Sunday, May 31, 2009

Breaking Bloggy Silence With an Important Announcement

I'm breaking bloggy silence, despite my vow to not return until I've completed a chapter.*
Why? Because a bunch of other people spoke up. And that compels me to speak up too. To offer them this special beverage:

"Huh?" you may be wondering. Why would FF say such a rude thing? Because she's been pushed to the limit, that's why. Because she attended a school play, The Hobbit, in which Amazing Boy Child was brilliantly playing his violin as part of the outstanding orchestra, and the people behind her were talking. Talking during the overture, talking during the actors' performances, talking, talking, talking, saying nothing of merit.

Despite multiple applications of the usually-successful tactic of turn-around-and-administer-the-stinkeye to said talkers, they continued their heinous behavior.

They weren't alone. There were large pockets of talking people scattered throughout the audience.


I overheard one young woman exclaim to her friend "This is the third time I've seen the play."

So at intermission, I went up to her with a friendly smile. "Did I hear this was the third time you've seen this?"

"Oh, yes!" she admitted.

"Wow!" I replied. "This is the first time I've seen it, and I'd really like to hear it. Do you think you can help me with that?" Then I walked away. I was very proud of my cleverness.

Amazing Boy Child came over to me. "Oh, I see you were talking to -------- - she's one of the people I'm inviting to my birthday party."

Oops. Maybe I can offer her some cake to go with her special beverage.

So take this as a warning, readers. If you don't want to put some mother in an awkward position, kindly remain quiet while actors and musicians are doin' their thang.

*In case you're wondering why on earth I haven't finished my writing goal, it's because I've been planning the great summer road trip, volunteering for the kids' classes and end of school year activities. But I'm committed to wrapping up a chapter before we leave on the trip so that I can share our fun. So you'll get play-by-play coverage of that adventure, as we journey over 7,300 miles.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hitting the Trail to a New Destination

I've put an important adventure on the back burner for some time now.

Sure, I've done some travel planning, learning a bit about the destination. I've taken a one day seminar here and there, and even a ten week course, all geared to help me get there. I've checked out numerous books on how to reach the place. But despite a few tentative steps on the path, I really haven't made an honest effort to make the journey.

Instead, I've traveled around Bloggyland. It's been such a great place to meet new people, learn new things, experience intellectual stimulation and and sensory delights, and laugh my lips off. I've proven (or at least, convinced myself) that I can write short essays and express myself through my posts and comments.

But now it's time for my personal awfully big adventure. I will not return to Bloggyland until I have written a chapter. Then I'll spend one day visiting everyone I possibly can and posting something brilliant. Then it's back to writing. A chapter completed = a day of blogging. That's the deal. My self-imposed sporadic exile is the only thing I can think of to motivate me to really knuckle down.

I will really miss you all. Hopefully it won't be too long before my first chapter is done. If you want good reading material while I'm gone, check out my blogrolls and my wonderful followers' blogs. And don't forget to go back to some of my earlier posts, read and comment. I love to get feedback and hear others' thoughts on a subject.

Meanwhile, if you have something to share on how to get to one's writing destination, or any of these physical destinations, I'd be grateful. Know good things to do, places to see, ways to save money, places to eat, sleep, whatever? Come back as often as you'd like to share your ideas. It would be awesome if there were a zillion comments awaiting me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Beauty Queens

When someone says "beauty pageant," what's the first image that comes to your mind?

Until recently, I'd pictured Vanessa Williams, the first African American Miss America, (and the first reigning Miss America to receive death threats and racist hate mail) who was stripped of her crown when some soft core porn shots of her and another woman surfaced. I always thought it was lame that she'd had to step down, and was pleased when she went on to build a successful acting and singing career. She was recognized by the Campaign for Human Rights as an advocate for gay rights in 2008 when she received their "Ally for Equity" award. There's a great interview with her here.


If I thought a little more on the subject, I'd picture that poor little JonBenét Ramsey, the six year old beauty pageant contestant who was found murdered in her home. She'd be turning 19 this August if that unsolved slaying had never taken place. It makes me sad to think of this small child who looked so unsettlingly grown up in her makeup and hair coming to such a tragic end. Some time, let's talk about how our culture encourages girls to look super sexy at an obscenely young age. I want to focus on something else here.

Of course, we learned during the recent presidential election that She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a beauty queen.

Her interviews with Katie Couric and others reminded me of the hilarious sentence mangling perpetrated by Lauren Caitlin Upton, the South Carolina contestant in the 2007 Miss Teen USA competition. Poor Miss South Carolina. Who among us doesn't wonder if we wouldn't crack under similar circumstances and ramble nonsensically for our allotted time? I may laugh at the video of her much-parodied moment of fame, but I do have great sympathy for her as well. It's one of those is-your-anti-perspirant-up-to-the-challenge times I wouldn't wish on myself or my child. Still, these parodies are pretty funny. I'm only human. I can feel bad for her but I nonetheless laugh. I even laugh at the Tube map created by some smart aleck as a sort of geographic diagram of her convoluted answer: Watch the video first or it makes no sense. Wait. That implies it makes sense after you watch the video. Which it doesn't. Because her answer makes no sense.

The most recent American beauty pageant did NOT have me laughing. I was extremely disappointed by the remarks of Carrie Prejean, Miss California, when she was asked her opinion on gay marriage.'s Andy Barr reported:
Prejean’s beauty contest saga began Sunday when competition judge and openly gay blogger Perez Hilton asked her if she supports gay marriage.

“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman,” she responded during the televised event. “No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."
She’s also now prominently featured on the website of San Diego Christian College — the school she attended before taking the semester off to prepare for the pageant. The college was founded in 1970 by conservative pastor Tim LaHaye, author of the popular Christian book series “Left Behind.”

In a write-up of the controversy, the website highlights a quote from Prejean in which she said, “I knew there were secular judges, but I felt I needed to express my passion for the Lord.”
I wonder if she justifies her boob job or her topless photos as ways of expressing her passion for the Lord.

Perhaps she misinterpreted the meaning of Psalm 119:32:
I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Or tried to enact Ezekiel 16:7:

I caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field: and thou didst increase and grow great, and advancedst, and camest to woman's ornament: thy breasts were fashioned, and thy hair grew: and thou wast naked, and full of confusion.

I could quote some more passages, but I'm not trying to be hurtful. And that is the precisely the point of why I object to what she said. It is hurtful. Bigotry is hurtful. I don't really care one way or the other about what she did with her body. I think implants into healthy breasts are stupid, but I've always assumed that some surgical shenanigans went on with beauty contest participants. And as I mentioned before, I don't think a nekkid shot of a contestant should force her to give up her tiara. The whole virginal mystique of beauty queens is a little fake, don't you think?

When someone says "that's not how I was raised" it is akin to throwing down a gauntlet. It's a condemnation of how someone else lives their life. The words may seem innocuous in and of themselves, but there is a world of meaning there. A little time passes. She's able to consider the fallout from her comments, comments which were made while in a high pressure situation.
In case we misunderstood her, this high profile young woman declares that she's "expressing" her "passion for the Lord" by speaking out against gay marriage. She touts her biblical correctness. And she becomes the spokesmodel for NOM, an organization which has now distanced itself from her, in part because the Miss Universe Organization informed them that NOM's use of pageant footage in a "defense of traditional marriage" ad violates the pageant's copyright.

I could talk about the hypocrisy of what she is saying and doing. I could talk about what I think true Christian values of love look like, or what the Golden Rule means to me or a zillion other things. If I could ask Prejean a question, it would be “What do you think about homophobic bullying that causes young people to take their lives?” or "Do you realize that you're contributing to a climate of intolerance, to a culture of hatred and bigotry?"

Come with me on a quick trip in the Wayback Machine. Remember another beauty queen, way back in 1959? Second runner up in the Miss America contest, Miss Oklahoma Anita Bryant gained notoriety in the 1970's as an anti-gay activist.

Website notes: "I don't hate the homosexuals," she wrote in a fundraising letter. "But as a mother, I must protect my children from their evil influence."

Thanks for that clarification, Anita.

Bryant's profile continues "...her marriage ended in divorce -- which left Bryant "shunned as a sinner" by many of the judgmental people who had joined her campaign against equal rights for gays."

This gives me hope that there is a just God.

I suppose I'm guilty of some prejudice myself. It's easy to lump all beauty queens together and dismiss them as women who conduct themselves differently than the way I was raised. But....well, that's not the way I was raised. And more importantly, it's not the way I'm raising my children. I point to the hypocrisy and stupidity in some people, sure, but I also work hard to avoid stereotyping or judging.

Except where there is hatred and prejudice. Then I judge pretty harshly.

I try to keep an open mind about beautiful women and not immediately assume they are airheads. I try to remember that Vanessa Williams was a beauty queen. And that her actions are beautiful. I'll bet there are plenty more young women who share her values, whose churches don't preach hate. It's just that the news is so full of the "opposite" these days.

And I don't think supporting hate is why this crown was worn.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Summer Road Trip 2009

Please fasten your seat belts.

Here are our destinations:

Glacier National Park
Devils Tower National Monument

Mt. Rushmore
Madison, WI
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Cooperstown, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Washington, DC

Charleston, SC
Little Rock, AR
Denver, CO

Then back to Vancouver, WA

Your suggestions on what to see, do, eat, where to stay, how to save money, etc. appreciated.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Belly Laughs, Babies, Borscht Belt and Blogrolls

That's Why has yielded yet another great link to a fun blogger. TheMom is in charge of Attentive Aphorisms, and she shares a hysterical video about how to make a baby here. After you watch it, you can click on this link to learn how it was done. Brilliant.

Katie Schwartz's From Oy to Vey was on the snark blogroll at Mock, Paper, Scissors.* She has a lot of funny stuff. One post caught my eye, Old Jews Tell Jokes, which showed a video clip from a site called Old Jews Tell Jokes. That site features....well, what do you think it features?! Old Jews telling jokes. It's a blast. So far, this is my favorite. My Amazing Son says any joke involving the Pope is inherently funny. I haven't tested that beyond this sample of one. I don't think that's statistically significant. But it is awfully funny, so the boy may be on to something.

* MPS has several different blogrolls, each one carefully categorized. I think this shows a compulsion to have things neat and orderly, which is admirable, but it also demonstrates a propensity to label individuals and their writing. I think my blog should be in its own special category, BLOGS OF INCREDIBLE WIT AND BRILLIANCE AND SEXINESS. But Tengrain put me in Pop Culture and tried to convince me that this is a special privilege reserved for only a few. True, Randal Graves of L'ennui-mélodieux and Dr. Zaius of Zaius Nation are there. Those guys are cool. And some of the others seem excellent, at least based on their names, like Evil Slutopia and Ribbed for Your Pleasure. But I have a lot of political content, and would love to share a roll with Satanists for Huckabee and Impeach the Mother Fucker Already. Oh well, such is life. I am just proud to be listed on the fine blogroll of Mock, Paper, Scissors. Unlike the way I am not listed on this friend's, or this friend's or this friend's. Well, actually, the last two don't appear to have a blogroll at all, so I guess I forgive them! But that other one? She's in big trouble.

Oh, and if you love the little bronze Buddha sculpture above and must have one for your very own, check out Acorn Gifts. Lots of fun stuff there!

Monday, May 4, 2009

No Matter What the Future Brings...

This day and age we're living in
Gives cause for apprehension
With speed and new invention
And things like fourth dimension
Yet we get a trifle weary
With Mr. Einstein's theory
So we must get down to earth at times
Relax relieve the tension
And no matter what the progress
Or what may yet be proved
The simple facts of life are such
They cannot be removed
You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say, "I love you"
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by
Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny
Well, it's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by

My favorite rendition of this timeless (sorry for the pun!) song was by Arthur "Dooley" Wilson, who played Sam in Casablanca.

Here's a second beautiful version by Barbra Streisand in one of the funniest screwball comedies ever, What's Up, Doc?

I'll bet you never heard of the composer, Herman Hupfeld. My informants at Wikipedia tell us

Herman Hupfeld (February 1, 1894June 8, 1951) was an American songwriter. His most notable composition was "As Time Goes By" (from the film Casablanca but this song was written in 1931 for the Broadway show "Everybody's Welcome", which ran for 139 performances).

Hupfeld never wrote a whole Broadway score, but he became known as a composer who could write a song to fit a specific scene within a Broadway show.

His best known songs include "Sing Something Simple", "Let's Put Out The Lights (And Go To Sleep)", "When Yuba Plays The Rhumba On The Tuba", "Are You Making Any Money?", "Savage Serenade", "Down the Old Back Road", "A Hut in Hoboken", "Night Owl", "Honey Ma Love", "Baby's Blue", "Untitled" and "The Calinda".

Maybe you've heard of some of those songs, but I sure haven't. Despite his prowess in writing such romantic lyrics as Woman needs man And man must have his mate, poor Herman had no mate. He died a bachelor in 1951 at the age of 55.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It Happens Every Seven Years

So, I got to thinking about this after reading a post at Frog and Toad are Friends entitled Don't Marry a Jerk. Well, actually, it wasn't much of a post, because blogger Beck deleted it because someone had written to her that it was hurtful. She just left the most basic part of it up, promising to rewrite it in the future and repost.

Way to make me totally curious about what she'd written!

She ended her mostly-deleted post by asking this question:
What are you saying (or what will you say) to your kids about having a good marriage later on?

I read the comments. Some very good stuff there. Lots about the importance of communication and appreciation. I found myself nodding in agreement to most of it.

But you know, sometimes despite people's best efforts, they grow apart. I was reminded of a play I saw years ago, Force of Nature. Professor X and I were observing our annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2000. Playwright Steven Dietz' publisher provided this synopsis:

A play of extravagant romance and combustible desire, FORCE OF NATURE brings together the "perfect couple"—Edward and Charlotte—with two persons from their past: a beautiful young woman and an older man, Edward's best friend. Beneath the placid exteriors of their lives, a storm is awakening—a rush of dangerous passions which shall alter their lives forever. Freely adapted from Goethe's Elective Affinities , FORCE OF NATURE is a lush, eloquent drama about the consequences of desire and the power of destiny.

One review of the play explained
The play takes its name from Goethe's question whether such human artifacts as dams (or marriage) can contain such forces of nature as flooding streams (or flooding passions). James Edmundson, the director ..., has transformed this into a lyrical dance of words and a minuet of interactions accompanied by Schubert's sonorous piano and strings.
There's a good review of the play here from when it was put on a few years later in San Francisco, which notes:
Force of Nature discusses many ideas that must have shocked the German public 200 years ago, such as destiny, free will and the fickleness of the heart.

I actually don't remember much about the play besides the fact that excellent actors Robin Goodrin Nordli and Michael Elich were in it. And that I thought of some married friends who were struggling with the aftermath of his adulterous affair. But there were some lines of dialogue that have stayed with me. One of the characters talked about how people change. How they become a completely different person every seven years. Maybe you've heard that - that our bodies' cells cycle out at different rates, but like a snake shedding its skin, by the end of seven years, we've rid ourselves of all the old stuff. We're totally different people! I mean, it's one thing to say that a married couple can grow apart, but this is a real twist on that. It gives an entirely new meaning to the expression "You're not the person I married."


I wanted to end our sermon for today with an exciting popular culture reference, maybe even a clip of a movie or music. The Seven Year Itch? Nah, too obvious. You've Changed by Billie Holliday? A youtube search yielded this.

I'm unfamiliar with the German Euro-trance band, Groove Coverage. But I think the video is a real kick. And the song has a nice beat; it's good to dance to.

I give it a 7.