Thursday, March 22, 2012

Egad! The Snow Mow!

I cannot believe it!  Our gardener is out today mowing our lawns despite the icy snow covering!  I hear his mower grinding and clacking over the crunchy surface.  God bless, Mr. Le!  He's got the same work ethic as USPS -- for a lot less pay.
Can you even wrap your mind around the fact that it's March 22 and we're still getting snow in the PNW?  What a winter!  This has been a serious setback for my efforts to convince certain peoples of Midwestern habitation to move northwestward to a more tranquil clime.  I hear it's in the 70's and 80's out in the middle lands.  Phooey.

But, talk to me in August, when they'll be sweltering and we'll be living la vita bella in our own lush, green wonderland of pleasantly-warm.  [Cue maniacal laughter.]

Oppressed By the Russians!

Well, by one particular Russian, at least.  And all his vile creations.  Does anybody really like Dr. ZhivagoReally?  What do you like about it?  It cannot be the characters, plot, themes, or writing style -- which are, consecutively, repulsive, onerous, banal, and plodding.  My theories on this mystery have been pared down to two possibilities:  First, nobody, from the lowliest undergrad to the most exalted on the Pulitzer Prize committee, has actually read Dr. Zhivago -- it's just been a collectively perpetuated fraud, held together by a web of mutual fear of "readers" and "enthusiasts" that someone, somewhere might find them uncultured.  Second, there are a whole lot of people out there who lack basic literary taste or the ability to think critically and for themselves when it comes to the accepted contemporary canon.

But, I am ready and waiting to be illuminated.  I am only about 44% of the way through -- they're heading to the Urals and everyone is digging out the train.  Jason laughs at my increasing frustration and traumatized disbelief that something so wretched could be so celebrated.  Says he, "Just watch -- you'll get to the end and it will all be so masterful that you'll close the book and just say, 'Wow!'"  He, of course, says this simply to annoy or encourage me (not sure which); he has not read the book.  Look, I am willing to be proven wrong about this novel.  Truly.  I have nothing invested in proclaiming its worthlessness.  Should Jason's facetious prediction actually come true, no one could be more ready to admit she was wrong than I.

343 pages left (and I don't care; I am not reading Yuri's poetry at the end; no! No! NO!) -- and I'm determined to finish this book if it kills me or, which seems more likely, causes a severe and lasting depression of spirit.  How many pages of Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse are necessary to ameliorate the effects of too many pages spent with these dreary, tedious Russian people?  I may well be re-reading Brit Lit favorites far into 2013.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Say What You Want About Newt, But I Think That When It Comes to Supporters, He Has the Edge!

Came across this interesting video from Newt's recent campaign stops in Illinois.  I think the lady they interviewed at 50 seconds in has the right stuff.  "Newt speaks for me," she says.  If Newt is in it to win it, he might want to hire her to speak for him!

View more videos at:

Nice job, Sis!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Back to the Grind (I Like SBC's House Blend on Medium; How About You?)

It was a nice week-and-a-half.  Such craziness as our whirlwind of a February was surely made our break even more welcome than usual.  We're on year-round "school" in these parts: 3 weeks on; 1 week off.  But, because we left town for Sadie's birthday, we extended the three weeks into three and a half, and took a longer break.  Homeschooling is great for traveling flexibility.

Highlights of the trip?  Mine were: The Warner Bros. Studio tour; visiting Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa; eating lunch at the Blue Bayou at Disneyland (you know -- the restaurant that overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean ride).  I'm sure Jason and Sadie have their own.

Here's a funny story from the trip:  We went to church on Sunday, March 4 at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, which is the "mothership" of the church we attend here in Kent, WA.  It's a rather famous church, having grown out of a ministry founded by Pastor Chuck Smith in the 1970's (I think) as an outreach to all the hippies bumming around So. Cal. at the time.  That's why our church is a jeans and rock-n-roll type place.  We all grew out of the groovy Jesus Movement.  Of course, nowadays CCCM is a highly respectable looking congregation, and I only saw a couple ushers who looked as if they had not completely disavowed their hairy pasts.  And it's HUGE!  Like Jason said afterward, "It really makes you yearn for and appreciate our much smaller, homier Calvary Chapel South."  Indeed.  We dropped Sadie off in one of their several third grade classes while we went to service in the sanctuary.  When we came back, this is what we learned:

First of all, Sadie participated in the Bible story time and knew all about David's sparing of Saul while he "did his business" in that cave.  Secondly, she got 100% on her Bible quiz and a little jar of Play-doh as a prize.  Lastly, the teacher had said that when they were done with their quizzes, the students could color a Bible scene on a handout or draw whatever they wanted on the back.  So, Sadie drew Venus on a half shell on the back of her coloring page.  Naked, grinning Venus in all her glory.*  In church.  Nice.  Do you think I am taking the Classical aspects of her education too far? 

Anyway, back to the labors of Momcules today.  I'm pretty excited because we're starting something new -- a mother/daughter book club.  So far, it's just us two.  But, maybe we'll encourage some more moms and girls to join us.  Our first book is Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.  I have never read this book -- I kid you not.  I think I tried way back in my halcyon days; but, if I recall correctly, the fact that the March girls called their mother "Marmee" completely turned me off.  But, I'm willing to give it another go.  Sadie is, of course, unenthusiastic.  But, she always is when there's something new a-comin'.  We call her Inertia Girl.

Happy Monday to all!  I'm off to the kitchen for another cup of joe!

*It was quite a charming drawing, by the way.  I think Botticelli himself would have smiled affectionately at her youthful effort.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Book Notes: March 4-10

I really, really, really love the way that Ross King writes about art and architecture.  I had to keep reminding myself of this, as I struggled through the dense technical descriptions that explained in greater detail than I ever would imagine needing the arduous, grand, nigh miraculous construction of the dome atop the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.  What makes Mr. King's books so special (my favorite of his, so far, is The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism -- a simply fabulous read -- everything a book of that sort ought to be) is that he marries human interest aspects of the artists to a meticulous understanding of the art they create, which produces the fruit of appreciation in the reader that is both new-found and profound.

The biggest difficulty in writing about Renaissance genius, Filippo Brunelleschi, is that, apart from the inherent trials of the monumental task he undertook and his amazing feats of invention and ingenuity, there is not much else there.  Does that make sense?  I mean, Brunelleschi set out to design and construct a dome for the unfinished cathedral; he did just that.  All in all, he met with few of the derisive and dismissive skeptics and establishments that tend to separate the radically creative artist from the fulfillment of his vision.  Sure, Mr. King does an admirable job in trying to drum up some tension for Brunelleschi in the form of rivals like Lorenzo Ghiberti or Giovanni da Prato; but, these fellows never were able to stand much in Filippo's way.  Nope, he just designed the dome, designed machines to assist in the building of the dome, and supervised it until its completion -- which happened before he died, even.  The book, without notes, is only 167 pages, and it is easy to understand why.  While Mr. King's extensive explanations of physics and geometry leave the architecturally unschooled reader in mouth-gaping awe, ultimately the subject does not afford the same heart-pounding excitement of his other books.

But, I just noticed, while looking up the titles of his other books, that Mr. King has some new books out or coming soon that I have yet to read, so -- yippee!  I look forward to getting my hands on Defiant Spirits and Leonardo and the Last Supper.