Friday, January 30, 2009
Gratuitous Britney photo here to illustrate that some things are just too darned tawdry for words ------------------------------------------------------>
(but that has never stopped me from writing about them anyway)
Yes, I shared my innermost thoughts about the recent scandal involving Portland's Mayor Sam Adams and a young man named - I am NOT making this up, non-US followers - Beau Breedlove. And I included a very witty song snippet composed by a local radio station. Want to read it/hear it? Go here.
There. Now you know about my secret place, where I go when one post a day isn't enough. When my big mouth just can't stay shut. But THIS is my favorite place. It is all mine. I heart my blog. And I heart my followers! And those are NOT inappropriate friendships. I would like to go on record that I have never, ever, had sex with any of my followers. As of this morning, anyway.
Geez, that picture of Britney is leading me to think very uncharacteristically slutty. Must get back on track.
So now, I just want to give a shout out to my newest, marvelous followers. Because their blogs are awesome. I already mentioned Emm and Liberal Mom yesterday, so they don't get a second mention here because that would be overdoing it.
I am super excited because my bloggy empire has expanded to ASIA. Writer Khaye-Mydette Sy Cardenas at Melting Chocolate is from the Phillipines. I really enjoy her thought-provoking posts about writing. David King from Surrey, UK is in BIG TROUBLE with me. Getting caught up on his fascinating posts about Pics and Poems has made the laundry and dishes pile up around here. Seriously, each post is jam-packed with crunchy goodness. I lurv David King. Given our age difference, I am wondering if I was too hard on Sam Adams. Hmm. Moving on... An equally distracting blogger is The Grandpa. I lurv him too! Check out his exploration of a life working with words at The Word Mechanic. Ha! I'll bet your laundry will pile up thanks to these followers' offerings.
The mysterious Alexandre Fabbri has thus far only one post at Brasserie Alize. But I know a secret about him. I think he's been posting elsewhere too. I loved him then and I love him now. Truly, madly, deeply.
But we have not had sex.
I also want to acknowledge my non-blogging followers Beckett and desertgirl. I strongly suspect who you are.....and I totally love you for following me. And bushtool? I know you're there. And I really appreciate it. And I think your blog, which for some reason you don't list on your profile, is fantastic. But I won't "out" you.
Which reminds me of the Sam Adams thing.....
Lord, my mind works in annoyingly circular ways.
Have a great weekend, friends. See you Monday!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
My BG (Blog Guru) Stephanie, aka Bad Mom,
To accept this award I must post it on my blog, nominate 10 blogs to receive this award, link to the blogs I nominate, and notify the nominees. Blog recipients, to accept your award, simply follow the same procedure.
Here are some of my favorites* in the Most Fabulous Blogs category:
* So Not Zen
* The Worm Girl News
* From the Desk of Bee Drunken
* Just a Plane Ride Away
* Ms. B1tch is tired tired tired....(and very hungry)
* Emm in London
* Thoughts from a Liberal Mom
* Pundit Mom
* A Monkey Girl’s Existential Drama
It will be time well spent if you spend a few days roaming around their fabulous blogs.
*note: I have not included Bad Mom or two of her recipients, Mama Milton and A.R. and Proud since they have already received the badge, but they ARE fabulous, and you should totally click on their names to visit their blogs.
And may I just say "WELCOME!" to my new followers. I'll be talking about YOU tomorrow. But I didn't want you to feel unnoticed. I hope I get another badge soon so that I can award your excellent blogs. Perhaps I need to create one!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I will award five points to anyone who can identify why posting this picture on Wordless Wednesday might be considered ironic.
And by "ironic," I don't mean it the way Alanis Morissette uses it. Which would be the wrong way...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This final film features a great American actor, Spencer Tracy. Now before you say, "FF! Why are you doing Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? We already dealt with racism," let me tell you that's not the movie. Nor is it Bad Day at Black Rock, (see this post for my film selection regarding racism against Japanese-Americans) or Fury (morality of mob violence). It's a courtroom drama. No, not Judgement at Nuremburg (geez, maybe I should have just made it the Spencer Tracy Social Justice Film Class - he sure covered a lot of ground).
Come with me on a trip to the Bible Belt, where we'll consider...
Inherit the Wind
Inherit the Wind (1960) portrays, in partly fictionalized form, the famous and dramatic courtroom "Monkey Trial" battle (in the sultry summer of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee) between two famous lawyers (Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan) who volunteered to heatedly argue both sides of the case (over 12 days, including two weekends).
Its story centers around the issue of evolution vs. creationism, in the prosecution of 24 year-old Dayton High School mathematics teacher and sports coach - and substitute science teacher - John T. Scopes for violating state law (the 1925 Butler Act) by teaching the Darwin's theory of evolution in a state-funded school. The film's title was taken from the Biblical book of Proverbs 11:29: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."
The film opens with the ominous singing of the old-time gospel song Give Me That Old Time Religion, while the camera moves past a statue of Blind Justice. A young, meek, but earnest southern high-school Biology teacher in the fictional town of "Heavenly" Hillsboro, Tennessee - Bertram T. Cates (Dick York) - has broken the state law against the teaching of the theory of evolution. Four solemn, stony-faced town officials march across town to the local high school where they place Cates under arrest - he is soon brought to trial in July of 1925. Two eminent lawyers volunteer their services to battle the issues in the "Bible Belt" community within a stifling hot courtroom. Cynical Baltimore Herald news reporter E. K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly), whose paper has sponsored a defense attorney, is the only one in the town to welcome the celebrated, agnostic, libertarian Chicago attorney Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) upon his arrival: "Hello, Devil. Welcome to Hell."
excerpts from synopsis taken from http://www.filmsite.org/inhe.html
Here's a clip of Gene Kelly as the fictionalized H.L. Mencken character talking to the accused teacher played by Dick York (yes, the first, and some would say, finest Darrin Stephens of Bewitched). Warning: the video looks blotchy for the first 6 seconds. Persevere and watch.
If you're interested in reading more, I found a thoughtful discussion of the film here. Obviously, the evolution vs. creationism question is only the tip of a very large iceberg of science vs. religion debates. Speaking of icebergs, how 'bout that global warming one? One of these days, I'll tackle the wealth of material one can find when googling the words "global warming religious right." But not today.
Now please lend me your brains and comment, comment, comment!
Monday, January 26, 2009
Le Placard (The Closet) is my choice to explore the social justice issue of gay rights. I'll confess, when I began looking for films for my class, I first thought of Philadelphia. But that is such a sad movie. I wanted something lighter. There's lots of heavy stuff to talk about relating to gay rights after this most recent election. Proposition 8 and other measures like the one in Arkansas restricting adoption provide plenty of fodder. I look forward to your discussion questions!
Here's the trailer.
As a special bonus, just because I love you so much, I'm sharing Prop. 8 The Musical. I would just like to go on record here that I will forevermore think of Jack Black as my personal savior. Rrowr! That man makes me happy.
PS I'm astounded that yesterday's post didn't elicit scores of insightful questions. I can only assume that everyone but me took Sunday off from blogworld. So when you're done reading today's call for questions, please hie thee thither and pour forth your wisdom.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Many thanks to those of you who've already given me some wonderful comments. Please keep them coming!
Something the Lord Made
The emotional true story of two men who defied the rules of their time to launch a medical revolution, set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow south in the 1940’s. The two men, Dr. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and African-American lab technician Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), develop a new technique for helping babies with heart problems.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I'm teaching a course using five popular culture films that deal with issues of social justice. I need some stimulating discussion questions.
It doesn't matter whether or not you've seen the movie.
The discussion should focus on the broad issue(s).
The next film is Come See the Paradise
Come See the Paradise is a fact-based 1990 film directed by Alan Parker, starring Dennis Quaid and Tamlyn Tomita. Set before and during World War II, the film depicts the treatment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent loss of civil liberties within the framework of a love story.
To start you off, I'll offer the most obvious question (I'm lazy like that):
Was the internment of Japanese-Americans justified?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I'm teaching a course in which I'll show five popular culture films that deal with issues of social justice.
And I need some stimulating discussion questions.
To...um....y 'know...stimulate discussion.
A stimulating discussion!
Is your big brain sufficiently stimulated? Hope so. Here goes with the first title:
Bread and Roses
Forty million persons have no medical insurance in the richest country in the world, the United States. Among the uninsured are recent immigrants, who often work at wages below the minimum allowed by law while immigration quotas are not relaxed to allow badly needed unskilled laborers into the country legally. In Bread and Roses, British director Ken Loach focuses on nonunion Los Angeles janitors who in 1999 earn $5.75 per hour without benefits.
I can't wait to see what you have to say. You're welcome to post as much as your little hearts desire.
But be sure to phrase at least some of it as questions I can ask the class so they can discuss!
In the midnight hour she cried- "more, more, more"
With a rebel yell she cried- "more, more, more"
In the midnight hour babe- "more, more, more"
With a rebel yell she cried "more, more, more"
More, more, more.
Damn, they just don't write them like that anymore.
Billy's expression in this photo pretty much sums up my attitude about the regulations being reviewed by the Obama administration.
There's a lot in the news recently about the Bush administration's so-called "midnight hour" regulations. I've read some great pieces at The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, among others.
Let's be clear: these types of "midnight hour" actions didn't begin with George W. Bush, and they probably won't end with him. They're not inherently bad. The federal government is in business to regulate myriad issues and it's inevitable that there will be some loose ends to tie up at the end. (Cliche spotters, give yourself a point!) But the evil in some of these particular regulations is significant, and I'm awfully relieved that our new President is scrutinizing them closely. He's not the first to do so. Previous leaders have blocked the implementation of their predecessor's regulations.
I find it telling that the groups seeking the defeat of most of these rules are public interest groups. And I wasn't joking when I categorized the regulations as evil. When you damage the environment, health and safety, you're a villain.
The Center for American Progress identifies some rules here:
There are rules
- that relaxes enforcement against factory-farm runoff
- that permits more waste from mountaintop mining to be dumped into waterways
- seemingly designed to protect pharmaceutical companies from being held liable for marketing products they know are unsafe
- that makes it more difficult for workers to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act
- that reduces access of Medicaid beneficiaries to services such as dental and vision care
- that could limit women’s access to reproductive health services.
1. INCREASED POLLUTION FROM POWER PLANTS The Bush EPA wants to allow increased emissions from older power plants while also rolling back existing air quality regulations for national parks and wilderness areas. The result: more pollution and decreased air quality and visibility.
2. UNDERMINING THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT Proposed regulatory changes to the Endangered Species Act would "undo more than 30 years of progress," according to experts.
3. JEOPARDIZING AMERICANS’ CIVIL LIBERTIES Americans’ privacy rights could be severely undermined by a Department of Justice proposed rule that would empower state and local police to collect, share, and retain sensitive information about Americans, even when no underlying crime is suspected.
4. REDUCING RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES The Department of Justice’s proposed rule would make dramatic changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act - weakening accessibility standards and reducing enforcement efforts.
5. RESTRICTING ACCESS TO CRITICAL CARE FOR MEDICAID PATIENTS The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a rule that would restrict outpatient hospital services Medicaid would cover for our nation’s most vulnerable Americans.
6. INCREASING ROAD HAZARDS BY WEAKENING TRUCK DRIVER LIMITS The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is again planning to expand by 10 percent the number of hours a truck driver can drive without adequate rest, threatening the safety of all drivers.
7. FAMILY PLANNING UNDER FIRE
Millions of women can see their health threatened under the Bush Administration plan.
8. EXPOSING CHILDREN TO MORE WORKPLACE HAZARDS 14- and 15-year-olds who would be allowed to work under a Department of Labor rule could face life- and health-threatening dangers.
9. "SECRET RULE" UNDERMINES HEALTH PROTECTIONS FOR WORKERS 80 noted scientists have questioned a Department of Labor rule - developed in virtual secrecy - because it could potentially damage workers’ health.
10. FINANCIAL ADVISERS ALLOWED TO PROVIDE INVESTMENT ADVICE - REGARDLESS OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST This Department of Labor proposed rule would jeopardize the retirement security of millions of American workers because it would allow investment consultants to conceal their conflicts of interest.
11. UNDERCUTTING THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT Fifteen years after the enactment of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this Department of Labor proposed rule would make it more difficult for workers to exercise their leave rights.
I don't know about you, but I'm sure glad that we don't have to expect any more, more, more of this kind of rule-making.
We're embarking on a much better time. A happier midnight hour that puts a sparkle in a whole lot of eyes. Enjoy this little groove with Wilson Pickett to celebrate with me!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I couldn't stop crying this morning.
Don't worry. They were tears of joy.
Amazing Children and I watched the Inauguration of President Barack Obama live on television.
There were many wonderful moments. I especially loved this part of our President's speech:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.Amazing Son loved every minute. He really appreciated the piece arranged by John Williams performed by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill.
Amazing Daughter loved the First Lady's beautiful gold dress and coat, but had some misgivings about the gloves. AD gave a big belly laugh at the end of the benediction by civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery.
"We ask you to help us work for that day
when black will not be asked to get back,
when brown can stick around,
when yellow will be mellow,
when the red man can get ahead, man,
and when white will embrace what is right."
We three weren't the only ones laughing. The crowd in DC roared. Lowery then paraphrased a Bible verse, ending with a hearty "Let all who do justice and love mercy say amen!" The crowd shouted back, "Amen!" and cheered.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I especially like this because it combines Dr. King's stirring words with the music of U2. It reminds me of the long way that the Irish people have come as well, after hundreds of years of oppression and injustice.
President-elect Obama has called on Americans to honour Dr. King by volunteering today and making an ongoing commitment throughout the year. You can learn more about some of the opportunities here.
Amazing Girl Child and I will be meeting with some of our friends to make plans for PTA Lobby Day. Sure, we could just storm the Capitol with pitchforks and present our list of demands. But since Dr. King advocated non-violence, we thought we'd try going through the legislative process first.
Happy Martin Luther King Day!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I TOTALLY swore I wasn't going to do any blogging on Saturday or Sunday because I have to knuckle down (your special weekend edition cliche) and work on my novel.
But I am weak. I miss you. Besides, I'm dying to tell you about the really fun time the Wild Forrests and I had today. We celebrated J.R.R. Tolkein's birthday at McMenamin's Kennedy School in Portland. We were actually a couple of weeks late - Tolkein was born on January 3rd 1892. I don't think he'd mind, though. It'd be pretty awesome to know that your work is still beloved almost 75 years after the first printing.
The K School is one of our favorite places. It's an old elementary school that's been converted into a magical spot for dining, lodging and entertainment. Classrooms have become sleeping chambers, the gymnasium is a concert and event venue, the cafeteria is a restaurant/pub, and the theatre is a - well, it's a theatre. The decor defies description. Suffice it to say that it is delightfully artistic and electic. Movies and live performances are incredibly inexpensive, oftentimes free. Admittedly, the food prices have climbed steadily since they've opened, so they're making money nonetheless. But with such stellar entertainment, I don't begrudge them the $7.50 for My Precious Onion Rings or even the $8.90 for the Return of the King Burger. (Note: Those are one-day special menu items, so you'll have to wait until next year if you want to order them. Meanwhile, you can still eat there. I assume they have Regular Old Onion Rings in the interim.)
Willamette Radio Workshop is a magnificent group who has performed at the Tolkein celebration and on Halloween at Kennedy School as well as at the UFO Festival at McM's Hotel Oregon in McMinnville. The cast members do a terrific job, led by the dynamic duo of Director/Actor Sam A. Mowry and Writer/Actress Cynthia McGean. Today's show featured The Hobbit. There was a ton of opportunity for audience participation, and the actors all really got into their roles. The gymnasium was jampacked with fans cheering, howling, and making flying arrow sounds ("thup thup thup"). I heart live radio theatre. If you haven't experienced it, you need to.
I TOTALLY swear I'm not going to post anything tomorrow. I mean it! My will is strong. Not one more word until Monday. So scroll down and read my marvelous post from yesterday and please leave a comment. I treasure your words! They
And now, like Bilbo Baggins, I need to find somewhere I can rest and finish my book. Or at least write a few more pages....
Friday, January 16, 2009
I received a forwarded email today (yes, THAT kind) which prompted today's
Average cost of a new house: $3,600. A gallon of gas set you back 15 cents. A Coke was a nickel. Casablanca deservedly won the Best Picture Oscar. Actress Lauren Bacall appeared on the March cover of Harper's Bazaar. She looks kind of somber for a glamourous movie star. Dinah Shore assured radio listeners "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," Frank Sinatra warned "People Will Say We're in Love," and Kay Kyser and his Orchestra asked folks to "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." Welcome to the middle of World War II. A whole lot of movie stars went off to serve in the war - the one after the war to end all wars.
The email I received names many great actors: Alec Guinness, Donald Pleasance, David Niven, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Durning, Charles Bronson, George C. Scott, Eddie Albert, Brian Keith, Tyrone Power and several others. It details some of their service in the face of danger.
Sadly, though, the writer has an axe to grind. The message reads "In contrast to the ideals, opinions and feelings of today's "Hollywonk," the real actors of yester-year loved the United States. They had both class and integrity. With the advent of World War II many of our actors went to fight rather than stand and rant against this country we all love."
The email concludes
So how do you feel the real heroes of the silver screen acted when compared to the hollywonks today who spew out anti-American dribble as they bite the hand that feeds them? Can you imagine these stars of yester-year saying they hate our flag, making anti-war speeches, and marching in anti-American parades.
I completely agree that it was wonderful that these guys served their country. It's a total shame that the writer spews out hatred toward those who dare to question a failed foreign policy of a lying administration. Nothing like labeling someone "anti-American" to make a real showstopper. I'll bet if you asked the paraders, they'd tell you they are anti-war, not anti-American. And that they pretty much like the flag.
Lumping "saying they hate our flag" and "marching in anti-American parades" with "making anti-war speeches" is just so much bull feathers. You'll note that the writer at least was truthful in categorizing the speeches as "anti-war" rather than "anti-American."
Who the hell is truly in favor of war except a madman?
But by throwing them all in together, the writer makes you feel like if you're against the war, you're against America.
Those movie heroes were serving during WWII. That was a whole lot different than Vietnam, and certainly VERY different than today's war.
A hero doesn't just blindly go off into any old stupid war. That doesn't take anything away from these great stars and their service. But I strongly object to using their deeds to justify denigrating more recent who are politically active. In some cases, it takes as much courage to "stand and rant" against a government to help save the country you love. If only more Germans had done so, maybe none of those movie stars would have had to go fight Hitler in 1943.
Current day movie stars who use their celebrity to advocate for worthwhile causes are heroes too. Yes, I'm talking about you, John Cusack. Among others.
My motto? QUESTION AUTHORITY. If they're doing the right thing, they will be able to take the scrutiny. If not, THROW THE BUMS OUT.
What do you think?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
There are 10 Followers! Time for the Dance of Joy.
Our latest Fellow Traveler (ooh, that phrase is one I will have to come back to sometime soon - ripe with possibility) is Bee Drunken from - drumroll, please - jolly old England! More Dance of Joy. Scroll back up to the clip. I'm not posting it again.
Not that I don't treasure each and every one of you equally, regardless of your location, but I have a special little place in my heart for all things British.
This morning was super frosty. Professor X returned to the house with a look of terror. "Have you seen the ice scraper?" Amazing Girl Child rushed out and sped back in clutching an icy leaf. "Can we keep this in the freezer? Isn't it cool? Get it, Mom? COOL?" I was so proud at her brilliant, following-in-my-footsteps-of-making-puns behavior that I said yes. I marveled at the sparkling iciness outside, went back in, and made a hot cup of peppermint tea.
The incredible thing is, so did a lot of other people. I can imagine this went on at Bee Drunken's house as well. Check out her very cool English house:
(Oh! I made the same brilliant pun as AGC because, LOOK! her house is covered with frost. I amaze myself.)
Seriously, isn't it just gorgeous? I am so jealous. It is old and lovely and in Britain.
BD's house reminds me of this Totally Awesome Place we stayed when we visited Stratford-Upon-Avon in Dec. 2005- Jan. 2006. It was called Imogen's Cottage, this wonderful thatched roof cottage in the village of Welford-Upon-Avon. But now I can't find it online to show you! Ack! I will look in my photo album. Double Ack! There are a bunch of blank spaces. What does this mean? Is this place like Brigadoon? Has it disappeared utterly? Did I hallucinate the whole thing? Tell me if you can find any mention of it anywhere in your travels through the internet.
Meanwhile, I will share a treasured family photo of us someplace else. Amazing Children and I are in front of one of the Shakespeare Houses. This is Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Sadly, Professor X is not in the picture. But wait! If you look carefully, you can see the shadow of him taking the picture to the left of the happy threesome. Aren't you lucky? A shot of FOUR Fantastic Forrests.
If you like, you may do the Dance of Joy.
I yearn to go back to wonderful England. I have great hope that this will happen in two years. Meanwhile, I'll read about Bee Drunken's adventures there. And I'll enjoy the thought that we are all sharing the Dance of Joy together on this day, whether our morning was frosty or not.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Today I will play your tour guide through space and time to check out some other fun blogs. Hold onto my hand as we step off the curb and head toward my friend Ms. B1tch's place. She always makes me laugh. Let's look in on her a few days ago, when she was
Now let's see who's on her blog list. (Humph, why the hell am I not there?! Must talk to Ms. B about this oversight.) This is interesting...Reduce Footprints. Okay, let's go check it out. You can go back and see Ms. B later. Ask her why I'm not on her blog list. Hey, here's a celebration over here! It's the 100th post at Reduce Footprints. There's a mini-movie - a sea turtle's the screencap. This could be neat. Let's watch. It'll only take a minute or two. Wow! That was TOTALLY worthwhile. Some gorgeous places. There's some fine content here, a nice mix of earth-friendly tips and excellent writing. I'll be back. In fact, give me a minute to become a follower. Where will I lead you now?
Let's check out who's on RF's "Other, nice places to visit...." list.
This sounds fun: Idiot's Stew. Off we go! I love the subtitle, "A Soupy Mess of Left-overs Seasoned with the Bitter Dregs of Cynicism." The most recent post, "48 is the New 73" sounds intriguing. Hee hee! Did you see the second paragraph? Idiot Blogger writes, "Fast-forward 3 ½ decades to this morning when I looked in the mirror and it occurred to me that I now look a fuckuvalot like my dad." I like his phrasing. That is my guilty pleasure. I like the f-word and its derivatives. Here's an explanation of that viewpoint by a noted British actor (yes, you can guess who it is) when he is asked about his favorite curse word. The question's asked at 1:08. I'm including the entire clip rather than just the relevant 10 seconds because he's so darn fun.
Oh, dear, I kind of took a side trip there, didn't I? Let's go back to the Idiot for a minute. I really like the ending of his post today: "...as we get older, we become who we have always been regardless of how hard we have fought to stand apart from our heritage. We are marching forward, yes, but we walk in a great circle that inevitably leads us right back to where we started." This guy's really good! Profound thoughts, lovely prose. Yet he's not afraid to let loose with the occasional "fuckovalot." I admire that.
Well, dang, our time together today is up. I'd wanted to take you to a couple of other spots in the blogverse, but the Amazing Children had a half day of school, and I need to harangue them to complete their homework and clean their rooms and practice their instruments. It's hard juggling my roles as Brilliant Writer, Blog Cruise Director and Amazing Mom. Don't worry, though. I'll return to lead you on another adventure soon.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Let's get one thing clear from the beginning: I have two totally brilliant kids.
Today's post concerns ABC (Amazing Boy Child) and his school's Geography Bee.
Let's get something else really clear: Sometimes, one's success in something is based on skill or diligent preparation and study. Sometimes, it's just a matter of the luck of the draw. Often, it's a combination of both. Because in a contest that is essentially a test of an infinite number of pieces of information, (some of which, like, say, are which country has the lowest birthrate in South America), no matter how damned hard you study, you're not going to know all the answers.
Lest this sound like a mother's attempt to justify the outcome of her beloved son's participation in said Geography Bee, let me simply say "Oh, shut up." I mean, come on. This is not sour grapes. It is based on a two hour observation of a WHOLE BUNCH of kids doing variously well and not so well on a WHOLE BUNCH of questions. Many other sons and daughters went down in the Geography arena's ring when they were punched on the nose by some obscure question. Most fought bravely, offering answers even if they were unsure. A few sometimes just admitted defeat. One young man broke my heart when he looked at the judge and said simply, "I don't know," and walked back to his place on the stage.
But despite the fact that my Amazing Son did not get crowned the King of Geography, I enjoyed watching the competition. He upheld the honour of the Family Forrest by giving it his best shot (and as a bonus, knowing the correct answer to a majority of the questions he was asked). I must confess he was not the most entertaining performer, though.
That distinction goes to the kid in the front row who held his arms up in self congratulation, ala the winning quarterback style, whenever he scored a correct answer. His funniest moments came when he misspoke an answer, sat down with a disgruntled look, only to loudly gasp in disgust and hold his head in his hands when the next question to someone else was something he clearly knew. The crowd roared at his reaction.
It's the luck of the draw. ABC had the same experience. The young man before him got a question about Ireland. Softball!! At least, for ABC, it would have been. The young man who followed him got a question that ABC could have answered in his sleep. What was my darling ABC asked? Which country has the lowest birthrate in South America.
I am willing to wager two dollars that no one on that stage would have known the answer, with the possible exception of The Girl Who Had a Perfect Score going into elimination rounds, and The Boy Who Ultimately Won the Bee, and maybe a few others. How's that for hedging my bets? Pathetic, I know. I just don't have the stomach for gambling huge sums like that. There is a high probability nobody would've nailed it. My point is, though, it's the luck of the draw.
The Perfect girl dropped after missing "In which state is resort town Myrtle Beach located?" If ABC had been asked that, he would have known because we've been there twice, gorging ourselves at the Giant Crab. Oh, well.
I loved that the kids all seemed to support each other in their successes and commiserate in their conditions of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. (My personal goal for this post was to avoid the use of the word "failure" since I don't consider there to have been any failures, just attempts that didn't quite hit the target. If you disagree with me, I don't want to hear about it. La la la... I'm not listening.) There were lots of fist bumps when someone got a particularly tough one right, and several heartfelt "ohhh"s of sympathy if someone was eliminated.
and brave the geographic inquisitor makes them all winners in my book.
It should be noted that he did not force them to endure the Comfy Chair.
If you're interested in the Bee, check it out here. It's a nationwide contest, sponsored by National Geographic Society.
Oh, that birthrate thing? It's Uruguay, okay? I'll bet you didn't know that, either.
Monday, January 12, 2009
I adore the cinema. Until Professor X completes the family TARDIS, motion pictures are one of the best ways I currently have to time travel. Movies transport us to so many awesome places and times, don’t they?
But I’ve got to be careful to discriminate between reality and moments depicted in movies based on historical events. I was surprised to learn that a pivotal moment in Frost/Nixon was taken a bit out of context. You know, the one that they use in the trailer, where Nixon/Langella says angrily “I’m saying when the President does it, it’s not illegal.”
If you haven’t seen it, it’s a KICKASS trailer:
But it’s also not really the truth. Not only did the exchange not play out precisely that dramatic way, the real Nixon and Frost weren’t referring to the precise things the cinematic Nixon and Frost do. The film’s question is more focused on Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover up. In the real interview, they were talking about burglary, surveillance and wiretapping, spying on anti-war groups. The issue was abuse of presidential power. And it was one of the articles of impeachment. Nixon’s response was almost professorial, as he semi-condescendingly explained to Frost that the President is above the law in such matters.
I get that movies often change things to make them more dramatic. That's okay. But what I've read suggests that the writer deliberately removed many references to subjects in the interview to avoid audiences drawing parallels with the current administration (8 days to go, not that I have it marked on the calendar for a big honkin' celebration or anything). That editing's sort of ....what's the word? Oh, yes, bollocks.
Professor X and I were talking about the film in front of our Amazing Children. I noted that it was a shame the film hadn’t explored the wiretapping aspect more, since it was so timely. Amazing Son asked what the big deal was. “Why does it matter if the government listens to your phone conversation? If you’re innocent, you have nothing to worry about.”
I’ve got some work to do here. But that’s the subject for another day's post. Or maybe a week’s worth. Rest assured, Amazing Son and I will be having many conversations about civil liberties in the months to come. He is a mature and thoughtful 14 ½ year old, so I have hope!
Elizabeth Drew does an awesome job analyzing the movie vs. history in her article Frost/Nixon: A Dishonorable Distortion of History. I won’t endeavor to cover all the points she does. It’s well worth your time to read her piece. In fact, I plan to check out some of her books.
Drew writes: The Watergate break-in was small beans compared to, say, the break-in of the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers - Nixon was far more worried about the discovery of this break-in.
Anyone out there in Blogland who thinks it’s okay for the President to authorize breaking into their doctor’s office, please raise your hand. For the record, mine’s not raised.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I am addicted to Hugh Laurie.
My brain is growing so much since I began my journey in the blogosphere! It has to make room to hold all the incredible new things I'm picking up along the way. Those I follow drop little gems of wisdom that amaze and delight me.
Today, I'm writing on assignment. Contain your sense of wonder. Yes, I know you thought I couldn't handle direction. (Even though I am an excellent traveler. Get it? Direction? Like in being directed to do something, but also the points on the compass. Ha ha ha. I make such funny jokes.)
I've been hit with a meme. You seasoned travelers of blogland undoubtedly know what this means, but for anyone who doesn't, (like me, six minutes ago) I will tell all. Or at least some.
My exhaustive research led me here, The Daily Meme. It's an interesting place, and you should go there. But don't depart until you're done reading my post du jour. Essentially, it defines meme thusly: In the context of web logs / 'blogs / blogging and other kinds of personal web sites it's some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions.
Except I did not just decide to answer this question. It was delibrerately assigned to me. The very humourous and lovely Shana at So Not Zen tagged me and four other bloggers to write about this meme. This is a great honour. She charmed me by referring to me as one of her "happy hour homegirls."
So without further ado, The Meme Question...as phrased by Shana:
1. Travel. I really like to go places. Getting there is half the fun. (Cliche du jour!) Just the thought of making a trip somewhere gets my heart to go pitty pat. I think I'll go plan a trip as soon as I'm done with this.
2. History. I suppose this is connected to #1, because I prefer to actually visit historical sites rather than just read about them. My friend Stephanie gets this. We spent three and a half hours chatting, eating coffee and croissants yesterday. I wish you could have seen how dreamy-eyed she got while recounting her visits to places in Paris and London where famous writers lived and worked. What a dork. I love her for that. Because I get equally mushy. We may not have perfected tardis technology yet, but we can walk into the same bathroom that our historical heroes did.
3. Tangents. As you well know, if you've read anything I've written or listened to me talk for more than two minutes, I am easily distracted and can expound on tangents. This can be considered charming or irritating. I prefer to believe it is charming in me, although sometimes irritating in others. I will not speak further of this here, to avoid the risk of going off on a ....you know.
5. Breaking the Chain. Whenever I receive something that mandates I send it out to 6 friends or 10 women I like or 23 other fellow steak eaters or everyone in my address book, I rebel. I make the conscious decision that whatever it is, it ends with me. Finis. Of course, I break that rule frequently when the something is a vital political action alert because I know that asking my chums to take action will make a difference. Then goodness will spread over the land.
So I'm not passing this meme on because I am a chain breaker. Of course, if anyone wants to blog about five of their addictions, they are free to do so. Because this is a free country! (Bonus cliche! Lucky you.)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I had a fairly apolitical childhood. We rarely discussed current events. My family's black and white television was mostly tuned to programs like I Love Lucy, Bonanza, and The Andy Griffith Show. Although my folks watched The Smothers Brothers and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, much of the content was over my tender young head. I have only one distinct memory of either of my parents talking to me about politics. That once was enough to get me going.
When the Watergate scandal broke, Dad said to me, "This is important. Pay attention to it."
I was interested enough to read Woodward and Bernstein's All The President's Men and absolutely loved the movie version. When I look back, I think that incident marks my transformation into political geekhood. The abuse of power checked by a vigilant free press seemed as exciting to me as any superhero tale. The trailer for the Dustin Hoffman/Robert Redford movie version proclaimed "They solved the greatest detective story in American history." This was thrilling stuff!!
I am so dorky about politics and research that one of my favorite scenes ever is the one where Woodward and Bernstein are researching in the Library of Congress. It seemed like the coolest place ever. All that knowledge about government in one place. Squee! I had a crush on the LoC. It doesn't get any dorkier than that. When I first visited Washington, DC years ago, I immediately went there to go to the main reading room only to be turned away. You need to go through a lengthy process to prove you are serious and apply for a special readers card. So I did. Nothing would keep me from the temple of knowledge. Bear in mind, this was well before the internet machine was available. But even if it had been, I think I would have been as crazy about the LoC as I was. It was so beautiful. Sigh. If you've been, you know what I mean. If you haven't, book a flight immediately and go check it out. (Get it? Check it out? Ha ha. I'm a real political pundit.)
So, given the revelation of the event which set me on the path of political fandom, it will not surprise you to learn that I've been eager to see the new movie Frost/Nixon. I finally got the opportunity tonight. I wasn't sure how Director Ron Howard was going to make a very exciting movie about the story of a television interview of a fallen president.
After all, wasn't the big story how he fell? I was still very interested in seeing the film, but I shouldn't have doubted Opie's ability to entertain. Peter Morgan originally wrote the piece as a play. Actors Frank Langella and Michael Sheen first starred in Frost/Nixon on London and Broadway stages. I found the International Herald Tribune story of the film's development very interesting. I love that the same principals were involved in both types of performance. It always seems so unfair when someone is cut in casting a movie to make way for a "bigger name".
The questions that Frost asked are profound. What is a legitimate exercise of power? Where is the line? Was that line crossed? And did the line crosser regret his actions?
Really, these are the same things we apply to almost any situation. What is appropriate behavior? Did someone overstep? Whether it's our child or the president behaving badly, we want to know that they recognize they screwed up and that they're sorry. Honesty and repentance go a long way toward gaining forgiveness.
I'm still paying attention, Dad.
Friday, January 9, 2009
When I meet someone, I'm always curious about what their politics are. I may have been attracted initially because of their sense of humour, skill at storytelling, or a common interest, but eventually, I want to dig deeper. What are their core values?
Cast your mind back to yesterday. Remember my excitement about gaining a follower from a foreign country? Well, I didn't tell you everything. Not only is this follower an exotic foreign man. He is a deft storyteller. One of my favorites is about his parents and their wartime romance which led to a big boat ride across the Atlantic to a new country. I can see you thinking, "Aha! Then Barry is now American. So you do not have an international following, FF." Wrong! That shows how little you know about me. I would not exaggerate just to impress you. Well, maybe a little. He is Canadian. Now don't you feel bad for doubting me? It's okay, I forgive you. This time.
Barry is also a Green Party member.
I know you are impressed. I have actually gotten 'round to writing about my post topic. I checked out his party's Key Values. It would be so helpful if every person had to post their Key Values. Then I wouldn't have to approach them obliquely, asking little questions to ferret out what they really believe. Anyhoo, the Greens of Ontario believe in a bunch of very good stuff. Sustainability, social justice, diversity...it's all there. It's very sincere. I am not mocking this. Well, maybe a little. Maybe I am still not over the little wince I feel when I hear "Green Party" because it calls to mind a certain election in 2000. And a certain loss in Florida which had some major implications for the leadership of my country. But it is time to get over it, for goodness' sake.
Besides, the Greens of Canada are very far removed indeed from that ugly moment that I am now totally over. And the Canadian government and political scene are very different from ours because they have many viable parties. Despite a few exceptions, the US is still pretty much a two party country. But Canada has a LOT of parties. It is a real party animal. I will tell you more about this sometime. It will be big fun.
It may surprise you to learn that those Canadian Green Party people are really funny. Environmentalists are too often accused of taking life too seriously. This is strange, because virtually all of the ones I know are big time partiers. Sometimes they take partying too seriously. They are very sad on the mornings after these parties.
The Times Colonist reported about Green Party leader Elizabeth May:
And in light of the internal heat she took from some Green Party members after appearing on the Rick Mercer Show, using a chainsaw to cut down a dead tree, May was asked about the reputation some Greens have of being dour, humourless, far-too-serious people.
"We're having all those people shot,'' she deadpanned.
I know you're wondering "FF, what does this woman look like?" So here is a rare picture of her flipping pancakes. (Not crepes, but almost as good.) Note the colour of her bandana. That is real commitment.
I like people who have good Key Values and make jokes. Just because we want to save the world doesn't mean we can't giggle while we're doing it.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Good evening, dear readers! I have been agonizing all day, trying to find a topic that will justify the massive increase in followership for my blog. Oh, the pressure has been intense! Especially since I am now followed internationally!
I decided to reveal a big juicy secret about myself, something very few people know. A long time ago, I tried to become an airline pilot! Now, there's little suspense to the ending of this tale since you know that instead, I am a totally famous blog writer. But I'm sure you're intrigued about what happened when I had my momentous interview with a MAJOR airline's personnel office in Chicago. We will refer to this organization as "Airline X" to avoid any legal issues about my revealing the details of this incident.
We must go back in time to the mid-1970's. To put you in the mood, I will remind you of the music of that particular year. "The Way We Were" (how appropriate) was the # 1 Hit, Mac Davis' "One Hell of a Woman" (even more appropriate) was in 10th place, Billy was urged not to be a Hero, and Rikki was exhorted Not to Lose that Number. Okay, enough with getting you mentally prepared for this trip down memory lane. So, it's about 1974, I've been assigned to Explore a Career by Interviewing Someone in the Profession. I loved to travel by airplane and thought it would be very cool to be a stewardess. Alas, I was not shaped like a stewardess. Not remotely.
Bear in mind that stewardesses of that time were touted for their incredible sex appeal.
Kathleen Barry's book, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants gives a great accounting of what it was like. Joshua Zeitz reviewed the book for American Heritage:
The same year Braniff, another major carrier, introduced an “air strip,” in which stewardesses shed layers of high-end garments, from hats and scarves down to more basic attire. In 1971 National, not to be outdone, ran a now-famous campaign featuring Cheryl Fioravente, a real-life flight attendant, with the slogan “Hi, I’m Cheryl—Fly Me.” To which Continental responded, “We Really Move Our Tails for You,” prompting National to change its slogan to “We’ll Fly You Like You’ve Never Been Flown Before.” And on and on. (Air France: “Have You Ever Done It the French Way?” Air Jamaica: “We Make You Feel Good All Over.”)
So, I figured I'd just become a pilot instead. Pilots didn't have to be beautiful, right? They just had to fly the plane. No problem. When I sat down with the nice personnel director to learn about what I needed to do to prepare to work for Airline X, I was shocked to learn that there was a physical requirement for pilothood. Height. More than I had or was likely to ever attain even with shoes like these:
(Note how clever these babies were - clear shoes so as to make one appear naturally super tall!)
So my dream was shattered before I ever began. In retrospect, I can only say "thank you very much" to Personnel Director X for not pointing out the obvious and destroying my fragile teen girl self image - that prospects weren't very promising for me on the weight requirements either.
Now, of course, flight attendants are respected as highly trained professionals. Sexual harassment is a thing of the past. (Well, they ARE highly trained professionals, even if they still have to deal with jerks trying to pinch their tuchases.) But there remains an expectation that applicants will have strength, agility and stamina. My friend Rachel, who flies the friendly skies, has all those attributes big time. Plus, she's a total babe. Just ask the guy in Row 9.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Admittedly, I have been known to grumble loudly about the menu choices when we're in the South. It often seems like everything is deep fried, including salad. (This cooking technique has migrated northward. Sometime I will tell you about the deep-fried Twinkies we saw last summer along a Jersey boardwalk.)
But Charleston's Hominy Grill is worthy of great love. This would be true even if it wasn't in such a gosh darn pretty town. In many ways, Charleston feels more like a small European city than a Southern US location. I heart Charleston.
When you are in the South, you must eat grits. I feel strongly about this. If you travel to a place, you should not eat the same stuff you eat when you are at home. You could stay at home and eat that. Duh! I had blood pudding when I was in Ireland. Yes, the name is disgusting. But I did it, and I am a better person for it. Grits is not a great name for a food, although of course it is better than blood pudding. Do not be put off by the name. Grits are not gritty. Well, actually, they are sort of gritty. But eat them anyway. And eat them at the Hominy Grill.
My favorite breakfast there is the scrumptious Shrimp & Grits. Yum! If you can't just hop on a plane and fly to Charleston like Rachel, you can make them at home.
Wikipedia, source of all knowledge worth knowing, shares this fun historical grits moment: The Post and Courier proclaimed in 1952, "An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace."
This is undoubtedly true. Of course, a man full of any kind of food is probably a man of peace. So grits are not uniquely a peace-inducing food. Men do not like to fight on a full stomach. It slows them down.
Hey! I just realized something! "Hominy" sounds kind of like "harmony." Coincidence? I think not.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
There's a new time travel series on Canadian television, "Being Erica," which sounds kind of fun. The Canadian Press describes the premise:
Fired from her mediocre job, dumped by her Lavalife boyfriend and berated by her family for her string of failures, Erica traces her woes to mistakes made in her past. She's offered a second chance to get things right when her mysterious new therapist actually sends her back in time to relive the moments she regrets most.
It's a tempting prospect, to be granted a do over and make everything peachy. (Two cliches in one sentence - my special gift to you today!)
It reminds me of the question we used to ask my mom: "If you could go back in time, what would you change?" Bear in mind that this wonderful woman is NOT a science fiction or fantasy fan. Yes, she loves musicals and movies with improbably happy endings. But that's as far from reality as she's comfortable straying. So her eternal answer was: "Nothing. I would not change anything. Because everything happens for a reason."
For years, I'd wondered at that, because there was PLENTY I'd have changed in my life if I could've gone back. Now, as a mother, I'm reluctant to disturb the timeline. What if some alteration prevented their births? Inconceivable!* It's strange how having a child plays with your perceptions of ideas that were once so attractive.
Just so you know, I'm still totally keen on the idea of time traveling. So if you have a method you'd like to share, please do. But I won't be engaging in any do overs, thank you very much.
*Did you notice this clever pun? Did you care?
Monday, January 5, 2009
I really enjoy volunteering at my daughter's school. The teachers I've met there are great - so enthusiastic and dedicated. One of the tasks I work on is testing students for the Geography Passport program. It's a fun way to motivate them to learn about the world.
I recognize that it isn't even a drop in the bucket that needs to be filled to bring our students up to speed in this global economy. Still, this program boasts some impressive results. It began in Olympia, Washington, where an elementary school which used it in grades 1-5 for a two year period found that eighty percent of the students scored 13 out of 15 or better on a geography quiz. The nearest comparable school's scores had only eight percent scoring 13 out of 15 or better.
But the material only goes so far. (Get it? Goes so far? What a great geography pun.) There is a world of knowledge (Oops, I did it again! Man, I'm clever.) about geography beyond the simple facts of names, of terrain, of places. Geography is not merely physical; it is a study of cultures.
I read a really interesting piece by Jerome Dobson, president of the American Geographical Society about this matter. He writes:
Geography is more than you think. Geography is to space what history is to time. It is a spatial way of thinking, a science with distinctive methods and tools, a body of knowledge about places, and a set of information technologies that have been around for centuries. Geography is about understanding people and places and how real-world places function in a viscerally organic sense.
Dobson details the history of geography studies in his article, noting the influence of AGS scholars in establishing President Wilson's knowledge base for leadership of an emerging world power. Isaiah Bowman, whom Dobson credits as the author of America's globalization policy, also served FDR and worked to establish the United Nations.
While the Passport program may not prepare students to map out (OMG, another pun!) a foreign policy strategy, it's a darned good first step.
I'll share a bit more Dobson with you to explain why:
Today, however, politicians and pundits can make whatever pronouncements they please about geography, no matter how absurd, and there aren't enough geographically informed people to counter their claims. Geographically smart people exist, of course, in government offices, schools, businesses, and homes across the land, but they are too few. There's no sizable constituency to carry the day.
So I'm doing my little part to help in the fight against geographic illiteracy. And of course, I'm educating my owns kids in more thorough ways, taking them on travels and exposing them to news and literature about other places. It's neat to watch them learn and develop critical thinking skills. Maybe the liars won't get away with their foul deeds if enough of us learn more geography. It's worth a try, don't you think?