Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It's spring break! I'm going to be adventuring with my family for the next week or so, and have resolved to stay away from blogville; I want to give them my undivided attention.
I'll have my camera and notebook to gather material to share with you when I return. And I look forward to catching up with your wonderful blogs then.
PS Five points if you can identify the illustration!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I'd intended to post about this fabulous campaign, Eat the View, designed to get the Obamas to promote organic gardening.
But instead, I'm very pleased to report that the dream came true. The NYT reports that the Obama family will be planting a vegetable garden at the White House.
What do you think about leaders who lead by example?
I think they ROCK.
And I think I'm going to send them a thank you note. I especially liked the final part of the NYT piece:
Good message, indeed. Even conservative mommies should agree with that advocacy.
But the first lady emphasized that she did not want people to feel guilty if they did not have the time for a garden: there are still many changes they can make.
“You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
This evening, I want to recognize a special young woman who has recently begun blogging.
Her name is Princess Blogsalot, and she loves to write. She is quite young, and she doesn't always mind her capitalization or spelling or punctuation. But she has fun adventures and holds very strong opinions for such a small person.
Her mother has allowed her to blog as long as she retains her anonymity. Privacy is important.
Princess Blogsalot is a fearless girl. She takes on any new challenge with enthusiasm. She assumes that everyone would like to be her friend, and although every once in a while, she hits a speed bump on that road, she mostly travels merrily along.
Did I mention she loves to write? I want to encourage her efforts. So I hereby award her the Lemonade Stand Award. Like good lemonade, she is slightly tart, but also sweet. Just as a lemonade stand proprietor does, she makes her product herself and offers it to others for a reasonable price - a few moments of their time to read what's on her mind.
I encourage you to visit her. Buckle your seat belt to safely head out and go here!
Friday, March 20, 2009
We are now on day three or so of my self-flagellating tour of reminiscences about Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is killing me, people. But I am willing to do it because I love my readers!
When you think Northern Ireland, I'm betting the first thing that comes to mind is not "Tour the Tayto Factory."
Am I right?
Well, it wasn't the first thing for me, either. But it ran a close second to "Let's go see all the cool natural stuff like Giant's Causeway and the political stuff like the murals in Derry and Belfast."
Maybe that makes it third.
I love factory tours. I remember when I was growing up in Chicago, my Dad took my brother and me to the area near the steel mills where they pour the hot slag. It was really dark at night and the stuff dumping from the factory was like molten lava, bright and flaming. We never made it to Hawaii, but I can't imagine an erupting volcano being any more exciting.
Then there was the cigarette factory tour and the lumber mill tour and more recently, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour in DC (how many times do those guides have to hear "Got any free samples?" Poor schmucks!) and the Tillamook Cheese factory tour. Love those squeaky curds!
Back to Northern Ireland. I'd read in a family fun guide that County Armagh has a Tayto factory that kids can tour.
And it wasn't just a factory - it was a castle. Tandragee Castle, once owned by the Duke of Manchester. How cool is that?
Yes, I am the best mom ever. We had to take off anything that might fall into the potato processing line, so everything in our pockets, all jewelry, hair stuff, etc. went into bags which were locked in the vault. Then we got ultra-attractive plastic headgear and aprons. We looked like the people in this picture, which I found at the Transition Year Activities Page for Our Lady's Secondary School of Castleblayney. I am hoping the Sisters of Mercy won't mind me using it. Seeing all those smiling Irish eyes (Mr. Tayto has lots of extra eyes!) makes me miss Ireland even more.
Those blue aprons served a special purpose toward the end of our tour. We got to use the bottoms to hold a bunch of hot crisps (we Americans call them chips, but they call fries chips, so this gets a tad confusing) straight off the line.
As we were leaving, we got to choose a few bazillion free bags of crisps, and we were thus well stocked for the remainder of our year in Ireland. Amazing Girl Child loved the cheese and onion flavored ones and stank up the car as she worked her way through a bag. I liked the salt and vinegar and the smokey bacon flavours.
Okay, maybe this is getting boring. Let's move on to politics.
I am really sad to read the news that some eejits are interested in re-igniting the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I was glad to see that Sinn Féin condemned the violence.
We spent some time in Derry and were sobered by the Bloody Sunday Museum and the murals about the Troubles. We saw more murals in Belfast memorializing those who had died over the years. Here are a couple of the murals - photos by Professor X. The first one features Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, IRA members who died in an English prison whilst on hunger strike. The second features several others like Republican Volunteer Paul Marlowe who died while fighting.
Here's hoping that no more people die because of the Troubles.
That differences can be resolved peacefully.
That conflicts can be limited to trivial matters, like overly pungent potato chips consumed in closed cars, easily remedied by opening a window.
That would assure that my partly Irish eyes are smiling.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
When we saw the brilliant rainbow pictured in yesterday's post, the good professor insisted we stop so he could capture it. The Amazing Children were so inspired by the sight that they begged we stop at a place to eat something, anything, please, we are starving! I spotted a little wayside cafe and we trooped in.
The rainbow had led us to a treasure better than a pot of gold. Banoffee pie. Oh, the bliss!
I wish I could tell you where this place is, but like Brigadoon, it's vanished. At least, from my memory. And Northern Ireland is a bit out of the way for us these days. So I need to figure out the recipe. If anyone has a good one, lay it on me.
I think I will try this one first, because the recipe provider says it is easy. I like easy. But I am uneasy that it will not be as good as something harder to make. And the photo they provide does not look like what I recall the pie looking like. I do not like that. My memory is of a pie that looked like the one pictured at the top of this post. But what matters is taste. FF wants pies that taste good. Maybe I should try the one that's pictured (from Gourmet) after I do the easy one.
More about Northern Ireland tomorrow. I have a funny name for that post.
Well, I think it's funny.
Off to carmelize my condensed milk. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Little did we know what delights lay ahead. More tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I'm sharing a couple of photos Professor X took during our time in Ireland. We lived in a magical village called Murrisk, just outside Westport in County Mayo. The view from our house in one direction was a sacred mountain called Croagh Patrick. Pilgrims go there every year to climb the rocky trail to the top, where there is a little chapel. St. Patrick allegedly stayed at the summit in 441 AD. After 40 days of fasting, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland. This is his view from the top:
Clew Bay stretches out to the north of Murrisk. It is largely undeveloped, and just thinking about it makes my throat tight. Looking at this picture reminds me of the beauty we left behind as well as the wonderful friends who remain there. I miss all of it.
Let's not have me sink into melancholy, shall we? What else do I have to tell you about?
My sweet friend Mama Milton recently posted something that inspired me.
You can click on this badge and travel to SusieJ's blog, where she describes what this is all about. Suffice it to say that Amazing Children and I are about to embark upon an incredible journey of attempting to scrabble in the soil and sow seeds to help hunger at home and elsewhere.
I think this is a dandy way to commemorate St. Patrick's Day. Sadly, we can't afford tickets to return to our beloved Murrisk this year, and there aren't particularly large numbers of snakes which need to be driven out of any local environs. Sure, we will eat some Irish stew and soda bread for supper tonight after wearing green clothes. To be clear, we will keep the clothes on while eating. But the wearing will begin before the eating. Anyhoo, back to the gardening thing.
I've wanted to grow food for a while now, and this is a good time to start. So we will be digging up a bit of the backyard tomorrow and planning our planting. I am now taking suggestions for what we should include in our Victory Garden.
I can't resist including one non-edible that I always love to see, although it looks like my supply might be limited:
St. Patrick may have chosen to fast, but I'm determined to do what I can to help those in my community who are hungry. How about you?
Monday, March 16, 2009
This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to the 5th anniversary show of Live Wire! Radio. Such goodness! The family and I enjoyed some wonderful music from Stephanie Schneiderman, Storm Large and the Asylum Street Spankers. We laughed our lips off at Faces for Radio Theater's wonderful sketches. Host Courtenay Hameister, Musician Ralph Huntley, Siren of Sound Pat Janowski and amazingly funny performers Tyler Hughs, Sean McGrath, Patricia Ferguson and Jonpaul McLellan are worth the price of admission alone.
We've gone to Live Wire! many times, so we're officially classified as cocky veterans. We brought our friends Stu and Stephanie for their first experience; judging from their frequent laughter, it won't be their last.
We learned about How's Your News from a very lovely young man, Arthur Bradford. My beloved friend Badmom and I entertained a few fun fantasies about him, but I was a little uneasy because I thought he was pretty young, only in his early twenties. I was stunned upon arriving home to read that he was born in 1969.
Arthur, I'm waiting!
Just joking. Turns out he's married.
I was a little nervous about the interview with Dan Savage, sex columnist for Seattle's paper The Stranger. His Savage Love column can get a tad explicit at times, and my Amazing Girl Child is, well, a child. But I'd figured his comments would have to be tame enough for public radio. Of course, there was the possibility that some bits might need to be outtakes! I needn't have worried. Turns out Savage had brought his own son to the show, so he wasn't about to say anything too racy.
Although the interview was fun, being the political animal I am, I was unsatisfied because there weren't many substantive questions about political issues. And the show had billed Savage as Stephen Colbert's "Spokesgay" so I was expecting some discussion about Prop. 8 and maybe even an assessment of the Obama administration's policy direction. Fortunately, Live Wire! provided the link to Savage's most recent appearance on The Colbert Report.
I'd say "Dan, I'm waiting!" but he's married too. Dang.
Friday, March 13, 2009
I heart Mae West and her double entendres. Click here for a priceless scene between her and Cary Grant. Note the difference between the actual line and the commonly quoted version found in my subject line.
I'm hopeful you can be had.
Had, that is, in the sense of coming over to see me at my other blog, Holly Forrest Teaches. I've been posting a veritable feast of food for thought over there, but only a few of you - thanks, Clay, Rachel, Emm, Erin and JaPRA! - have visited.
So consider this a personal invitation to you to come over and see me. Things will get pretty racy in a week or so as we examine Le Placard, a French comedy about a man who comes out of a closet he was never really in. Plus, he wears a big condom on his head! Don't miss the fun. Check out these posts - they're some of my favorites so far:
C'mon up and see me some time. I'll show you my etchings... or at least teach you a thing or two. Heh.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Come listen to a story about a woman named Mom
A lovely lady who 'most always kept her calm
Then one day some email she did receive
And up on the screen came one which did deceive.
Lies, that is, false info, bull crap.
Well the first thing you know ole Mom sees it's not fair,
Kinfolk said "Mom move away from there!"
Said "a fact check site is the place you ought to be"
So she opened a new window and assessed veracity.
Snopes, that is. Snopes dot com, for the facts.
Well now it's time to say good by to Mom and all her kin.
And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin' in.
You're all invited back again to this locality
To have a heapin' helpin' of her hospitality.
Virtual, that is. Set a spell, take your shoes off.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?
Seriously, people. If you aren't entirely confident what you've received is true, please check it out before forwarding on. And if it's shown to be false, let the person who sent it to you know.
Need some step by step instructions? Go here.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
As yet another of my friends' husbands loses his job, I'm trying to laugh, but it's sort of feeling like gallows humour. When do we storm the castles of the executive's mansions, people? Now before you haul me off to jail, I'm not advocating violence against the corporate and investment top dogs who have preserved their gazillions while the middle class is struggling to retain their homes. But I think some careful scrutiny of who's made out while others have been damaged is in order. And I think - GASP! - maybe the fatcats need to give back some of their money to the businesses that are endangered so that they can pay workers and suppliers and not just keep going to the government asking for a bailout.
Last month, the NYT ran an article which began:
In announcing executive pay limits on Wednesday, President Obama is trying to hold the financial industry accountable to taxpayers while aiming to change an entrenched corporate culture that endorses outsize bonuses and perks that often bear little relationship to corporate performance.
I like what this guy has to say about it all:
Government stepping up to the plate like this make me feel better. I'm not sure what's happening right now on it all, but if you agree with me, please talk to your representative and senators to show support. If you don't agree with me, please tell me why on earth you don't. Unless you're a corporate executive with a nice fat bank account. In which case, I understand. But I sure don't sympathize.
“There is absolutely no reason why hard-working American taxpayers should be financing, directly or indirectly, excessive compensation for corporate executives whose decisions, in many cases, have crippled their firms and weakened the broader economy,” said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who heads the Senate banking committee.
Monday, March 9, 2009
John Cusack is a Time Traveler. Or he has made a deal with the Devil. Quick, look for a painting in his attic!
I was browsing the video rental store and saw a shot of one of my favorite actors, John Cusack. He starred in a movie recently called War, Inc. : An Incendiary Political Cartoon about....well, check out the trailer for yourself.
Here's a clip of John last year talking about War, Inc. and the war in Iraq. I admire his activism. I also admire his cuteness. Squee! Did I just say that out loud?
John has not aged. At least, not appreciably. So I am guessing he time travels. My kind of guy.
If you would like to read an outstanding analysis of his film career, check out Egghead23's wonderful post from which I stole the picture at the top of this post - please don't be mad, Egghead23!
And for a fabulous look at Cusack's acknowledgement as Hot Old Man for February and all good things movie-related from the perspective of a very fun blogger named Caitlin, go to this post at 1416 And Counting.
Update: Suspicions confirmed. His latest film is currently in production. It is called Hot Tub Time Travel Machine. I am NOT making this up.
So I have two questions designed to generate some comments so please comment so I don't feel like I'm just talking to myself!:
1. Do you have any favorite actors who have apparently not aged?
2. With whom would you most wish to time travel - or at least hot tub?
Friday, March 6, 2009
I have a jolly time planned for us today, my darlings. We are going to enjoy a few PG-13 clips together! These all feature my second husband, the lovely and talented Mr. Hugh Laurie.
I'll bet you're wracking your brain, wondering what Hugh has to do with sperm-related songs. After all, the most famous song, Every Sperm is Sacred in Monty Python's Meaning of Life, didn't involve Hugh. You probably haven't seen a little film that came out in 2000, Maybe Baby, with lucky Joely Richardson. Hugh stars as her husband in the comedy. They're a couple who have various misadventures trying to conceive.
He and writer Ben Elton collaborated to write this piece, Sperm Test. It reminds me of his wonderful compositions from A Bit of Fry and Laurie.
Even if you are shy about singing the words, surely you can join him and his dog in howling at the end. Wasn't that good fun? And good God, doesn't he look young?
It would be the height of cruelty for me to leave you wondering how his character's little swimmers perform. So without further ado, The Test Results:
Finally, because you can NEVER have enough HL, here is a thematically consistent clip of him in A Bit of Fry and Laurie. I love this sketch because it features his real-life infant son, Charlie. As a special bonus, it is subtitled in Chinese.
My Amazing Children never fail to giggle when we watch this bit. They love to shout "scumbag" and watch the little baby's lower lip tremble. They are bad children.
Clearly, since he's able to produce such a cute baby, Hugh Laurie the real man has sperm that are just fine.
Not that I have any personal experience with that.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The contest, launched in August 2007 on YouTube, gave people between the ages of 18 and 30 the chance to submit short videos on the subject of what they expect their lives to be like at age 50. The goal of the U@50 Challenge was to encourage intergenerational dialogue enabling young people to speak their minds and give AARP insight into their views.The video, entitled Lost Generation, was submitted by Jonathan Reed of Georgia State University in Atlanta. It won second place.
It's based on Truth, an Argentinian political advertisement which won a Silver Lion in the Cannes Lions Contest in 2006.
Unfortunately for Ricardo López Murphy, the candidate for whom the ad was created, the voters weren't as impressed. Fourteen candidates registered to succeed President Néstor Kirchner in 2007's election, including the President's wife, Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. López Murphy placed 6th, with 1.43% of the vote.
Oh well. It's still a cool ad, don't you think?
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I have to confess, Ziggy is not my favorite cartoon. It's not that I have anything against the little guy; it's just that I prefer cartoons with political content. But I like Ziggy's self-described "older brother," Tom Wilson.
That's not Tom Wilson, the actor who played Biff in Back to the Future.
It's Tom Wilson, cartoonist and memoirist. Son of Tom Wilson, the creator of Ziggy, who took over from his father when the older man's health began to fail.
I've spent the last couple of days reading his book, Zig-zagging: Loving Madly, Losing Badly... How Ziggy Saved My Life. It's a sweet story of Wilson's life thus far, growing up with a successful cartoonist father, going to college where he studied art history and illustration, marrying the girl of his dreams, creating his own syndicated cartoon character, UG, fathering two fine sons...but it turns bittersweet as his father becomes too ill to continue his famous cartoon and he takes over the job, and his beloved wife is stricken with breast cancer and dies at the age of 44.
Yet Wilson relates his story in an uplifting, inspirational manner. He frames the tale within the context of his bimonthly drive from Cleveland, where his creative business is based, to his home in Cincinnati. The reader travels with him on a 250-mile journey as he reflects on the highs and lows of his life.
Wilson questioned why God had allowed these terrible things to happen. I could relate a bit, thinking back to the early 1990's, when my dear father died. He was only 62, but a lifetime of smoking gave him terminal lung cancer. We spent a year watching him waste away. It was ugly and painful and as a result, I was not on good terms with God, although I appreciated the fact that He answered my prayer one wintry morning to stop fooling around and just take my father rather than letting him continue to suffer. Wilson's father also had lung cancer, but he survived. Wilson refers to "the burning end of that eternal cigarette in Dad's gesturing hand," and notes "a hard-won battle with the not-so-Kool consequences of too many Joe Camels (lung cancer) have taken their toll on the man Dad one was." It was only when my son was born later that same year I lost my Dad that I was willing to appreciate God's gifts.
But Wilson lost a mate, not a father. And he struggled with grief and depression I've never had to face. His description of the funeral preparations for his wife made me simultaneously angry and awestruck. Angry at an industry which preys upon the sadness of survivors to sell obscenely priced coffins; awestruck at the depth of his late wife's spirituality and belief. It's a passage well worth reading.
I'm not a very religious person, so one of my favorite passages is more philosophical than biblical. It took place in one of my favorite cities, Paris when Wilson visited the Louvre. He writes:
I saw the great works of Leonardo da Vinci, but I viewed them as a student of life rather than as a life student of art. As a matter of the twin techniques of light and shade, Leonardo intimately understood the defining power of shadow, that great intangible that can only exist withna perfect balance between darkness and light, the known and the unknown. .... And I realized that just as Leonardo believed true illumination emanates from within, we too have the ability to draw from ourselves a delicate balance of self-awareness, one that comes from both our dark and our light sides by engaging the shadow within us.
Ultimately, the book is a lengthy love letter - to Wilson's father, his late wife, and his two sons. I enjoyed it very much. I'll certainly think of it from now on whenever I see a Ziggy cartoon.
This review is the first stop on Tom's virtual book tour, arranged by TLC Book Tours. You can go here for the full schedule and check out what other bloggers have to say about his book. I found out about TLC from my friend Shana's blog when she reviewed The Vigorous Mind.
Tom Wilson also heads an interesting business - Character Matters: Branding with Character - Corporate brand product identity design and strategy consultants. You can learn more about that here.
There's a drawing by publisher Health Communications, Inc. to win a copy of Zig-zagging. Click on this image to enter the giveaway!
Are you buckled up? I hope so. Let's go on a fabulous ride together. Turn your speakers on and prepare to zoom through Paris with French director Claude Lelouch. I am crazy about this little film, C'était un Rendezvous. It's been paired by someone with a song from one of my favorite bands, Snow Patrol. So you don't get the vroom vroom sound of the engine from the original film, but it's a tradeoff I'm willing to make. I think the song suits the video very well.
I remember the excitement of visiting Paris for the first time a few years ago. Amazing place. Maybe it's why I could so easily relate to April's yearnings in Rendezvous Road. I REALLY want to go back.
Meanwhile, I'll watch this marvelous eight minute's worth of Paris when I need a fix. The first time I saw it, I had to remember to keep breathing.
Click the photo to be taken to the youtube video:
Take a minute to check out the links at the Wikipedia site. There's some cool stuff there, including the route superimposed on a google earth type map image. Which in turn has a link to this site, which attempts to calculate the speeds the driver hit. The most incredible part of it all to me is that he supposedly didn't use special effects. According to Lelouch, this is REAL.
Um....don't try this with your own vehicle, okay? Safety first.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I didn't really like it. But this post is less about lambasting the book than disagreeing with the concerns of the main character and the underlying premise that stay at home motherhood is boring and generally undesirable.
Writer Ayelet Waldman's protagonist, like herself, is a Harvard-educated lawyer married to a writer. The main character, Juliet, complains incessantly about her weight, which gets annoying because she doesn't weigh that much, since she's pregnant. She's mother to a typical two year old. I tried to like her, honest. But I just found her a pain in the butt.
I wasn't the only one. I was curious to see if I was overly critical, so I checked out Amazon.com customer reviews. There were twenty-four 5 or 4 star reviews and five 3 star reviews, so obviously some people liked it. I checked out the five 2 star reviews and three 1 star reviews. One 1 star review excerpt read:
And the paragraph in which Juliet explains how parenthood ruins one's life, relationship, looks, productivity, and intelligence was, to use a Waldman-like cliche, the last straw.A two star rater commented:
I'm guessing that Waldman expects to find a niche with female readers who share some of her protagonist's ambivalence about stay-at-home-motherhood.Even a four star review noted:
I found Juliet pretty whiny at times...Although a different four star rater clearly didn't mind:
What makes this book so delicious is Juliet's sense of humor and honesty. She freely admits that her daughter can be pretty darn annoying and that she is ambivalent, even resentful, about leaving her job as a Harvard-trained lawyer to stay at home with her pre-schooler and soon-to-be born son.My own view was pretty well summed up by another customer review:
Sorry, Juliet is someone who I couldn't identify with in the least. She seems like a whiner, and not up to motherhood. Big deal she's an attorney, how many times do we have to hear about it. Big deal her husband makes a ton in the movie business.... I like to read about characters who I would like to be friends with. Not some kind of upper class ninny who seems to have nothing better to do than complain she's a stay at home Mom.I'm not saying that every day is bliss around here. Or that there weren't times when my children were babies that I felt exhausted. But I always felt extraordinarily grateful that I was able to be at home with them when they were small. I still love sharing their days when they get home from school, and having the flexibility to volunteer in their classrooms. There are a zillion things I can do to be creative and use my mind for the betterment of the community. I try to do at least a few of them every once in a while. Being a SAHM hasn't consigned me to a life in the doldrums. It's enriched my life so much.
I still remember when my Amazing Boy Child was born. I felt so overwhelmed by love that I could hardly believe it. Although he towers over me now, it feels like yesterday that I took him home from the hospital and began the adventure of motherhood. Whenever I feel low, all I have to do is think of my kids and the world seems brighter.
The illustrations I've included here are three of Mary Cassatt's paintings. From top to bottom, they are Goodnight Hug, The Young Mother, and Woman Combing Her Child's Hair. I loved her work before I ever had children. The relationships she depicts between mothers and children resonate with me.
I'm a Stay At Home Mom, and I am very happy.
And I'm writing my own novel. The main character is a SAHM who feels fulfilled and has some interesting adventures. I'm excited about this! My only worry is that some readers will say nasty things about my book and protagonist.
Oh well, you can't please everyone...