Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hill Billy Confessions

I can't remember what it was, but something this afternoon reminded me of an old television show from my childhood. It's one of those things that I'm almost loathe to admit because I have spent most of my life trying to dodge that awful hill billy label, but any potential embarassment is out weighed by how sweet my memories of it are.

When I was little one of my favorite television shows was Hee Haw, a sort of backwoods variety show that pandered to all the worst stereotypes of Southern life. Many was the summer evening that I spent curled up with my Granpa in his old recliner giggling through Hee Haw. We'd each have a big glass of Granny's sweet tea, which was so loaded with sugar that there was a syrup sludge in the bottom of the glass that when slurped over ice cubes was better than any snow cone on the planet. Papa always smelled of chewing tobacco and Irish Spring soap and I can remember him laughing so hard that his eyes would disappear in wrinkles of sun weathered skin.

Miss Minnie Pearl was one of my favorites and I swear that she is the reason I have such a fascination with hats. She'd always greet the audience with a huge, "Howdy!" dressed in a frilly dress and a straw hat with the price tag hanging off the brim.

It was cheesey and hokey, but I just loved it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Point of View

By some strange coincidence I have seen several movies recently that are set in or about the time of World War II: Gosford Park, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, Notorious, and Casablanca. I have always been interested in WW II, how it started, who were the key players, how it effected society, art, people. So much of what we are taught about the war here is very one sided, but I have been fortunate to have a couple of chances to chat with people who experienced the war from the other side.

Friede is a long time friend of my husband's family. She has lived next door to them since B was a boy. Friede is in her 90's but you would never know it to see her playing with my niece and nephews. Whenever we visit B's family I sneak over to Friede's as often as good manners will allow and spend hours chatting with her. She is just about the feistiest person I have ever known and I admire her immensely.

Friede was born near Frankfurt, Germany. Her mother was a very devout Catholic who somehow ended up married to a very irreverent Protestant. Her father once swept up the straw, laid out for the towns Passover procession, and fed it to his animals. Friede's mother insisted that she be sent to the nuns for school but, maybe because of her father's bad influence, she spent a lot of time in trouble. There was the time the Mother Superior discovered that Friede and her friends had been eating holiday cookies during the year so that there were none to sell at Christmas. She had to stay late and help bake cookies to make up for her pilfering. Or there was time she started selling holy water door-to-door until her mother found out and made her return all the money.

Later she went to dance school in Frankfurt, and was good enough that she was invited to teach despite the fact that her instructor used to call her a cow. She danced in the ballet at the Frankfurt opera house and was known for playing pranks. During a run of Aida she was cast as a fan bearer. She "fell asleep" during one of the performances and "accidentally" hit the diva in the head. Evidently, the diva wasn't very popular with the rest of the cast.

Friede's family must have been very talented artistically because her brother was a musician. In the years leading up to the war many of the theatres and music halls were closed by the government and he had trouble finding work. Eventually the only job available to him was playing in the military band and he joined the army. It didn't last long though. They eventually trained him to fly planes.

During the Nazi years, the opera was only allowed to perform political pieces. There was a play where a this "heroic" character with an iron fist would hit a table and the edge would fall off. The table had been pre-cut to so that when the actor slammed his fist the table would break on cue. She and the ballet turned the table around so that when he hit it , the wrong edge fell to the floor. She said the audience roared with laughter.

The opera was later closed and she was forced into the service. She said the first night in the barracks she was so eaten by bed bugs that she chose to sleep in a chair instead. She was shipped to a post near the Russian front. Upon arrival she received a telegram informing her that her brother's plane had been shot down over Russia and that he was dead. She said she was so shocked that she just sat down on her suitcase in the middle of the road, not knowing what to do. She remembered that a local woman seeing her distress brought her out a glass of water and how touched she was by the woman's kindness. She has never talked to me much about being in the Army. I'd like to think that Friede kept up her rebellious tendencies and continued to cause trouble where she could.
I can't help but wonder what her life would have been like if the war had never happened. Would she have continued dancing? As far as I know, she never dance professionally again although her ballet slippers have pride of place amongst her belongings.

After the war, Friede married an American soldier and moved to the U.S. They never had children of their own but she must have hundreds of children in her community to whom she has been surrogate grandma. At church on Sunday's, I have seen her sneaking M&M's to all the little kids who come and tell her good morning.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fabulous Friday

I love the movement in this portrait of Diane Sackville, Viscountess Crosbie. I get the impression that she must have had a very spritely personality.

So, earlier this evening Officer B comes upstairs and finds me with a very distressed look on my face. "What's wrong?" he asks as he kisses me on the forehead. I shake myself from my stupor and reply, "Oh, I was just watching the news. I think I'm stupider because of it."

This isn't a new complaint of mine. It is horrifying what watered down pap passes for news these days. I flipped between four channels and heard reports on inner-ear infection causing obesity, University of Florida research that proves beer goggles exist, and a woman suggesting healthy snack options for students who sounded as though she didn't think your kids would be any more interested in celery than you do. Ridiculous. Yet further justification for why I read the news (Some of my favorites:BBC News, The Washington Post, NPR, The Guardian, The Age, Google News and then for a laugh (or a cry), CNN.)

In other randomness, I spent most of my afternoon writing on my new laptop. Officer B sold one of his rifles and bought me a laptop. Isn't he a sweety? I couldn't ask for a better husband. I can't tell you how cool it was to be able to curl up on the sofa and write.
I hope you all have a good weekend!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gone to ground.

Hi all! I am feeling very well and doing great. Thanks for the kind wishes. I got back home and just fell into a funk. I've got a huge stubborn streak and the more I felt pressured to communicate with the outside world the deeper I dig in my heels and refused. People mean well, I know, and I'm not claiming that my way is the right way, but over the years I have come to discover that right or wrong it is a character trait that is very central to who I am. I don't like to be pushed. In fact pushing me is a sure way to get me to do the opposite of what you want. So, like any good fox, I went to ground and absolutely refused to surface until I was darn good and ready.

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on the story. I've worked along time on it and the characters are like my own children. So it is nice to see them so well received. I will definitely be posting more in the future.

I've been re-reading an old fantasy series that is a favorite of mine (David Edding's The Belgariad) and enjoying rediscovering old literary friends. If you want an excellent example of strong character development, Eddings is one to look at.

I've also been watching lots of the Olympics and have been amazed by both the skill and good sportsmanship of all involved. Now if only we could get the media to adopt some of those good manners. I dream. I dream. The opening ceremonies left me completely awed. Words actually escape me - the artistry, sophistication, taste - all exemplar.

So, that's me.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I will be away for four days, but wanted to leave you with some entertainment. Please remember that this is my original creative work and offer it hear for your reading enjoyment.

The Jewel of Seven Stars
A Nemesis Jones Adventure

(giant scarab, British Museum)


In the cool darkness beneath the museum a rat scampered along a row of shelves. A network of footprints in the dust was proof of many similar expeditions by fellow explorers into the neglected storage room. The museum’s patrons were gone and the creatures that inhabited the massive building were free to roam. The rodent slipped between the loose planks of a crate and into the thick packing material that surrounded the desiccated remains of a once great queen of Egypt. Deemed to be of no historic significance by long-dead curators, the mummy had been stashed beneath a shelf amongst the thousands of artifacts preserved there, and forgotten.
Had the mummy been alive, the rat’s claws skittering up her thin, bandaged leg might have caused her to bolt from her bed with a shriek, but the Egyptian queen was long past caring about such indignities. The thief moved his whiskers from side to side searching for a tasty morsel to take back to his extended family living within the walls of the museum. He tugged tentatively at a finger and squeaked with surprise when rat and hand tumbled to the bottom of crate. He examined his prize carefully, fearing that it might move again, but it remained motionless. Working with all his might, the rat wiggled the hand out of the crate and began dragging it back to his home. Halfway down the main aisle the lights suddenly flared to life and heavy footsteps echoed in the vastness of the storeroom. The rat scuttled beneath a shelf, hoping that the human would quickly find what it was looking for and leave.

The purposeful footsteps drew closer and then skidded to a surprised halt. There was a mummy’s hand lying in the middle of the aisle, looking for all the world as though it had been trying to crawl away on boney fingers! The human slowly approached the strange object. He had been working late and the immense silence of the empty museum often left him feeling jumpy. It certainly didn’t help to find disembodied hands casually lying in one’s path. His instincts suggested he find a long stick to poke it with, but his rational mind sneered at such superstitious nonsense. Kneeling down, he gingerly picked the hand up off the floor and fell back in surprise when a loud “clink” pierced the silence. His heart beat wildly with fright. Something had fallen from the mummy’s dead grasp. Straightening his glasses he reached under the nearby shelf where the item had fallen but quickly retracted it when he felt the rat’s whiskers brush his knuckles. Peering beneath the shelf he saw the rodent’s pink tail disappear into the darkness and there, having lain for years in neglected obscurity, was a large ruby scarab!


Nemesis Jones lay on the floor of her mother’s library feeling sorry for her self. Her two best friends, her only friends, were gone on summer vacation and she was bored. Liza Madison’s mother had insisted that the family spend the summer at a yoga retreat. Nemesis had helped Liza fill half of her suitcase with junk food, knowing that there would be only organic, vegetarian fare for the rest of the summer. Abbey Claudel’s family was touring the Wild West in a Winnebago. Nemesis toyed with the post card she had received in the morning mail. It was from Tombstone, Arizona and had a picture of three coyotes and the phrase “Having a Howling Good Time.” On the back were two words: ‘hot’ and ‘tumbleweeds.’ Knowing how much Abbey hated being at the mercy of the elements, Nemesis shook her head in sympathy. She sighed heavily examining the botanical prints and Victorian curiosities that decorated the emerald walls of the library. The room was like her mother, eccentrically beautiful and full of odd ideas. Nemesis was supposed to be picking three books for her summer reading. Professor Delilah Jones taught Victorian Literature at the local college and required that both her daughters were proficient readers. Nemesis had been staring at the shelves for hours but nothing really sparked her interest. She wanted a good, juicy mystery but the room was full of dusty old classics.
“Are you coming?!” Her seven-year-old sister, Jealousy, a.k.a. Jelly, was standing in the door dressed in her red soccer uniform, tapping her cleats impatiently. Jelly’s sandy blond hair was pulled back in a utilitarian pony tail with a thin red elastic band keeping her bangs out of her face. She believed herself to be a soccer prodigy, the next Mia Hamm. Nemesis rolled her eyes.
“No, I’m not coming”
Jelly dropped her bag in disgust. “You haven’t been to a single game all year! This is the last game of the season!” She adjusted her shin guards impatiently.
Nemesis shrugged and went back to staring at the ceiling. “I don’t ask you to watch me read.”
Jelly’s arms went ridged and her face flushed a deep red. The little girl had a temper and her sister knew how to light the fuse. She grabbed her bag with a roar and slammed the heavy oak door behind her. The vibration shook the stained glass windows and something toppled off the shelf above, hitting Nemesis in the forehead. “Ouch!” She yelped, searching blindly for the offending object. It was a paperback with a garish cover entitled The Jewel of Seven Stars written by Bram Stoker. “I didn’t know he had written anything other than Dracula?!” She mused to the collection of animal skulls to her left. She proceeded to read in her usual avaricious manner, conveniently failing to identify her other summer books. She read even when Winston Churchill, the family’s Labrador retriever, hopefully brought her a ball - only to be disappointed when she failed to throw it. She was still reading when her father, retired Sergeant Major Kevin Jones, returned with Jelly from the soccer game. Her attention never faltered despite Jelly glowering at her for 15 minutes, the championship trophy clinched in her fist. She remained there until her mother returned at 7:00 PM and wearily placed a huge stack of papers on the desk. Nemesis, engrossed in her book, made no response. Professor Jones smiled knowingly at her eldest daughter.
“Have you eaten anything other than words today, Sisi?” Professor Jones asked, calling Nemesis by her nickname.
“Uh-um,” came the guttural negative.
“Would you like to?”
Usually, the topic of food was as enticing to her daughter as books, but at this moment it seemed to be a no-contest.
“What have you found?” her mother asked.
Nemesis sprang up and began to enthusiastically regale her mother with the details of the wondrous book she had discovered.
“ . . . and there is this cat, which is obviously possessed by a spirit, and there is a mummy, and a queen . . .”
“Where on earth did you find that?” her mother interrupted, reaching for the paperback.
“It fell off the shelf.”
Professor Jones inspected the book carefully, raising her eyebrows at the badly illustrated cover and quickly scanning a few pages.
“Dearest, I have never seen this book before in my life.”
The child stared at her mother in shock. The library was her mother’s private sanctuary. The books that made it into this room were tried and true favorites. It was inconceivable that there could be a book on those shelves that her mother hadn’t read at least three times and deemed essential to her private collection.
Sensing, Nemesis’ consternation, her mother added, “I’m as surprised as you.”
“Mother, you’ve read all these books.” Nemesis swept her arms around the book-stuffed room.
“Nemesis, I haven’t read them all.” Her mother chuckled, amused that her daughter thought so highly of her literary prowess.
“Yes, you have!” Inexplicable panic strangled Nemesis voice.
“I’ve read most of them.” Her mother compromised, more than a little perplexed at her daughter’s agitation. “I think you’ve done enough reading today,” she said laying the book on her desk. “It’s time you got some food in your system.” She eyed her eldest daughter with concern and shepherded her out of the library.

Winston, despite being neglected earlier in the day, loyally followed Nemesis as she set out pasta bowls and warm garlic bread on the dinner table. Mr. Jones had prepared his world famous spaghetti for dinner and the dog was hopeful that his family would share.
“Mom!! Winston chewed up my cleats!” Jelly howled in the background.
“Good dog,” Nemesis cooed as she slipped him a piece of bread.
The dog happily gobbled up his prize.
“Dinner is served!” announced Mr. Jones as he delivered a large, bubbling pot of spaghetti to the table. Big, brown canine eyes watched as portions were served to each family member and then sparkled with joy as a ladle of sauce was added to his kibble. Everyone took their seats and conversation turned to Jealousy’s artistry on the soccer pitch that afternoon. After a detailed play-by-play of Jelly’s athletic brilliance, Professor Jones tapped the side of her water glass for quiet.
“Well, I have some news,” she announced with a conspiratorial wink at her husband, “How would you two like to go to London this summer?”
There was a brief incredulous silence before two very un-Jones-like squeals of delight pierced the parental eardrums. Pandemonium broke out. Jelly was bounced around the table, tugging at her father’s sleeve, “Dad, dad, can we go to a game! Can we go to a game! Please?! Manchester? Oh, please, we gotta! It would be so cool! Dad, we could see Rooney and . . . ”
Over this cacophony Sisi listed a multitude of historic sites she had to see “ . . . Windsor Castle – Do you think we’ll see the Queen. It would be so nice to see the Queen. - , and the Tower – I have to see the Crown Jewels - , and Trafalgar, and Cambridge, could we see Cambridge? Oh My Gosh!!! Oh My Gosh!! – The British Museum! Mom, we’ve got to go to the British Museum!!! ” - Then catching wind of Jelly’s pleading, “Hey, wait! I want to see Arsenal if Jelly gets to see Man. U.”
“Company halt!” barked Mr. Jones, trying not to laugh and still be heard over the din, “One. We’re only going to be there for a week so you’re both going to have to trim your wish lists. Two. Your mother is there to work so, again, scale it back a bit. Three. I am pretty sure soccer season will be over by then, but we will see what we can do.” There was a brief pause before the pandemonium resumed.

Mr. & Mrs. Jones had been planning the trip since the middle of the spring term, but they had agreed that if they shared the news with the girls too soon grades might suffer and impatience was bound to make tempers fly. In the past year, sibling tempers had hair triggers in the Jones house. Professor Jones had received a grant to write a book about the rise of Orientalism in Victorian England and would be in London to do research. Husband and wife had been to England together in their younger days, but Nemesis and Jealousy had never been and both seemed old enough now to appreciate the trip. This consideration was reinforced by their present exuberance. In light of the reaction it seemed a wise decision to keep the trip a secret until now. With some effort, they managed to get everyone back in their chairs and forks in hands. Winston gladly gobbled up the noodles and bread that had gone flying during the outburst.

No one in the Jones family particularly enjoyed doing the dishes. There were some tasks, such as vacuuming, which Professor Jones loved, or taking out the trash, a favorite of Jelly’s, that were attended to by one family member. In this case though, the task was universally loathed and so the family tackled the dishes together, rotating duty stations each week. This evening Professor Jones washed, Nemesis rinsed, while Jelly dried and Mr. Jones put them away. In this way, no one person had to suffer alone and the task was accomplished quickly. Nemesis carefully rinsed the large pasta dish that had been given to her parents as a wedding gift.
“So, when do we leave for London?”
“We leave on July 11 and we get back on the 18th. Just a few weeks from now.”
“What about Winston? Who’s going to watch him?”
“Miss Jennie is going to take care of him while we are gone.”
Jennie was a good friend of her mother’s who ran a pet-sitting business. Many of the staff at the college had pets. Ms. Jennie adored animals and frequently volunteered to watch pets while folks were away on vacation. This grew into a business when she retired.
“Winston will like that. He loves Ms. Jennie.”
“It could be the cookies or the extra walks, but yes, he does like her.” Ms. Jones laughed, “I’m pretty fond of her myself.”
“She’s cool,” Nemesis agreed. Last Easter, Ms. Jennie had hidden eggs at her house and invited the Jones girls over for an Easter egg hunt and tea. Jelly hadn’t been very interested in the tea, but she loved all the chocolate.
“Mom, have you ever been to London?” Nemesis’s mind jumped from topic to topic.
“A couple of times before you were born. Your father and I visited friends there.”
“You have friends in London?!” Her mother was full of surprises today.
“You’ve met them. You remember the Harris’s. They were at Alice & Charles Martin’s party in Atlanta the summer before last.” Alice Martin was her mother’s best friend from high school. She had twin daughters that were a year younger than Nemesis and dreadfully good at Scrabble.
“Lola Harris went to high school with Alice and me.”
Nemesis shrugged. She vaguely remembered the party. Mostly she remembered how badly she lost at Scrabble. It had been so frustrating. She had spent the rest of that summer beefing up her vocabulary and improving her strategy. The next time she ran into the Martin twins things would be different.
“Actually, I think you would really like Lola. She’s a freelance journalist.”
“Really?!” Nemesis aspired to be a writer some day.
“You’ll have to make a list of questions to ask her about the biz.” Professor Jones wiped bubbles on the tip of Sisi’s nose.

Nemesis lay on her bed enjoying the last hour of reading before lights out. Her dad and Jelly were watching a documentary on the development of the tank. Professor Jones was in her library grading papers. Winston loyally lay nearby guarding the literature professor from marauders. It was at this hour that calm reigned in the home. At times Sisi’s family seemed like a circus gone awry. There were so many personalities and opinions whirling about that it was easy to feel overwhelmed. And yet, Nemesis wouldn’t want it any other way. She enjoyed her family immensely, the good and the bad.

Her mother often joked that if she had another daughter she would name her Neurosis. Professor Jones had strange ideas about naming children. The plethora of Patiences, Charitys, and Prudences, in the world ignited the satirical side of her personality. Thus, rather than virtues, her daughters were named after the traits she felt most of society truly valued. Professor Jones secretly hoped that if her daughters could accept responsibility for their worst qualities then their finest qualities would be unveiled. Mr. Jones, who also possessed a rather dark sense of humor, loved his wife most for her quirky ideas, so he went along with the naming scheme. She wasn’t sure how Jealousy felt about it, but Nemesis took her name as a mission. She considered herself the living incarnation of divine justice. This of course was a lot of responsibility at the age of twelve, not to mention the fact that it got her into a lot of trouble.
Her mother had never addressed where the book, The Jewel of Seven Stars, had come from and in all of the excitement Nemesis had forgotten to ask. She was completely enthralled with her discovery. The description of the artifacts and the eerie air of mystery sent her imagination soaring. She was having difficulty making progress in the book because every page spawned a hundred new questions about ancient Egypt. The air seemed laden with the acrid smell of ancient mummies. While she might not admit it to others, she was also drawn to the image of a queen, especially one that was a sorceress. The cat, Sylvio, made her think of the large Persian cat named Dmitri that belonged to one of her neighbors. Dmitri had mysteriously disappeared last winter when the Ivanov’s first arrived in town. Nemesis and her friends, Abbey and Liza, had helped find him. She mentioned this to her mother who came to tell her good night.
“Mom, do you think Dmitri has seven toes?”
“The Ivanov’s fat Persian?” Professor Jones laughed. “I doubt it. Why do you ask?”
“Well, the cat in this book is big with long gray hair and it has seven toes.”
“Is this the possessed cat you mentioned earlier?”
“I’m not so sure he’s possessed, but yes.”
“Ah.” Her mother’s tone indicated that she doubted the literary significance of Sisi’s reading material, which isn’t to say that she would discourage her daughter from reading it.
“Are you sure you’ve never seen this book before?” Nemesis was hopeful that her mother would remember its origins and be able to tell her more about it.
“Sorry, Sisi, I suppose I must have read it at some time, but I just don’t remember. It’s possible someone gave it to me to read and I never got around to it.”
Nemesis didn’t buy it and her facial expression conveyed this.
“Alright, let’s put the possessed cat on the shelf for now and go to bed.”
Her daughter grudgingly set the book and the argument aside. Her mother pulled her blankets snug and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“Yes, darling child.”
“I’m really excited about going to London.”
“I knew you would be.” Her mother smoothed the wrinkles from Sisi’s blanket.
“I wish we were staying longer.”
“I’m sure we’ll visit again sometime.”
“I hope we can go to the museum.” Nemesis, like her mother, was a devout anglophile and viewed the British Museum as a sort of personal Mecca.
“You know who used to research his books at the British Museum?” Professor Jones asked her daughter.

“No. Who?” Nemesis asked with interest.
“Your Mr. Bram Stoker of possessed cat fame.” Professor Jones pointed at the book which now had place of honor on Sisi’s bedside table.
“Really! Then I have to go! If I can only see one thing in all of London, it has to be the British Museum.”
“You can see more than one thing. There is plenty to see in Bloomsbury and we’ll have some time to be tourists. The museum isn’t far from our hotel. I’m sure your dad will be happy to take you.”
“Jealousy won’t want to go. She’ll complain the whole time and spoil it.”
“Sisi, don’t be that way about your sister.”
Like most sisters, the two Jones girls often fought. Jelly, who was no less intelligent than her sister, preferred to be outdoors and active, whereas Nemesis was a committed bookworm. Their divergent interests were reflected in their looks. Where Jelly was blonde and tan, Sisi was auburn haired and fair. Unsurprisingly, their priorities often conflicted during joint endeavors. Nemesis’ stared grouchily at the Einstein poster on the wall opposite her bed, imagining the whining her sister would employ to avoid the longed-for museum trip. As they got older, it seemed to Professor Jones that her daughters fought more and more. Having a younger sister of her own she understood some of the rivalries, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch the growing distance between them.
“Perhaps you can find a way to lure your sister to the museum,” her mother suggested as she rose to leave. Some common ground would do them both good.
Nemesis noticeably brightened. Jealousy was not without academic interests! There might be hope after all! Sisi wished her mother a good night, free of the overarching gloom of sibling angst.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fabulous Friday

Ha! I made it! My first Fabulous Friday post in what seems like ages. The lady to the left is Winifred Anna Cavendish-Bentinck (née Dallas-Yorke), 6th Duchess of Portland, painted 1912 by de Laszlo. I adore her magenta cape. Every girl needs one of those!

I have to tell you I'm more than a little relieved that I didn't anger anyone with my last post. A previous boss used to scold me for being idealistic, and while I understand that he worried I was being naive, I still feel that having ideals and striving for them is important. We are admonished to love God with all our strength and our neighbords as ourselves. God is easy to love; God is Love. That guy sitting next to you in traffic flashing vulgar hand signs and spewing venom at the elderly lady in front of him - he is harder to love.

I hope you all have wonderful weekends. The Good Doctor has ordered me back to the hospital on Monday for four more fun days with toxic cocktails (a.k.a. 2nd round of chemo). I've got to get my little bag of entertainment packed. I thought I would leave you, gentle readers, with a couple snippets of my own fiction so look for that to go up on Sunday. The really good news though: not a single evil nurse nightmare. That, ladies and jellyspoons, is called improvement.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fear of Other

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations is one of my favorite television shows. The idea being that you can learn a lot about other cultures by how and what they eat. This week the crew travelled to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of a viewer, a woman by the name of Danya Alhamrani. A show filmed in a country that places very strict limitations on the travel of women seemed doomed to failure, but quite the contrary it was a fascinating look into a rarely seen culture. Danya was an amazing hostess and did an excellent job of giving the audience a look into everyday life in Saudi Arabia.

Growing up, my parents both painted and there were National Geographics all over the house. I could barely wait for the new one to arrive in the mail. From a very early age I wanted to learn more about how people all over the world lived their lives. Heck for awhile I wanted to become a National Geographic photographer (until the realities of mosquitoes and limited bathing set in). That being said, I was born in one of the most xenophobic regions of the U.S.A. The Ozark Mountain region is notorious for not exactly welcoming outsiders with open arms. Even I, who was born but did not grow up in the Ozarks, must answer the ubiquitous "Whose your family?" question before thawing the chilly facade.

Since the attack on the World Trade Towers I have noticed a shift in the U. S. in how "others" are viewed that is much more like the attitudes in my hometown. We, as a nation, have become distrustful of people who do not look and sound like we do and ever more willing to marginalize their rights to make Us feel safer. You can see it in changing immigration policy and in the way we treat and talk about Others. You hear so many more comments about "Those people" and "Them" and the every growing list of racial and ethnic slurs. While I can sympathize with the fear from which these attitudes spring, I do not approve of the manifestations it has taken. Fear is never a wise position from which to make decisions.

Ironically, we are a nation of Other. The English, Irish, German, Italians, Russians, Africans, etc. - none of these are the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In fact, if there was ever a better case for xenophobia it would be in the treatment of the Maya, Navajo, Cherokee, Inuit, and hundreds of other tribes by European settlers on this continent. So this idea that somehow it's Us against Them is pretty ridiculous. We are, all of us, Them.

Am I offended that women in Saudi Arabia can't drive cars, can't vote, and must be completely covered in public? Sure I am. I'm also offended that the sport of bullfighting still continues in Spain and Mexico. I am offended that female infants are sometimes killed in India and China because male children are preferred. Nor do I wish to participate in the African Masai tribe's tradition of drinking cows' blood.

But here's the trick, you don't have to agree with every aspect of a culture to learn about it, appreciate it or maybe find beauty in it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mad Men

"How did you get suckered into this?" Officer B asks as he wakes up yesterday to find me watching the Season 1 marathon of Mad Men on AMC.

"I don't know. It's despicable. Every character in it is despicable, but it certainly keeps your attention. I will tell you this: you better thank your luck stars that you aren't a male chauvinist pig or I would have had to bury you in the backyard ages ago."

Granted it is fiction and sensationalized, but I know that there were situations that terrible (and still are if we are to be honest). I'd have been in jail for homicide because the first time one of those slimy little creeps groped me I would have mailed his body parts home to his mother - but then I was raised not to tolerate any nonsense.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I have not been good about posting lately! I went into work Thursday morning for about 4 hours and came home absolutley exhausted. I don't know if it was fatigue or if I picked up a little bug from someone, but I am really just starting to feel better today. Proceed to scold me; I deserve it, every bit of it. I had no business staying that long. So, I haven't done much the last couple of days but sleep and watch TV. I am feeling much better though.

Thanks for all the compliments on Gerrard's pictures. He has been a joy since his first day in our home, which isn't to say that there haven't been days that I've wanted to choke him. Boxers really are wonderful, happy, loving, quite smart dogs. It is their enthusiasm that gets them in trouble. :)

I have missed more Fabulous Friday's than I care to admit. In recompense I offer a few portraits from my archive. I hope you all are having a lovely weekend.

Lavinia Bingham, Countess Spencer (wife of the 2nd Earl of Spencer)

Lady Sibyl Sassoon, Countess of Rocksavage, Marchioness of Cholmondeley

Leonilla, Princess de Sayn-Wittgenstein, PrincessBariatinsky

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Torturing Your Pets - Part 2 of Many

What will be difficult to believe is that in the following pictures Gerrard is in fact not angry, growling, or otherwise disgruntled. He just doesn't like what he's smelling. We first discovered the "Predator Face" when we were using lavender oil to treat some little bumps he had on his face (It's a boxer thing. Those wet, sloppy jowls make them prone to what can only be described as dog acne). Evidently, the smell offends him. For those of you not familiar with the Predator movies, here is a photo from the movie to explain where we got the name.

And here is Gerrard's rendition.

Now, from the look on his face you'd think he would want to avoid whatever made him react that way, but quite the contrary - you get the lavender oil out and he comes a runnin'. Same thing with vinegar. Either he's a glutton for punshiment or, like any other little boy, he likes stinky things.

Torturing Your Pets - Part 1

Monday, July 14, 2008

Johnny & June

When Walk the Line came out several years ago, I didn't want to like it. I can't explain why. So, when I did enjoy the movie it impressed upon me what a good story it actually is. I happened to catch it on TV Saturday and got drawn in again. I think I've blathered about it to everybody else I know, so why not you too? :)

The movie always leaves me wanting to know more about June Carter Cash. She must have been a phenomenal woman. I mean, she actually saved Johnny Cash. He was an absolute mess and she saved him. How often does that really happen? Of course, he had to want it for himself, or it never would have lasted, but you get the feeling that his love for her was the only reason he tried. There is something almost mythic about their love. Something that gives you hope. Who wouldn't want a love like Johnny & June?

P.S. YouTube has some fantastic old footage of the two of them performing together.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cabin Fever

So, to add insult to injury our computer died on Wednesday. Officer B very kindly replaced it for me today. He said he was afraid he was going to drive by the house and find me in the window with big note cards, trying to communicate with the outside world. I've got to tell you, after a few days alone in the house I start getting a little weird. Considering I'm pretty odd to begin with . . . well, you can imagine. I think the clencher was when I shared my theory with him that John McCain is a zombie. Anyway, I'm back on-line so things should improve quickly.

I haven't been idle though. I had to do something to keep myself occupied so I dug out my beads and started making earrings. That was okay for awhile but then I started getting cranky fiddling with all those tiny little beads.

I also finally broke down and went to the bookstore and got a new book to read. I'd gone through everything I'd been given, not to mention crossword puzzles and nearly every movie in the house. I've been bored. Can you tell?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Character Sketches: A Fly on the Wall

You know how I love a good character. I am a great collector of characters and am always on the look out for a good one. Did I ever land a whopper this morning!

The individual in question was a woman of about 50 years, dressed brightly in a blue gingham over-shirt with coordinating t-shirt and slacks. She wore flip flops and her toe nails were painted a plum color. Her hair was an ash blonde that tended more towards gray and there was a healthy plumpness to her cheeks that spoke of relative wealth and comfort. She looked like any of a hundred other suburban housewives. With her was an elderly woman who she addressed as mother and an elderly gentleman who either genuinely was hard of hearing or feigned it for his own sanity.

The family was already waiting when Officer B and I arrived. Despite our presence, Mrs. Gingham sat in a public waiting room, gossiping viciously about a young female relation – a niece as best I could figure- who was leaving for college.

“Her mother left. Didn’t I tell you?” Mrs. Gingham made some half-hearted attempt to whisper but she was obviously too excited.

“No, when did this happen?” Mother queried.

“Awhile ago. She went back to Georgia. I think that’s where she was from. Just packed up and went back to Georgia. Her mother had just been everything to her. I guess she got over it. She seems fine now. But her mother was just everything to her. She seems to have gotten over it.”

The husband was a lump of a man who Mrs. Gingham had never liked. “He would just grunt at you. I guess she had just had enough and went back to Georgia.”

Mother chimed in, “I couldn’t leave my children. Well, boys are one thing, but not girls. I couldn’t leave my girls.” (Boys are one thing?! Mothers have less affection for their sons?! Freud would be capering around his office on that one!)

“Anyway,” continues Mrs. Gingham, “She’s going to be living in the dorms. In these suites, more like suites than dorm rooms. They have their own kitchens. I don’t know how she’s affording it but that’s what she says she’s going to do. I guess her daddy is paying for it.”

The conversation detoured to how hard it must be to work in oncology (although I presume one of them was there to see the doctor). Mrs. Gingham revealed that she worked at a local hospital (the one I have had such bad experiences at) and how much she hated it, just hated it, when she had to work with the oncology patients. “I hate it, hate it, hate it.” (again, these people weren’t there on holiday so the vehemence of the comment seemed very odd.)

“So, anyway, she says she’s going to start out Pre-Med.”

“Oh! is she smart enough for that?” asks Mother.

“No! She’s not that smart! Not that I’ve seen any evidence of. But that’s what she says she wants to major in. I just told her, ‘Well, okay.’”

I think I visibly blanched at that last exchange. I don’t know if the poor girl is clever or not, but for her own flesh and blood to talk about her that way . . . as the saying goes: who needs enemies? It's sad really. An excited, hopeful teenager shared her plans with this woman and this is what was made of that trust.

My mind isn’t twisted enough to have created such a creature, but there you have, for all posterity, Mrs. Gingham.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lemons and Lemonade

Hullo all! Thank you for your warm wishes and sorry to have had to pop off without much notice last week. I am safe and cozy at home again and all too glad to have my books and puppies within easy reach. I returned home on Saturday evening and Wasabi has been at my side ever since. Gerrard would very much like to be but he gets the wiggles so bad that it is impossible for him to sit still for more than a few moments. He brings me lots of toys though.

I woke up the Friday before last and quickly discovered that I was not going to be going to work that morning. A chat with The Good Doctor and it was off to the hospital for tests and lots of lovely pharmaceuticals. Three cheers for pharmaceuticals! It is a rather convoluted story involving changing doctors (yay!), waiting for some very fancy researchers to perform some very fancy tests, but the short version is, whilst waiting, there was some tumor growth, subsequent discomfort, which led to chemo and all the normal protocol for dealing with such things. All that being said, I feel fine. It would be very difficult for me not to feel fine given the stuff I’m taking! :) I’m home and happy, under the care of an excellent physician, we have a plan and that is all I really care about.

Actually, this hospital stay had a lot of positive outcomes. I was at a better, nicer, (Read: I’m never going back to that other awful place again) hospital and under the care of some of the kindest people one could imagine. My previous hospital visits had resulted in a major psychological rift between me and the nursing profession. The mere mention of the word ‘nurse’ would dredge up anxiety to the point that I suffered nightmares. I wish I were joking but, for once, I’m being dread serious. This time was different. This time I had a bright, cheery room with a lovely view and I honestly believe that the nurses cared for me as well as they would have their own child. There were days that I honestly felt a bit spoiled.

And I got yet another demonstration of how fabulous my friends and family are. They never cease to amaze me with their generosity and compassion. Officer B and Daddy, always on the front line, holding my hand through the worst of it and moving heaven and earth to get me what I need – always steady and calm, despite their own fears. I’d be so lost without them. Liz, her sister Rebecca, and other lady friends arranged it so that someone stayed with me every night. It was such a comfort to have them there and I know I slept easier because of it. My poor sister had to manage another family crisis all by herself and did so with her usual quiet grace (You make me proud, kiddo!). And so many others who brought me books, and candy, and crosswords, and prayers, and good conversation, and maybe even a little work (against their better judgment) to keep my brain from atrophying. I could go on and on with hundreds of examples of the kindnesses shown me. No matter how you slice it, I am a very lucky and very loved girl!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Update on Mrs. Fox (Posted by a Friend)

Mrs. Fox is momentarily dealing with a few elephant related issues and will return as soon as possible. She's doing well. Yesterday she spent several minutes explaining to me the absolute calamity that is American journalism (whilst pointing her TV remote accusingly at CNN). Needless to say she is her normal spritely self.

Thanks for your well wishes, she greatly appreciates them and will return very soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Changing Flavors

This plant was labeled as a Chocolate Calla Lilly when I bought it two summer's ago and the flowers were a deep chocolate brown. This year they bloomed purple. I guess they had a change of heart.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My New Literary Boyfriend.

I have a confession to make. Since before our marriage my darling husband has had to tolerate my disloyalty. I have always had a coterie of literary boyfriends (fictional characters, and poets and authors long since departed from this earth) with whom my affections were shared. His only consolation was that none of them actually existed on the physical plain.

For years there was only one fictional detective who owned my heart and that man was the sharp dressed, witty and suave Archie Goodwin. For Archie I swoon. For Archie I pine. We met in Rex Stout's first Nero Wolfe mystery, Fer de Lance. From that moment on I was lost. Timothy Hutton played Archie to such perfection in the television series that now when I read the novels I can see Archie swaggering along the New York pavement, his hat at a jaunty angle.

But I met someone new. I met Sam Spade - Archie Goodwin's evil twin. Sam is a hard-drinking, viper-tongued, womanizing rogue - and I love him. I know I shouldn't. I can't help myself. Over the years I've seen empty shadows of the original character saunter across the screen, but all of them lacked the nuance and depth of Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled detective. None of them did justice to the original.

Archie, I'm so sorry. I never meant to treat you wrong. You'll always be my first and best detective love, but from now on you're going to have share the stage with Sam Spade.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farewell, Mr. Carlin

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for rogues and scoundrels. That's why I married one. This morning I learned that we lost one of our finest rogues, Mr. George Carlin.

For all his vulgarity, George was a smart man whose criticisms and satire were needed in a world where complacency is too prevalent.

Having my beliefs challenged might be uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. To paraphrase Socrates, the instant you think you know everything, you know nothing. George Carlin was the master of shaking up the status quo.

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'"

Farewell, Mr. Carlin, and thank you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Soapbox Friday: Why I Hate the Publishing Industry

I keep thinking about this and the more I think about it the angrier I get. A friend of mine recently posted some excerpts from her book on her blog, and amidst the praise and happiness, were a few voices tinged with caution. You’ll never get published,” they whispered, “Agents don’t like that.”

I know they mean well, but you know what? Agents can pack their bags with ice cubes and take a long vacation in Hell for all I care. I’m sick of the publishing industry. I’m sick of their games and their hoops and their snarky little rejection letters. I’ve got a secret for you: those who can’t write like to stick needles in the dreams of those who can.

Even when they reject your work there is an inexplicable compulsion to maintain it in some sort of unread, virginal purity on the off chance that some day – gush and gasp – they might publish it. I write because I love to. I will continue to write regardless of whether I ever earn a single dime. Doesn’t it seem stupid to leave those stories moldering on a shelf, unread and unloved, because allowing you to read it might ruin my chances of getting published, despite the fact that my chances of getting published are slim to none? I’d rather my stories be read.

The truth is computers and the Internet have changed publishing forever. They have changed publishing the way the printing press did back in 1440. You only have to look at cutting-edge authors like Cory Doctorow to get some idea of where things are heading. This future excites me and not because it increases the possibility that I might some day see my work in print. It excites me because it suggests a democratic revolution in publishing. Imagine a world where which books are translated into print isn’t decided by an elitist echelon of agents and editors sitting in their offices on Mt. Olympus but by you, the reading public.

Because folks, most of those agents and editors think you're stupid. They think you’re afraid of big words and big ideas. They think you want Bridget Jones and her ugly underwear. And some of you do, and that’s great, but that isn’t the end-all and be-all of literature. (What I would love to see is more strong, female characters who don't need men to validate their existence, or better yet, relationships built on mutual respect and friendship. I know, dream on.)

One of the chief delights of my life is meeting new people and learning their stories. There are some amazing stories out there and they deserve to be heard. I don’t think the folks currently deciding what it is we read have a bat’s clue where the light is. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent in the bookstore muttering, “Read it! . . . Seen it! . . . Wrote a paper on it! . . . Movie of the week! . . . Hamlet! . . . Cinderella! . . .” God forbid they give us something original, something fresh and thought-provoking. New might not sell, new is a risk, so stick to the stories that have been recycled over and over again because it’s safe and comforting. It’s comforting in the same way carbon-copy McDonald’s restaurants are comforting. After awhile though, all that grease and monotony makes Jack a dull boy.

So, to those brave souls who bare their hearts and souls to public scrutiny I offer my loudest applause. To those of you who read them, enjoy what they write, and tell them so, it is all the compensation anyone could ever want. And if you don’t like what they write, that’s great too! The right to have an opinion is one of the most precious there is. All I ask is that you keep reading.

Sheering Sheep or Fun with Double-Coated Dogs!

For those of you who have never had the evanescent pleasure of owning a Shiba Inu, or Siberian Husky, or any other Spitz breed of dog, allow me to share with you what has become a semi-annual event in our household for the past seven years - The Blowing of The Coat. I don't really like the expression "blowing coat," it sounds vaguely naughty, however "shedding" doesn't quite capture the full horror of the event.

For starters, you should know that the photos below document Sabi's 5th combing of the day. That's right 5th. If you peek down the stairs you can see the remnants of her 4th brushing. Anyone need a dog hair sweater?

See how patiently she perches on B's lap. All that hair is hot and itchy.

Oooo! More dog hair! We paid $30 for the comb B is using. It is called the Furminator, and if you have a double-coated dog you should run, not walk, and buy one. I cannot begin to tell you how many combs and brushes we have tried over the years and none of them work as well as this thing.

We own lots of lint rollers.

You will note that she still has tons of loose hair on her back legs. We could brush her likes this every day for two weeks and get enough hair off of her to make 3 new dogs!

Wasabi is a very pretty girl and we get lots of compliments on her. Shibas are still rare in the U.S. although in Japan they are as common as beagles are here. In fact, in Japan they are considered a national treasure (which should tell you something about the Japanese). They are strange little dogs and not for the first-time dog owner. What's worse is that they look like little teddy bears when they are puppies. It's worse because those little teddy bears quickly grow up into evil, little, strong-willed dogs who take up residence under your sofa and bite anyone who dares to reach under there. There is a site called The Misanthropic Shiba that does an excellent job of describing the breed.

I adore Sabi. She is the perfect dog for me and I will probably always have a Shiba, but I inevitably feel compelled to warn people about their quirks because so many get drawn in by that cute little face and aren't prepared for the attitude that comes with it. So anyway, if you like mountains of dog hair accumulating in and around your house, get a Shiba!

P.S. If you're wondering, Gerrard was enjoying a beer during all of this.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dog Day Afternoon

These are my dogs. They're weird.

Gerrard wanted his picture taken.

Wasabi doesn't like sharing the camera.

"We are not amused."

Gard makes a game of pushing the frisbee under the
deck furniture and then trying to get it back out.
Also, I need new deck furniture.

Sabi prefers to soak up the sun.
These two are the source of so many smiles. Gerrard is just about the happiest, most easy going creature I have ever known. He's a dude, and Wasabi has more attitude in her little paw than most people I know. They're my babies . . . even when they're bad.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reach Out & Amuse Someone

Message #1: "Darling, you know I love you, really I do, but things can't go on like this. I know you're out there keeping the streets of our fair city safe, but I'm more important than Crime or Justice, or any other ideals! - - Hello, dear. I was about to get in the shower and of course that's when you'll call me back, so I wanted you to have a nice melodramatic message to entertain you. I love you!"

Message #2:
"Hello, dearest, just a quick post script to my previous voice mail. When I mentioned ideals I meant Platonic Ideals, because crime isn't an ideal unless you're talking about Platonic Ideals - which I was. And when I say Platonic I don't mean 'friendly.' I mean that strange Greek fellow with all the odd ideas about caves. All right then, good bye."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

There is one word that comes to mind when I think of my dear dad - Civilized. I have never met anyone who sets people at ease so graciously, whose quirky sense of funny is warm rather than biting, and who rarely loses his temper - and even then there is something so dignified and righteous about his ire that you can't help but know that he's in the right. One of my clearest memories from childhood is an incident where I was in trouble. I had been trying to stall going to bed. "I need a drink of water . . . I need to use the bathroom . . . Did I tell you what happened today?" Mom had had enough and sent me on my way. I can't imagine what possessed me, but as I ascended the stairs I stuck my tongue out at her . . . and got caught. I was told to go to my room and wait. Daddy arrived, very serious. He sat next to me and began to explain why I was in trouble, that what I had done was disrespectful and that I would have to have a spanking. We both cried. Him because he didn't like to spank me, and me because I felt awful for having disappointed him. In retrospect, I have no memory of the spanking. I know I received one, but it wasn't what stuck in my mind. What I remember is his taking the time to explain to a small child what I had done wrong, and telling me how much he didn't like punishing me. It impressed upon me the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, but more importantly he showed me the respect and love that I was to try to model for the rest of my life. As a civilized man, my father is very private and so in a way I feel bad writing this, because I'm invading his privacy by sharing this with you. On the other hand, he's a great man, a noble man, and someone I hold in the highest regard. In any situation I measure my actions against what I think he would do. I think the world needs more men like my dad, and for those men who live their lives in quiet dignity, they should be applauded.

So, here's to my Daddy-O, to whom I owe so much, not the least of which is my warped sense of humor and my appreciation of Civility. I love you, Dad!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fabulous Friday: Nick & Nora!

Can you believe that I had never seen The Thin Man until last night?! Well, neither can I. It had been recommended to me several times, but it had never crossed my path until yesterday. Thank you TCM. William Powell and Myrna Loy were adorable. "I'll have five martinis. Line them up right here. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5." Indeed. Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Conversations With Royalty

Whilst shopping last evening . . .

Officer B: (to cashier) I guess you want me to pay for that.

Cashier: Afraid so . . . unless, you want to pass it off to her (nodding to me).

Office B: She didn’t bring a wallet. She never does.

Me: The Queen doesn’t carry cash.

Cashier: (laughing) I’m glad my wife didn’t hear that.

As we are leaving the store . . .

Officer B: You know, he’s not the first guy to say that to me.

Me: What exactly?

Officer B: That they’re glad their wives didn’t hear what you said. They all seem to be afraid you’re going to lead some sort of revolt. You know, “Down with men!”

Me: Nothing like that! I like to be treated well, but I’m not mean.

Office B: Huh?

Me: I don’t go home and shriek like a harpie. I don't want to crush you. I treat you well; I expect to be treated well in return. You have Mrs. Ogle to thank for that. She told me, “Treat your man like a king and he’ll treat you like a queen. If he doesn’t, you’ve got the wrong man.”

Officer B: I certainly don’t have any problem with that.

Me: I shouldn’t think you would.

Debts Past Due or Past Debts Due

This article made me smile. I'm not a huge Prince Charles fan. He strikes me as more of a farmer than a prince. Which is perfectly fine, it just isn't the glitter and sparkle that interests the little fox* that lives in my brain (* foxes like to collect/steal shiny things). Can you imagine paying a bill from the 1600's?!

Britain's Prince Charles pays off 17th-century family debt but declines to pay interest

AP News
Jun 11, 2008 11:51 EST

Prince Charles has paid off a royal debt from the 17th century, but showed modern-day fiscal prudence by declining to pay the accumulated interest, which would have been substantial after more than 350 years.

Charles made the payment of 453 pounds and 3 shillings — about $900 — during a visit Tuesday to Worcester with his wife, Camilla.

The debt was incurred in 1651 when King Charles II — at the time recognized only as the king of Scotland — was preparing for the Battle of Worcester.

He had asked the Clothiers Company of Worcester to prepare uniforms for his soldiers and pledged to pay afterward. But his forces were defeated and Charles fled to mainland Europe, leaving behind the unpaid bill.

Charles II never got around to paying it after he returned from exile in 1660 to claim his throne as king of England.

For the last 15 years, Worcester businessmen have tried to collect payment. Prince Charles decided to pay it as "a gesture of good will," according to a statement released by his office.

The prince handed the payment — enclosed in a 1650s-style gaming purse made by the Royal Shakespeare Company — to Andrew Grant, master of the Clothiers Company. Charles received a receipt for his payment after the brief ceremony at the Commandery, which served as the royal headquarters during the Battle of Worcester.

"We are very grateful to the Prince of Wales for repaying the debt to the Worcester Clothiers Company," Grant said.

The Clothiers Company, founded in the 13th century, is one the last of the medieval-era guilds still active in the area.

Prince Charles said he was happy to take care of the debt, but said he would not be paying the interest because "I was not born yesterday."

With interest, the bill would have exceeded 47,000 pounds ($94,000), according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Literarture, Art & the Aristocracy

So, here's the Pushkin post that got subverted by an animated hippo and a dancing dog. Somewhere the literary gods are shaking their heads in shame. I am not what you would call a fan of Russian literature, it's a bit gloomy for my taste. However, there is one novel that is an exception to that rule: Yvgeny Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. To say that I love this novel would be a gross understatement. I happen to have a few portraits of Pushkin and some of his progeny.

Natalia Gonchorova Nikolaevna Pushkina, wife of Alexander Pushkin

Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna deTorby, later Lady Zia Wernher,
daughter of the Countess of Merenburg, Grand-daughter of Pushkin.

And so my parting gift today is the final scene from Martha Fiennes brilliant cinematic version of Pushkin's novel, Onegin. To set the scene, Tatyana is a wild-eyed country girl who falls in love with Yvgeny, a young dandy who has inherited the nearby estate. He rejects her because she isn't sophisticated. Heartbroken, Tatyana moves to Moscow, debuts in society and marries into the aristocracy. Onegin and Tatyana meet again and he decides he wants her to be his mistress. Below is the final scene where she rejects him (Three cheers for strong women!). I can't help it, I love it when she asks him if she's noble enough for him now. When you think about when this novel was written, and that it was written by a man, it is pretty amazing that she doesn't swoon into Onegin's arms and surrender to his desires. And that, ladies and jellyspoons, is what makes me wish I had 5 minutes to ask Pushkin a few questions.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fabulous Friday: Happy Hippo

I had this whole Friday post put together about Alexander Pushkin and then I went to dinner with my dad last night and things took a turn for the silly (like they do).

This song, which is totally infectious, was playing in the restaurant and we were trying to figure out when it was first released. Dad said the 80's and I said the 60's. Turns out we were both wrong, it was first recorded in 1939. Anyway, I ran across this video and Pushkin got pushed aside.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I wish I had written that . . . continued

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think they will sing to me."

Hands down one of my favorite poems is T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There are numerous times during the year that I am moved to read it again and every time it speaks to the Me who identifies with Prufrock's fears and hopes and longing.

It's a longish poem so I won't torture you with the entire thing. Although, I will say that it is definitely a poem that can be read in portions and is worth the time. Here is one of my favorite stanzas.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

I wish I had written that.

*image: J.W. Waterhouse, The Mermaid