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.