Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Movie Reviewlet: Antonia's Line

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes said, "There is nothing new under the sun." I've found this to be true in the realm of fiction as well, whether it be in books or films. Two or more authors might start with essentially the same plot or at least use the same plot point -- the real interest lies in what each does with it. (For instance, read Robertson Davies' Fifth Business and John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany).  I've come to notice this especially in films. For instance, there's the plot "Working Class People in Difficult Circumstances Find Redemption Through Art": The Full Monty, Billy Elliott, Greenfingers, Brassed Off are some examples. (True, in Greenfingers it's the art of gardening, but still).  Then there's "Simple Village Folk Outwit Outside Forces": Tight Little Island, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down A Mountain, Waking Ned Devine, for instance.  (Feel free to comment with more examples, I do enjoy this plot!)

Back in the dear, dead days when I belonged to a book club, I came to realize that, although we read quite widely, both contemporary fiction and classics, books written in English and translated from other languages, there was one theme that seemed to crop up over and over. It was the theme of people creating their own families in unorthodox ways.  I'm not sure why we liked these books so much, since we were all "family women" (no one says that -- it's always "family man" -- hmmm).  But there you go. The book with this theme that stands out for me is Keri Hulme's The Bone People, but I know there were many more.  Last night I watched a DVD of Antonia's Line, a Dutch movie which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film 10+ years ago. It had the same theme: the formation of a family by several mostly-unrelated people, all of whom are also marginalized in some way, but end up supporting each other in the same way that families do.

Antonia (the movie is just called Antonia in Dutch; I wonder if the title was changed in English to avoid confusion with Willa Cather's book?) returns to her native village in the Netherlands shortly after World War II, daughter (who doesn't look completely Dutch) in tow, just in time to witness her mother's death. Antonia and daughter take over the farm, and Antonia renews her friendship with Crooked Finger, a student of existential philosophy who has become a bit of a recluse, never leaving his home.  They also strike up a friendship with a local, widowed farmer who "has only been in the village 20 years" and so doesn't quite fit in. Further events transpire, not all pleasant, and the group of people around Antonia grows and grows. I won't continue describing the plot, but I will say that without knowing very much about the Netherlands, I felt this film was probably very Dutch in its assumptions and sensibilities.  I would definitely recommend it. I'd be interested to hear what you think if you see it! (As with nearly every movie I see these days, it's available on DVD from Netflix and probably, since it won an Oscar, most video rental services/stores).

Internet Fun: I'm Origen!

You’re Origen!

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

I have to say that the questions were difficult, and thank goodness I'm not a guy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Big Surprise....

As usual with this type of quiz, there's a lot of "Yes, but...."  I've actually thought of myself (in idealized form) as more of a Katharine Hepburn, but that's because my mother was a Katharine Hepburn type (that's why my parents' favorite movie was The African Queen). 

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are an Audrey!


You are an Audrey -- "I am at peace"

Audreys are receptive, good-natured, and supportive. They seek union with others and the world around them.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * If you want me to do something, how you ask is important. I especially don't like expectations or pressure

  • * I like to listen and to be of service, but don't take advantage of this

  • * Listen until I finish speaking, even though I meander a bit  This is certainly true!

  • * Give me time to finish things and make decisions. It's OK to nudge me gently and nonjudgmentally

  • * Ask me questions to help me get clear

  • * Tell me when you like how I look. I'm not averse to flattery

  • * Hug me, show physical affection. It opens me up to my feelings

  • * I like a good discussion but not a confrontation

  • * Let me know you like what I've done or said

  • * Laugh with me and share in my enjoyment of life

What I Like About Being an Audrey

  • * being nonjudgmental and accepting

  • * caring for and being concerned about others

  • * being able to relax and have a good time

  • * knowing that most people enjoy my company; I'm easy to be around

  • * my ability to see many different sides of an issue and to be a good mediator and facilitator

  • * my heightened awareness of sensations, aesthetics, and the here and now

  • * being able to go with the flow and feel one with the universe

What's Hard About Being an Audrey

  • * being judged and misunderstood for being placid and/or indecisive

  • * being critical of myself for lacking initiative and discipline  So true!

  • * being too sensitive to criticism; taking every raised eyebrow and twitch of the mouth personally  Not so much in my later years

  • * being confused about what I really want

  • * caring too much about what others will think of me  Again, this has gone with age. Thank goodness!

  • * not being listened to or taken seriously  I don't recall this being a big problem, and I think Audrey was taken quite seriously in later life in her work with UNICEF.

Audreys as Children Often

  • * feel ignored and that their wants, opinions, and feelings are unimportant  Don't recall feeling this way.

  • * tune out a lot, especially when others argue  This would probably be true of any kid with four younger siblings!

  • * are "good" children: deny anger or keep it to themselves

Audreys as Parents

  • * are supportive, kind, and warm

  • * are sometimes overly permissive or nondirective  Maybe so, I got better kids than I deserved!

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Monday, October 27, 2008

Random Thoughts and Events

  • Rusty is in big, big trouble. This morning he broke a window! He has a bad habit of scrabbling at the windows when he sees a squirrel or cat outside, but up till now this has only resulted in more frequent window cleaning. But, this morning a neighborhood tabby was on our garage roof, which is just under our bedroom window. Rusty was standing on the bed, barking at the cat, and reaching over to attempt to get it through the window. Then I heard the tell-tale sound of breaking glass. Bad dog! Onkel Hankie Pants reports that the window (like the rest of the house) is both new enough and old enough to cause problems in replacing the glass; it won't be easy to get the window out without wrecking it, so we will be looking for someone who can come over and replace the glass in situ. Otherwise I guess it will be cardboard and a 3M plastic shrinkwrap for us.
  • I never cease to be amazed by the wonderful entertainment available on the Internet. (And I'm not talking about the political news, although some of it is pretty entertaining). Lately I've been enjoying listening to Neil Gaiman read his new young people's book, The Graveyard Book.  If you go to , you can hear it too -- in its entirety, one chapter at a time.  I highly recommend it to young persons and older ones alike. Gaiman has a great sense of humor as well as a genius for spookiness.  Hallowe'en fun!
  • Mystery readers everywhere are saddened to learn that Tony Hillerman, author of the Leaphorn and Chee mysteries set in Navaho country, has died at age 83. I recently re-read Dance Hall of the Dead, which won him the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and enjoyed it as much or more than the first time.
  • We had a bean supper at church on Saturday, and I signed up to bring potato salad. We were out of eggs, and I didn't want to experiment, so mine was the plainest potato salad imaginable -- the basic recipe from Joy of Cooking except that I omitted the parsley, used cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar (another thing we're out of), and sprinkled some paprika on top.  I feared we'd be bringing home leftovers and eating potato salad for a week. But when we finished our supper, my bowl was already empty and washed! Sometimes plain is good.  
  • Casting my mind back, back, back, to high school U.S. History class, I believe that initiative, referendum and recall had something to do with the Progressive movement. How odd, then, that Minnesota doesn't have those options, and Maine does. Hence, we have been faced with two or three ballot questions each time we've voted here. Actually, there's usually at least one that's a state bond issue -- this time it has to do with clean water. But we also have a referendum and an initiative. The referendum has to do with a tax the Legislature passed to fund Dirigo Health(Maine's baby step toward universal health care). It's on soda pop, beer, wine, vitamin waters and juice drinks, bottled iced tea and no doubt, bottled Frappuccinos.  So, there is a heavily funded campaign against it called Fed Up with Taxes! bankrolled by the beverage industry. I was already leaning toward voting No (a No vote lets the law stand as it is), but what pushed me over the edge was the sight of the Coors beer truck with a big "Fed Up with Taxes! Yes on 1!" sticker on it. Somehow I doubt that Coors has my best interests at heart. For the amount of pop we drink in a year, an additional 11 cents for a two-liter bottle isn't going to break us.
  • The initiative is for a casino in Oxford County, to the west of us in a part of Maine where the promise of jobs will get people to vote for just about anything. I'm not a big fan of gambling (I can waste money just fine without it, thanks), but if it's going to be here, I'd rather see the Indian tribes running it. Instead, although the initiative started with a young local businessman, the proposed casino development would now be run from Las Vegas. Even its proponents admit that the proposal as written is deeply flawed, and one of its flaws is that it enjoins no further casinos be built in the state for 10 years.  It's going to be No on 2 as well.
  • I feel for Cordeliaknits and other Californians. They have 12 Propositions to vote on! Two of them, the referendum on same-sex marriage and the initiative against inhumane practices of factory farming (profiled in this week's New York Times Magazine) have received a lot of publicity, the other 10, not so much. 
  • We've had one political call today (in support of Question 1, noted above, and I'd be surprised if the call wasn't made from out-of-state) and one which asked for me by name and encouraged me to vote, without mentioning any candidate, question or party.
  • We've had more political surveys taken from us over the phone this year than in any year that I can remember. Is it because we live in a less-populated state now, or because we still cling to our landline? And we're not even considered a swing state, although the McCain-Palin campaign has made a bit of a push in northern Maine since we don't have a winner-take-all electoral vote and they could possibly pick up one vote there.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Five: Location, Location, Location

Singing Owl over at RevGalBlogPals has this to say this week:

"My daughter, her husband, and their toddler, Trinity Ann, are moving from Minneapolis, Minnesota to our place. It's a long story, but the short version is that they will be loading a Ryder truck on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon we will unload it into a storage unit in our town. They will move themselves, their two cats and their BIG dog into our place. Yes, there will be issues, but this Friday Five isn't really about that. (Prayers for jobs for them and patience for all of us are most welcome, however.) This post is about locations. My husband has lived at 64 addresses in his life so far (16 with me) and he suggested the topic since we have moving trucks on our minds.
Therefore, tell us about the five favorite places you have lived in your lifetime. What did you like? What kind of place was it? Anything special happen there?"  (People who haven't lived in so many places can do fantasies; but that wouldn't be me.)

1. Brunswick, Maine: that's where I live now.  I haven't moved as often as Singing Owl's husband, but I've moved a good many times, so I'm fairly adaptable.  But I have waited a long time to get back to Maine, and I'm very happy to be here. I like that it's a small town (21.000) with a fairly cosmopolitan atmosphere because of the Naval Air Station (due to close in a couple of years) and Bowdoin College (been here since 1798 and set to stay another 200 years at least). Without even leaving the town limits you can be in a rural area, see Casco Bay and the Androscoggin River, yet also see movies both mainstream and independent, art galleries galore, and lots more. My house is within walking distance of our wonderful library, which readily acquires for me anything they don't already have on their shelves. Bowdoin has numerous cultural events that are free to the public. I could go on and on, and probably should to improve the housing market here, but I won't. By the way, the winters aren't that bad at all.

2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: I understand that Maine comes high on the list for good places to raise children, but for us, Minneapolis was a great place, and I think the kids would agree (two of them still live there and one would be pleased to get back, Minneapolis churches please copy).  Big enough to have a lot of city amenities but small enough so that the middle class has not left the city entirely; incredible cultural opportunities; and we belonged to a wonderful small church there. Of course the most important things that happened there were the births of our two daughters. (Our son was born in a small town in southern Minnesota, and I actually enjoyed the three years we lived there, too, but if I'm going to keep this list down to 5 I'll have to leave it out).

3.  Monterey Peninsula, California: I sort of think everyone should have the opportunity to live in California for a year or two, especially sometime in their 20s.  The really important thing that happened while I was there was that I met Onkel Hankie Pants. This happened toward the end of my stay, though, and I was enjoying life there even before that. Lots of natural beauty, weather that I thought was just fine although classmates from San Diego thought they were somewhere near the Polar Ice Cap, and again, a lot of cultural activities. Plus, since I was there under the auspices of the U. S. Army, I didn't have to worry too much about money, which was good, since I wasn't making much -- but it was enough.

4. Fairfield, Connecticut: When I was in eighth grade, and we were living in a cramped, rented duplex in Milford, Connecticut, my father came home with the news that we were moving a few miles away to Fairfield. A planned Nike missile site in Westport had been scrapped, and the housing that had been built in Fairfield for the Nike folks was going spare. So the military rounded up all the recruiters, National Guard advisers, etc. in the surrounding area and offered them three-bedroom ramblers in a town with an excellent school district in exchange for their housing allowances. We moved in November.  The house and school district were all that was promised, and besides that, I quickly made friends for life -- the same ones I get together with in South Carolina each spring.  I can't even recount all the new experiences and horizon-broadenings I had courtesy of my friends and their families -- my first live theater performance, my introduction to Nero Wolfe, and oh yes -- my first taste of Yoo-Hoo! I also had several of the best teachers of my educational career.  I was very fortunate; I don't think any of us could afford to live in Fairfield now. I'm glad I was there when I was.

5. Bowdoinham, Maine: My hometown, and only a few miles from where I live now. I'm thinking of a couple of specific times as well as  a place, because we lived there at various times during my father's Army career and then full-time after his retirement, but since I was a senior in high school when we moved back, my best and best-remembered experiences there were in the winter and spring of 1966 and the summer of 1968. The house my parents had built when I was small was still pretty basic when we moved back there; in fact we still had an outdoor privy that first winter (brr!)  But the chance for frequent visits with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and especially the nearness of my maternal grandparents in the next house down the road, made up for any small hardships.  Also, Brother #1 and I attended the same school for the first time in a while, and our walks to and from the school bus (a mile and a half each way! up and down hill! in the snow!) were a lot of fun and cemented our relationship forever. By the way, Bowdoinham is featured in the current issue of Down East, the Magazine of Maine, and there is a picture of Uncle Nepco and his morning coffee pals in the article! (Only in the print version, though. But lots of newsstands have it, and some libraries).

I've lived in other places, too. Wiesbaden, Stuttgart, and Berlin, Germany; Sandy Hook, New Jersey; Townsend, Georgia; El Paso, Texas; somewhere in the vicinity of Fort Sill, OK; and others mentioned above. I actually liked all of them quite well. I'm just adaptable.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Joy in Mudville

Well, I guess I'll have to be rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. I don't normally follow baseball, but of late when the Red Sox have been in the Series, I've taken an interest. So, now that the Tampa Bay team has beaten the Sox (though it took the full seven games to do it), I'll be rooting for the Northeast team, though my only connection to Philadelphia is that it was the hometown of my freshman year college roommate.

Looking up the history of the Phillies team, I found that interestingly, it started out as a Massachusetts franchise! Yes, in 1883, the Worcester Ruby Legs were disbanded and started up again in Philadelphia.  It's probably just as well, as it might have confused sportswriters and readers to have the Red Sox and the Ruby Legs within 45 miles of each other.

Did you think the intersection of pro sports and evangelical religion was something new? Not so. Billy Sunday played for the Phillies for a while before taking his own brand of muscular Christianity on the sawdust trail.

And one of the Phillies' pitchers, Dan Casey, claimed till the end of his days to be the subject of this famous baseball poem; if so, perhaps the incident was the impetus for the designated hitter rule.

In honor of the Phillies and the Devil Rays, as well as all the teams who didn't quite make it, some classic baseball songs:

THE classic baseball song, written by Jack Norworth (lyrics) and Albert Von Tilzer, and celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Makes me want a box of CrackerJack!

Onkel Hankie Pants was in a production of Ragtime (a musical based on E. L. Doctorow's novel) a couple of years ago, and he got to participate in this number, which contrasts the expectations of what a baseball game should be from the viewpoints of a well-to-do Ivy League graduate and a group of working-class immigrants.

For one brief moment this fall, it looked as if there were a chance for -- what would you call it? an El series? -- between the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs last won the Series 100 years ago, and last played in it in 1945.  The White Sox won in 2005, only their second appearance in the Series since the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919. Well, it was not to be. In honor of the Cubs, here's the late Steve Goodman singing about them.

One of the great baseball songs could not be found on YouTube. You might want to invest 99 cents in it yourself -- Tom Paxton's "My Favorite Spring." Spring will come, and if your team was in the cellar this year -- wait till next year!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Five: Coin Toss Edition

Songbird at RevGalBlog Pals posts:

Well, Gals and Pals, this weekend we'll be rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and that has me thinking about coinage.
(Songbird lives in the same state and country I do, and I'm not quite sure what she means by this. Oh wait -- self-employed clergy paying quarterly income tax, perhaps?)

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person?
I can't recall. I'm sure I've done it in the past; and it has been reported to have been done before the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates, but they didn't show it happening. The closest I can come is the Scrabble challenge we entered a couple of weeks ago, when we drew letters to see who would play first. Since the Challenge pits two teams against each other over each board, a coin toss would have worked equally well, but in games with more than two players or teams per board, the traditional letter draw is the better solution.

2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from?
If we look hard enough we would probably find a Canadian coin, and I know there used to be some pfennigs. I think Onkel Hankie Pants gave away the Iraqi money and possibly Euros that he brought back from his sojourn in Baghdad and Amsterdam a few years ago. I did unearth a box recently, probably one that belonged to my late father-in-law, with several old silver dollars, Kennedy halfs, and an old quarter and nickel. They were all US coinage though.

3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place? 
I have not always been respectful of pennies. But Teddy Gross is. Here's an article about how he tries to help charity through penny collecting. Teddy (or Theodore as he is now known) was my co-editor on our college newspaper many years ago. We had many artistic differences (he was more the artistic type and I was more for straight journalism) but it's nice to see that he carries on the finest traditions of A Host at Last University as well as continuing his creative work.

4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.)
I got a dime. A dime was a lot in those days; it bought two candy bars, for example (which probably didn't do the new tooth any good!)  My children may have clearer memories than I, but I think we probably started out with quarters and ended up with a dollar bill. The last candy bar I bought cost about $2.50, then again it was one of those Endangered Species, organic fair trade chocolate ones; but I rather think even one of the traditional ones costs about 69 cents now.

5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it?
Not that I know of.  We certainly took note of them and were mildly excited when our two states' quarters came out. But we're more stamp collectors in our house. We did get a solicitation in the mail for a state quarter collection that included some sort of philatelic tie-in, but were too frugal to bite on it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Curse of Nikki's Coffee Mugs??

Perhaps you've heard of the "Curse of the State Quarters." I'm beginning to think there may be a curse connected with my collection of coffee mugs!  Here's what's happened:
I have a red mug that says "Murder Ink" on it, from a visit several years ago to this fine mystery bookshop in New York City. Alas, the store has since closed.
I have a black mug with a picture of Brunswick High School (the one I graduated from). The school building was replaced in 1995 and, as I mentioned recently, is scheduled for demolition in February of 2009.
And I have a red mug that says "Morning Show Blend" on it. Today, it was announced that the beloved 25-year-old program on Minnesota Public Radio will be going off the air when Jim Ed Poole (aka Tom Keith) retires and Dale Connelly moves on to "developing programming".  For several years now it's been broadcast on "The Current" (Minnesota Public Radio has beaucoup bucks and, in the Twin Cities area, three stations -- one for news, one for classical music, and one for contemporary music) and so will be replaced by more of the station's usual programming.
Onkel Hankie Pants will have to find something else to listen to when he goes up to his computer in the morning, and so will a lot of other people, and it won't be easy to find anything like the Morning Show.
We have been listening to it for pretty much its whole run, back to the days when Garrison Keillor was the DJ and Tom Keith the sound engineer who also did sound effects.  (This was before Garrison was famous, except locally).  The eclectic blend of music played introduced me to so many songs and singers who are now favorites, and the skits brought an often much-needed tinge of hilarity to mornings getting ready for work or kids to school. Both the older children have had songs played on the program to celebrate their birthdays. I can't remember what song was played for SonShineIn, but I do remember that we were amazed by the coincidence that they dedicated it also to his much-older cousin Axel who was setting off for a trip to China and shared his birthday! Cordeliaknits had a favorite doll she called "Doodoo Baby." Not for the reason you think, but because it had a pull-chain in its back and when you pulled it the doll played Brahms' Lullaby. (Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo....) So we requested Brahms' Lullaby for her birthday when she was about 4 and they found a version played by a silver cornet band.  
The Morning Show was mostly responsible for the fact that, when we left Minnesota, we were giving a large (for us) amount to MPR each year. They had started issuing CDs with the theme "Keepers" which were used as membership premiums.  Every time they came out with a new one I would fall for the "if you increase your membership level" pitch.  If you ever see one of these CDs in a yard sale or thrift shop, snap it up.  (There are several titles, but they all have a fishing bobber on the cover). You will find anything from "With 'Er 'Ead Tucked Underneath 'Er Arm" to "Easter Island Head" to "A Cuppa Coffee the Size of My Head," and lots more besides.
I know Tom Keith is a little older than I am, and I can't begrudge him not wanting to keep getting up so early in the morning. But something wonderful has gone, and it seems that too much of that is happening.
So, First Parish Church, the United Church of Christ, Hamline University School of Law, the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, and several Minnesota State Parks -- watch your backs, just in case. I wouldn't want to lose any of you, just because I happen to have you on a coffee mug.