Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Halloween Poem from Goethe

Last Halloween I expressed my views on why Halloween is good, clean fun and not Satanic. Instead of repeating myself this year, I'd like to share a scary poem that scared me half to death as a kid:

The Erl-King by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

I read that in elementary school, sometime between 2nd grade (age 7) and 5th grade (age 10) in a textbook and was haunted by it for many years. He's not just the Erl (elf) King, he's the Boogeyman! Who would put such a scary poem in an elementary schoolbook? (Someone who hates children, I'm sure.) Think about how horrifying it is from a kid's point of view: only the kid can see the Erl-King/Boogeyman and he kills the kid at the end! What a ghost story!

I hope you enjoy this scary little poem.

Have fun, safe, and happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lake Wobegon Days

Last night I saw Garrison Keillor's one-man show, Lake Wobegon Days, at the Whiting Auditorium in Flint. It was a wonderful show and I laughed until I cried. We had great seats: Row C in the orchestra section -- we were so close we could almost touch the stage but didn't break our necks like the people in the first two rows.

Keillor was dressed as I've often seen him (when his radio show is broadcast on TV): dark suit, white shirt, red tie, and red tennis shoes. Like this picture, except you can't see his shoes. :)

Keillor told several stories about the fictional Lake Wobegon and its Minnesotan Lutheran inhabitants. He started out with a story about baseball (in honor of the Tigers in the World Series), then told a story about his funny aunt who lived life to its fullest in her last years, and ended with a hysterically funny story that tied all these things together, along with other elements (including Bruno the fishing dog, 24 Lutheran ministers on a sinking pontoon boat, and a naked parasailing guy). I was especially impressed with the last story because it was so complex and funny and, despite those elements I'd heard before, fresh and entertaining. I love the way he can tell such a complex story without losing track of all the components and he always ties them together in the end, even things the audience has forgotten about.

All together the show lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and he got a standing ovation. He came out, bowed, and asked everyone to remain standing so we could do something we seldom get to do: sing our National Anthem. Around July 4th this year he wrote an article saying anyone could sing the National Anthem if it was in the key of G. He was right! What a nice way to end the evening.

If you've never heard
his radio show, visit A Prairie Home Companion's Official Web Site and scroll to bottom for the Complete Show Archive link. I'm disappointed that he doesn't do a free podcast of the weekly News from Lake Wobegon, but at least the archived shows on the web site are free (and you get the whole show).

Special thanks to SK for selling me her extra ticket to this fabulous show. You made my week!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jesse the Hero

Today on CNN: Dog saves owner from fire, dies trying to rescue cat. I was touched by the sad story of this brave dog and feel very sorry for owner who survived but lost both pets. Extra hugs for my kitties today!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Like Father, Like Daughter

In the news today: Bindi Irwin gets own wildlife show. I admire the Irwins for going on with the show under such sad circumstances.

On a related note from a Sept. 27, 2006 interview: Widow: 'Croc Hunter' thought he'd die young. She thought he'd fall out of a tree, he thought it would be a car wreck. (I -- and probably the rest of the world -- figured it would be a crocodile or a great big snake.) Neither of them dreamed it would be a Stingray. It still really bothers me that he died from something so stupidly rare and not usually fatal. How tragic.

UPDATE: Oct. 19. A Florida man survived stingray stab in the chest because he didn't try to pull it out. I can only imagine how awful this must make Steve Irwin's family feel. You can't help but wonder "what if...?".

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teaching Kids to Fight Back

Yesterday on CNN.com: Students taught to fight armed classroom invaders.

What the hell took so long?

I can't help but wonder if Columbine and other school massacres could have been avoided if students had fought back. Since 9/11/01 I've wondered if I would have been as brave as the passengers on Flight 93 who fought back. One thing I do know: if you are going to die anyway, you might as well try. At the very least you go down fighting, but if you are successful you can stop a tragedy in its tracks.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pumpkin Festival in the Snow

This weekend is Davison's Pumpkin Festival. I think it will be the first time we had snow at Pumpkin Fest! I doubt it will make a difference. Like the Festival of Flags, Homecoming, and the Santa Claus parade, attendance is always good despite the weather. Visit the City of Davison web site for a complete list of activities. (It's a nice web site! Much more info than the Chamber of Commerce.)

Now that we have a nice walking trail in the park, I'm surprised the Pumpkin Fest does not include a haunted trail walk. Maybe that's because all the other activities are downtown. I wouldn't be surprised if the Pumpkin Fest expanded some day and included activities all over town (like the Festival of Flags).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

October Snow

We have it all today in mid-Michigan: near peak fall color, a freeze warning (for those of us looking forward to the end of ragweed), and snow. Yes, snow. It's unusual to get snow this early in this part of the state but in the upper Great Lakes they were getting a winter storm with 6-10 inches of snow, so our bit of snow is mild by comparison.

I tried to get a picture this moring but it didn't work. How can the snow not show up in a photo when the air is full of it? And it was full of snow -- we had white-out conditions several times today.

It's weird weather but I welcome winter. I caught myself humming "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and smiling at the beautiful snow. It's so much better than dreary rain!

Monday, October 09, 2006


How much e-junk do you get? I have pretty good spam filters for my home and work e-mail accounts, so I'm not referring to ads for Viagra and the like. Today, after nearly missing an e-mail from my niece in a sea of junk, I unsubscribed from twelve (yes, twelve!) e-newsletters, sale bulletins, etc.

I knew I got a lot of crap but I didn't realize how much until I started unsubscribing. What's really scary is that although I unsubscribed from twelve e-newsletter and sale annoucements, I did keep about ten that I acutally want to receive (Land's End, Yankee Candle, etc.). I kept the ones that are sent only occassionally.

It will be interesting to see how much less junk I get now!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Landmark

This is the newly-dedicated sulpture that celebrates our campus' 50th anniversary. Here's what it means, according to the official blurb:

"An outdoor sculpture commissioned by the Ruth Mott Foundation and the UM-Flint Alumni Society, and created through a partnership of local artists and community members, is part of the University's 50th anniversary celebration. The sculpture is designed to look like a large fingerprint from a distance-representing something unique to each person, regardless of race, creed, age or gender. Closer examination reveals that the work comprises cast porcelain pieces depicting the faces, quotes and signatures of historical and contemporary social reformers and civic icons. (Photo by Mel Serow, U-M-Flint)" More photos.

I intend no disrespect, but apparently modern art is lost on me. I thought it was just a big fingerprint behind some steps. I had no clue (until told) what it represents. What is the half-circle incomplete? What do the steps represent and where do they go? I can see how steps might represent the future, but I'm still wondering about that incomplete half-circle. (That will drive the engineer-types crazy!)

As a mystery-lover, I like the big fingerprint, but it reminds me of something and I can't figure out where I've seen it before. Hopefully, I'll remember eventually. In the meantime, since it's conveniently located between the theatre and the library, I'll have stop by and look for the porcelain bits in the fingerprint. Maybe that will help me figure out what it reminds me of, or at least give me a better idea about the meaning of the overall statue.

I suspect the real purpose of this thing is to give the students a place to lounge in the sun.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lost is Back!

Season 3 of Lost started with a bang last night. They did a good job of answering a few questions while raising many more. If they can maintain this quality all season, Season 3 will be the best yet.

I'm glad they are not doing lots of re-runs and clip shows this season. They are trying something new: a late start (Oct. 4), 6 weeks of new episodes, a holiday hiatus, then (in Jan.) nothing but new episodes every week. Woo hoo!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Meerkat Manor Season 2

It may come as a surprise to those who know I can't watch or read anything where animals die (like March of the Penguins or Eight Below), but I'm hooked on Meerkat Manor. It's the story -- real life and death events -- of the Whiskers Meerkat family in the Kalahari Desert on Animal Planet every Friday night a 8:00 p.m.

Cambridge University biologists have spent 10 years studying the Meerkats and the critters are acclimated to humans, allowing humans to film them inside and outside their burrows, weight them, water them, etc.

Of course, to make it easier for viewers to keep track of the Meerkats, the biologists have given them all names. Like other animals, each Meerkat has a distinct personality and they have a complex society. (I never realized how complex!) Viewers get to watch them hunt, have pups, grow up, and have wars with rival families. Yes, that includes tragic and/or untimely deaths but we never actually see them die or see the bodies (except for one poor pup). We care about the Whiskers but we also see how tough life is for them and how hard they have to work to survive.

At the end of Season 1 we were left wondering about the fate of courageous little Shakespeare, who single-handedly defended his family's pups against a raid by a rival Meerkat family. Shakespeare is a tough little guy. He survived two bites from puff adder (enough poison to kill a human) and he only weighs two pounds! He survived and was one of the Whiskers' best fighters, but also a compassionate babysitter who took good care of the pups.

We were also left to wonder about the fate of Tosca, the rebellious female who was cast out of the family after having pups without the permission of Flower (Tosca's mom and the alpha female). The family was too big, so Tosca had to go. Tosca's odds of surviving on her own are slim, as are her odds of being accepted back into the family, so if she doesn't start her own family or get accepted by another tribe she will die.

SPOILER ALERT. If you don't want to know the fates of Shakespeare and Tosca, stop reading now.

I was looking forward to Season 2, but was very disappointed to learn that Shakespeare was never seen again after defending the pups (who survived unharmed). Unfortunately, Tosca wasn't seen again after the winter, so she presumably died. Poor little Shakespeare and Tosca! The good news is: 1. we didn't actually see them die or see any bodies, and 2. although the narrator said Tosca is probably dead, he didn't actually use that word to describe Shakespeare. Although it's implied that he is dead, there is still hope. He's a tough little guy and I still hope he somehow made it!

The US Meerkat Manor site and the UK Meerkat Manor site have lots of info about meerkats and the Cambridge study. They even need volunteers -- if you can commit to a year in the desert. I'd love to volunteer (if they had very short stints) but I'd be horrible at it. Instead of objectively studying the Meerkats, I'd try to save them all from predators, prevent rival families from fighting, and feed them all. If I lived closer to the Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center, Inc. in California I'd adopt a Meerkat so I could visit my furry little friend nose-to-nose. :)

UPDATE Oct. 7: I may not be able to watch Meerkat Manor any more. I'm still upset about Shakespeare and Tosca and this week we saw a baby from the Lazuli family killed by the Commando family. Poor little Bubble was carried away, crying for help, then the Commandos descended on her and killed her.

I'm also worried about Mozart. She's Flower's oldest daughter (and an altruistic and loving sister and babysitter) who may get kicked out of the family to fend for herself and probably die, just like her sister Tosca. Why? Because Flower is pregnant and cranky, food is in short supple in the winter, and Mozart has just mated with a roving male from another family.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is worried and waiting to see what will happen next. Go to Google News and search for Meerkat Manor to see a surprising amount of news coverage. This real life-and-death soap is an unexpected hit for Animal Planet.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

TC in the Fall

My husband and I spent the weekend enjoying Traverse City. It's one of our favorite Michigan vacation spots: close to home but a good place to get away from it all. There's a wonderful bookstore, lots of fabulous restaurants, and great shopping. We like to stay at the Pointes North Inn so we are right on east bay. Just watching the water is relaxing and the view is wonderful. This is a good time to visit: they have a lot more fall color than we do in southeast Michigan (although the colors are not yet at their peak).

On the way home we decided to drive over to Sleeping Bear Dunes and follow the lake shore south before turning east to head across the state. It's a beautiful drive with lots of scenic views of Lake Michigan. The National Park Service and the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau have tons of info about it on their web sites. We didn't see the actual Sleeping Bear, but the other dunes are beautiful and interesting. We stopped at several of the scenic views and the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

Now that my husband is teaching Michigan History at Baker College (Flint campus) we are trying to visit more historical sites. We'd like to visit Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island soon, and eventually do the lighthouse tour. I grew up in Michigan and spent a lot of time up north, but much of "up north" is new to my husband. I found state sites that have lots of good travel info to help us find places to visit: State of Michigan Travel and Recreation and Michigan's Economic Development and Travel Site.