Saturday, August 30, 2008
The second floor of French Hall looks quite different since the Big Remodeling.
Here's what the Foreign Language hall looked like in Feb. (photo courtesy of my colleague Fred):
And here's what it looks like now:
Here's the English Department hall looked like in Feb. (photo courtesy of my colleague Fred):
And here's what it looks like now:
Quite a difference, eh? The change from green wallpaper in the halls and light tan paint in the office to bright white paint everywhere has made a huge difference in the amount of light reflected. It's so bright!
I'll be glad when the computer access is fixed so I don't have to leave my department to use my laptop!
Friday, August 22, 2008
One review I read said that Ray's stories create vivid images or moods that stay with readers for years. That's it exactly. I know what it's like to be a boy growing up in the 1920s, to sneak out my window to see the carnival train arrive in town, to discover the supernatural at a carnival, to walk on Mars, to dream of rockets, to meet dinosaurs, to float in space, to fear that mysterious ravine that runs through town or the trapdoor to the attic that wasn't there yesterday, to taste dandelion wine, to love Halloween, to fear a future with no books, and oh so many more wonderful, frightening, and amazing things because I've read Ray.
One of my favorite stories is how Ray's life changed forever when, at age 12, he became a writer after a strange encounter with a carnival (which he later incorporated into Something Wicked This Way Comes). He describes the encounter on his web site in In His Words:
I've also pasted the essay here.
At the end of my last web-site talk I promised to tell you about how I happened to fall into becoming a writer.
Some of it was gradual, and part of it was accidental.
Back when I was twelve years old I was madly in love with L. Frank Baum and the Oz books, along with the novels of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and especially the Tarzan books and the John Carter, Warlord of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I began to think about becoming a writer at that time.
Simultaneously I saw Blackstone the Magician on stage and thought, what a wonderful life it would be if I could grow up and become a magician.
In many ways that is exactly what I did.
It was an encounter with another magician that changed my life forever.
During the Labor Day week of 1932 a favorite uncle of mine died; his funeral was held on the Labor Day Saturday. If he hadn't died that week, my life might not have changed because, returning from his funeral at noon on that Saturday, I saw carnival tent down by Lake Michigan. I knew that down there, by the lake, in his special tent, was a magician named Mr. Electrico.
Mr. Electrico was a fantastic creator of marvels. He sat in his electric chair every night and was electrocuted in front of all the people, young and old, of Waukegan, Illinois. When the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, "Live forever!"
I thought that was a wonderful idea, but how did you do it?
The next day, being driven home by my father, fresh from the funeral, I looked down at those carnival tents and thought to myself, "The answer is there. He said 'Live forever,' and I must go find out how to do that." I told my father to stop the car. He didn't want to, but I insisted. He stopped the car and let me out, furious with me for not returning home to partake in the wake being held for my uncle. With the car gone, and my father in a rage, I ran down the hill. What was I doing? I was running away from death, running toward life.
When I reached the carnival grounds, by God, sitting there, almost as if he were waiting for me, was Mr. Electrico. I grew, suddenly, very shy. I couldn't possibly ask, How do you live forever? But luckily I had a magic trick in my pocket. I pulled it out, held it toward Mr. Electrico and asked him if he'd show me how to do the trick. He showed me how and then looked into my face and said, "Would you like to see some of those peculiar people in that tent over there?"
I said, "Yes."
He took me over to the sideshow tent and hit it with his cane and shouted, "Clean up your language!" at whoever was inside. Then, he pulled up the tent flap and took me in to meet the Illustrated Man, the Fat Lady, the Skeleton Man, the acrobats, and all the strange people in the sideshows.
He then walked me down by the shore and we sat on a sand dune. He talked about his small philosophies and let me talk about my large ones. At a certain point he finally leaned forward and said, "You know, we've met before."
I replied, "No, sir, I've never met you before."
He said, "Yes, you were my best friend in the great war in France in 1918 and you were wounded and died in my arms at the battle of the Ardennes Forrest. But now, here today, I see his soul shining out of your eyes. Here you are, with a new face, a new name, but the soul shining from your face is the soul of my dear dead friend. Welcome back to the world."
Why did he say that? I don't know. Was there something in my eagerness, my passion for life, my being ready for some sort of new activity? I don't know the answer to that. All I know is that he said, "Live forever" and gave me a future and in doing so, gave me a past many years before, when his friend died in France.
Leaving the carnival grounds that day I stood by the carousel and watched the horses go round and round to the music of "Beautiful Ohio." Standing there, the tears poured down my face, for I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico.
I went home and the next day traveled to Arizona with my folks. When we arrived there a few days later I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.
I have long since lost track of Mr. Electrico, but I wish that he existed somewhere in the world so that I could run to him, embrace him, and thank him for changing my life and helping me become a writer.
-Ray Bradbury, December 2001
Mr. Electrico was right, Ray: you and your stories will live forever. Keep living, loving, and writing!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
THOSE BORN 1920-1979
TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.
As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags.
Read the whole thing.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs, and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get food poisoning.
Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter and I used to eat it raw sometimes too. Our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brown paper bag, not in icepack coolers, but but I can't remember getting E-coli.
We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and drank Kool-aid made with sugar but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day and we were OK.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes after running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out very many eyes.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
If YOU are one of them CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good .
While you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave (and lucky) their parents were.
How did we survive?
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Last February at Camp Stitchalot I admired a huge sampler called "The Houses of Hawk Run Hollow" (by Carriage House Samplings) that one of the other stitchers was working on. I love the early American look and find the morbid poem amusing, but the price of the chart (let alone the fabric and/or silk floss) is more than I usually spend. It's huge, too: the stitch count is 369 wide x 278 high (26.3 x 19.8 inches if stitched on 14-squares-per-inch fabric). I like the idea of stitching just some of the squares as smaller projects (which wouldn't take the rest of my life to finish!).
Here's a funny blog entry by someone who stitched the whole thing and survived with her sense of humor intact: MFB: The Truly Subversive Cross Stitch. Be sure to scroll down, look at the close-up photos, and read all the comments at the end!
UPDATE: more links to the lady at IPB Living and her current MFB project:
July 30, 2008: Stitching In Progress: Villages of Hawk Run Hollow. 1.5 squares done, with photos of the work in progress. Wow! She doesn't use a frame or scroll bar and stitches with a cat in her lap!
August 6, 2008: Stitching In Progress: Village of Hawk Run Hollow. 2 squares done.
August 13, 2008: MFBville In Progress: Week 7. 3 squares done.
I find it discouraging that she apparently stitches 3 hours each night and only gets about one square done per week. I don't have nearly that much stitching time and definitely need a smaller project!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Well, I have a no-shit-there-I-was story2 from Pennsic3. Since I spent most of my days attending the booth with occasional forays to shop or use the potty my story, predictably, involves shopping. If there really was a Shopping War Point4, I would have won it. Hands down.
Some Pennsics are uneventful. You have fun but nothing really worthy of a story happens. Nothing outrageous, laugh-out-loud funny, crazy or tragic happens that inspires you to actually pick up pen and paper to tell the tale. Sadly this Pennsic was not like that for me. In the middle of this saga, Thad said, “You should write an article for your local newsletter.” Although Stormvale5 no longer has a newsletter, I agreed – this simple HAD to be recorded for posterity.
Oh my, where to begin.
I work for Darkblade Studios6 at Pennsic – I sit the booth and they pay me in installments for doing so. The owners are Master Thaddeus and Mistress Siobhan. Although I had taken enough garb for each day at Pennsic I had “2-3 outfits” on my shopping wish list. I went shopping on the first Saturday7. I really had my eye on a Norse apron dress but at nearly $150 I didn’t have enough cash that early in the war. I stopped at Sheep’s Clothing* where I had gotten a gored dress last year. I found two more dresses that I liked – a green one that was too large and a plum one that was too small (sadly, none that were “just right”). This would not be a problem, I was told. They could alter the green one to my measurements – it would be delivered first thing the next morning. And they could make a plum one to my measurements (“It will be ready Tuesday morning.”)
Let the games begin….
The Sheep* was indeed on my tent step first thing on Sunday morning. Without the dress. “It got so cool last night I went to sleep. Sorry!” This was not a problem because as I said I had plenty of garb with me. The green dress was delivered late that afternoon and it fit very well indeed. Foolishly I dismissed this tardiness as a fluke. One should never disregard signs and portents. Sigh.
Tuesday morning rolled around and there was no sign of my pretty plum dress. I stopped by the Sheep’s in the afternoon. “The rain put me behind because we can’t run the machines during storms. I have two hours on this dress, two hours on a second dress then an hour on your dress. You will have it later this evening. Promise!!” Famous last words. There was no dress delivery that evening so I went down to the Sheep. The shop was closed.
There was no sign of a delivery on Wednesday either so I stopped by the Sheep in the afternoon. “I’m so sorry but the rain last night put me behind again! But it will be ready later this evening!!” It wasn’t. When I stopped there later that night the shop was – wait for it – closed.
First thing on Thursday morning Osion, a longtime friend, stopped in and said “I’m supposed to tell you that your dress will be done later today.” (How she knew to have him tell me I don’t know.) It wasn’t. I stopped by early in the evening but it still wasn’t ready. “Rain delay. Sorry!!!”
Friday morning I stopped by the Sheep AGAIN. The dress still wasn’t done but at least she was actually working on it. She dropped it off shortly after 11am. Since I was minding the shop I didn’t try it on right away. A couple of hours later Siobhan said, “Are you going to try it on?” I said, “Sure! I’ll give you a fashion show, darling!”
Um…Houston, we have a problem…” I couldn’t get the bodice all the way down into place. Getting my arms into the sleeves was like stuffing sausage. I couldn’t put my arms all the way to my sides or lift them much higher than my shoulders. I could bend them only about 90° but I feared for the seams - I couldn’t reach my bra strap to push it out of sight.
I waddled down to the Goat feeling like either the Michelin Tire man or Violet Beauregard after she ate the gum. I can only imagine what people who saw me were thinking – a fat woman in denial – trying to squeeze into an obviously too-small dress. The Sheep’s daughter (the Lamb*) was minding the shop. The conversation went something like this:
Lamb: May I help you?
Me: I need to talk to [the Sheep]
Lamb: (She looked me up and down and cleverly deduced what the topic of the conversation would be.) Mommy? Could you come out here please? We have a problem!
Sheep (from private pavilion): What? Who’s there? What’s the problem?
Lamb: Could you come out, dearest? You really need to see this.
(The Sheep comes out of the pavilion takes one look at me and – I swear – takes a step back)
Sheep: Oo! We have a problem! Don’t’ worry! We fix! What happened? I wonder if I… (She gets her order book and looks up my order) You know what I did? I had three orders on one page and I used someone else’s measurements for your dress. (Thinks for a moment) You know what, we won’t fix – I’ll make a new dress! You still want the same colors?
Me: Yes please. I love the colors! The fit – not so much.
So I toddle off back to Darkblade. Before she helps me wriggle out of the dress I have Siobhan take a “Before” picture.
Several hours later the Sheep brings the shell (no gores, no side seams) to make sure the bodice will fit. (It does). She’s happy. I’m relieved. A couple of hours later she returns with the completed dress. I told here if there was a problem I would come back down to her shop. She said she’d hide.
Thad watches the booth while I try it on. Hmm….a little tight in the arms. I wear it back down to the Sheep and explain the problem. She and I go back down to Darkblade so I can change out of it for re-fitting. “We fix!!” An hour later she is back with the dress. This time it fits well enough that I call it good. I’m happy. She is relieved. Alas I didn’t get an “After” picture as I had no opportunity to wear it.
* Not real name
Explanatory Notes by The Cat Bastet
1 Members of the SCA create historical personas for themselves. This is the lady's Medieval/SCA name, not her real name.
2 Most Pennsic stories, especially those about various battles, start with this phrase.
3 Refer to my previous post, What is the SCA?, for a brief explanation of the SCA and Pennsic.
4 The winner of Pennsic is determined by who wins the most points. Points are earned for each battle, archery competition, etc. Although everyone at Pennsic spends a great deal of time shopping, there is no shopping war point (alas!).
5 This is Bron's local SCA group, located in Genesee, Lapeer, and Sanliac counties, Michigan.
6 Darkblade Studios sells Amber, silver, Celtic, and other jewelry. They don't yet have a web site but are located in Portage, MI.
7 Pennsic lasts for two weeks. You can attend as many, or as few, days as you like. Bron was there for the whole thing
Thank you, Lady Bronwyn, for sharing the funny story of your shopping adventure. I can't wait to see the new dress!
We are active in a living history group called The Society for Creative Anachronism (the SCA, pronounced "S-C-A" or "skah"). To quote the SCA web site:
The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our "Known World" consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which may feature tournaments, arts exhibits, classes, workshops, dancing, feasts, and more. Our "royalty" hold courts at which they recognize and honor members for their contributions to the group.We live in the Middle Kingdom of the SCA and 10,000+ members around the world just returned home from the 37th Pennsic War. Pennsic is a huge "war" between the Middle Kingdom and East Kingdom, held annual in Pennsylvania. There are daily battles, archery competitions, fencing, classes, and shopping in an area the size of a Medieval city. Participants wear historical clothing ("garb") the entire time and attempt to camp in authentic conditions (minus food poisoning, of course). Pennsic is so large that non-SCA people also attend, so not everyone is 100% authentic. Still, it's a wonder to behold and experience, even if you dislike camping.
I was feeling rather sorry for myself last week for missing Pennsic (which is not the place to camp if you are allergic to dust, mold, and ragweed), then I got sick and was really glad I was home. I've been enjoying Pennsic vicariously through the daily newspaper, the Pennsic Independent, and the stories of my friends who did attend, including Lady Bronwyn our guest blogger. As you'll see in her post, she had some funny shopping adventures.
More Web Sites
Master Rowan's Photo Gallery
Sunday, August 03, 2008
I couldn't wait that long so I went to Wal-Mart today for a new one. I got a new Nano (i.e., third generation) which means it does everything my old Nano did (podcasts, music, audiobooks, basic games) plus video and video games. This means I can play video podcasts, TV shows, and movies on it. It holds 8 GB (twice as much as my old Nano) and, while I can't remember exactly what the original Nano cost, I'm pretty sure this one was cheaper. Amazing! In addition to the iPod I bought a clear cover because I can't stand the idea of not having a screen protector.
I was surprised and delighted to learn that my old cables (travel charger, lanyard headset, etc.) work with the new Nano. Call me a skeptic, but I assumed that Apple would make each generation of a particular iPod slightly different so that you'd have to buy all new accessories. What a pleasant surprise to learn that I don't!
The new Nano is amazingly fast. It was partially charged so it only took a few minutes to add my music, books, and podcasts. Then I started looking for video podcasts so I could try out that feature. There are lots of free video podcasts available and you can now search iTunes by the type of podcast you want (audio or video).
I'm sorry to lose my old Nano but I think I'm going to like the new one. The Nano is dead; long live the Nano.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Click here to read a copy.
What Bush and Batman Have in Common
By ANDREW KLAVAN
July 25, 2008; Page A15
A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .
Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."
There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.
"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.
Conversely, time after time, left-wing films about the war on terror -- films like "In The Valley of Elah," "Rendition" and "Redacted" -- which preach moral equivalence and advocate surrender, that disrespect the military and their mission, that seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism, have bombed more spectacularly than Operation Shock and Awe.
Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?
The moment filmmakers take on the problem of Islamic terrorism in realistic films, suddenly those values vanish. The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us. Why should this be?
The answers to these questions seem to me to be embedded in the story of "The Dark Knight" itself: Doing what's right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.
Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.
Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don't always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.
The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them -- when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.
When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away -- because we have to chase him."
That's real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.
Perhaps that's when Hollywood conservatives will be able to take off their masks and speak plainly in the light of day.
Mr. Klavan has won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. His new novel, "Empire of Lies" (An Otto Penzler Book, Harcourt), is about an ordinary man confronting the war on terror.
Friday, August 01, 2008
The bad news is that this occasional swelling is internal fluid caused by her decreasing liver function. We are to keep a close eye on her and watch signs of her disease progressing (more fluid build-up, labored breathing, lack of appetite, etc.).
The good news that she acts like she feels good: she is purring a lot, eating a lot, and perkier than she has been for weeks (now that she no longer has an intestinal infection).
There are medications that can help improve her liver function (Denosyl and Marin) but they have to be taken orally. You'd be amazed at how hard it is to pill a 5-pound cat, how long she can hold a pill in her mouth before spitting it across the room, and how furious the attempts make her. It's not worth stressing her out.
Jen told me you can buy the same medicine in capsule form at the health store, where it's called Milk Thistle. Theoretically, all you have to do is open the capsule and mix the powder in her food. The powder seemed tasteless and odorless to me, but Saffron disagrees. So far we've tried mixing small amounts of the medicine with smoked salmon, Gerber's, cheese (including smelly Stilton), and smoked trout. She eats the unadulterated food and leaves the food with the medicine. SIGH. It's a good thing she no longer needs antibiotics, because she won't take any food with those either! She is too smart for her own good.
We are going to keep trying to give her the Milk Thistle. I'm trying to focus on the positive (she feels good, is perky, etc.) and remind myself that we (and our wonderful vets!) are doing all we can but I'm afraid her time is running out.