Friday, November 30, 2007

Rooting for the American Peso

I just got a new laptop computer (Sony Vaio) that runs Microsoft Vista. (I looked at Mac, but Mac is just too flipping weird.) Anyway, the features of Vista that I'm really digging most are the desktop gadgets you can put up. Currently, I have a clock (the flower clock, because it is way girly-girl), weather reports for Renton, WA, St. Louis, MO, Sioux Falls, SD, and Dublin, IRE, and the currency converter, which continually updates me on the worth of the U.S. dollar to the Canadian dollar.

I hear tell that our friends to the North have begun referring to our currency as the American peso. Oooh, that hurts! I remember back in 2002, when Jason and I went up to Victoria, BC for a weekend getaway, one U.S. dollar bought around 1.30 Canadian dollars. We lived like king and queen that weekend, ordering room service in our swanky hotel. Those days are sadly -- hopefully temporarily -- gone, as, currently, the American dollar is valued below the Canadian same.

As we are expecting some superb Canadian musical artists at our church next weekend, I am really keeping an eye on this currency converter. Two nights ago, 1 U.S. dollar bought .987 Canadian dollars. Yesterday, it was up to .998. This morning it is .999. One more thousandth, and we are at least back on par with our neighbours. Come on, dollar, you can do it! Get revalued! Up that worth! I'd like to see it back up above the Canadian dollar in time for the concert next weekend, because these particular Canadians are not at all shy about teasing us(with gentle love) as much as they can. We've already tipped a canoe up north, thus showing our American ineptitude with slender watercraft; and we were shown up as not knowing "Oh Canada!" when all the Canadians sang a lovely a cappella version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" last summer, so the last thing we need to be gibed about is our currency.

Let's all band together and root for the American peso!

As of 3:28 PM (PST), the currency converter is showing that $1 U.S. will buy you $1.001 CAN!! Whoo-hoo! Now, we just need to keep this up until after December 9 to stave off any "American peso" comments I might personally receive as part of good-natured cross-cultural ribbing from my Canadian brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Too Good For The Likes of Me

Do you have any friends who are too good for you? Unfortunately, I think all my friends are. I have been dubiously blessed with the most thoughtful, inspiring, gifted, talented, delightful, and generous group of friends ever to have been assembled on this earthly plane. Oh, and they all seem to be endowed with that decorating and craft-making gene I sorely lack. And they do it all with such subtlty and quietness and finesse, that my sad attempts to return their abundance always feel so lumbering and clumsy. I feel like such a schmoo.

Take my friend, Kadie, for instance. I just finished writing a thank-you card to her for a lovely and thoughtful gift that she gave me for my birthday. Behold! This gift was exquisitely wrapped and carefully selected so as to maximize fully my pleasure in receiving it. And she wrote a card, too, that was as expressive in art as it was generous in nature.

Or, take Sabina. Here's another one who makes the very wrapping of a present into a work of artistic merit. She flipping made me a necklace for my birthday. She made me a necklace! It is gorgeous. How in the world do you equal that? How can you, if you are such a boob that even an Oriental Trading Company craft kit exasperates your meager abilities, ever hope to give something as meaningful and unique? You cannot. You simply fall back and gnash your teeth and murmur against the God who put such wonderful people in your life; and then accept it with gratitude.

Of course, nothing is coincidental. God put these lovely women into my life for many reasons, surely. But one of those must have been to hammer home into this stubborn skull of mine the meaning of grace. Now, every day, I have constant reminders about me of gifts that I do not deserve and can never hope to repay. And what greater gift do I have, ultimately, than the one given to me on the Cross by my Redeemer? Who is the original Creator of beautiful gifts I can never attempt to equal; Who gives with a heart free of "keeping score" and seeking reciprocation? And what else can I do but accept it with gratitude and tears of joy?

Thank you to my gifted and giving cadre of friends who are living, breathing examples of the grace of God in my life. You have blessed me beyond belief, and He has blessed me with belief, and my heart overflows with the wonder of it all.

Feed The Lake

Some of the most thoughtful artists and best music gathered, for your convenience, at one site on the world wide web: Feed the Lake
(Soon to include, as well, inspiring books by exceptional authors.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Themes Revisited

So far, we have read Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Henry IV, Part One, Macbeth and Othello.

I was thinking just this morning -- about five minutes ago, really -- about the themes of these plays. Shakespeare had a wonderful way of revisiting themes with entirely different results.

For instance, take Much Ado and Othello. These two plays are written about trust and all of her cohorts -- vulnerability, suspicion, betrayal, redemption. Without a central theme of trust, these auxiliary themes would be meaningless. So, Shakespeare uses the theme in one play to create the lightest and most delightful of comedies (Much Ado) and then turns around and plays with the idea of trust in one of the most heartbreaking tragedies (Othello). Poor Desdemona could have used a Beatrice and Benedick pairing to come to her aid -- and, of course, the excellent sleuthing of Dogberry's men to discover the treacheries of Iago.

And then, as I've written of and posted before, Richard III and Macbeth were both portraits of ambition run amok -- the results of which in Richard were quite funny, while in Macbeth were absolutely horrifying. Richard's demons were all in his head, but they were a cheerfully depraved lot. Macbeth's demons were quite material -- whether witch or wife -- and their destructive force was most complete for they ravaged the man that was.

Now, Henry IV, Part I is in and of itself a thorough examination of the theme of honor. In the characters of Hotspur and Falstaff, Shakespeare has painted two opposite views of the importance and glory of honor. Prince Hal stands on the cusp of responsible adulthood and looks at the two -- his father's former favorite, the valiant, serious, and hot-tempered Hotspur and the jolly, drunken, thieving, but oh-so fun Falstaff. In the climactic battle scene, Hal wins his father's approval at last by coming to fight and then saving the King's life, and, eventually, he also kills the rebellious Hotspur; but has choice between honor and roguery really been made? For, when Falstaff counterfeits death to escape completing a duel and then later claims that he was the one to kill Hotspur, Prince Hal agrees to further his deception and falls back in with his disreputable buddy.

Ambition, honor, trust . . . I look forward to seeing what other themes Shakespeare will address as I finish the plays required for this class and continue to read the rest of his work on my own.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Up to My Armpits in the Bard

I've been taking an on-line Shakespeare class, and the pace is extremely fast. We read a play a week, and write a paper bi-weekly (i.e., one half of the class writes on one play one week, the other half on the next play the next week). So far, we have read Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Henry IV, Part One, and Macbeth. Every one, with the exception of the Scottish play, has been an absolute pleasure, and I think my favorite to date is Richard III. I found it unremittingly hilarious.

Of course, since I am nothing if not obsessive when on the trail of a new, enriching study, I have been steeping myself in other Bard-ish delights when not reading his plays. I have read Bill Bryson's excellent and compact contribution to the Eminent Lives Series by Atlas Books, Shakespeare: The World as Stage. First of all, Mr. Bryson is a writer in whose work I almost always delight. Should you wish to treat yourself at some time and haven't yet done this, I want to encourage you to read any or all of A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, or The Mother Tongue. Then, proceed on to his other books, and stop when you've enjoyed them all. But, do try to spread them out -- my father OD'd a year or two ago, and now he is uninterested in reading Bryson's Shakespeare bio. That is a shame, because it captures so succinctly the mystery and magic of the Man from Stratford (and, no, Bryson does not buy into any of the anti-Stratfordian garbage -- his final chapter of this book is dedicated to putting those loonies (one of whom was named "Looney") in their proper place: the fringes). Bill Bryson was a good fit for writing this biography, because his authorial voice is just about perfect: humorous, inquisitive, reflective, and not at all worshipful, mystical or academic. What a readable book! If you are interested in getting an overview of Shakespeare that you can read in about a day, you will, almost without one doubt, value this book.

Another Shakespeare book that I've just started and that promises to be a great ride is Becoming Shakespeare by Jack Lynch. This is a story of his afterlife -- that is, it tells the fascinating tale of how (from the introduction) "Shakespeare, the provincial playwright and theatre manager [turned into] Shakespeare, the universal bard at the heart of English culture." I'll be burning the itty-bitty booklight to finish this one.

A Shakespeare book that I picked up at the same time as the two previously mentioned but will return to B&N as soon as I can is Filthy Shakespeare by Pauline Kiernan. I had purchased it without looking it over thoroughly because a) rarely have I found a book with no redeeming qualities, b) I like a bawdy romp through Elizabethan and Jacobean sensibilities and protocols as much as the next girl, and c) how bad could it be? Well, it's pretty bad. Jason laughed at my disappointment and said, "What in the world did you expect from a book called Filthy Shakespeare?" A fair question, and the answer, I guess, is that I was expecting something more, well, subtle and witty and British than what simply reads as crude and artless attempt to shock. Ms. Kiernan is a Shakespeare scholar, and I certainly am not, but I just wasn't buying every sexual pun she cited. She couldn't convince me that other interchanges in the plays were quite so graphic as she claimed. Wm. Shakespeare was certainly sly and multi-layered, and not above heating things up on stage with naughty bits for the delight and appeasement of the groundlings, but, it's hard to imagine that he could have gotten anywhere with the plots had he spent so much time churning out the sex jokes. So, back to B&N it goes -- the first time in my life I have ever returned a book because I did not like it.

I'm off to read Othello!

I Respectfully Submit

Words mean things. Using language correctly is important, because how you use (or abuse) words can make or break your credibility in an argument. When lives are at stake, the cost of misuse is devastating.

I can only hope that Rep. Chris Smith's (R-NJ) words, delivered October 31, at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, were transcribed incorrectly by the NRLC. He is too eloquent and valiant a persuader for the cause of human life to be saddled with this linguistic aberration:

I respectfully submit that the term "unsafe abortion" is the ultimate oxymoron.
All induced abortion, whether legal or illegal, is unsafe for the baby. It is also unsafe for the mother, who is at risk not only of physical injury, but also of long-term psychological damage including severe depression.

I think he must have said, "The term 'safe abortion' is the ultimate oxymoron." "Unsafe abortion" is a good example of redundancy or reiteration, but it is certainly not an oxymoron (unless you're one of the Weïrd Sisters of NARAL).