Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

So long, 2009. You had some stellar moments and some sad times, but I'm glad I knew you. I'm looking forward to meeting your replacement, and have high hopes for amazing things.

To commemorate the personnel change, I'd like to offer a few clips. The first is just silly, as only Bill Crystal can do it:

The next is great rockin' out music, New Years Day by U2 performed live at Slane Castle. My friend Patricia has tickets to see the lads here in Washington soon; I am trying hard not to be insanely jealous. So far, no luck with that. But it won't harm our friendship, so it's okay.

Finally, I offer a genuine Scottish singer, Dougie MacLean, to sing Robert Burns' classic. Wonder if Burns realized we'd be singing (and grossly mispronouncing) his poem two hundred and twenty one years after he penned it.

May 2010 be a wonderful year for all of you. XO

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bondage Through The Ages

Nice, and not too expensive.

Growing up, I was infrequently subjected to the bizarre ritual of boys reciting Monty Python lines to each other. One would break out with a declaration that
Strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Another would respond, with a gleam in his eye
We are the Knights who say "Ni"!
To which the retort rang out
No! Not the Knights who say "Ni"! Those who see them seldom live to tell the tale!
Then the query
Oh Knights of Ni, we are simple travelers who seek the land beyond this forest. May we pass?
Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! We shall say "Ni" to you if you do not appease us.
But... what is it you want?
We want..... A SHRUBBERY!!!!
Gales of laughter would greet this pronouncement. Then one particularly adept boy would proclaim boldly:
What sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.
To which his friend would inevitably reply
Did you say shrubberies?
This was guaranteed to elicit the response
Yes, shrubberies are my trade. I am a shrubber. My name is Roger the Shrubber. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.
My experience clearly was not an isolated phenomenon. Google reveals 2,060,000 search results for boys who recite monty python lines. Madness, I tell you, madness. At least, I thought so until I got older and began quoting favorite lines from movies to friends.

These shared little bits of cultural literacy are the golden chains of friendship. I was reminded of that recently when we went out to dinner with a friend and her husband. He seemed like a nice person, but was somewhat detached from the conversation until I made a chance remark. One of us had mentioned all the Russian immigrant students who go to our kids' schools. Then someone made a joke that they were taking over the Pacific Northwest, so we'd better all learn Russian. Without even really thinking about it, I blurted out "Wolverines!" This man's face lit up like he'd just received the best present ever. He laughed and became more engaged in the discussion.

After 25 years together, Professor X and I have lots of private jokes that we've shared. All sorts of crazy experiences can be summed up in a word or a phrase - e.g. Sidney, Nebraska (we can laugh about it now), or "there's an egg on my food!" - to recall events from previous decades. Someday I may even reveal the details on those to you, dear readers.

Movies, plays, songs, literature and other cultural pastimes can tie us to one another. I've even heard that recounting details of feats of prowess at athletic events can serve this function, although how that might work eludes me.

Consider the phrase "But why is the rum gone?" Did you hear the plaintive voice of Johnny Depp as Cap'n Jack Sparrow? Did it make you grin? You and I are soulmates.

When law student John Manningham departed Middle Temple Hall the night of February 2, 1601 he wrote in his diary

"Feb 2 at our feast (Candlemas) we had a play called Twelfth Night or What you will, much like the Comedy of Errors or Menechmi in Plautus... A good practise is it to make the steward beleeve his Lady widdowe was in Love with him by couterfayting a lettre, as from his Lady, in general termes, telling him what shee liked best in him and prescribing his gesture in smiling his apparraile etc. And then when he came to practise, making him beleeve they took him to be mad."

I like to think of John and his fellow playgoers making passing reference to the play over subsequent months and years, commenting that "some are born great" only to have another reply with a wink that "some have greatness thrust upon 'em." That seems plausible, doesn't it?

My son's Facebook page quote reads:
"We are the knights who say... Ni!" "The knights who say Ni?" "THE same!"

And so it continues.

What are some of your favorite lines? Share them, so we can bond!
Also, five points to the first person to identify the source of the Wolverines line.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More Delicious Than Any Christmas Cookie

Just returned from the cinema, where I and two BFF's watched the new Sherlock Holmes.

Exciting plot.
Beautifully photographed film.
Scrumptious lead actor.

It's a whole new view of Holmes and Watson that incorporates the best of Arthur Conan Doyle's writing with an edge-of-your-seat filmmaking style. I loved every second, including the beautiful artwork of the closing credits.

I'll be going back tomorrow for another look.

And probably several more times before it leaves the cinema.

For a couple of hours, I was able to imagine myself in Victorian England.

RD Jr. can serenade me any time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past, Kindly Move Aside

The lovely Sir Michael Caine as Scrooge

This was going to be a thoughtful post about previous years' Christmases, and those loved ones who are no longer with us, but I just don't feel like being gloomy tonight. So I'll save that idea for another time when I want to wallow a bit, and instead share this thought with you:

I feel truly blessed to have so many dear friends with whom to celebrate Christmas. Unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge, I haven't had to face regrets about putting profit over relationships. I still have a ways to go in matching the goodness of my friends in contributing to the wellbeing of those in need, but I'm trying. I have such good role models for generosity and kindness.

I hope that you, dear readers, are living lives filled with the spirit of Christmas.

The spirit embodied in the Dickens tale.

I wish you joy.

The kind of joy that's taken hold of my friend Bee, who wrote a wonderful piece about Christmas and Dickens here, although she was a bit melancholy, and subsequently got her winter holiday groove back here.

To help get you in the spirit, I'd like to share this clip from one of my favorite movies ever.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Politics of the Heart

The Judgement of Solomon, Raphael

E. M. Forster famously wrote in Two Cheers for Democracy, “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.”

E. M. Forster sounds like a loyal friend.

I've been struggling with the question of two friends running for the same office. I've previously supported each of them in their successful campaigns for state legislative seats. My congressman recently announced he would not be running for reelection, and several people have thrown their hat in the ring. Two of those hats belong to my friends.

My really good friends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted "We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected."

That may be so, but I was looking for guidance on the question of choosing between friends.

I've been extremely active in electoral politics at all levels, and my children have been very willing participants in campaign rallies, signwaving and literature dropping efforts. So I knew they would understand the dilemma - and that they'd be watching to see how I handled it.

I felt like King Solomon, forced to settle a dispute about which woman who claimed a child was truly the mother.

No, I felt like the mother, watching in horror as Solomon threatened to cut the child in two.

And that gave me an answer. The true mother relinquished her claim rather than see her child destroyed.

I want to make a choice. I've spent years evaluating and weighing and judging and choosing and acting to support my choices.

But I respect and admire both of these people. I don't want to do anything to harm either one, and a political contest inherently involves attacks on one's opponents. It hurts my heart to think of supporting one at the expense of the other. In addition to their fine minds and leadership qualities, they have each been there to share joys and comforted me at tough times in my life.

I cannot choose. And I told them so. And - miracle of miracles - they were okay with that. Not thrilled, but okay. Each spoke to me about our friendship as something they valued, transcending the political arena.

I am damned lucky to have these two people in my life.

"If two friends ask you to judge a dispute,
don't accept, because you will lose one
friend; on the other hand, if two strangers
come with the same request, accept
because you will gain one friend."
~ St. Augustin

Vision of St. Augustin by Vittore Carpaccio

Is it just me, or does that funky chair thing on the left look like
the Time Machine from the cheesy Rod Taylor movie?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Be Not Afraid of Anachronisms

Literary Dictionary defines anachronism thusly:

The misplacing of any person, thing, custom, or event outside its proper historical time. Performances of Shakespeare's plays in modern dress use deliberate anachronism, but many fictional works based on history include unintentional examples, the most famous being the clock in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

I've allowed fear to stop me from moving forward. Fear of being guilty of less than perfection. Professor X often quotes Voltaire to encourage me to get off my duff on something: "The perfect is the enemy of the good." But I am a sensitive little flower, fearful of being criticized for making a mistake in my writing. Any writing set in the past risks inaccuracy, and worse - anachronisms.

The pace of technology is so rapid, and we become so accustomed to new devices so quickly, that we lose sight of the fact that there was a time when they didn't exist. Still, I can roughly date some things by pegging them to my personal history. I first became aware of fax machines in college, when I was interning for a US Senator (no thongs were involved) and marveled at the magic of a phoneline photo transmission. When Super Son was an infant, one of the moms in play group introduced me to the miracle of the internet. Those aren't precise birthdates for the technology, but it's reasonable to believe my introductory experience timeline parallels that of most people.

Writing about a period before my birth, though, presents the need for some research. What were things like in 1880 in Vancouver? How about Washington, DC in 1921? Perhaps the trickiest is Vancouver in 1999. I've been afraid of readers pointing out minor anachronisms of a year or so.

But I find the cure for my literary paralysis lies in the oft-cited example of anachronism. If Shakespeare could do it and still inspire so many, why can't I? Those who don't like Shakespeare rarely cite his failure to avoid anachronism as the cause of their dislike.

And those who don't like Shakespeare aren't worthy of my regard anyway.

So, onward ho!

How can anyone resist Shakespeare with such delightful creatures performing his work?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Travel to Another Dimension

I discovered this BRILLIANT mock floorplan over at SomaCow.
Check it out! Funny stuff!

I was in Ikea yesterday, looking for large picture frames to display some enlargements of photographs from Super Son's play in the lobby of the high school theatre.

The pictures were 16"x20".

I wanted to get 20" x 24" frames, so that there was a nice even border around them.

This was not rocket science.

Instead, I found several frames with bizarre fractional measurements and uneven matting. When I finally found a clerk trying to hide behind some boxes, he told me in a very superior sort of voice "Ikea is an international company. We use the metric system, which the rest of the world, except the United States, uses." Then he looked at me pityingly, like I was super lucky to be allowed into such a fabulous place, but so mentally deficient that I was unable to appreciate its fabulosity.

What I thought: Um...okay. But you're selling your stuff in the US, where we print enlargements in these nonmetric standard sizes, numbnuts.

What I said:

"So, doesn't Ikea think of compensating for the fact that they're doing business in an alternate dimension?"

I thought I was very clever.

He didn't get it. He just looked at me like I was being unbelievably dense.

What a numbnuts.

I know you are concerned about how I solved this problem. I went over to Michael's and discovered they were having a 50% off sale on the frames I needed (which were in precisely the right dimensions, Ikea dude!)

From now on, I'm only going to Ikea when I have a craving for their meatballs and lingonberry sauce. It's like going to Sweden without having to endure a multi-hour flight.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ruminations on Walking and Timeless Love

So enticing...don't you just want to go for a walk?
Admit it, you have this fantasy too.
Darcy strides toward you through a misty morning...

He draws closer as your heart is beating madly...Walking is excellent cardiovascular exercise.

For some reason, I was thinking today about all the wonderful public access trails in England. When we lived in Ireland, we really enjoyed walking around villages and in the countryside. Shops were close together and it was easy to park and go from place to place on foot. We could get from one end of Westport to the other with no trouble. I really miss those places. Really, as in my heart hurts a little thinking about not being there.

Jane Austen wrote of heroines who liked to walk; she purportedly shared that characteristic. There's a great little Austen blog that gives a glimpse of her writing on the behavior here. Austen continues to gather fans almost 200 years after her death. I have one lucky friend - an enthusiastic hiker - who recently went on an Austen-themed tour in England, and another, Bee Drunken, who is a steward of Jane's house in Chawton. Though we three have different parents, our shared fanhood of Jane makes us sisters. Jane gave us terrific strong heroines who weren't afraid of a little mud on their shoes, and who "dearly love a laugh." Indeed, Jane's Elizabeth Bennett goes on to explain, "I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."

True dat.

I love the walking scenes in Pride and Prejudice with Matthew MacFadyen and Keira Knightley. Thanks to the miracle of the internets, I can share a wonderful video with you all. A young woman who's as crazy about MacFadyen as me and far more talented with technical production created a wonderful piece that merges clips of P&P with Vanessa Carlton's great song "A Thousand Miles." Zeynep, the 26 year old who produced the video, is from a place much further away than a thousand miles. She lives in Turkey. Cool, huh?

Pop it out to full screen and savour the goodness.

Update: I contacted Zeynep to let her know I was mentioning her in my blog, and she wrote back, sharing the link to her own blog. It's called isfendan; the tagline is suffering is my bread and butter! Much of it's in Turkish, but thanks to my handy translator, I can read it.

The title is appropriate for a Forrest to read; isfendan is Turkish for a maple.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Keeping to My Own Schedule're probably wondering about the NaNoWriMo thing, right?
Did I finish my novel? Did I come close?
Thanks to my efforts, I have earned this badge created by The Deep Friar.

We will not speak of this again, okay?

I think I'll create my own NaNoWriMo time frame. I'll let you know how that goes. First, I have to do a bunch of stuff as treasurer of the high school theatre booster club, and chauffeur my children to their fun educational activities, and clean this house.

Friday, December 4, 2009

On my Christmas list: a Time-Turner

I found this image posted by You-Know-Who at the Harry Potter wiki.
I hope he doesn't curse me for using it.

I've told my family what they can get me for Christmas this year: A Time-Turner. I love the idea of a small device to allow one to easily travel through time. The inscription on Hermione Granger's Time-Turner reads:
I mark the hours every one nor have I yet outrun the sun. (outer ring)
My use and value unto you are gauged by what you have to do. (middle ring)

I think I'd have this inscribed on mine:

Tempus fugit.* Ovid (outer ring)
Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas. G. Marx (middle ring)

* Translates as "Time flies."

There are so many wonderful stories which involve travel through time. What are your favorites?
If you were able to travel back to any time in history, when/where would you go? If you could meet any person in history, who would you choose, and what would you ask them or say to them? Do you think you'd prefer to live in another time permanently, or perhaps just visit every once in a while?

I have a hypothesis: that men are more likely than women to want to go back in time and change things. Based on my statistical analysis of one (me) I think women would prefer to just travel and immerse themselves in the period. I'm willing enough to change things in my own time, but I worry that changing one small detail about the past could damage the nature of the present. What do you think?

Then there's the school of thought that says endeavoring to change events through time travel can actually cause them; things are predetermined and fate is inevitable. I read an interesting novel, From Time to Time by Jack Finney, in which the main character attempts to change the course of the Titanic to prevent its collision with the iceberg. The change actually leads to the collision.

So I am determined not to meddle. I'll just use my Time-Turner for recreational travel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Some Are Born Great

I witnessed the birth of a star this afternoon. It was the first time I'd been allowed to see my son perform in Twelfth Night. The theatre was virtually empty; just a handful of parents were able to come to the dress rehearsal. But the student actors were as professional as if it was a regular show. I was so impressed with the way everyone in the cast handled themselves on stage. The young men and women got into their roles and delivered their lines so well.

Then it was intermission. I spoke with a few of the parents, gathering names and contact information so that we could exchange photographs and work together on the parent booster club.

Some asked which child was mine.
"Malvolio," I said.
"Oh, he's very good!" they said.
"This is his first play," I said.
They were surprised.
One mother asked "Is it true that he's a freshman?"
"Yes," I said.
They were even more surprised.

Some time in the past year and a half, my little boy's height had shot up - to almost 6 feet.
And his high little boy voice had dropped down - to a low, manly voice.

I have seen a helluvalotta theatre in my two score and some years. This child has, too. We've taken him to Shakespeare plays and other theatre productions since he was 4. I've heard him mimic actors for years, nailing their intonations and accents. It is no surprise to me that he can deliver Malvolio's lines with such tremendous ability.

And yet.

This is my tiny baby, my little smiling rowdy boy, my shy middle schooler. I am astounded that he is willing to cast off all inhibitions and let his light shine in front of his peers.

He is brilliant.

I still have a recording of his little boy voice as a message on my cell phone. Every once in a while, Verizon makes me confirm that I want to keep saving my old messages. Yeah, I'll be saving that one forever.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Marking a Milestone: 200 Posts

I missed saying anything about my 100th post, so I've been watching to make sure I didn't miss commemorating my 200th. Here it is, and I feel compelled to share something profound with you.

I'm thinking.

I'm still thinking.

While you're waiting to read something profound, know this: I'm glad you're here, reading my blog and sometimes commenting. And I'm glad you're there, at your blog, sharing your observations and making me laugh. Of course, sometimes you make me cry. Because friends can share sad things, too.

Ah! I just got a flash of inspiration. I will write about this two hundredth post in terms of how long it took me to get here.

It's been 87,177,600 seconds since I posted my first little contribution to the interwebs.

I started off crawling, with very simple posts. There were just two in 2007.

Two thousand and eight witnessed a staggering 300% jump in post numbers. Yes, that's right; there were 6.

Since the beginning of this year, I've written 192 bits of crunchy goodness. Quick, do the math: that's a 3,200% increase in output from the previous year.

I don't think I can top that. So I'll have to focus on increasing quality rather than quantity.

I wasn't sure what I was doing when I began blogging. But I did it because it seemed fun. I've honed my mad writing skillz a bit and thought a little more deeply about certain things thanks to the blog. And I've made some terrific friends. Who knew that could happen?

Thoreau once observed Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

I began Traveling Through Time and Space
tentatively believing I had something to contribute to the universe. I've discovered that the universe, through you, has much to contribute to me.

Thanks. Let's stay in touch. There's more to share.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Stupidest Final Lines Ever

So, this pic is actually from 1408, not 2012.
I haven't seen 1408, but there's
a good review at The Stone of Tear.
It does make me wonder if John is going to just be in movies with titles
consisting of four digits from now on. But I digress.
I picked this pic because it sums up how I feel about the stupidity of the final line in 2012,
as well as how I feel about my daughter's bedroom.

You know I love John Cusack, right? I'm not a huge fan of "it's the end of the world!" disaster movies, but 2012 stars my man John, so it didn't take much for the family to persuade me to go to the cinema.

The special effects were incredible. The storyline had promise. John was as cute as ever. But the script bit the big one. I knew it pretty early on.

SPOILER ALERT! You have been warned, so don't whine if you don't want to know the ending.
He plays Jackson, the father of two children, separated from their mother. An idealistic author, he spent too much time wrapped up in his writing and researching, and she felt neglected and left him. He picks the kids up for a camping trip, and expresses surprise when his estranged wife hands him a bag of Pull-Ups for their 7 year old daughter, Lily. She tells him that it's obvious he isn't very aware of what is going on with his kids....blah, blah, blah.

Okay, you just know that the Pull-Ups are going to make another appearance. You pray that they will not be a continuous presence in the film. Your prayer is answered. Other than a brief mention when Lily is going to sleep in her tent, we don't hear about the Pull-Ups again. But then, at the very end, when they've survived every kind of extreme experience you can think of - earthquakes, car crashes, explosions in the earth's crust, plane crashes, freezing in the remote mountains of China, near drowning - and they're looking out at a kinder, gentler planet that's gotten all that misbehavior out of its system, Cusack/Jackson talks to his daughter. She explains how she feels and how this has changed her.

Lily: I'm not scared. No more Pull-Ups.
Jackson: Nice.

Mother of God. Really? So what is the takeaway message here? Struggling to find a solution to night time bedwetting? Just subject your child to a cataclysmic series of events and all will be well.

The final line I'm fantasizing about these days for my own personal disaster film is:

Daring Daughter: I'm not defiant. No more disgustingly messy room.
Me: Nice.

I am at my wits' end to find a way to get Daring Daughter to clean up her act. This is not a joke, people. I have tried incentives and disincentives. I have promised her a bunch of things she would absolutely love to have if she will just clean up her stuff. I have taken away a bunch of things she loves. Nothing works. I am praying for an earthquake.

If you have any suggestions on this, I am all ears. But I'll be listening from over there, rather than here.


I am beside myself with frustration!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time Spent Giggling with my Girl

I've been working my way through some classic films with the kids, expanding my cultural literacy as well as theirs. You'll recall that we recently watched Metropolis and were struck by the image of workers dehumanized by industrialists putting them in mindless, mechanical jobs.

That film was a lot more grim than our most recent one. We watched Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. If you haven't seen it, you should rent it. My daughter was constantly laughing. Deep belly laughs interspersed with silly giggles. I was struck by how spot on Robert Downey Jr.'s depiction of Chaplin was. Chaplin had a fantastic gracefulness. He moved like a dancer. And he got caught in some pretty funny situations, as the gears scene pictured above illustrates.

The theme of poverty and a system that met efforts to organize labour with violence was an interesting companion to the funny physical comedy. J. Edgar Hoover hated Chaplin with a passion and helped get him deported. I've said before I'd love to do a film course on blacklisting and the movies. I'm beginning to think it should be a much longer course than one of my simple 5 week ones. Maybe something broader, such as the treatment of capitalism in film. We saw Michael Moore's Capitalism, a Love Story recently, and it sure had some interesting food for thought.

I'll confess I saw New Moon with my girl this weekend (Team Edward!) and enjoyed it just as much as I did Modern Times. New Moon was devoid of political content. But it had some pretty hilarious moments, especially when the young men took off their shirts. The whole movie theatre was laughing each time it happened, because it was so gratuitous. I'm glad my girl likes to watch movies with me. It's fun laughing with her.

Daring Daughter and I agree: He's very pretty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Exposing Children to Fearful Things

It started innocently enough. A friend and I decided to cope with take advantage of the school's early dismissal what are those teachers doing with a half day, anyway? by taking our girls to the local science museum for educational fun.
The current special exhibit at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is SCREAM! featuring Goosebumps, the Science of Fear. Most of the exhibit focused on traditional fears - snakes, spiders and creepy stuff. There's a lot of analysis about how your body responds to fear - hair standing on end, flight response, etc.

The most intriguing part for me was a section entitled Fear and Society. Here's how they describe it:
Microwaves, witch-hunts, Elvis Presley, and the year 2000 have all incited moral panics—what sociologists call the collective anxieties about what direction society is going. Fear and Society shows how collective fears are represented and transmitted through media and popular culture.

There was a letter from a concerned parent about the "obscene" lyrics of a rock song on a record his daughter brought home. The letter, pictured at the top of this post, is addressed to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The song was Louie, Louie. I'd known there was controversy over the largely unintelligible lyrics, but did you know there was an FBI investigation?! After two years (yes, TWO YEARS) they found no evidence of obscenity. That was in the mid 1960s.
In 2005, a school superintendent in Benton Harbor, Michigan refused to let a school marching band play the song in a parade. She later relented. But, still. Fear Stupidity is alive and well in America.

My eye was drawn to the part of the display that addressed McCarthyism and "Red Scares." I've long wanted to teach a class on Red Scares and Blacklisting on the Silver Screen. Catchy, huh? So far, the college hasn't accepted that proposal. But I have hope. Once I'm done teaching the blogging course in the spring, I'm going to pursue that big time. When we got home, after supper, Professor X, Daring Daughter and I watched a classic film that relates to this theme. But that's a post of its own, coming soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sharing Your Brilliance With the World

I'm really excited because the local college has accepted my proposal to teach a class on blogging for senior citizens. I've entitled it:

Sharing Your Brilliance With the World:
Blogwriting for Beginners

Many of my bloggy buddies come from far away, even overseas, so it seemed like an apt title.

I was curious about where visitors to my blog were from, so I installed a widget to show that info. Clearly, some of them are stopping by without commenting; it seems a shame, given how far they've traveled. Here's a sample just from the last half day or so:

Czestochowa, Poland
Eden Prairie, MN
Taverne, Switzerland
Antwerp, Belgium
Columbia, SC
Madras Tamil, Nadu, India
San Diego, California
Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia

Wow, huh? I worry these people have come seeking knowledge and I have somehow let them all down. People really should not read without commenting.

Totally superfluous aside:

Thanks to the lijit widget, I also know the top search terms that bring people over here. I'm sure many things cause folks to look at my blog, but the top one is - drumroll, please -

"Mike Rowe naked"

End of totally superfluous aside.

My class will start in April and run for five weeks, once a week for 2 hours. So I need to pack a whole lot of information into a relatively short time. But I think it will get people started down the path of blog enlightenment. I can hardly wait!

If you have any thoughts about what I might include in such a course, I'm all ears. Anything you wish you'd known when you began? Anything you've found particularly fun? Any cautions?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heading for No. 221B Baker Street

This weekend, Professor X and I will be attending a meeting of The Noble and Most Singular Order of the Blue Carbuncle, the Portland chapter of an international society of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.

I've always loved Arthur Conan Doyle's stories of the eccentric, brilliant detective and his companion Dr. Watson. My first introduction to the tales was through the movies from the late 1930's to mid 1940's. Sunday afternoon at our house in the late 1960's/early 1970's found me glued to the black and white television, fascinated by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I was back in time, watching a skilled detective solve mysteries. Bliss.

It was only several years later that I realized the films had moved Holmes forward in time. He was battling Nazis instead of living during Victorian times. But it didn't matter. I still loved him.

It took me a long time to warm up to the next Holmes I saw, Jeremy Brett. Finally, I caved. He was really good. I became aware of how many literary references Holmes made, including adapting Shakespeare lines to his own circumstances. A sure way to my heart.

The newest Holmes, due out December 25, warms a different body part. He's physical, he's sexual, he's Robert Downey, Jr. I'm sure I will adore this iteration.

If you've read my blog for any time at all, you know that I'm a big House fan.

No, not like this:

Like this:

I'm always amazed when I find people who haven't made the connections between Hugh Laurie's character and Sherlock Holmes. It's one of the most fun things about the show.

Now we have a chance to join a group of Holmes' fans. We'll have to bone up on the stories and pass a test to be inducted. I wonder what they think about the new movie. Check out this article to see the sorts of wild and fun things these people do.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vicarious Travels

Patricia and her husband Stephen (not in El Salvador, obviously)

My dear friend Patricia arrived safely in El Salvador today. She's a member of a group of bloggers on a journey to raise awareness for Compassion International. The organization describes itself thusly:
CI exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.
Patricia is not one of those Christian conservatives who give religion a bad name. She's a funny, loving, openminded woman who is motivated to do this - and many other caring acts - by her faith. God knows the children can use all the help they can get, especially now, as El Salvador's people are struggling with a state of emergency in the aftermath of a hurricane.

I confess that my particular choice these days is more focused on education without a religious component, like the work of Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea. But Compassion seems to be a worthwhile organization whose work truly helps people.

I invite you to check out this link to Jonesbones5, Patricia's blog. She and her family inspire me and crack me up in equal parts. You should definitely watch their youtube video of travel tips if you're planning a trip.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Importance of Being Honest

There are few things more important to me than honesty, so I am delighted to announce that my lovely friend and brilliant blogger Bad Mom has awarded my blog the Honest Scrap Award. Thanks, Stephanie! I've wanted this one for a really long time.

Here are the rules:
*Say thank you and give a link to the presenter of the award
*Share “10 Honest Things” about yourself
*Present the award to 10 other bloggers whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design or to those who have encouraged you
*Be sure to tell the 10 bloggers chosen that you are giving them the Honest Scrap award and provide the guidelines for them

My parents always stressed the value of being truthful, and I believe they were honest with my brother and me. I well remember how touched my father was when one of his business associates described him as "an honorable man." My mother impressed upon me how essential honesty was when she explained that she left her first husband because he was dishonest in business dealings. In my adult relationships as a friend, a wife, and a parent, I practice and value honesty. I am sometimes disappointed regarding the honesty of other people.

It's the critical ingredient in building trust. That said, I don't believe in spilling my guts and volunteering certain things, especially if those things involve others who might not want them known. So you won't be reading any titillating revelations here. No offense, internets, but some things are just not yo bidness.

Still, you know I love to make you laugh. So I will share some tasty bits of truthiness about me in hopes it will make you giggle.

Here, for your consideration, are 10 honest things about me.

1. I was not the most popular girl in school. But I wasn't a slut. And I wasn't a mean girl.
The verb tense of those statements should not be interpreted as a confession that my status has changed, although I DO think I'm more popular now. I'm certainly more confident about letting my light shine than I was three decades ago.

2. I love quotations. Reading quotes that people like FDR or PG Wodehouse have said or written gives me the sort of joy that I imagine some people derive from reading the Bible. No disrespect intended, but I do not derive the same pleasure from the Bible, except for a few passages delivered like this or this. And those two are so beautiful they bring tears to my eyes.

3. Several years ago, I'd begun to think of myself as middle aged until I read that Johnny Depp and I were born within a few days of each other. I instantly became young and sexy, at least in my mind.

4. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was over 30. My folks had always regarded it as a slightly suspicious, bohemian thing to do, and I was a good girl. Then my father died, my mother met a very nice man who wanted to give her some pierced earrings, and she got her ears pierced. So I figured it was safe for me to do it too. I still feel slightly wild every time I insert a post through my earlobe.

5. When I was a young girl, I wanted to be an airline pilot or a police officer. Before I got married, I thought I would be a lawyer, though I didn't actually envision working in that profession. I loved The Paper Chase, and thought it would be awesome to be in law school.

6. I really wish I could time travel. I sometimes nag Professor X to get to work on a TARDIS.

7. I adore the language of Jane Austen's characters. Consider Elizabeth Bennet's rejoinder to Lady Catherine when she is confronted about her relationship with Mr. Darcy:
"I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer."
8. I believe in ghosts. And an afterlife. I don't know exactly what it looks like, and I don't believe that there is only one path to Heaven. I think Jesus was awesome, but people invoke him shamelessly to advance their own agendas. I believe that we are all children of God, whether we know it or not. But I don't think God looks like the Gary Larson cartoon version, or even that God is exclusively one gender or the other. I am attracted to the Disney Hercules animated depictions of the Gods, but I don't believe that God's voice is like Rip Torn's. I think it's like Alan Rickman's. And I believe in Hades. And his voice is precisely like James Woods'.

9. I wish I could sing and dance, but I am very self conscious. I should have taken my Mom up on her repeated offers of lessons when I was young. Stupid me. I tell myself it's never too late. Maybe I'll be like Susan Sarandon in Elizabethtown. Only I would like to dance like this. With that partner.

10. I am a strong person with a very tender heart. And I am easily moved to tears by movies, literature, plays, music, art, architecture, the warmth of friends... I balled like a baby once at a classical vocal concert because the singer's voice was so pure and beautiful.

And now, for the chosen ten. Each of these blogs enrich my life in a different way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dirty Deeds

Mayor Royce Pollard revitalized downtown Vancouver.
Formerly a hangout for transients and dangerous activity,
Esther Short Park is now a wonderful place for families. Photo by Jes.

I'm saddened today by the results of my city's mayoral race. You can read about it here.

For a thorough recounting of the lies and dirty campaign tactics that have unfolded in my community, you can search the name "Leavitt" at Politics is a Blood Sport. It's a complicated, tangled mess, and I haven't the heart to explain it all.

It's disheartening to see great public servants defeated by those who fling mud and misrepresent their opponents. When Professor X and I moved to the Pacific Northwest 13 years ago, we were impressed with the leadership of our new city's mayor, Royce Pollard. His efforts transformed Vancouver, Washington. He's made a big difference and deserved another term.

One thing that haunts me is that I believe so much of the outcome of elections is decided on looks. I wish I could do a study of voters to see how many of them actually heard the two candidates speak. The men appeared at numerous debates and forums and were on local cable TV. They were quoted extensively in the newspaper. But we all know that attendance at such functions is a tiny fraction of the actual voting population. And many folks no longer even subscribe to the newspaper, let alone read it. Even those who do often don't read local political articles. There are many mailings that hit voters' recycling boxes without more than a cursory glance at the photograph of the candidate. We do not have an informed electorate.

Royce Pollard, Mayor of America's Vancouver, is a smart man. A good man. And, surprisingly, given his age (70), a more lively and engaged man than his opponent (38). Think I'm prejudiced because I am an old person? First of all, I'm much nearer 38 than 70, so up yours. Second, it isn't just me who thinks so. When the candidates debated at the local college, Professor X and I overheard a number of them expressing preference for Pollard because he was so energetic. He's worked really hard to make our community a vibrant, healthy place to live and work. And I don't believe his opponent will contribute a fraction of the value we received from Mayor Pollard.

Unfortunately, many voters' exposure was probably limited to simply looking at the candidates' photographs. I believe that ageism reared its ugly head. For so many voters, which box they tick often boils down to a beauty contest. Few people take the time to research what's on the ballot. They go with an impression based on appearance. It's why I remain afraid of Sarah Palin. A good leader? Nope. Smart? Oh, please! Good looking? Reluctantly, I must confess she has a certain appeal. And if she were running against Hillary Clinton, I would be extremely concerned. Winston Churchill once noted

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

I don't think his opinion would change if he saw voters today.

The thing that makes me angry about this election is that the challenger accused the Pollard camp of running a dirty campaign. Maybe he caught a glimpse of himself and his supporters in the mirror and sought to point the finger elsewhere. Nothing like accusing your opposition of that of which you are guilty. I'm reminded of a quote from a much earlier campaign:
I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. ~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952
The truth about this race is that a good man was defeated. I only hope that the newcomer will not undo his legacy.

Thank you, Mayor Royce Pollard.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Moment of Truth: Timeline for Making HS Reunion Fantasies a Reality

I am totally turned on by envy Martin in Grosse Pointe Blank.
He's gone to his high school reunion.

One of my dear friends, Mama Milton, went to her high school reunion a few months ago. It sounded like so much fun that I began to wish I'd gone to mine. With all the reconnections I've made thanks to Facebook, I thought it might be not as horrible marginally bearable a real blast to get together with my former classmates.

Then some of the women began posting about meeting to plan a reunion. Our 30th reunion. Lawsy, that seems like ginormous number of years. And I haven't seen these people since I graduated. The momentous event will take place in the fall of 2011, so there's plenty of time to accomplish everything I've been meaning to.

Like dropping a hundred pounds.

Rather than trying to do it all the final week before the reunion, I've decided to spread the loss out over these next two years. Actually, it will be a little less than 2 years - I suspect they'll set the date for some time in September or October. So, it'll be roughly 100 weeks, which means I need to drop a pound a week. Easy as pie!

Pie. That sounds really good, don't you think?

Pumpkin Pie by Toni Dunlap - click on image for her blog

Let's redirect, shall we?

This gradual approach to weight loss will be so simple; truly a piece of cake. Which reminds me of my buddy Shana's post, WTF Wedding Cakes at So Not Zen.

Here's a lovely piece from Tattered Edges at Engaged: A Blog on the Bog.
She's doing NaNoWriMo too!
- click on image for her blog

This is not going to help me in my endeavor, is it? My fellow HASAY Club members won't appreciate me putting all these yummy treats in today's post. So let's move on to the next goal I have for my reunion:

To be a famous author with my novel on the NYT bestseller list.

Or at least to have a book published.

Or at least to have a book written, being considered by an agent for representation.

I am hereby participating in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. The NaNoWriMo website describes it as "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

This is a much more short term project. It requires me to write 1612.9 words per day.

So you won't be seeing much of me this month. But hopefully I'll be back on December 1st to share news of my great accomplishment with you.

Meanwhile, I hope you'll share your thoughts on all of this. I'm especially eager to know who else is doing NaNoWriMo. And hear your wild tales of high school reunions. I have such limited experience; I anticipate something like this.

Happy Halloween

The first family welcomed more than 2,600 children and their families
for Halloween trick or treating at the North Portico of the White House.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I liked this story about the Halloween celebrations at the White House. Actually, thanks to special lighting effects, it was the Orange House for a while.

We had a fun Halloween too. The four of us went to the Kennedy School and enjoyed a performance by Willamette Radio Workshop entitled "Tales from the St. James Infirmary." You can read more about the show here. Wonderful entertainment. And they had a great group of musicians - Classical Revolution PDX and Megafauna.

Daring Daughter had great fun trick or treating with her friend. Super Son had good times at a party with his friends. Professor X enjoyed a quiet evening at home while I joined some pals seated around a fire pit on one of the pal's front yards, sipping mojitos and handing out candy. We pledged that next year, we will wear witch hats and suspend a cauldron pot over the fire pit. If this actually happens, I promise to post some photos. Or maybe a video. We could do the "double, double, toil and trouble" scene from the Scottish play.

I feel positively giddy at the notion that I could be a Shakespearean actress.

Now to collect the ingredients. Anyone know where I can get adder's fork and blind-worm's sting?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Menu Mendacity

Two incidents in the past few days have made me crazy. The first was when we were down in Ashland. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, the Black Sheep. Wonderful meat pasties, delicious fish and chips, a sublime smoked trout and gouda sandwich. Delightful service. Friendly fellow diners. A round of darts. Then the bill arrives. Two of the meals were listed about $3 more than the menu board prices. Yours truly asks the waitress, who apologizes and says "the computer must not have been changed from the dinner prices of last night." She instantly corrects the bill.

But still I am bothered. I do not like mistakes.

This morning I ordered a breakfast basket from an area restaurant. The menu board specifies cheese costs 60 cents more. I want cheese. I order it with cheese, knowing I will be paying more. The menu board offers beverage choices: coffee, OJ, milk or bottled water. I order OJ. Surprise! I get up to the window to pay and learn that the OJ is 20 cents more. I tell them "it doesn't say that on the board." Super Son squirms in intense embarrassment. Manager offers to refund the 20 cents. I tell him it's not necessary; I just hope they will amend their sign and future printings of the menu so that customers can make an informed choice. He says it is impossible to list all the extra charges - "the sign would have to be huge!"

This bothers me.

Do you encounter this type of thing? Does it bother you, too? Or do I need to get a life? I await your reply.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We interrupt this multi-day theatre trip report...

...for an important message from my second husband, Stephen. Click on his delectable mouth to be magically taken to a link at Colbert Report where you will hear great wisdom.

And if you live in Washington state, please vote YES on Referendum 71. Don't let "the hate that dare not speak its name" win this election. Thanks.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Five Hours Down, Five Hours Back

Truffaldino (Mark Bedard) and his master, Florindo (Elijah Alexander) in Servant of Two Masters

We spent the weekend in one of our favorite places, doing some of our favorite things. Playgoing, eating at interesting restaurants, browsing old bookstores, talking with actors, and enjoying the pool and hot tub at a nice hotel. As soon as school was over on Friday, we sped down to Ashland, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Through afternoon traffic and steep, curvy mountain roads made slippery with rain, we doggedly drove, determined to make it in time for the evening entertainment. We needn't have worried; we made it with 6 minutes to spare. All the comfort of an old familiar setting, with old familiar activities...but a few new twists.

One twist was that we were in the New Theatre. Professor X and I had attended a few plays there since it opened in 2002. There was an amazing production of MacBeth that year, done in the round with a pool of "blood" in the center of the stage. As the action progressed, and knives were dipped into the "blood" and actors were smeared with "blood," things got stickier and stickier. Very memorable. We attended a post-play talk where they revealed the secret ingredient of stage blood - karo syrup. I only learned today that there was enormous drama surrounding the production when I went in search of photos to share with you and found a review of the show here. We thought it was a fantastic show.

We also saw a great political show the following year, Mothers Against by David Edgar. It was done with a totally different floor plan; imagine the theatre as a giant rectangle, with seating on the two long sides only, stage in the middle. So we knew there were many possible ways to arrange the audience. The kids had never been to the New Theatre. When we attended the first play, I told them that it would be interesting to see how it might be reconfigured the following evening for the other play. They thought I was nuts. But when we entered the next night, they were forced to admit I knew what I was talking about. If you look at the floor plans on the website, you'll see what I mean. There's a ton of work that goes into changing the entire set and seating between plays. And it happens in a few hours, because the play we saw the first night was done again as a matinee the next day, with the second play performed that evening.

Despite our frequent theatre trips, it was the first time we'd seen All's Well that Ends Well. Wonderful production. At first, I was a little taken aback seeing so many new actors in leading roles. I was reassured when some old favorites - James Edmondson, Dee Maaske, and G. Valmont Thomas, (he'd played MacBeth in 2002) showed up. Veteran actor Armando Durán absolutely delighted as a clown. I was really impressed by the comic talents of the newer women, Kate Mulligan and Emily Sophia Knapp. And we all enjoyed the lead,

Helena (Kjerstine Rose Anderson) and marveled at her athleticism, especially when she swung upside down from a tree.

Servant of Two Masters was our introduction to commedia dell’arte. OSF’s world premiere adaptation of a 250-year-old romp, with original songs, was outrageous fun for the four of us. I'll share more about that tomorrow. Need to clean house in preparation for NaNoWriMo.