Friday, September 30, 2005

Headin' for the hills

Lucky me - I'm on my way out of town for a weekend in the mountians. It's my 23rd year heading up to Kanuga, the Episcopal conference center outside of Hendersonville/Flat Rock, North Carolina, for our annual church retreat.

It'll be a weekend of sitting on the porches of the 1909 green and white-trimmed cabins - my own cabin and those of friends - talking, reflecting, having a little drink - cheers! we're still here!. There's also plenty of time for slipping off and walking the perimeter of the lake, occasionally pulling off the main path to sit and reflect and even have a good cry.

Sometime tomorrow, and driving past Carl Sandberg's Flat Rock home, I'll make a pilgrimage up to Sky Top apple farm to gather red and golden delicious, romes, galas, granny smiths to divvy up with friends and loved ones when I return. I don't pick my own apples anymore, now that Kate and her friends no longer make the trip. I just go to the main already-been-picked area and gather what I need (including cider, apple butter, raspberry preserves, chutney). But we spent many a year romping up and down the orchard's hills, dragging heavy apple-laden/kid-laden wagons behind us and seeing who could climb to the top of the trees to get the best pickin's. It kinda makes me sad to go there alone, but I wouldn't think of skipping it.

Social-central is the gay guys' cabin (not that there's just one cabin with gay guys, but there's only one famous gay guys' cabin). These crazies get up to Kanuga early and turn their cabin into the decorator dream home - candles, fall arrangements, strings of chili or pumpkin lights. Ya' know it when ya' see it. Well-stocked bar with lots of munchies and some home-made goodies. Everybody ends up passing through at least once during the weekend - just sittin' around, playing music, singing at the tops of our lungs ("It's Rainin' Men," "I Will Survive," all your disco and ABBA favorites) - gays, straights, clergy, lay - yup, everybody. (Shhhhhhh! Don't tell the right-wing faction of the Episcopal Church. Our little secret, OK?)

The big Saturday night dance - this year's theme is Motown - is my annual reminder of how much fun wild and crazy dancing is. It's my excuse for eating whatever I want during the weekend since I'll work it off at the dance. Oh, yes I will! (And there are plenty of embarrassing pictures floating around to prove it.)

Kanuga is as much a part of my year as Christmas or Easter or birthdays - it marks the official beginning of Fall for me and begins the most invigorating, fun part of the year. I miss those years of having Kate and her friends in tow - though we didn't hang around together once we passed through the entrance. Still, the kids would barge in and out of the cabin, roll their eyes at us during the dance, run up and give a hug during mealtimes (because they certainly didn't sit with the 'rents during meals!).

It's different now. More reflective. More time for holding long conversations with old friends, discussing the weekend's program or some church committee's needs, or sneaking off to read under a tree or on the porch swing. And probably the most fun - meeting someone new, getting to know somebody that I'd've never had the chance to meet if I hadn't been at Kanuga. I always look forward to that.

So, I'm off to North Carolina and won't return until Sunday afternoon. Have a most-fabulous weekend!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Interesting stuff to ponder

Could the little voice you're hearing in your head be one of these guys?

The first thing I turn to when I get my monthly Harper's Magazine is the Harper's Index. For those of you unfamiliar with Harper's, the index pulls together figures from a variety of reliable sources and list those figures in an interesting (and ironic) way. A sampling of October's index:

Total US spending on poppy eradication and other antidrug efforts in Afghanistan last year: $780,000,000.
Amount it would have cost to purchase the country's entire 2004 poppy crop: $600,000,000.

Minutes that NBC and CBS spent covering the Darfur genocide last year: 8.

Percentage of patients hearing voices who hear a male voice, according to a British study: 71.
Percentage who hear an "upper-class" or "BBC" voice: 30.

Percentage by which the average amount of
anestheic required by redheads exceeds the average for everyone: 19.

Number of US states where bestiality is legal: 20.

Kernels of candy corn manufactured for Halloween each year: 9,000,000,000.

Most everything in Harper's is worth reading, so check it out. I'm tellin' ya - this makes for great bathroom reading! (You're welcome, Harper's, for the second plug in a month.)

Thursday morning common sense

I don't know about you, but I'm always struck by how little common sense people have (as compared to perfectly-full-of-common-sense little me, of course). A few observations from the past few days:

  1. When you reach the end of an escalator, move away. Otherwise, the folks behind you don't have anywhere to land. I never took physics, but even I can figure this one out.
  2. Don't assume other people think your children or pets are cute. Especially in a restaurant.
  3. When driving on the freeway, you should always be going faster than the cars in the lane to your right. If not, move over.
  4. People who don't work outside the home shouldn't go to the grocery store between 4:30 and 7:30 in the evening. And under no circumstances should they have kids in tow.
  5. Don't pick at a scab (either physically or metaphorically).

Any additions? Try to stay sane - it's Thursday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Best TV theme song lyrics

Whad'ya think? Here are my top three (favorite lines highlighed):

#3: The Flintstones:
Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones.
They're the modern stone age family.
From the town of Bedrock,
They're a page right out of history.
Let's ride with the family down the street.
Through the courtesy of Fred's two feet.
When you're with the Flintstones
you'll have a yabba dabba doo time.
A dabba doo time.
You'll have a gay old time.


#2: Mary Tyler Moore Show:
Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it's you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don't you take it
You're gonna make it after all
You're gonna make it after all

How will you make it on your own?
This world is awfully big, girl this time you're all alone
But it's time you started living
It's time you let someone else do some giving
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don't you take it
You're gonna make it after all
You're gonna make it after all

And the all time greatest #1: The Patty Duke Show:
Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Barclay Square.
But Patty's only seen the sight.
A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights --
What a crazy pair!
But they're cousins,
Identical cousins all the way.
One pair of matching bookends,
Different as night and day.
Where Cathy adores a minuet,
The Ballet Russes, and crepe suzette,
Our Patty loves to rock and roll,
A hot dog makes her lose control --
What a wild duet!
Still, they're cousins,
Identical cousins and you'll find,
They laugh alike, they walk alike,
At times they even talk alike --
You can lose your mind,
When cousins are two of a kind.

A hot dog makes her lose control? What was that about? Sheesh! Talk about subliminal (hardly) messages! What are your picks?

Fall Book Listapalooza

I know you're all fretting over what to read over the cold winter months as you stoke the hearth logs and sip your cocoa. Because both my time and my PJs are short, I've winkled out several worthy Fall booklists from the secretive hand of the vast internet and here's what I've scored for you, my sweeties:

From New York Magazine, its Fall Preview 2005. Zadie's here. E.L., too. New Lemony Snicket coming forth soon - didn't know that. Best title on the list: Memories of My Melancholy Whores - first fiction by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in a decade.

Seattle Times offers its Fall Books 2005, organized by the month published. Zadie, E.L., and the Whores - all present and accounted for.

In true American autumnal spirit, the San Francisco Chronicle works major football games and film openings into its "Books lead a fall trifecta" article.

MSNBC focuses on non-fiction in "Books about the famous and fascinating."

OK, enough lists. But here are a few interesting author/book articles:

The Independent has a terrific interview with Fay Weldon here.

Evidently the Beatles only get bigger with the passage of time, although the writer of this review of three Beatle-oriented books in The Sunday Times laments that there are only a couple of people left out there who might have new nuggets of information to share (most notably Jane Asher and Neil Aspinall). Their lips - so far - are sealed.

I'm settling into Robert Graves' Goodbye To All That. Yes, I know I should have read this account of Graves' time in the trenches years ago, especially since I'm such an aficianado of the First World War. But I'm glad I've left it till now - it's more meaningful to my research for the book I'm writing. Yes, the author is the same Robert Graves who wrote I, Claudius.

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, died Sunday. I didn't realize he was credited with founding the whole self-help book genre (weren't there self-help books before?). Anyway, I had a hard time with Road, though everyone else thought it was a big, bad bag o' chips and all that. I think my cynical self gets in the way of self-help books - I try to work all that out with fiction. Which probably explains a whole lot. However, hats off the Dr. Peck for straightening out so many other people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dylan Part, Too

Second half of No Direction Home had a different feel to me. Still held my interest, though I didn't find it as enlightening as the first half. What tonight's segment did have was the ability to make me feel a part of what was going on - as though I were plopped down in the middle of Dylan's world of 1964-66 (with a smidgen of 1963). So in the middle of that chaos, I experienced:
  1. People's rage at the shift from acoustic to electric. Most folks my age didn't really hear much of Bob Dylan until "Like a Rolling Stone." We knew that he wrote the big folk/protest songs that PP&M or The Byrds or whoever were recording - maybe even heard him sing "Blowin' in the Wind" a time or two, but it was the "electric" Bob we knew best at the time. I guess I understand that people thought he was selling out at the time, but in retrospect, he really wasn't, was he?
  2. The difference between Dylan being grilled by the press and the Beatles under the magnifying glass. Where the Beatles (especially John and Ringo) were clever and wicked and funnily sarcastic with reporters, Dylan just seemed weary by them. Confused the hell outta the press. Such stupid questions. Dylan's press personality wasn't as winning as John Lennon's, shall we say.
  3. Dylan's non-attendance at protest events. Guess I always assumed he was there. According to Baez - nope, wasn't Dylan's scene. He could write about it and sing about it, but he didn't hang out at rallys.
How does it feel? How does it feel? Tiring, but fulfilling. I'm off to bed.

News from funny Little Britain

The news over here in the colonies is so damned dreary, I thought I'd turn to our Mama-land. Things are kinda dreary there, too, right now, but here are some of the more light-hearted (depending on your point of view) offerings:

The Telegraph reports that Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, West Yorks, has banned cooing over the newborn babes. It infringes upon their rights (to avoid brainless twits as long as possible, I presume). Some people think that this carries things too far, but I bet the babies are grateful for a little peace and quiet, knowing they'll be constantly subjected to idiots in the outside world.

Any knitters out there? Fancy a faraway, intemperate spot to wield those knitting needles? The Guardian says that Fair Isle, 25 miles off Shetland and Britain's most remote inhabited island, has advertised for tenants for two crofts. You don't have to be able to knit, but knitters will go to the top of the application list. Gotta keep churning out those Fair Isle sweaters.

I see the age-old tradition of grave-robbing is still a popular past-time. And it's all tied into guinea-pig breeding. Hmm. Read about it here.

But if you want the skinny on the real Little Britain, tune into BBC America on Friday nights at 10:20 (though they keep switching the air times/dates, so check the listing first). David Walliams and Matt Lucas are outrageously (and oft-times delightfully, disgustingly) funny. Not for the faint-humor-hearted. My favorite character is Vickie Pollard ("No, but, yeah, but, no, but . . ."), but I have a soft spot in my heart for Daffyd ("I'm the only gay in the village"), Sebastian, and Emily Howard ("I'm a lady"), as well. The show causes a right kurfuffle. Har-har.

The illusion of memory and thumbsucking

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiitttt's Tuesday! Time for weekly highlights from the New York Times Science Section.

There's a study that shows that the older we get, the more trouble we have separating truth from myth where health information is concerned. Almost every shred of information we get on health topics contains "facts" and "myths," and we're all capable of understanding what we've read or been told at the time. However, says psychologist Ian Skurnik, warnings often have the opposite effect of what was intended, especially for older people:

This common problem arises, Dr. Skurnik said, because in laying down a memory trace, the human brain seems to encode the memory of the claim separately from its context - who said it, when and other particulars, including the important fact that the claim is not true. The detailed memory of the experience of learning the information begins to fade almost immediately, and the contextual clues fade faster than the core claim.
Sounds pretty complex - just remember "Don't trust your memory." (Whoa - there's a contradictory statement. How can I remember if I'm not supposed to trust . . . )

Now on to thumb-sucking. For some reason the Times felt the need to confirm that thumb-sucking does, indeed, cause buck teeth. Well, big duh! As a former - and proud - thumb-sucker, I can testify that, yes, if one continues to suck thumb after age 6, one gets to spend many jolly hours in the orthodontist chair. Still, that's the only drawback I can find for the habit - that, and looking stupid. No calories. No cancer (unless you've dipped your thumb in a vat of radioactive goo. Very soothing and stress-relieving. Believe you me - there are times when I wish this thumb still tasted like it did when I was 6.

There's also a good article about the mental health effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the displaced children. I think we all knew that this would be a biggie from the git-go. I hope good people are taking care of our chirrins. (And adults, too.)

So ends the weekly science lesson. Now on to more important things like sex, drugs, and rock/roll.

When words were important

Did you catch part one of No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese's documentary on Bob Dylan? It's terrific, so make sure you catch part two tonight on your local PBS station. I was struck by several things while watching the retrospective:
  1. Words. Words (lyrics, if you must) were important back then, and they conveyed all sorts of messages, though Dylan says of his own songs that a lot of the "message" was unintended on his part. But Dylan's songs aren't the only ones showcased here, and much of that particular genre of 1950s and 60s music did have specific meaning - whether about love, or war, or geography, or politics. They are poetry. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, it's been a long time since the words of a song held any sort of prominence. Today - with few exceptions - words only act as a sort of percussion to support the music (or lack of it).
  2. Much is made of Dylan's distinctive voice, but that voice makes you listen to the words/meaning. No prettified voice to distract you from what's being said. I think that nasal, sing-songy voice helps push the message (non-message?).
  3. What a rich source of musical talent was singing the truth during that time! Odetta, Pete Seegar, Joan Baez, The Staple Singers, The Weavers, plus many, many others, and the documentary knits these folks into the Dylan story beautifully. As gifted as Dylan was, he was definitely standing on the shoulders of these artists and story-tellers.

Looking forward to seeing the second half of the story tonight. Read some of the reviews here and here and here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Python puts the best spin(-off) on movies

Radio Times readers in Britain have voted the Monty Python films top o' the heap where TV spin-offs are concerned, so sez the Beeb. Well, there's a no-brainer. What could possibly compete with The Holy Grain, The Life of Brian, or The Meaning of Life? Nothing comes close, though I guess Trekkies would beg to differ. (Believe it or not, the Star Trek movies came in third after - cough! cough! eye-roll! - Mission Impossible. Puleeeez! Run away! Run away!)

So, always look on the bright side of life as you eat your Spam (unless Spam's off) because every sperm is sacred. Amen.

Welcome to 1925

Ah, 1925. It was an interesting year (not that I was actually there, smart-ass!):
  • John Logie Baird, Scottish inventor, transmits human features by television.
  • Adolf Hitler publishes Volume I of Mein Kampf.
  • Al Capone takes over the Chicago bootlegging racket.
  • University of Alabama Crimson Tide NCAA Football Champs (which is as it should be).
  • Federal spending = $2.92 billion
  • Unemployment = 3.2%
  • Cost of a first-class stamp = 2 cents
  • And last but not least: Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes arrested and tried for teaching the theory of evolution.
Fast-forward to 2005:
  • Television: BIG.
  • Hitler: Dead. (Whew!)
  • Al Capone: Dead.
  • 'Bama: Ranked #15 as of 9/26/05
  • Federal spending = outta control
  • Unemployment = 4.9 (August 2005)
  • Cost of a first-class stamp = 37 cents
Um. About that evolution thing. Still fighting over that one. US District Court Judge John E. Jones III will hear Kitzmiller et al v. Dover (PA) Area School District starting today. According to the New York Times article:

The legal battle came to a head on Oct. 18 last year when the Dover school board voted 6 to 3 to require ninth-grade biology students to listen to a brief statement saying that there was a controversy over evolution, that intelligent design is a competing theory and that if they wanted to learn more the school library had the textbook "Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins." The book is published by an intelligent design advocacy group, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, based in Texas.

This case is in the spotlight in most major newspapers today. The Guardian here. Los Angeles Times here. And a Washington Post article about new analyses that support the theory of evolution.

Thinking is so hard!

Five questions for a Monday morning



Think about these as you try to jump-start your Monday-brain:

1. What never fails to make you laugh?
2. What was your favorite song when you were 10?
3. What was the most perfect gift you ever gave someone?
4. What was your worst haircut?
5. With which age group do you most identify?

Jump right in -

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Save fuel, no school

Geez. And the South wonders why we gits no respeck' whare larnin' is concerned. Late Friday afternoon, Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue (yes, all Southern guv'ners must be named Sonny, Joe Frank, and the like) declared that because of the impending fuel shortage due to Hurricane Rita all public schools would take a two-day "holiday" Monday and Tuesday. Say what?

I can't even get my head around this one. I've listened to the news reports and read the guv's statement, but I do not understand the simple-minded reasoning behind the decision. A few big points:

1. What does keeping school children home for two days have to do with an "impending" fuel shortage? The state is sidelining fleets of yellow school buses to conserve diesel fuel - OK. So the most fuel-efficient way to transport large numbers of children is being sidelined? Why don't you prohibit any cars on the road that don't get 30+ miles to the gallon for two days (unless they're transporting 4+ people)?

2. The LAST thing that should be done is to cancel school. What sort of message are we sending to the children of Georgia? Hey, when the going gets tough, NO SCHOOL! Oh, and did I mention that this lost time will be considered "snow days"? What happens later if we do have snow or ice (it only takes 1/500" of anything to close schools and bid-nesses here)? Why not give the state employees a 2-day holiday, or suspend all sporting/entertainment events for two days. (By the way, the Atlanta Braves are offering special "snow day" passes for their games Monday and Tuesday. No fuel will be used getting to and from those events, heat up the hot-dog cookers, keep the beer cool, I reckon.)

3. Parents are scrambling for day-care. This thing didn't come down the pike until late Friday afternoon, giving moms and dads no way to plan for what to do with the little darlings for a 4-day weekend. Parents, needless to say, are outraged. Will the State of Georgia pick up the day-care/babysitting/lost wages costs to the parents of Georgia?

4. Perdue's brilliant move caused yet another run on gas Friday. General thinking being: if he suspends school across the state for two days, there must be something he ain't tellin' us, right? So off everyone trotted to sit in long gas lines "just in case."

What a DUNCE! Somebody please put Sonny-boy in the corner for the remainder of his term.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Make 50,000 famous British friends this weekend (and find a great purse!)

For two days only - September 23-25 - you can access the brand-spankin' new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography database FREE. That's a savings of £7,500! How can you pass this up? You do have to register online, but that's painless inconvenience for the opportunity to play with this monumental work. And the fun you can have with the search feature - names, date filters, quirky words that pop up in the middle of text. Read more about this incredible work here. (Hope you don't have any plans for the weekend!)

Now, if you decide to buy the ODNB for your own self, you'll need to carry all that money to the store in something. I discovered a book-lovin' lady's dream purse (thanks to Boing-Boing) - a purse made out of old hardback books. According to clever Caitlin at Rebound Designs, who makes her "Book Bags" out of actual book bindings:

You've probably seen cigar box purses, or purses made from other recycled items like juice boxes or duct tape. Recycled crafts are my passion, and I'm a huge bookworm, so it was a natural progression. My favorite thing about these purses is that instead of promoting smoking or junk food, I'm promoting literacy!

Check out her library of purses here.

Off to the muffler shop, my little Saturday slugs. Who knows what sort of rants I'll have to share with you when I return?

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's the weekend. Don't be the last guy outta the (office) pool!


Hear that echo? Get outta there! Go play with the dog, laugh with your family, spin wild yarns, eat a big ol' steak, have a gin-and-tonic (or three), shake the work-week out yo' head. Enjoy!

Shaikh Al-Zubair: a poet by any other name . . .

Turns out the most dangerous element in the Arab world isn't Western military force. It's Shakespeare. A few home-made bombs can handle the first threat, but Shakespeare - well, that's another kettle of tabouleh. In this article by Sulayman Al-Bassam in yesterday's The Guardian the drama of Shakespeare is a "walking toolkit of dissent," covering all sorts of political and human situations. So if Arab dramatists can keep the Big Bard on the boards throughout the region, all sorts of crazy notions could take hold. Think about it.

Fortunately for heavily-censored societies (but unfortunately for 9th graders everywhere), Shakespeare's language and meaning are often ambiguous - "slippery" - obscuring his many blatent and inflammatory messages. ( Remember my posting a few weeks ago on Clare Asquith's new book Shadowplay, about the subversive political messages in Shakespeare's plays?)

From the Al-Bassam article:

"On a micro-political level, Shakespeare's plays converge with a host of social and local issues at the forefront of Arab debate. Notions of marriage (arranged versus free), parent-child relationships, ambiguities of sexuality and gender, women's rights and the quest of the massive youth population for freedom in love, expression, individuality - all of these are burning issues of live debate in the Arab world. A fundamental pre-modernity is at the core of both the Shakespearian world and today's Arab world, linking the two along a palpable line of tension."

Just confirms my firm belief that in any society the artists are the truth-tellers and earth-shakers - not the politicians and preachers.

Wonder what could be made of Chaucer? Now there's a dangerous mind!

Guess McWho?

This is not your baby's Happy Meal Ronald McDonald. According to The Guardian, a new ad campaign in Japan to woo adults back to Mickey D's does a little gender-bending with the big clown. I can hardly wait to see what they do with Hamburglar.

Make rhymes, not war

The art of the nursery rhyme is not yet lost, it seems. In addition to the contemporary kiddie-poem competition I talked about the other day, some of Britain's big-time poets have penned a few barbed ditties themselves. Read about it here. How about this little jump-rope rhyme by Carol Ann Duffy:

George W Bush, Tony Blair,
looked for weapons. None were there.
War on terror. Torn-up weather.
George W Bush, Tony Blair.

Go ahead. Try it yourself. And do share with all of us.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy

This bit of info has been making the blog-rounds of late, most recently at Time Goes By.

If you're sick and tired of trying to find a real human to talk to when you call your bank, computer company, utilities, whatever - you need to know that there are phone keypad shortcuts (in most instances) to reach a person-type being. Here's the list, so go for it.

No guarantee your question or concern will be answered correctly or promptly, but it's betta' than nothin'.

The Daily "Duh!"

Can this stuff even rate as "news"? The headlines say it all:

"Women More Likely To Wash Hands," courtesy of CBS News.

"A Few Cigarettes A Day Deadly," from BBC.

"For Asthma Sufferers, There's Trouble In The Dust." Thanks New York Times!

"Men and Women Come From Same Planet After All, Claims Psychology Study." The Guardian didn't need to tell us that. We all come from the planet Turquoisia, right?

And from CNN: "Study: Fast Food Clusters Near Schools."

Soon-to-be-headlines will include: "Breathing and Beating Heart Vital For Living," "Fire, Too Much Heat Cause Burns," and "Study Finds that Bears, Indeed, Shit In Woods." Sheesh!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lie back and think about reading these . . .

"The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt, author of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Instead of Savannah, we're transported to Venice to investigate the 1996 fire that destroyed the Fenice Opera House. It's written in the same narrative style as Midnight and introduces a host of colorful local characters.

"The March" by E.L. Doctorow. Ah, a book about one of a Georgia girl's favorite characters - William Tecumseh Sherman. The title role of the march is, of course, the march - the big one that torched its way through Georgia to help end the Civil War. Should be a goodie.

"Rough Crossings" by Simon Schama, an account of what slaves did during and after the American Revolution. The book enlightens on early black leaders and abolitionists, as well as the constant search for freedom that reached throughout America and to Sierra Leone in Africa.

"Mark Twain: A Life" by Ron Powers. It's about time there was a good biography of Twain - such an interesting, interesting man. Dig in!

Seems Ian McEwan ("Atonement," "Saturday") can't even give books away - at least not to men. He and his son decided to give away a collection of novels, both British and American, and found it harder going than expected with the males in the lunchtime crowd. Sez he:

Every young woman we approached - in central London practically everyone seems young - was eager and grateful to take a book. Some riffled through the pile murmuring, "Read that, read that, read that ..." before making a choice. Others asked for two, or even three.

The guys were a different proposition. They frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded. "Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks mate, but no." Only one sensitive male soul was tempted.

McEwan's conclusion? When women stop reading, the novel will be dead. Lucky for him that women won't ever stop reading, eh?

16 feet below sea level

Listening to the soundtrack to Caroline, or Change while I work, and it takes on a new meaning in the aftermath of Katrina. It's a Tony Kushner (Angels in America) musical based on his childhood in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and his relationship with the maid Caroline. I was fortunate to see it on Broadway before it closed (a real shame). The group I was with got to meet with Kushner and the cast for a question-answer period after the play - such a priviledge.

Anyway, the show starts out with Caroline in the basement doing laundry and singing "Sixteen feet below sea level, caught 'tween the Devil and the dirty brown sea . . ." Basements are rare in Louisiana, but "this house got one." Just hearing the underwater metaphors that weave throughout the show sorta stops the heart a little.

And this you should know as well - Tonya Pinkins (Caroline) shoulda won the Tony. Yes, I saw Idina Menzel in Wicked, and I loved her in it, but she didn't hold a candle to Tonya. When Pinkins sings "Lot's Wife," well, I turn into a blubbering mass of jelly. Incredible! If you get a chance to see Caroline/Change on tour - get thee to it. It will blow you away.

Guess that basement sixteen feet below sea level ain't there no more (or it won't be after Rita hits it).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Insaney-miscellany

I'm a pretty well-ordered person, and my web bookmarks reflect my tenacious obsession with over-categorizing stuff. But I do have one magical bookmark folder cleverly named "Miscellaneous." (You'd think somebody with my creative bint woulda' called it something like "Lint in my Pocket.") Wanna see some of the lint? Here are three of the folder's contents:

1. Mmmm. Nice Tea. Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down is a clever little site put together by Nicey and Wifey (can't remember the real names of this husband-and-wife team), whose mission statement reads:

"Well I think we should all sit down and have a nice cup of tea, and some biscuits, nice ones mind you. Oh and some cake would be nice as well. Lovely."

Who could argue with that? Anyway, very cleverly written - from info/opinions on teas, biscuits (cookies), spoons, cups, all-things-tea-related - and a joy to read. Get thee to a cuppa!

2. Playbill.com. Hey, you knew I was a Broadway fan when ya' married me. Read it everyday and live vicariously through New Yorkers who can just pop in to see a play anytime they damn well please. Aaargh! My only consolation is that I could never afford to attend the theatre as much as I'd like and would soon be a Broadway bag lady. Sigh.

3. Heifer International Gift Catalog. What? You've never given anyone a flock of geese or cow for a present? Instead of giving Uncle Seymour and Aunt Chlotilde another crappy tie or back-scratcher when the occasion arises, help someone out in their honor. You will be forever very, very cool. And a good person.

OK, that's it for da' day. Have a good supper, good night's sleep - see ya' tomorrow.

Science lesson for today: foul language nothing new

All the expletives and !#*!#@ that confront us 24/7 are nothing new, it seems. According to this article in today's New York Times - yup, from the ever-popular Science section - language researchers find that cursing is "human universal," across all time periods and cultures. Forbidden speech is - Egad! - everywhere, all the time. It usually breaks down into two categories: 1) sexual/body function and 2) religious taboos. But it seems it's not all bad - swearing often acts as a stress releaser, allowing the potty-mouth to vent verbally instead of picking up a gun and blowing the head off the nearest moving object.

More? You want more interesting scientific stuff? How about this: science museums are pulling out all the stops educating their docents about evolution in order to counterbalance hostile intelligent-designers who come through ready to pick a fight. It seems silly to have to do this - Lord, didn't we settle this a long time ago (along with civil rights, voting rights for women, and gravity)? - but evidently it must be done. Read about it here.

And in the hot debate over which type of driver is more dangerous - the elderly or the teenager - turns out it's kinda a tie. While teens crash more often, older drivers cause more deadly accidents.

Oh, and a little soy protein/tofu helps prevent bone fractures in post-menopausal women.

And remember the attempted take-over of "March of the Penguins" by conservatives, as reported last week? Read some of the letters concerning that here.

All right, girls and boys. That's your science lesson for the week. Off you go - to curse and drink a little soy milk.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Baker Tony's (Mystic) Pizza

This is the winner of the "Time for a New Rhyme" contest for Britain's Nick Jr. television channel. Can you unravel its mystical political message? See if your interpretation is right here.

Baker Tony's Pizza

Baker Tony baked a pizza
Very round and thin.
He said he added olives
But he never put them in.
The stuff that he had grated
And sprinkled on to please
Was only yellow sawdust
Although he called it cheese.
The rich tomato topping
Was nothing more than dye.
So Baker Tony's pizza
Made all the children cry.

We should have a contest like this over here. In the current US political climate, imagine the modern-day nursery rhymes we could generate!

A couple of Girl Scout leaders and a PTA president could organize the world

Forget FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. Politicians? CEO's? Think-tank blow-hards? They don't know poo about herding cats, stacking greasy BB's or organizing disaster relief. But give me a handful of Girl Scout troop leaders, a few PTA presidents, and a cadre of homeroom mothers and I promise you - we'd've had this relief-thing running tickety-boo in no time.

Think about it. These women organize some of the most complex fund-raisers, camping trips, school carnivals, pancake suppers, and cookie sales the world has ever seen. Most of the planning and implementation they do hands-on, but what they can't (or won't) do themselves is handed off to another can-do person who can do.

I guarantee each of these women has a battered address book with notes written in the columns, chock full of business cards and slips of paper with vital contact information. They know who to call and can move mountains in a matter of minutes. They may not have personally rescued folks from flood-ravaged rooftops, but they sure as hell would've known the phone number of a team of people who could've done - and fast.

And you know what? I bet bottled water, hot casseroles, disposable diapers, toilet paper, and wet wipes would've gotten to Katrina victims within hours of the levee breaches if some of the room mothers I've known were in charge.

Please. Before the next disaster strikes, put together a database of these kick-ass heaven-and-earth movers. Sorry, fellas, when things need to get done fast and right, call the Girl Scouts.

It's Monday morning. Do you know where your brain is?

Back in my own little cubby after last week's trip to DC and two night's rest in my own bed. Lots of travelling scheduled for the next couple of months, so I'd better get used to it.

Cellmate - ur, workmate - Garth (wizard of Extreme Craft) just zapped information to me on a website that gives updates on the status of Gulf Coast museums. I did express concern for the museums, zoo, and aquarium early on, so it's great that some entity is keeping an eye on things.

The Sunday Times had an article on the website set up to out all cheatin' boyfriends and hubbies called dontdatehimgirl.com. Men have their free-hangers in a bunch because it's one-sided, but as the websites creator says, Hey - start your own rebuttal/cheatin' chick site. Wish I had someone to look up. Or someone to trash. Maybe I'll make up something. Hmmmm.

The Guardian made a gigantic mistake in dropping Doonesbury, realized its mistake, and has duly welcomed back Mike, BD, Zonker, and Joanie. Here's an article explaining why Doonesbury matters - even to the Brits.

Last week Paperback Writer's blog asked readers to submit the name of one book they'd want others to read and why. Here are the results.

Gotta get back to work. Hold it together -

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Week-ends and odds

Just a quickie before I leave my internet connection in Washington - a few snippets.

Check in with Grace and Victoria's Hurricane Katrina Direct Relief blog. It's updated continuously based on "word from the ground" and has lots of innovative ways you can help the folks who are trying to re-build their lives.

Those of us who are near-sighted will appreciate this little tid-bit from The Times of London this morning. Now available (though probably not in the US until the 23rd millennium) are contacts that you only wear at night the squeeze your eyes into the right form so that - voila! - next morn you can see without any sort of lenses. This lasts about a day. Kinda like wearing a retainer for your eyes. A great way to avoid lasik surgery or wearing glasses or contacts all day. Oh, by the way - the British call near-sighted "short-sighted," which might be confusing. I don't know about you, but I know a lot of people with perfect vision who are short-sighted, if you get my drift.

Oooh! And another little nugget from The Times about digging up (literally) an old mystery from Conan Doyle's past. Seems most of the idea behind The Hound of the Baskervilles came from the young editor of The Daily Telegraph Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who died rather mysteriously (and conveniently) after the book was published. The game's a-foot, as it were.

The Guardian had a good interview with Judi Dench last week. Read it here.

And I must salute the great director and film editor Robert Wise, who died last Wednesday. We have those iconic opening sequences to West Side Story and The Sound of Music, thanks to him.

That's it - gotta go. Flying home to Atlanta now. Have a relaxing Saturday!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Throw off the chains and dance your way to a perfect weekend


And while you're at it, grab a couple of martinis. Cheers to all - we made it through the week and still look divine!

A bed, a bed - my kingdom for a bed!

What is it about hotel beds? I’m in a great hotel on M Street in Washington – lovely room, all the amenities. Except for the bed. I’m guessing the thread-count for the sheets is, roughly (and I do mean roughly) 50. Good for an all-night body exfoliation, but not conducive to a good night’s sleep. The pillows – all 8 of ‘em – are foam-rubber basketballs. And the bed-spread. You know the one I mean. The one that’s on every tourist bed from Hotel 6 to – apparently – super-duper luxury hotels, the faux-quilted one with a slicky underside that slides all over the bed.

I am a real stickler for a good bed, but then I have the best bed in all the world at home – one of those high numbers built before 1920, perfect mattress, 400+-count sheets, down comforter, and marvelous feather pillows. So, you see why havin’ to give it up for a crap piece o’bed just doesn’t sit (recline?) right with me.

Hotels. Please. Forget the cool wallpaper, CD player, morning newspaper, Oreos on the pillow. I want a comfortable bed when I travel. Geez, you’d think for $250/night the place could guarantee at least that.

Didn't mean to go all Princess-and-the-Pea-ish on you (make that Princess Peevish). That’s it for my Friday morning rant.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On da' road

In Washington DC for a marketing conference. Tried to blog this morning but the dog ate my blog. I mean the hotel internet connection ate my blog. Mo' later - here comes the boss. Big kiss - mwah!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Wednesday's child

I'm not really a Wednesday child (me, Friday), but I'm feeling sort of woe-ish about my writing discipline over the past two weeks. I keep picking away at the bits I've already written for the book I'm working on - and I don't think that's a good thing. I think I need to let those sections lie fallow for a while and pick up at another place, but noooooooooo. Something always drives me back to change or tighten or expand.

I think all those years of writing for television made me a "time" freak, because - let's face it - I had to get a message across in :30 or :60, tight, memorable, no fat. So I find myself over-editing what I've written for the book or for a couple of stories I'm working on.

A fellow-TV writer friend, Richard Croker, tells me I've just got to get beyond the whole time-thing (but he doesn't tell me how to do it!). Richard's second book is soon to be published by William Morrow/HarperCollins, so obviously one can get over the TV-promo hump. I'll never forget the day he called and said, "Remember that Civil War book I've been writing for eight years? It's going to be published!" Remembering that does help - I mean, eight years. So whenever I feel a little fraught about how long it's taking me to get on track, I think: eight years.

I've tried leaving the book and moving on to one the 40 story ideas in my writing journals, but I'm having trouble with those, too. Lots of fits and starts. Everything's in my head but nothing's coming out - it's backed up and needs a good flush. Except my brain doesn't have a little flusher-handle. Too bad. I bet God added that to the next model of humans created for another planet, another galaxy. (Oh, and a stomach-flusher, too.)

Any brain-flushing ideas out there?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Penguins and silly names

Uh-oh. Seems that cute little film "The March of the Penquins" has become the darling of conservative groups, according to the New York Times. It is seen as a champion for monogamy, anti-abortion, and anti-evolution, which leaves me wondering if I saw the same movie. Yeah, these marathon-walking tuxedo-wearers are monogamous, but only for one season - then they kiss the spouse good-bye and move on to someone else's cutie-pie the next time they mate. Anti-abortion? They lay eggs - um, so I don't know where to go with that one. And I totally missed the anti-evolution message. Guess I need to see it again.

On another matter, aren't you just constantly amazed at the silly names celebrities slap on their kids. I don't really care - and it does keep me entertained in some minor, perverse way - but it seems that goofy names are nothing new (and not just for the stars). The Times of London reports on some uber-whacky names from the past. I'll get you started: Fozzitt Bonds, Obedience Ginger, and the ever-popular Freke Dorothy Fluck Lane. OK, but Fifi Trixibelle is still pretty stupid.

The positive news is that those monogamous penguins don't give their chicks outrageous names. No, they end up abandoning them on the shore as Mom and Dad head out to sea. Not a Bobo Apple Knucklehead among them.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Those fiery (and freezing) red-heads

"Red-head" often has "fiery" attached to it. A study from the University of Kentucky has found that "freezing" is just as appropriate. Seems people born with the "ginger-gene" MC1R have lower temperature and pain thresholds. In addition to being more sensitive to heat and cold, red-heads usually need more anesthetic at the dentist or surgeon. Of course, those of us with the red-haired gene L'Oreal 6RB don't have to worry about this.

I must be on the right track with my brain cocktail of crosswords and Sudoku for warding off memory loss as I get older. According to The Times of London, researchers have found that puzzles can delay mental decline (plus exercise and a good diet). The article even provides a few mental exercises, which I may try once my brain wakes up for the week.

Now, let's get to work!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lazy Sunday

Church. Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times (all the goodies to look forward to for the fall, if you can make your way to NYC). Nap. Three episodes of Season 1 "Six Feet Under." Dinner with a friend. A perfect way to gather steam for the week ahead.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Saturday morning and a cuppa tea



Just sitting around drinking a cuppa - the last of the tea I brought back from England :-( - and reading through the morning papers. Here're some of the items that have caught my eye.

Want to put on a period drama, Ivory-Merchant, English-style?
The Guardian's "Period Detail" spills the oh-so-familiar formula. Well, obviously you need a big house, an eccentric or two (or twelve), and Helena Bonham Carter - who, according to the article, "Now chiefly plays neurotic chainsmokers with grey teeth. Which must make a nice change." Ha. And ha. My favorite requirement was #10: A Knight (the septugenarian, authority figure), who used to be represented by Sir John Gielgud but is now more often than not played by Dame Judi Dench. Kinda makes me want to see Sense and Sensibility or something.

Ooh, and another one in The Guardian called "Amazons of the Pen" about women who were kickin' ass all over the place during The Enlightenment, but - strangely enough - are completely left out of the canon of the times. Why be that, me wonda? Want names and numbers? How about:
"Voltaire's mistress Emilie de Ch√Ętelet, translator and commentator on Newton's Principia Mathematica, notorious for her daring conciliation of Newtonian physics with the metaphysics of Leibniz. "She was a great man," Voltaire wrote of his brilliant lover, "whose only fault was in being a woman."

Or maybe:
"The most famous feminist philosopher of the revolutionary era was Mary Wollstonecraft, whose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) was the first feminist text to have real public impact. But others rallied to the women's-rights banner. Mary Hays, an intimate of Wollstonecraft's, was a self-made literary woman whose writings were a virtual compendium of advanced ideas. A champion of rational religion, materialism, and French revolutionary principles, Hays was an iconoclast even by Enlightenment standards." Interesting reading. By the way, it was dear Dr. Johnson that called them "Amazons of the pen."

This from The Times of London about the re-issue of the classic history of England called Our Island History by H.E. Marshall and first published in 1905. Out of print since 1953, the book is a rollicking tale, simply (too simplistically) told to appeal to young readers. The article is full of interesting little tid-bits and is written by Ben Macintyre who wrote such a lovely piece about New Orleans last week.

And you know how I love Broadway musicals. Well, according to the New York Times, some of that dreadful Movie Tunes music we have to endure after paying an arm and a leg for the ticket and snacks and before seeing some mediocre offering at the local cineplex will now be pleasantly interrupted by a few current Broadway tunes. Keep your ears a-perk for songs from "Wicked" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," the first of the tunes to roll out. Of course, the big shame is that the Broadway Movie Tunes will be the highlight of the movie-going experience. Sigh. (Get thee to Turner Classic Movies!.)

Don't forget to see how you can help with Victoria and Grace's efforts to get direct relief aid to the Gulf Coast area. Check out the database here.

'Nuff fo' now. Enjoy the day, my little chit'lins.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Weeeeeeeek-Ennnnnnnnd!


Last one outta the Aeron is a rotten egg!

Time to relax, do good things, love yo' family and friends, and have a little drinkie or two. Cheers!

Wonder Women supply hands-on help

A few days ago Grace Davis, she of I am Dr. Laura's Worst Nightmare blog, noticed a plea on Craigslist from Victoria Powell of Madison, Mississippi, to send supplies directly to those in need. Well, you know how kindred spirits just gravitate to each other and before your very eyes - Bam! - big cosmic things happen.

These two good-hearted, high-calibre chicks - and the blogging community - are making some miracles happen. Grace set up a blog for Victoria so that she can zap out to all of us what's going on at Ground No-Ground, plus Grace set up a database of shelters, needs, etc. and keeps it updated here at a new blog called Hurricane Katrina Direct Relief! You'll find practical, easy-breezy, hands-on ways to get relief supplies and services directly to the folks that need them.

Sometimes the foot-soldiers have to do the leading.

Friday morning reading - the Booker short-list

Good Friday morning. The Booker long-list 17 has been whittled down to these six: The Sea by John Banville, Arthur and George by Julian Barnes, A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Accidental by Ali Smith, and On Beauty by Zadie Smith. The only ones on the list available in the US right now are the ones by Barry and Ishiguro. Some big names didn't make the cut, most notably Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. Bookies in England give the edge to Barnes. Mo' later.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Gee, it seemed to work in 1906

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, a major American city was thrown into a catastrophe that almost wiped the place from the face of the earth (or Turquosia, as we're now calling it). Earthquake. San Francisco. Well, you saw the movie. According to Simon Winchester (and don't we love Simon Winchester? The Meaning of Everything. The Professor and the Madman. Krakatoa.) the quake hit at 5:12 am. and the first relief train from Los Angeles arrived by 11pm that night.

When Washington learned of the disaster (via Morse Code messages, for goodness' sake), President Taft and Congress got right to work. The first rescue trains were heading west by 4am on the 19th. That's less than 24 hours later, my friends. 1906. Morse Code. Trains. Help on its way within 24 hours. Yes, the Frisco mayor jumped right on it, but Taft and the Congress didn't sit around waiting for permission paperwork (and the California Governor isn't mentioned). Um. Could we maybe go back to Morse Code and trains? (And Taft? And a functioning Congress?)

Winchester tells the story of the San Fran postal officer who allowed any letter clearly from a quake survivor to travel without a stamp. He concludes:

And thus did hundreds of the homeless of San Francisco let their loved ones know of their condition - a courtesy of a time in which efficiency, resourcefulness and simple human kindness were prized in a manner we'd do well to emulate today.

I guess mail worked a little better in those days, too. I hope San Francisco - which is next on the "Big Three Disasters" list (we can cross off the New Orleans-hurricane-destruction and the New York terrorist attack) - has implemented its 1906 plan. Worked better than anything we've seen in 2005.

By the way, Winchester's new book is about the big quake: Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906.

And as long as you're reading the Winchester article in the New York Times, click over to this one about the future of the New Orleans music scene.

A naked girl meets Oscar, Felix, and Mrs. Lovett on the Appian Way

Playbill has the run-down of fall openings on the Great White Way. New shows include A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, musical In My Life, Latinologues, and Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life (let's see you try that leg-kick at 70+!). Andrew Lloyd Webber drags The Woman in White over from London (not quite true; the show is still running in London). Big-ticket items include The Odd Couple (with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) and Sweeney Todd (with Patti LuPone).

Forget rising gasoline and home heating prices. Bundle up in your long-johns and save that money for something that really adds to your quality of life: theatre. On Broadway.

. . . Starring Julie Andrews as Martin Luther, or maybe Jesus

We all loved The Sound of Music because of the music and the scenery and the children and Julie Andrews. What we didn't know was that the film is a huge religious metaphor that combines the elements of the Reformation, Enlightenment, and Romanticism to produce a happy ending, with a grateful, deferential bow to the foundation of everything, Catholicism. Wow. Well, so sez Theo Hobson in The Guardian article "Hegel with Songs."

Seems Maria/Julie leaves the convent in true Luther spirit to bring God's grace (music) to the larger world. Because she leaves at the behest of and on good terms with the Mother Superior, Maria/Julie represents what Hobson calls "a faith-fantasy version of Martin Luther," since he didn't leave on such good terms. (If he'd had Maria with him, maybe he wouldn't have had to go nailing things onto doors.)

Anyway, she leaves the religious Catholic life for an economic, Protestant, secular one. The Captain supposedly represents the Enlightenment (though I think that's stretching things just a tad). From Maria, lots of "religious hope" through art, self-expression. She can even ward off bad things (thunderstorms, dog bites, bee stings, etc.) with a liturgy of "favorite things" set - of course - to music.

OK, so now we kinda lose the Luther comparison and move on to Jesus. Maria has to go back to the convent when she gets all gooey for the Captain. Sort of her three-days-in-the-grave thing, I guess. Music helps with the "resurrection" as the children bring her back by singing. (I do love that scene, though - when she comes back and the children are so happy and she's happy, ah.) At last - Protestantism, Romanticism, and Catholicism joined together to live happily ever after. Sort of.

Well, anyway that's what Hobson contends. Guess I better pop SOM in the DVD player over the weekend and draw my own conclusions. A stack of theology/philosophy books wouldn't hurt, either. Gee, and I thought it was just a nice little (OK, big) movie.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And then there's the music . . .

According to this newspaper article, Nick Spitzer (voice of New Orleans on public radio stations and XM Satellite Radio's "American Routes") has assembled the best of the Big Easy for broadcast called "After the Storm." Go to www.americanroutes.org to get air times/dates.

"There's a line in there [ "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?"] that basically says, there's someone I miss even more than I miss New Orleans," Mr. Spitzer said, "meaning that New Orleans is more than the city, the region, the place. It's the personal relations. In another context, it could be schmaltzy. But when I hear that line now, the way it mingles the individual and the cultural, I just start to cry."

Oh, yeah.

Can-do solution possibilities

You know how I love the Tuesday Science section of the New York Times. Well, today's features an article on how cities/countries around the world deal with their flooding problems. (News Flash! New Orleans isn't the only below-sea level metropolis in the world.) The North Sea flooded The Netherlands in the 1950s, and they found a workable solution. London opted for the Thames Barrier. Bangladesh and Japan have put science and technology to work to avert flooding. Venice is working on its flood barriers.

Of course, nothing is completely fool-proof (er, Mother Nature-proof), but you do what you can (the lesson learned from Katrina, I hope). To be honest, I'm not so gung-ho for the government to rebuild homes along beaches (including and especially Trent Lott's) that are destroyed year after year, but New Orleans ain't a beach resort. Ya' weigh the pros and cons for the greater good and go for it.

Oh. And an interesting editorial in the London Times about global smugness toward the U.S. in the wake of Katrina. I believe thinking folks are aware that most countries and metropolitan areas have the same problems with poverty and race so awfully revealed last week about The Crescent City, but sometimes folks just need to be reminded.

Back to work . . .

Odds 'n sods

It's a random morning -

Love the term "forgetfulness-defying" from Tibor Fischer's The Thought Gang, but I'm not sure what it means. Does it mean absolutely unforgettable, or overly-forgetful? I can argue either way. Guess I should re-read the book to get the context. Also from the book: "You're born, you fail as much as you can, then you die." Some days are just like that. Many (thankfully) are not.

Another favorite quote from the film Peter's Friends: "Adults are just children who owe money." Sigh. How true, how true.

I'm feeling a lot of angst right now over what to do about a picture for my church directory. Over the past 10 years I have developed (no pun intended) a huge phobia about having my picture taken. Well, not so much about having it taken - more that I cannot smile in any semblance of a natural way whenever someone pulls out a camera. Actually, I'm OK-looking and have a good smile, but the minute a camera is pointed my way I cannot for the life of me give a natural smile. Even friends can't believe how bad I look in pictures. So anytime a photo is required of me, I get beyond-stressed out. How silly is that (in light of all the world horrors right now)?

Well, anyway, I've passed on the "formal" directory picture for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that the last one I had taken is so freakishly bad, that I vowed never to let a church photog anywhere near me again. Fortunately, we have a section in the directory for self-submittals for folks who can't get around to having the formal picture done. So the other evening Kate's feller came over and took a stream of digitals of Kate and me. Kate, of course, is absolutely perfect in every one. And I, of course, am freakishly weird in every one.

So what to do? Go ahead and submit the least freakishly weird pic of me (really hard decision)? Submit a single pic of Kate (someone needs to represent, after all)? Or just say screw it - look us up in real life? Such a stupid phobia, so ego-centric, but it has me stressed right now. Aaargh!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Questions that deserve a closer look

1. In the event of a national disaster (be it natural or man-made), which level of government is legally and morally responsible at the end of the day? Does our federal system of government (which is actually the mix of designated states' responsibilities, designated national responsibilities, and designated joint responsibilities) require a byzantine system of red-tape that impairs rescue and relief efforts? Does a state have to give up its powers to get federal military/government aid? (see next question)

2. Do the strategic goals of the Department of Homeland Security over-ride the usual bureaucracy and the toothless Posse Comitatus Act with this language:

Protection -- Safeguard our people and their freedoms, critical infrastructure, property and the economy of our Nation from acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
Response -- Lead, manage and coordinate the national response to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
Recovery -- Lead national, state, local and private sector efforts to restore services and rebuild communities after acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.


3. When did federal help start arriving in Mississippi and Alabama? Before/after/same time as Louisiana? What "paperwork" did the governors sign, or was it more of a hand-shake deal?

4. What was the point of "pre-declaring" LA/MS/AL disaster areas, as was done a day or two before the storm hit? What aid is inherent in the "federal disaster area" declaration?

5. What has been the reaction of the National Guard folks from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama who are stationed in Iraq? Has anyone interviewed them?

Just wonderin'.

Monday mornin' Shakespeare and Stritch

Let's try some theatre therapy. A great story out of Los Angeles' Hobart Boulevard Elementary School is featured in today's New York Times. Fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith focuses on discipline, teamwork, sacrifice, and literature. He doesn't teach to the test, rather he takes a more well-rounded approach that includes study of Shakespeare and Twain. I saw him interviewed the other night on PBS's NOW. The program showed scenes of Esquith and another student reading a section of Huckleberry Finn which had students in tears. One little girl had to stop reading as she started to cry. His methods are highlighted again tonight on POV (on PBS) The Hobart Shakespeare. What a story!

Outrageous Elaine Stritch is featured in another story that also spotlights the Carlyle hotel, where Stritch lives and will open a new show "Elaine Stritch at Home at the Carlyle." She always give me chuckle.

Oh, and here's an update on the animals at New Orleans' Audubon Zoo.

Be nice out there -

Monday, September 05, 2005

Books for fall and winter

I need to take a blog-rest from the horror that is Katrina and find something to look forward to. New books are a good place to start. Here's the Fall Preview from the Washington Post. New books forthcoming from some old fiction favorites like Joyce Carol Oates, Kaye Gibbons, E.L. Doctorow, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Anita Shreve. Zadie Smith's On Beauty is her homage to EM Forster's Howard's End, shifted to a Harvard-like academic setting. Non-fiction? Again, so many. Lot of hoo-ha over Lewis M. Dabney's new biography of writer/editor/critic Edmund Wilson. Here's the New York Times review, but there's an even better one in this month's Harper's (Can't link to individual articles online. Just buy the magazine - you need to read it every month anyway.) The Sunday Times reviews February House by Sherill Tippins, about the Brooklyn writers'/artists' colony that housed the likes of WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Gypsy Rose Lee, Salvador Dali and Carson McCullers (and many others). Put that on my list. Just a taste of what's to come.

I know I gave a vague promise of pictures from Dragon.Con on Saturday, but I don't have a digital camera and I'm too lazy to have the pictures I took developed. Here's a taste of what we saw. It was interesting, but I'm not a sci-fi, goth, romance, fantasy fan (OK, except for Buffy the Vampire Slayer), so I found it kinda over-blown and silly, but the two 13-year-old boys loved it.

Happy Labor Day, y'all.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Anne Rice does some truth-tellin'

Chas. L. Franck/The New York Times

Read Anne Rice's "Do You Know What It Means To Lose New Orleans?" in the New York Times. See? I don't care what the nay-sayers are yammerin' on about - this city will rebuild, because a world without New Orleans is just blah. Here's where our Cajun-Rice gal cuts to the chase:

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

Amen to all that.

New Orleans on the big screen

So I've done my New Orleans and Mississippi booklists, and I thought now would be a good time to begin a list of films set in New Orleans and/or other parts of Louisiana. Here are a few to get you started:
  1. Panic in the Streets (1950) - film noir, Elia Kazan, eerily - um - well, just eery after this week (and here's another good review)
  2. All the King's Men (1949) - well, ya' just gotta see this one, based on Huey Long's rise to power in Louisiana
  3. Jezebel (1938) - Bette Davis at her young best; out-Scarletts Scarlett
  4. Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1965) - Bette Davis at her old best; and honey, when that head falls out of that box and rolls down the stairs - damn! - it gets me every time!
  5. Pretty Baby (1978) - Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, Keith Carradine, New Orleans brothel
  6. Suddenly Last Summer (1959) - most famous for Elizabeth Taylor in that white bathing suit
  7. WUSA (1970) - really interesting, political film about a right-wing New Orleans radio station; Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward - 'nuff said.
  8. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - even though you've been watching it all week, watch it one more time
  9. The Big Easy (1987) - well the title alone should tell you what it's about
  10. Interview with a Vampire (1994) - lots of blood-sucking and filigreed wrought-iron
OK - that should get you started. There are a lot more New Orleans/Louisiana movies, (especially scary ones about voo-doo and zombies and such). We cannot let this city just fade away. It's one of the world's great cultural birthin' grounds.