Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday en français

I am feeling very exotic today.

Thanks to the wonder of Youtube, I've been listening to Zazie, a terrific French singer/songwriter. She supported gay rights in
Adam & Yves on her 2001 album La Zizanie. Her 2007 Totem takes on environmental politics. The song I've been bopping to today is Je Suis Un Homme, an indictment of overpopulation, famine, the lack of proper drinking water and the folly of a hyperconsumer society. Sounds grim, but as they'd say on American Bandstand, it has a great beat and it's good to dance to. I give it a 10.

Yvan Attal directed the really interesting music video. I think it was shot at the Pompidou Center in Paris. It is tres avant garde! There is a beautiful naked woman! That is just so....French! I love the French. You can watch the video for Je Suis Un Homme here and bop around the house yourself. Here are the lyrics and a translation:

Je suis un homme de cro-magnon
Je suis un singe ou un poisson
Sur la terre, en toute saison
Moi je tourne en rond, je tourne en rond

Je suis un seul puis des millions
Je suis un homme au coeur de lion
A la guerre, en toute saison
Moi je tourne en rond, je tourne en rond

Je suis un homme plein d'ambitions
Belle voiture et belle maison
Dans la chambre, dans le salon
Moi je tourne en rond, je tourne en rond

Je fais l'amour et la révolution
Je fais le tour de la question
J'avance, avance à reculons
Oui je tourne en rond, je tourne en rond

Tu vois, j'suis pas un homme
Je suis le roi de l'illusion
Au fond qu'on me pardonne
Je suis le roi, le roi des cons

J'ai fait le monde à ma façon
Coulé dans l'or et le béton
Corps en cage et coeur en prison
Moi je tourne en rond, je tourne en rond

Assis devant ma télévision
Je suis de l'homme la négation
Pur produit de consommation
Mais mon compte est bon, mon compte est bon

Tu vois, j'suis pas un homme
Je suis le roi de l'illusion
Au fond qu'on me pardonne
Je suis le roi, le roi des cons

C'est moi le maître du feu, le maître du jeu
Le maître du monde, et vois ce que j'en ai fait
Une terre glacée, une terre brûlée
La terre des hommes que les hommes abandonnent!

Je suis un homme au pied du mur
Comme une erreur de la nature
Sur la terre, sans d'autres raisons
Moi je tourne en rond, je tourne en rond

Je suis un homme et je mesure
Toute l'horreur de ma nature
Pour ma peine, ma punition
Moi je tourne en rond, je trourne en rond

Here's a translation, thanks to

I’m a Cro-Magnon man
I’m a monkey or a fish
On the Earth every season
Me, I pace around, I pace around

I’m only one, then a million
I’m a man with the heart of a lion
At war every season
I pace around, I pace around

I’m a man of ambition
A beautiful car and a beautiful house
In the bedroom or in the living room
I pace around, I pace around

I make love and revolution
I think the question through
I advance, I devolve
And I pace around, I pace around

You see, I am not a man
I am the king of illusion
At the end, one has to forgive me
I’m the king, the king of the idiots

I do what I want of the world
Set in gold and concrete
An entrapped body, thrown in prison
Me, I pace around, I pace around

Sitting in front of my television
I am the very opposite of man
A pure consumer product
Yes, I'm done for
I'm done for

You see, I’m not a man
I’m the king of illusion
In the end, one must forgive me
I’m the king, the king of idiots

It’s me, the Master of fire
The Master of the game, the Master of the world!
And see what I’ve done with it
A frozen Land, a scorched Land
The Earth of men which men have abandoned

I’m a man with no alternative left
Like an error of nature
On earth with any other reason
Me, I pace around, I pace around

I’m a man, and I measure
All the horrors of my nature
For my pain, my punishment
I pace around, I pace around

I’m a man, and I measure
All the horrors of my nature
For my sentence, my punishment
I pace around, I pace around

Me, I turn around, I turn around

The only sadness I have about this is that I am not super fluent in French, so I'm missing part of the cleverness of the song. The wizards of wikipedia say that "Her songs range from upbeat rock or pop songs to languid down tempo tunes and are characterised by the wit of their lyrics based on puns, alliterations, homophonies and double entendres."

It's hard to catch all the witty goodness when it's not my first language.
I feel the need coming on for a trip to Paris to improve my language skills ....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Story of O

Were you intrigued alarmed by the post title, wondering if I'd succumbed to popular pressure to produce porn? Sorry to disappoint you Fear not! The Story of O which I have to share with you is a sweet and simple tale.

Today, one of my lovely friends and her two lovely children joined me and my lovely girl child for a day of wild, unrestrained PTA activism in Olympia, our state's lovely capitol.

We enthusiastically engaged in a rally on the steps of the Legislative Building. My lovely friend's son cracked me up BIG TIME when he informed us that rallying was "friendly rioting." This child would make an outstanding blogger. Both he and his sister were newbies to the whole legislative lobbying thing, but they were quick studies and seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves, particularly when we added a trip to the Children's Museum adjacent to the capitol campus. A great adventure, indeed.

My girl is an old pro at going to see our elected officials. When she was barely six months old, I took her to the other Washington when I went to lobby on behalf of environmental issues. Politicians love to kiss babies when they're running for election; they seemed to enjoy it after getting into office as well. I still remember the very friendly reception we enjoyed from our congressman's office.

I believe in engaging young people in the political process. You've probably figured that out.

If you've concluded that the "O" from my post's title is "Olympia," you're wrong. It's the tasty aphrodisiac treat I enjoyed this evening after the Children's Museum.


I am an addict. My name is Fantastic Forrest, and it's been three hours since I had 5 oysters on the half shell (Amazing Girl Child stole 1 from my half dozen and I threatened her with my tiny fork when she tried to take more), and 6 big juicy pan fried oysters.

I ate them here, at Olympia's Oyster House Restaurant.

photo by Steve H.

The economy is hurting, the state's budget is undoubtedly going to reflect that with painful cuts to education, but I had some oysters and saw some of my wonderful family and friends doing their best to advocate for things that matter to them.

Life is very good.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let 'em talk! What're ya afraid of? - Belated Oscar Night Reflections

I had a great time on Sunday night with a bunch of friends over at Bad Mom's house. We ate incredible hors d'oeuvres and desserts, drank champagne, and watched the Academy Awards.

I loved the glamour, the clever opening number, the comraderie of chums watching artists getting well deserved recognition for their work and the enjoyment of listening to the heartfelt acceptance speeches. Good times!
Except for the loss of Robert Downey Jr. for Best Supporting Actor. He wuz robbed.

An acquaintance bemoaned the goings on at the Oscars in her blog yesterday, writing "Keep The Art - Drop the Politics." She called out Sean Penn for his acceptance speech when he received Best Actor for Milk. She admonished the actor and others who "use the Academy Award ceremony to push their political agenda," listing what they should and should not talk about whilst at the podium. It was almost like an etiquette lesson. She wrote "Do not talk about politics which divide."

I've been rolling that one around in my mind ever since I read it. It's basically the same thing my own darling mother used to say when she complained about someone "spoiling the Oscars with all that political talk."

Here's Sean, talking about those pesky politics:

Life is political. Art is political. This film is VERY political.

And it is timely. Prop. 8 sucks. See here for my thoughts on that.

Democracy is messy. Things would be so much easier if they would just make me Queen. I would make darned sure that people's civil rights were respected. I think most of the audience at the Academy Awards would appreciate that, based on their resounding cheers in response to Penn's speech. But I don't think my acquaintance would be very happy. I don't think she's keen at all to have gay marriage. I've read over her blog pretty carefully and noted that she avoids discussing politics as if she fears any confrontation. But she lets slip more than a bit of her conservative religious views now and again. I'm not saying that if Sean Penn had spoken in favor of Proposition 8, she'd have cheered. But there might have been a tiny nod of her head in agreement before she chided him for not thanking his wife.

In contrast, I'm pretty open about my political views. I am not afraid to have a discussion about controversial issues. Of course, I am always very sure that I am totally right and anyone who disagrees with me is a victim of unclear thinking. Hee hee hee!

I'm reminded of two quotes:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
widely attributed to Edmund Burke, but brilliantly disputed here
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
naturalist Henry David Thoreau, whose quote about slavery is well discussed here

I don't know whether Thoreau would say that Sean Penn was hacking at the branches or striking the root in his acceptance speech.

But this I know: He is a good man who is speaking out against evil.
So I'm glad he spoke up. And I trust that he will continue to do so.

Oh, and that not thanking his wife thing? She is totally okay with it. They talked about what he would say in his speech if he won, and she knows he thanks her. And he loves her. She doesn't need him to say it in front of everyone.

But other people who love each other appreciate him speaking up on their behalf.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Was Afraid I'd Offended! - SPECIAL BONUS POST

So, I wasn't sure if it was the picture of the guy with the condom on his head a few days ago, or the photo of the Hooters clock on Jantzen Beach yesterday, but I was sure that I'd offended some followers. Because my number dropped! The day after I hit the magic 30 followers, I looked again to make myself feel so special and.....WHAT?! 27?!

Who left me?

Should I email them and ask why?

No, I was too proud. But wounded.

Then today I went to look in my dashboard window to see what was going on at all the blogs I'm following.


I'm not following any?!

Has Professor X somehow figured out how Blogger works, and unselected them all in hopes I'll clean the house instead of reading my favorites?

I had to find out.

I checked out Blogger help and found some reassurance here.

Hopefully they'll have it sorted soon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

There's Something Fishy About This Clock Tower

As promised, my favorite local public timepiece, the Salmon Run Bell Tower and Glockenspiel in Esther Short Park, Vancouver, Washington.

The City of Vancouver website notes:
Generous donations from local businessman and philanthropist George Propstra, created this one-of-a-kind amenity.

There's a great writeup on Oregon Live about the park and clock. It describes the wonderful show that the clock puts on:

Vancouver's 69-foot-high Salmon Run Bell Tower features a revolving musical display at noon, 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. The tower commemorates the life cycle of the Pacific salmon and the fish's value to the Chinook tribe, the original inhabitants of the lower Columbia River.
There's a really neat shot of the diorama close up on flikr. You should check it out! Better yet, come to Vancouver and listen to the bells.

The World Clock Project

I found a very cool thing I keep meaning to share with you, but interesting things keep happening to me. Or at least, I think they're interesting! But I have resolved to delay no longer. So here's a fun site you might enjoy.

It's the World Clock Project at Flickr.

People submit photos to represent the 12 hours. The project coordinators are interested mostly in clocks found in public spaces, all around the world.

See why I'm interested? It truly is traveling through time and space!

You can also see the images at The World Clock Project: A Community-Powered Timepiece.

Tomorrow, I'll share my favorite public timepiece in my town...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Anything Goes - Talking About Taboos

If you've come here enticed by my post title, thinking you'd see something to satisfy your prurient desires, think again. This is a porn-free site. At least so far.

I'm talking about the tamest of the wikipedia definitions of taboo:
restrictions on discussion of controversial topics (law, morality, ethics, manners, politics, religion, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, handicaps, class, creed, ones' occupation, finances, and groups of people as a whole).

I love talking about controversial topics. I love it so much that I'm teaching a class starting next Monday on Social Justice in Popular Culture Films. I've already shared this here, but I want to give everyone an opportunity to weigh in with suggestions for discussion questions. Some of you wanted a chance to think about it. Time's up, people. You must share your brilliance now. Comment here, or comment at the original posts. But please comment! If you have suggestions for other resources to share with the class, please let me know. I'd really appreciate it if you let me know about useful websites.

Here are the five class sessions' topics, with links to details about the films I'll be showing:

Bread and Roses - workers' rights, unions, illegal immigration, cost of healthcare

Come See the Paradise - civil liberties, Japanese internment camps during WW II

Something the Lord Made - race relations and segregation, equal opportunity

Le Placard (The Closet) - gay rights

Inherit the Wind - intellectual freedom, religion vs. science

Whilst I warned you that this was a porn-free site, I feel compelled to share an image with you to make it worth your while if you came here as a result of searching for sites with "taboos." It's a shot of the lead in Le Placard, wearing part of the costume he'll be dressed in for the gay pride parade. His headgear is designed to promote the product manufactured by the company he works for.

WARNING: If you are offended by birth control or safe sex devices, please avert your eyes. I don't want to risk losing a follower because of this picture.

Actually, if this picture offends you, you probably aren't cut out to be one of my followers....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Thus spake Benjamin Disraeli, and Mark Twain liked the phrase so much that he immortalized it in his Chapters from My Autobiography in 1907.

Mothers know there are all sorts of lies. The lies we hear and the lies we tell. How often have you said "I'm not angry because you did x. I'm angry because you lied about it."

Be honest. You're angry about both. But the lying does make you mad in a different sort of way.

Portland Tribune published a thoughtful piece recently in response to the uproar over Mayor Sam Adams fallacious (fellatious?) statements. You’re a Liar! (But aren’t we all?) Profound lies and little fibs gain public acceptance provides some pretty interesting food for thought.

My family and I've become addicted to a new television show, Lie to Me. I'm surprisingly crazy about Tim Roth, the actor who plays the lead. I'm pretty confident my friend Rachel Fox would categorize him as another of those not conventionally good looking guys. But he is compelling. He mesmerizes in an understated way. I find him oddly babe-licious.

The premise is that non-verbal clues can identify liars. That we involuntarily give ourselves away. It's not a foolproof science. But it is often accurate to analyze and judge based on micro facial expressions, shrugs, and countless other body language gestures. The scripts are exceptionally well written, with interesting characters and ongoing subplots. Illustrative photos of real world liars (Clinton protesting he "did not have sex with that woman," Sarah Palin saying, well, anything) are fascinating.

In one of the episodes, Roth's character Cal Lightman is dealing with his teenaged daughter, who has lied to him. Later, one of his colleagues tells her that her father knew she was lying but he didn't challenge her because he didn't think he should do that each time she tried to conceal something. You can see the clip for yourself at the entry dated February 4th, “A Perfect Score” - Kids Lie to Parents? And if you're feeling really ambitious, check out the newsletter mentioned below the clip. Lie To Me's scientific advisor Paul Ekman, Ph.D., breaks down the real science in each episode. Billed as "the world's foremost expert on facial expressions," he offers some advice to parents on what to consider when they suspect their child is lying.

Hmm. Interesting. As parents, we usually expect full disclosure from our children, but as healthy (in other words, not Norman Bates) adult children, we understand that sometimes we not only desire, but require privacy about our affairs from our parents' scrutiny. When do we make that transition, where it's acceptable not to have to tell the folks all our bidness?

Tell me what you think.

But please don't lie to me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Journey to a Strangely Familiar Land

A pair of lines from one of my most beloved films have been running through my mind this early morning as I try to sleep. So I will pluck them out to share with you so I can go back to bed. Let me know if you recognize the source:

W: How is this to end?
E: As stories must when love's denied: with tears and a journey.

And what's a journey without a map?

I discovered this very fun one quite by accident at

xkcd A webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language

Comic artist Randall Munroe has a ton of great content, but cautions those who visit his site thusly:

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

I must confess that the map includes much I don't understand. But I'm enjoying journeying in the Blogipelago nonetheless.

I know the real world versions of the characters who speak the lines at the beginning of this post would find the internet quite bewildering. But I've no doubt that, once over their shock, they'd be willing to set off on an adventure to discover as much as possible.

I like people who like journeys.
Even if some of the journeys are mostly in our minds.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Want Jeeves in my Bedroom! or For A Good Time, Call Stephen Fry

I just discovered the coolest thing, and I totally want it!

This little beauty is called the Voco Clock. It wakes you up with the gentle voice of Stephen Fry. Whilst he has played a whole lot of characters, including some pretty hilarious women, the clock employs his voice as Jeeves, the perfect gentleman's gentleman.
The clock's promo stuff says it's his character from Gosford Park, but what do they know?

This clock makes me happy. It has some very funny greetings to get you going. Supposedly there are SIX MONTH'S worth of different material before it starts repeating. Who else on earth gives you that many greetings?! I'm not saying that my bedroom life is dull or even occasionally slightly repetitive or anything, but that is a lot of variety. And as my mother always used to say, variety is the spice of life. So I want to spice up my life. Is that so wrong?

Whilst these are all addressed to "sir" you can get a "madam" version. Click on the links for a very good time. You are welcome.

Don't know who Jeeves is? Well, get with it. Read the marvelous Jeeves and Wooster books by P. G. Wodehouse. Then buy the fabulous set of DVD's that were produced in Britain in the early 1990's. Twenty three episodes of total hilarity. Stephen Fry played Jeeves, brilliant valet to Hugh Laurie's hapless Bertie Wooster. You will love them, I promise. If not, I'm not sure I want to know you. No offense, but I have standards.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Emily Dickinson's Alleged Letter and My Evening at Powell's City of Books

I spent a very fun evening yesterday in downtown Portland, thanks to Emily Dickinson. Allegedly.

There was Mexican food, a gargantuan bookstore, several hilarious women authors, and a rousing singalong to an original composition in which the chorus rejected the notion of a serious relationship with the declaration "I'm in a whore phase."

The singalong was led by the impossibly slender, guitar-playing, ethereal-voiced McKinley of Dirty Martini and Gracie and the Atom fame.

A dear friend and I journeyed to the wilds of Powell's City of Books, the biggest, bestest bookstore ever for a celebration of Come to Your Senses Day. First we had tasty food at Cha! Cha! Cha! a few blocks north on Glisan. There were a few too many raw onions in the meal, so we both vowed not to try to pick up any men when we got to the bookstore. Not that there were many men at the reading.

Come to Your Senses Day is a newly revived holiday allegedly inspired by a letter written by Emily Dickinson to her friend in 1847, in which she wrote "What was I thinking? How could I have been so taken with a man so full of himself? There ought to be a respite day. A day in which one can come to one's senses..." A librarian allegedly stumbled upon the letter and recruited friends to secretly celebrate this holiday. Allegedly, Dorothy Parker picked up on the idea in the mid-1930's and designated February 15th the official date to celebrate the sentiment. The reason I keep throwing in the allegedly is that I'm not so sure that this all happened, or if it is a clever marketing ploy to create a history to promote the book.

The book in question is a compilation of first person essays entitled What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories. The host of our local beloved Live Wire! radio show, vivacious redhead allegedly, anyway Courtenay Hameister, wrote one of the pieces and favoured us with a reading of her very funny tale of a former lover she called "Judgey McSexalot." Quite honestly, Courtenay is such a talented comedian, she could make you laugh if she read a few pages of the phone book. But her story was good. In a sad, what-were-you-thinking-letting-this-guy-make-you-miserable sort of way. So was Michele Gendelman's story. She wrote of an incredibly stingy ex-husband. Local NYT bestselling author Chelsea Cain, clad in black leather and red lipstick, shared a tale of lust and Hershey's chocolate syrup. I'm not sure her essay was actually in the book. McKinley read her own story and treated us to a seriously poignant song about a former lover who was a pathological liar.

Then it was time for the singalong. I'm not sure if McKinley wrote the lyrics or Courtenay wrote them. They were awfully funny. McKinley played guitar and Courtenay sang. Really well. She is usually so busy being witty that I hadn't realized what a great singing voice she has. I knew she'd been in a group called the Ditty Twisters years ago, but sadly, had never seen them perform. I totally wish they were still in business.

Emily might have been a tad surprised, but I am sure she would have gotten into the spirit of the thing, singing rousingly "I'm in a whore phase." Or maybe not. But my friend and I sure did, onion breath and all.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We'll Always Have Paris

Happy Valentine's Day! Even if today doesn't find you embroiled in a madly romantic situation, I hope that you've had some taste of that in the past. If not (or even if so) I hope you get it in the future. There is nothing like it.


That wild, oh-my -God-I-am-crazy-about-this-person-and-they-are-crazy-about-me feeling.

Even though it doesn't last. At least, it rarely does.

Something happens.

It turns out that Victor wasn't really killed by the Nazi's and now he's back and he needs your support to carry out the resistance so you've got to break up with Rick, who made you laugh like Victor never could because Victor is too much of a goody-goody.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

Or when your lover dies. Like in the movie I shared with you earlier this week, Truly Madly Deeply.

Or when the cute guys die in these three great flicks.
Name them all and you get 5 points.

Give me the names of some other tragic romance stories you loved and you'll get 3 bonus points for each.

Happy Valentines Day! Here's to those Paris moments!

Friday, February 13, 2009

St. Valentine and the Dragon

Amazing Girl Child had her classroom Valentine's Day party yesterday. This selfsame darling little offspring who has to be shoved down the stairs and out the door each morning jumped up and headed off without a backward glance. I wish every day was class party day.

There is something magical about Valentine's Day. At least there is if your teacher insists that if you're going to distribute cards, you have to have one for every student. God bless my daughter's teachers and others like her. I remember some pretty humiliating Valentine's Days in my elementary school years. Some kids got tons of cards. I did not.

Today is the birthday of one of Amazing Boy Child's best friends. Even though this young man lives in Ireland, and we haven't seen him since August 2006, my son and he have kept in touch. They write about their day to day lives, about their cinematic and musical tastes, and share their feelings about growing up. It's a bewildering time, dealing with the challenges of mid-teens. But one thing my son is sure of is that he has a good friend overseas who cares about him. I still remember when we were about to leave Ireland, and I overheard this boy talking with his father on the phone. He was desperate to have some additional time with my son, and wanted to give him a small keepsake, a shiny little dragon figure he treasured. He wanted his Dad to pick him up so he could get the item from his room, then return him to our soon-to-be-sadly-vacated-by-us home. His thirteen year old voice cracked as he pleaded, "I have to come back. He's my friend." The depth of his sincerity touched me. Quite honestly, just thinking about it now touches my heart.

Have I told you all this before? I feel like I have. Maybe I've just been thinking about it a lot. I'm not 18 anymore, and the fluttery feelings of my first romantic love have been replaced by something else even more satisfying. The satisfaction of loving my children, and watching them love others and be loved by those others.

That's a whole lotta love.

Happy Day Before V-Day.

PS I got the cool picture at top from Please don't sue me!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Music that Moves Me: The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

This struggle to retain the orchestra program in my Amazing Children's school has got me thinking about the music that I love. Although I have a special fondness for the violin because Amazing Boy Child is a violinist, I must confess that there is something about the deep bass of a cello that makes my heart strings quiver. Especially if it's played by the very scrumptious Alan Rickman.

As we near Valentine's Day, I wanted to share one of my favorite movie scenes. Truly Madly Deeply is one of those films that are guaranteed to make me weep. Juliet Stevenson is Nina, a woman whose boyfriend Jamie (the aforementioned exceedingly edible Alan Rickman) has died, only to return as a ghost. They engage in some very fun wordplay here and sing a breathtakingly beautiful song. Who amongst us hasn't, at some point in our lives, played the same game with a lover? The singing part is a little trickier. Maybe some of you have musical talent and can engage in that delicious sort of foreplay. In my heart, I'm a totally awesome singer. I just can't make it come out of my mouth properly. But I'm learning to play piano. Who knows what treat awaits Professor X in a year or two, once I've figured out how to play more than "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?" Maybe a moment like this:

Please hang on a second. I want to play the clip again. I REALLY like listening to Alan Rickman talk. And his singing is orgasmic really making me hot very nice.

Okay, I'm back.

I checked out Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge on earth, to give you some tasty tidbits about the film. I found this fascinating: The working title for the film was "Cello", a reference not only to the cello within the film, but also to the Italian word for heaven.

Take that, school board! You can't deny our students their musical heaven.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Literary Friendships

Last night, whilst Professor X and Amazing Children went off to the school board meeting armed with pitchforks and flaming torches to save the orchestra program from the chopping block, yours truly did something super fun. One of my fellow writing class students had two extra tickets to a program with authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Ann Patchett!


CENTER FRONT ROW TICKETS. -------> No, that's not me and my friends. I just found the pic at the Schnitz's website. But it shows how pretty it is inside.


I know you are insanely jealous, but still really happy for me, your friend, who got to do this cool thing.

I loved the fun, relaxed interaction of the two authors as they came out on stage, kicked off their shoes, and curled up on huge overstuffed chairs. They had met at a conference a few years ago, liked each other, and carried on a friendship entirely by letterwriting. Remember that? There is paper involved, and stamps. The Portland Arts and Lecture series brought them together to talk about their lives and writing and anything else that struck their fancy. It was a sold out crowd that oohed and ahhed and laughed as the two had a marvelous conversation. Bliss. I feel so lucky to have been there.

Afterward, I met both authors. I told Ann Patchett that I'd read her book Run and was really looking forward to reading her others. She laughed and said it was great to meet someone who hadn't yet read Bel Canto. It's sold over a million copies in the US and has been translated into 30 languages. While this photo wasn't taken of her that night, I like it because it captures her personality. Fun.

I told Elizabeth Gilbert that I came prepared to not like her because she was so wildly successful and so pretty. I genuinely thought she'd be very stuck up after having all her adventures which she then chronicled in Eat, Pray, Love and selling a gazillion copies and being on the New York Times bestseller list for the last 27 years. (Over five million copies sold, on list for over a year) But I said I'd just been charmed at how nice she was, and that her self deprecating wit made me want to be her very best friend. She laughed and asked to look at the contents of my locket, which had my children's pictures in it. She said they were beautiful. Oddly, she did not ask for my address so that we could begin a long letter-writing friendship. Oh well.

Here's a hint of the energy I got to witness last night from Gilbert. Aren't you charmed too?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Peter's Friends to My Friends

Make new ^ friends .......... but keep the old
* ^ones
one is silver and the other's gold!
*old only in the sense of having been met earlier, not old like aged or decrepit

A while back, I made a new friend. Her superhero blogging name is Bad Mom. You can read about our first meeting here at her blog.

She says what’s in my heart too. Only better.

It’s like when you have a child and think you can’t possibly expand your heart more. That all your capacity for loving is filled up. Then you have another child and realize that you can love them too. Exponential heart growth.

My friendship with Bad Mom has led me to meet a whole bunch of great new in-person friends, the Happy Hour Home Girls. Her comments on my blog’s early posts encouraged me to write more, which led to my making some wonderful new bloggy friends around the world.

One of those friends is Khaye-Mydette Sy Cardenas. Her Melting Chocolate blog is written in the Phillipines. She’s not a native English speaker, but you’d never suspect it from reading her wonderful prose. She makes thinking about the craft of writing so fun.

Khaye honored me with a wonderful Let’s Be Friends award. The award says:
These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

I’m feeling extremely warm and fuzzy on this snowy, cold day thanks to Khaye's sweet gesture. Before I bestow the little square of hearts on others, I first want to acknowledge all the lovely people who follow my blog. Some of them don’t have blogs. But they are still kind friends. Those who do have blogs certainly fit the bill for this award and you should click on their avatars to go check out what they’re up to. So followers, consider yourself awarded. If you wish to forward the friendship, great. If you don’t, that’s okay too. (I hate chain mail!)

I will try to spend this weekend traveling blogland to find some new friends to introduce to you all. Meanwhile, I am trying to help protect my Amazing Boy Child’s school orchestra program. This economic crunch is threatening to cause the school board to consider cutting the entire thing, grades 5-12. My violinist is alarmed. Off I go to be Amazing Activist Mom!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Musical Monday Morning: The Way You Look Tonight

What a special treat I have for you today! A beautiful song performed by six beautiful people.

Aren't their voices absolutely gorgeous? This is a scene from the 1992 film Peter's Friends. I'm betting you've never seen it. Kindly do so. At once.

It is a lovely story with some fantastic actors. Amazing Children watched it with me as part of my ongoing obsession stalking appreciation of Hugh Laurie. He plays Roger Charleston, a talented musician who collaborates writing commercial jingles with his wife Mary, played by Imelda Staunton. The Charlestons are dealing with a very tragic incident that threatens to destroy their marriage. Laurie and Staunton are such great actors that I felt embarrassed intruding on their private, anguished conversations. You really do need to see this film.

Amazing Daughter shrieked "Argh! It's Umbridge!" when Staunton first appeared in the movie. We hate Umbridge. She is evil. In case you've been living on another planet, Umbridge is the awful Ministry of Magic official who takes over Hogwarts for a year in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Here's a still from the film where Maggie Smith's Professor McGonagall is comforting Emma Thompson's Professor Trelawney as mean Umbridge tries to kick her out.

It takes some adjusting to like an actor after you've seen them play a truly despicable character.

We adjusted.

Laurie and Staunton make a terrific musical duo. And their characters' story is very moving. He is, of course, a GOD at singing, composing, and playing piano and guitar. Not to mention that sexyfunny horn thing he does with his lips at :45. She has a voice that's so lovely it brings tears to my eyes. And she's certainly able to do the glamorous star thing. ------>

Peter's Friends features Laurie's talented BFF Stephen Fry in the eponymous role. Laurie's former real-life girlfriend (Lucky girl!) Emma Thompson, takes a turn as a very funny character who tries to bed Peter, not realizing her old friend is gay. Her real-life husband at the time, Kenneth Branagh, directed and appears in the film as another friend of Peter. He's dancing in this clip with the lovely Alphonsia Emmanuel.

Play the clip again and marvel at the talent you're hearing and seeing.

There is a great write up about the song here. You should read it.

Don't you wish you had friends who could get together around your baby grand piano and harmonize like that? I do! I am leaving bloggyland for the day to go practice my arpeggios. You never know if Hugh Laurie a musical friend might be in the neighorhood.

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Not-So-Secret Past: WTO Protester

I wanted to share a blast from the past with you. This shot was taken in Seattle whilst I was attending a rally before marching to protest the WTO. That's World Trade Organization.

YES, I WAS THERE! Yes, I smelled the tear gas. Blech.

Professor X and I had gone up with a group to participate in the People's Rally and March for Fair Trade on Tuesday, November 30, 1999.

I made my own special sign to carry. It read "WTO - Do your mothers know what you're up to?"

I am so clever.

Because you are my special friends, I will tell you a little something more. Something about the terrible destructive rioting that went on that evening. I was not part of it. I was headed home with my group, eager to see my two children. I'd left them home just in case things got a too wild. Little did I know.

Amazing Girl Child was a small baby then. I'd hated being away from her that day, mostly because I loved every minute of being with her. But also because she was breastfeeding. And by the time I got home that evening, I was swollen to bursting. Ouchies. Big ouchies! Boy, was I glad to see that baby. Too personal? Sorry.

I'd gone to the rally because I thought it was important to show support for those who had organized it. I'd joined 50,000 environmental, human rights, labor, and church activists in a peaceful and legal demonstration.

With our current economic crisis, the WTO is again in the news, but the focus is on resistance toward US protectionism. Articles like this show that media attention is not on abusive labor practices around the world or environmental degradation caused by low standards from WTO policies. I'm concerned that we might forget it's important to protect our air and water and workers because of concern for the economy.

I haven't forgotten. We can't sacrifice precious health and physical safety of workers - and ultimately, of ourselves - because we're scared about this downturn.

After all, what would our mothers say?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: What's YOUR American Dream?

The economy is in trouble. I know they've been saying this for a while, but I actually believe it now.

A friend's husband is getting laid off.

Another friend's husband has lost a third of his business contracts, and she is scrambling to make sure that the family can still get needed medical and dental services.

Others are afraid of losing their jobs, driving unreliable cars, and dreading a whole variety of unexpected expenses and income loss.

I received an action alert today from about the greed of Wall Street bankers taking big bonuses whilst expecting the federal government to spend taxpayers' dollars on bank bailouts.

Big bonuses.

The alert said "Sen. McCaskill was reacting to the $18.4 billion in bonuses that Wall Street bankers took home in 2008."

That's a whole lotta dough. It would pay for a lot of dental checkups or brake jobs.

What it comes down to, for me anyway, is nothing less than defining the American dream. Is it that anyone can grab as much as they can? That government should not get in the way of profit-making endeavors? That there should be no regulation of business? That this is a great country because a person can rise to a level where they make an obscene amount of money while others go hungry?

Um.....I don't think so.

I believe in the idea of one's fair share. And not the insane excess that some people have been taking and spending.

One of my friends recently sent me a picture of her taken at the FDR Memorial in DC. I totally love that place. It's full of beautiful natural stone and water and great bronze sculptures. I'm inspired by his quotes, chiseled into the stone. The one I've shared above encapsulates one of the reasons I'm a Democrat, and what I hope fellow Democrats believe. I'd love it if my fellow Americans all believed it.

What do you believe?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Explorer's View of Life: Lost Generation

An Explorer's View of Life: Lost Generation

Wordless Wednesday: Caption Contest

Five points to anyone whose suggested caption for this photo makes me laugh.

Two bonus points if the caption makes me squirt tea out of my nose whilst laughing.

An extra point if you can tell me where this statue is located.

And, yes, I do remember! I just wondered if you knew too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Sorrow of Puppyless Girls

This is a tale of a family without a pet who got to take care of the cutest little dog in the whole wide world. This is the dog. Say it with me: "Awwwwww....."Photo courtesy of owner of cutest little dog in the whole wide world, Bianca Benson.
Bianca is a professional photographer in Portland, Oregon. She does beautiful work and is a wonderful person. I will tell you more about her another day, I promise

Today's tale is about Bob Barker, her sweet little bichon frise.

Who we all miss greatly after his stay with us while Bianca was off taking photos underwater in Aruba.

Let's back up. We do not have any pets. Mammy likes to travel, you see. And not just for a week or two. For a couple of months at a time, when Professor X is on summer break. For a full year, when Professor X gets sabbatical. (Yay, sabbatical! That is my favorite thing ever. When can we get another one? Probably not very soon, with the economy in the potty. Boo hoo. Still, I'll always have Paris. And Westport. And Sperlonga. That is the nice part of sabbatical. Lots of great memories. And we are grateful he has a job. So no pouting about no new sabbatical.)

The Amazing Children like animals and have lobbied heavily for a pet. Amazing Girl Child really loves bichon frise dogs. Amazing Boy Child and Professor X were just not sure about this, because they seemed like little sissy dogs. Dogs that only girly girls or girly men would like. But after only a few days of Bob Barker looking at them all solemn-like, cocking his little head to the side so adorably, sitting warm and snuggly in their laps, they fell in love too.

Bob Barker won my heart even earlier, when he arrived in his little red tote bag.

Note: This is an unretouched photo.
This is natural cuteness.

Despite his name, Bob Barker does not bark very much. Just the necessary amount. And he is not prone to behaving lecherously like Bob Barker the former game show host allegedly did against the glamorous models on the show. But he probably appreciates the animal rights efforts made by Bob Barker the former game show host.

I just don't know.

Because Bob and I didn't really talk about such things. When the Amazing Children were off at school, Bob and I hung out together at home. Usually I go flitting here and there during the day. I might visit a friend for coffee, or do some leisurely grocery shopping, or just drive off into the Columbia River Gorge for an hour to admire the view of Mt. Hood. (Sh! Don't tell Professor X. He thinks I am home every day slaving away to keep the house all shiny and clean.) But if I'd gone away, I'd have had to fence Bob in. And that did not seem fair. You don't invite a guest to stay in your house only to leave them alone. So I stayed with Bob. And even though he didn't talk, he was great company. And now Bianca is back, and Bob is gone, and I am lonely.

But before he left, I made Bianca promise that Bob could come back soon. So she is going away to some other exotic place with her very fun husband and her camera, and Bob will be here then. It is only a few weeks from now. But everyone is eagerly anticipating his arrival. We like the way he gives us little kisses with his pink puppy tongue and runs around the yard and pounces on things in the grass.

We would love to have him here all the time. But I know in my heart I would get restless after a while and resent him. Because I can't be fenced in forever. So instead we make do with the generosity of our good friend who is willing to share her beloved dog.

The knowledge that Bianca loves to travel too eases our heartache.