Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grief

I am weeping after reading this. (That specific post link looks off. If it's not working, try the front door.) Eden writes dispassionately about her large unruly feelings. She is wry and loving and likes yoga and symbols. I love her visualization for letting go. You can dismiss wacky Californians and their made up beliefs all you want. But translating your feelings into words and images can be powerful. Ah, so sweet and sad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

White Noise

Odds and ends and no theme is the theme du jour.

The maternal voice
Picking up Lexi at preschool. She’s in the playground. I can tell that she’s seen me but has made no eye contact and my “Lexi……. Lexi……. Lexi! Alexandra!” is unanswered. I call it the white noise of the maternal voice. I must admit that this incident was noticeable because usually she greets me happily and opens the gate. I guess she just wasn’t ready to stop playing that day. But I am thoroughly acquainted with being unheard. Generally Katy and Lexi are talking or bickering amongst themselves when they fail to hear my suggestions/requests/demands. I had a shouty week last week and I am going to make an effort to use other techniques. Maybe whispering or broad comedy; it helps to surprise them. I read a blog comment that was advice from a mom on dealing with a whining toddler. When the whine cranks up, she brings her hand up to her ear with a big flourish and says, “Say Whaaaaaaaat?!” . She reports that it cracks them all up. Sounds like more fun than correcting the behavior.

Cats come from...?
Via 3quarks, an article about the search for the origin of the domestic cat. My favorite sentence is the following parenthetical comment. “Oddly, domestic cats seem to have reached the British Isles before the Romans brought them over—a dispersal that researchers cannot yet explain.” I love that little mystery.

Quiet travelers
And via Kottke here is some travel advice for the introvert. This is really good stuff. The obligation to have a good time when on a big trip can be oppressive. Acknowledging your own peculiar way of engaging when traveling is a plus. Do what you can do and don't regret what you can't do.

Another travel related blog I read is Eileen's Bear Shaped Sphere. She's an American expat who lives in Chile. She writes like a dream and I especially love her language commentary about living with English and Spanish.

Health indicator
I am in the process of outlasting a nasty cold. The first day of this cold made me indifferent to life but it's been much better since then. I am sick of being sick now though. Maybe I'll try a new cough syrup for variety.

Book update
I finished Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union and loved it. I am with the reviewers who commented that the ending was unsatisfying when compared to the whirling chugging middle of the book. But what a good read. The title was a bit confusing for me. I kept wanting to call it the Yiddish Policeman's Other Ball. I suppose I really should read Kavalier and Clay now.

Up top
aubergines! eggplants! purple!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Standing Stones

This BBC News opinion piece compares the American and British response to the current global economic troubles. Roughly it says that the US government seems to be moving in a more or less united fashion to get back on track, while the UK government is weak because it is divided by scandal. The scandal at hand is that members of Parliament have for years received government funds to cover personal living expenses. In some cases these expenses have gone to support a quite regal lifestyle. The allowance for horse manure seems to be the favorite to quote. The revelation of the expenses smacks of class warfare, pitting the government against the governed. As I understand it, there is not an accusation of fraud, simply the long deferred scrutiny of this system which allows the landed gentry to live high on the hog.

I hope the British will find common cause again soon. But I have to admit that mostly I’m giddy at the thought the US is seen to be cleaning up its act, appearing sober and full of positive potential. Can we be increasing our international standing already?

On the personal level, life makes more sense to me with the new administration in place. There is something approaching straight talk (thanks for the phrase Sen. McCain) from the White House. Given my I am inclined to be sympathetic. But even beyond my pleasure at regime change, I am reassured by the actions and words of my government. Well, not all the actions and words. But so much more than I expected to be. I love that President Obama* states ideals for himself, his staff and the country. There are a host of ugly problems that are being discussed and dealt with. The fact that this administration is taking on huge and difficult challenges seems to show an admirably adult sense of responsibility. I don’t see as much flash and charm as from Clinton. I see more work going on. Here’s hoping for good things for all Americans in the next four years. Oh and Brits too, here’s to having something positive to look towards in your leadership.

*That title and name still thrill me. It makes me think of my first time voting for a presidential candidate. In 1984 I remember saying that I wished there was a Rastafarian candidate to vote for since the available options both seemed so remote, blue suited and of the same white guy mold. Part of that was youthful generational grumbling. But I’ll take Obama as a really cool halfway point between Ronald Reagan and our first Rastafarian president.

Wait, I have something else for which to praise England: the wonderful cultural artefact, the stone. Because the English weight system isn’t complicated and lyrical enough with the 16 ounce pound, body weight is traditionally measured in stones. I just looked it up because when reading English novels I always guess (10 lbs? 12?): a stone equals 14 pounds. Today I read a blogger who lamented her winter weight gain of “nearly a stone” and I thought now that’s a humane unit of measurement. No obsessing on meaningless one or two pound variation here. If your weight hasn’t gone up or down by at least 14 pounds, you haven’t changed a whit! I do not diet but I am trying to walk away from butter, my dear companion this past winter. And to make regular exercise something I can have at least a little of every week. To all of us who are hoping to tone things up in the next few months, let us embrace the stone. And remember that the feel and function of our bodies bring health and contentment, rather than a weight number. Or something high-minded like that.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rave and Sartorial

The following is a rave review of the new film Easy Virtue from Kymm Zuckert, actress, dialog coach and dog walker extraordinaire. I love her recaps and reviews which combine uber enthusiasm with an insider's appreciation for acting and film making.
Seriously, people, it's just flat out wonderful!

It's based on a Noel Coward play, and is about an American adventuress who marries into an old money British family in the 1920's and wackiness ensues. It's hilarious, but the serious bits are good as well, it's got some very dark sections for a comedy, but it's what one would expect from Noel Coward, frankly.

Jessica Biel plays the American, and she's quite good, holding her own with Colin Firth and Kristen Scott Thomas as the parents of her new husband, but my absolute favourite was Kris Marshall as the butler, he was in My Family and Love Actually and Murder City, and I've always liked him, but he was really subtle and hysterically funny.

Go see it! Now! I'll wait...
Sounds like my kind of movie that may or may not make it to our local downtown artsy cinema.

Flemish fact of the day: “Sending your cat” means not attending something, i.e. “Many heads of state visited the summit, Barack Obama however, sent his cat”. I got this from the Twice Mice bloggers who write about Belgian cultural curiosities. Linked from the Waffle. I love the metaphor and am going to start using it at the first opportunity.

Go Fug Yourself’s reflection on the recent popularity of rompers (one piece shorts-plus-top thingies) has suddenly opened a flood of memories about the seventh grade Halloween Hassle dance. Ready or not. And by the way is that a weird name for a dance or what? Probably had something to do with the Hustle which was only just out of fashion in northern New Mexico at the time. Was it 7th grade? Can you verify, Danish? I remember that outside of the Pinon Elem. gym with the disco ball, loud music and a few dancers there was a cakewalk (and maybe other games?) I remember that I wore a three tiered gauzy skirt (in a muted purple floral is my best recollection) and a light purple top with such skinny straps that I couldn’t wear a bra with it. And I agonized about that, because the age where one needs a bra was upon me. I decided that the top looked just fine but I was worried about nipple visibility. So I carefully covered my nips with bandaids before dressing. I applaud my ingenuity. Where did I even get that idea? On my feet I wore some v. clunky wooden sandals. Okay, adolescent wardrobe flashback is now done.'

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

That Green

Following is Julia’s excellent description of an MRI. I share some of her characteristics (like I am patient and don’t mind lying still for minutes at a time) that you would think would make an MRI a walk in the park. Yet I also pointedly disliked my MRI experience.

MRIs are horrible. I am not claustrophobic. I like machines. I do not mind loud noises. My idea of a good time is to lie perfectly still and do absolutely nothing. And yet even I found the MRI to be awful. It took 45 minutes and after the first five I thought about screaming for help. Something about keeping your head perfectly still... urrrghh.

The story about her grandfather's casual proposal was great too.

Last weekend I finally got the green I was looking for. We had two whole days of a weekend without rain which was a precious precious gift. We went to a private school fundraiser on Saturday afternoon with bands and a playground for the kids. We sat outside and watched birds (red winged blackbirds, sparrows, robins, herons, hawks, itty bitty no name birds) go through the big sky. This is a sweet hippie Waldorf school. I told Nod that I don’t think we have enough $$ to be artistic hippy parents like the folks at this school. The school rents an old public school that’s right up against farm fields. So the green sod goes out to its rectangular corners and then it’s empty plowed land. It was spacious and quiet and wonderful.

When we left we drove farther down the gravel road to see what there was to see. We also got lost but there's really only so lost you can get in this part of the world. All the fields and hills were covered with vivid new green plants. It soothed some part in my brain. As though a hand was petting my head and neck. Green is important to older people. I know the young folks can like nature too. But I didn’t give a fig for plants until I turned thirty. All of a sudden I was intrigued. I remember enjoying the orchids in the Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park. And realizing that the pleasure I was experiencing just from mooching around looking at plants meant I was OLD!

On our random drive we saw four farm dogs asleep in the gravel road. They chased the car half heartedly. We saw an owl sitting on a fence and waiting for twilight. Very cool! Owls are hard to spot. We saw a coyote who exactly matched the color of the field of stubble he was pooping in. And many many cows including new calves and one enormous bull. Oh and the enormous bull had what looked like poop on one side of his head, don’t know how he managed that. So critters, wild and not, poop, and lots and lots of green. Big relieved sigh.


Monday, May 4, 2009

I Less Than Three the Discworld books

I started writing about Terry Pratchett novels in comments for the last post. And it got a little long for a comment. Hopefully I can keep my thoughts here to blog-post length. I love (adore, dote on, lurve) the Discworld books. In the interest of being even-handed, I will acknowledge that his humor may be too juvenile for many adult tastes. And some of the books are aimed at younger readers primarily. But if you should need a very lighthearted swords and sorcery/ adventure/social commentary novel… I can't think of what would be better on a rainy day.

Yes, yes I *do* have specific recommendations for how to approach this pile of more than thirty books. I would push the City Watch or Equal Rites novels on you. Or Small Gods, I liked that one a lot. Or the Death ones, oh crap now I am recommending the entire series. But I would steer you away from the first few novels at the beginning – the books became more confident and interesting as he went on. My favorite period starts at 1996. He or his editors make sure that any one of them is readable on its own. You could always go back and read the earlier ones later, once you've got the bug/consuming passion. It gets funnier once you know who Greebo and the Luggage are and have a little familiarity with Cripple Mr. Onion.

The stories are told in a very British voice. This is attractive to me, it might be less so to actual residents of the UK. (Though judging from his book sales numbers, they like it just fine.)

So titles. (God bless Wikipedia nerds for their comprehensive lists.) The City Watch titles: Guards, Guards! (– this is my favorite book title of all time) Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Thud! , fear not, there are more. The Witches titles: Equal Rites, Weird Sisters, Witches Abroad, and again there are more. Death titles: Mort, Reaper Man, Hogfather, don’t worry, more of these too.

As I mentioned, some of my favorite books are the ones that appear starting in 1996 (Feet of Clay is great). I think Pratchett really starts writing his funniest and most coherent stories then. So that’s a fine place to start. There's only been one recent novel I didn't care for much: Monstrous Regiment. I didn't feel that the elements came together well, and the peacenicking was a bit deafening.

In summary I look forward to every book and I have a bunch of them on the bookshelf. I think of them in the same breath as Wodehouse: safe comedy by the numbers that includes a passion for language and transcends its ticky tacky components. I feel all out of breath now.

And here's a random internet tangent. I was reading Wil Wheaton’s blog today. (Recap: he’s sick and didn’t go to Penguicon last weekend, or the Star Trek movie premiere. You're welcome: I know you were on the edge of your seat.) He signed off “Less than three, Wil”. I figured this was one of those leetspeak thingies that youngsters know about. And some rudimentary research revealed that Less than three = <3 = heart =" love." Awww. Kind of too sweet but good to know the lingo.