind of nightmare was this? But man, oh, man, was it gorgeous.

Shoot forward eight months later, late spring.

We finally made it to the moon!

Seriously, though, the top of Mt. Whitney does look like the moon, doesn’t it? We had returned during a temperate month, avoided winter altogether, and finally made the summit.

The hike started early in the morning before sunrise and took all afternoon, with us returning to camp a little before sunset. We had small oxygen canisters that we never had to use because our training at Mt. Gorgornio (11,500) and Mr. Baldy (10,068) had helped immensely to acclimate our lungs and our bodies to altitude sickness. We passed many people on the way up gasping for air, unable to continue, some even vomiting. It was advised, once you acquired a headache, not to take Ibuprofen or Aleve and keep going. It was advised to turn around and go back.

It had been no easy feat. I remember one training period at Mr. Gorgonio where we were heading back to the car after camping and summiting the mountain. At some point, I realized I was making a weird sound that I couldn’t control. I was whimpering. Because every step I took felt like knives were slicing through my feet and straight into my bones. Knives made of lava and sprinkled with shards of glass. I could not believe how much my feet hurt. Could not believe it.

But then weirdly, amazingly, once we reached the car and started driving home, within ten to fifteen minutes, they were completely back to normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had even happened.

Back on Whitney, we stared out across the stark moonscape into the vast horizon, humbled and staggered. We’d felt much the same in the Grand Canyon. The pain and suffering had been immense, but we didn’t regret it. We’ll never be able to experience those places in that way again, and the beauty that wasn’t ours became ours for a moment, having been so hard won, making it somehow more piercing. Elevated. Sublime.


That’s Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame, screaming out his rage and frustration at his nemesis, Kahn Noonian Singh, played wonderfully by Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

But isn’t it also true that the Wrath of Khan and the wrath of James Caan, the actor, and all or most of Mr. Caan’s characters, stand as equals in the arena of rage and acrimony and violent entitlement?

In Star Trek II, Khan’s thirst for revenge against Captain Kirk, who exiled him to a planet out in the boonies, Ceta Alpha V, that could barely support life (at least in the movie version) knows no boundaries.  And when the chance finally arrives for him to seize vengeance, he does so with a ruthlessness for which Genghis Khan, the ancient warlord from whom he adopted his title, would no doubt squeeze out one or two proud tears.

I suppose it doesn’t matter that the initial crime of attempting to take over The Enterprise (among other things) got him there. Or that he, at least in the TV version, was even given a choice, and chose the planet himself. Those in dire need of court-appointed lifetime anger management courses never remember that part, do they?

Among some of the most famous and some of my favorite lines encapsulating James Caan’s career as an often criminal, sometimes just fiercely individualistic bad boy, but always, always angry, straight-talking tough guy are:

Frank:  My money in 24 hours, or you will wear your ass for a hat.

Cassandra: Tell me the truth. Have you ever… made it with one of us?

Detective Sykes: No… unless I got drunk and somebody didn’t tell me.

Cassandra: Mmm. A virgin! I find that very arousing. You sure you haven’t?

Detective Sykes: Um… there’s lots of things I haven’t done; that’s not real high on my list. No… you know… don’t take it personally. I’m a bigot.

Sonny: What’s the matter with you, huh? What am I going to do? Am I going to make that baby an orphan before he’s born?

The Big Man: Shoot them and burn down the town.

Daphne: You better do as you’re told, Jonathan. That’s all I have to say.

Jonathan: Are you threatening me?

People even invited Mr. Caan to share his now-famous tough guy persona in later years in several comedies. In this one, he’s a priest who used to be a boxer who takes offense to Adam Samberg and is about to kick the crap out of him:

Father McNally: My father…beat me every day with a rake. But you don’t hear me smack-talking him here in the house of the Lord.

And one of my absolutely favorite roles of his…ever. A hilarious holiday movie you should not miss!

Walter: I don’t care where you go. I don’t care that you’re an elf. I don’t care that you’re nuts. I don’t care that you’re my son. Get out of my life. Now!

Hey, even a cheerful, naive elf who comes out of nowhere, claiming he lives with Santa Claus at the North Pole and is also Walter’s (30-something) son, doesn’t escape the gruff attitude of one of Hollywood’s most beloved, brazen and macho individuals to grace the silver screen.

Even with all that, another line from Roller Ball summarizes, for me, the aura of James Caan’s persona. Though he and Khan share powerful wraths, a line of temperance often runs beneath James’ story lines:

Frank: It’s like people had a choice a long time ago between having all them nice things or freedom. Of course, they chose comfort.

Though his characters vibrate with anger, resentment, and charming thuggery, a little bit of this Roller Ball credo always seems to be tucked into every role he brings to life: the (generally) down-to-earth guy who sometimes gets pushed to the limit by circumstances, will always tell you the truth and will fight for the underdog and for what he believes to be true, regardless of his potential doom. CAAANNNN !

I know I’ve left out a bunch of his roles. Feel free to list any of your favorites.