Monday, December 31, 2012

Good Holiday, Great Caramelcorn

The Boar’s Head Feast was Saturday. This was the fiftieth anniversary, so it was a bit more elaborate. Leading the Beef Eaters, who are the first to appear in the procession, were two Scot pipers, wearing bearskin bonnets, kilts and spats. They sounded wonderful in the vast spaces of the Trinity Cathedral. We got there early enough to get seats in the center, so for the first time, we could see what happened when the entire procession – pages carrying the feast, Good King Wenceslas, the Yule Log, the Merry Makers, the Ladies of the Court, the Virgin and Joseph, the Shepherds with their goats and the Three Wise Men- all enter the sanctuary. Actually nothing much happens except that they sort of kneel in adoration and all. Because of the specialness of this year, there was of videographers recording the pageant. They were quite unobtrusive and careful with the animals which is very important, since there is a young woman riding up the marble floored aisle on a donkey, which behaved quite well this year, with no braying. It was, all in all, quite splendid. We decided to forego the Number One Pho in favor of getting back to Kent, as it was snowing that fine slippery kind of snow. We ended up at a local restaurant and had a fine meal in fine spirits.

One of the new treats this year was the supreme caramel corn from the new Totally Popped shop in one of the new retail area of the downtown. This is simply delicious caramel corn. It is, of course, bad for you and bad for your teeth. It is full of butter and sugar with a touch of sea salt. Polly had taken some back to a friend of hers in P-Town, who pronounced it not unlike crack. You cannot stop eating it. We had two large bags for Christmas, and I found myself begging others to please eat it. We all stuffed ourselves, while pleading for someone to please take it away from us. The shop is doing very well and will be expanding next month, along with the waistlines of its caramel corn junkies.

We had a lovely Christmas together with the new kitten, who somehow figured out how to fetch. Keeps us busy throwing things for him to show off this skill. He is a one cat entertainment center.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why Ask Why?

Today I read an op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd, titled “Why, God?” Of course it was about the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut. She turned the question over to family friend, a priest. He gave a thoughtful answer that was not really an answer because there is no way to answer that question. I have never asked that question, because my response would be “Why not?” After all, and after the fall, were we not told that our lives would be full of toil and struggle? I mean, if you believe that sort of stuff. I guess it depends on your creation story anyway. But where does it say that we shall never on this earth suffer pain and loss, disease and pestilence, etc.? No one will get out of here alive. The death of a child is probably the most nearly unbearable sort of loss, especially when the cause is so senseless and violent.

I am not sure why, when there is this sort of tragic event, people ask why God let it happen. I don’t think that if there is a god, s/he has much to do with what we do to each other here on earth. We’ve been killing children in the Middle East for over ten years now (called “collateral damage”) with smart bombs and drones. Their parents, if they haven’t been killed, too, are just as bereft as the parents in Newtown. This not meant to minimize the deaths and grief of the families there, but to point out that man, not a god is responsible for death and destruction of human beings, young and old. S, instead of asking why God let this happen, ask yourselves.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Noel, Noel

Since I was not up to doing much running around for the past three weeks, I was not able to get the usual Christmas card materials needed to print up my cards. So I am taking this opportunity to "send" out cards to friends and family and perhaps the odd stranger who happens upon this blog. I did this drawing at about the time the kitten arrived here. I had assumed that he would turn the Christmas tree into his own private gymnasium. However, with a little judicious use of a spray water bottle, John taught him early that the tree was not for him to leap about on. He, the cat, is a fast learner and he has let the tree alone.He has had plenty of attention from his adoring family. Sally got him his own cat stocking full of little toys, although discarded wrapping paper has proven to be the equivalent of a toy box. He pounces like  Milne's Tigger. Last night he played for an hour with a twist tie. Would that we all could be satisfied with such simplicity of amusement.
As I write this, the Christmas dinner is cooking away in the slow cooker, thanks to Polly's culinary skills. John fixed a big breakfast, so we are pretty sated. We have vowed to do some singing tonight, putting away the IPad and ITouch devices. We had Facetimed the German branch of the family, while they have already had dinner, cooked by Emily, Chris and Katina, it looked spectacular via Facetime.
The kitten finally has a name, Sixto, after a baseball player Since the late, great Dupree was named for a football player, this seems to be natural for a cat name. He will probably end up with some other name, but that will do for now. Right now he is stretched out on a soft chair, plumb tuckered out from chasing paper and twist ties. He makes his first appearance on my Christmas card, replacing Dupree, who had the starring role for many years.We hope he will be able to carry on in this role for many years himself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Paging Dr. IPad

In the previous post, I wondered what John Cage would have made of the available digital media we now have at our disposal. I had occasion to make use of its capabilities the other day. For some reason, my shoe stuck to the carpet and I fell, hitting the ground with my right knee and also banging my head on the floor. Since I had on reading glasses at the time, I ended up with a black eye and a very sore knee. Cosmetically, the eye was unpleasant, but not painful. The knee, however, did hurt quite a bit. I missed the opera at the theater “A Masked Ball”, deciding to rest with an ice pack, while I listened to it on the radio.

When it still hurt the next day, I decided to try an experiment with the IPad. I  Facetimed my brother Michael, a retired orthopedic surgeon. He thought it looked terrible. Well, I have never had great legs or knees, but it was the bruising that bothered him. There was also a small rug burn abrasion. Anyway, under his professional guidance, I poked here and there reporting on the results. He advised an X-ray and staying off it as much as possible. He wanted to make sure that the tibia was not fractured, which would mean staying off the leg for 5 to 6 weeks.

The next day I called my doctor (an internist) and asked for an X-ray order at the imaging center next to his office. I also asked Michael to email specific instructions to the tech, which I printed and took with me to the lab. Good thing I did, for the doctor, not being a bone person, had just written an order to X-ray the right knee. Fortunately the tech took my brother’s instructions and did what needed to be done.

I don’t’ have the results yet, but I have babied the injured joint and it feels much better. My doctor never calls me with the test results, so I have to call him and see what the radiologist found.

Anyway, I thank my IPad and my brother for their excellent service in this matter and think it was just a dandy way to deal with this, rather than spend hours in the ER.

Musical Cognitive Dissonance

I am a couple of weeks late with this dispatch from the world of music. Two weeks ago I attended two such disparate events as to leave my brain chasing its tail, so to speak.

The first was the Met HD presentation of “La Clemnza di Tito,” a Mozart opera about the Emperor Titus of Early Rome. He put up with a lot of goddam treasonous crap from an ambitious woman and his best friend, but unlike a lot of off-with-their-head types, he forgave them and nobody died, which, if you want to know, doesn’t happen a lot in opera after they’ve been singing like bastards for a couple of hours. The music, being by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was beautiful and the singers were worthy. This was in the afternoon.

That evening, I went to a “Celebration 0f the Centenary of John Cage,” who, if you didn’t know, considered all sound to be music. It was presented by the New Music division of the Kent State School of Music. I have been attending these concerts for a couple of years now, and in spite of the fact that this is not my kind of music at all, I have really enjoyed these performances. The director of the program is the former conductor of the university symphony orchestra and a composer and a very fine person. The students are enthusiastic and energetic and very, very talented. The music can be very difficult, but can also be a lot of fun and quite beautiful. This Cage concert included the famous 433, which involves a pianist coming on stage, sitting at the piano and sitting at the piano and sitting sat the piano – for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. A smart ass frond of mind times it and he actually sat there for 5 minutes, but John Cage did materialize to discipline him with a siren or a rain stick, both of which were heard in other parts of the program. People stood around in various parts of the hall, reading excerpts from John Cage’s writings. Noises were heard both off and on.  There was an exciting percussion number and a very nice wind chamber piece. There was an ongoing video of snowy, dirty streets somewhere in the U.S. of A. Since Cage died over twenty years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would have done with some of the digital devices. Blows the mind.

However, the contrast between the two composers was extreme. The geezer brain finds it difficult to process. But I am glad that I went all in one day from the 18th century to the future that John Cage imagined in the 20th.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Time

The Thanksgiving holiday is officially over here. Polly left for Provincetown this afternoon and Emily left for Germany last Monday. We had a really great time, of course, as we usually do. We ate well. The kids took some fine walks. They were impressed by the “new” Kent downtown, which is bubbling with activity. We ate at Ray’s and the new Mexican restaurant. We shopped. This week John, Polly and I drove down to Holmes County to Charm and the Doughty Valley. We discovered that the old convenience store in Trail, home of the famous Trail baloney is now an antique/junk/you name it they have it store where John bought four cast iron jacks. The proprietor practically told us her life story and was very entertaining. Polly told her she should have her own reality show. She kept remarking how much John reminded her of her husband, who also worked with stone.

An interesting phenomenon occurred every evening after dinner. Everyone sat around the living room, silent except for the soft   clicking of their various digital devices, tapping away on Facebook, Google, YouTube, et. al. Of course, we had spent most of the day talking, talking, so ii was rather peaceful, in a sort of surreal way.

Actually, Emily will be in New York in a couple of weeks for the grand opening (and closing) of the Coloring Book Project,. The original date for this event was washed out by Hurricane Sandy. Since Emily was the co-curator of this epic art show, she felt the need to come back for it. She has promised to take photos/videos of the gala premiere. The gallery, called somewhat mysteriously ABC Rio Neo, is located on the lower east side of the metropolis. Besides Emily and me, the city of Kent is represented by Joe Culley and Addie Cheges. Another Petrou is included, namely me talented granddaughter Katina. We expect a full report, not by the NY Times, but by our German correspondent.

The above illustration is of a family favorite, which we had for dinner the other night. They ate the whole thing, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Cat in Town

It’s been just about a year ago that we lost 17 year old Dupree, the beautiful long haired black cat which John had found as a kitten in a park in southeastern Ohio. He has been sorely missed. Last Thursday, John brought home a tiny black kitten as a new member of the household. He is part Siamese, relentlessly active, tearing about the house, pouncing on newspapers and shredding them, jumping on tables and laps, rushing up and down the stairs and skittering through the kitchen. It’s like having a pet roach, without the disgust factor. He also does that Siamese talking thing that they do.

Last night when the two far away sisters arrived for Thanksgiving, he had a full audience of adoring cat lovers oohing and aahing over his cuteness.

Today he has been sleeping of the time, like a normal cat, relaxing after his stellar performance last night. John hasn’t named him yet, waiting for him to let him know what it should be. T.S. Eliot knew the importance of the naming of cats. Every cat I have had has started out with one name and ended up with another, which seems to have fit better than the previous one.   So we shall see what develops.

But I hate to think what he’ll do to a Christmas tree.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Angry White Men

One significant outcome of the recent election seems to be the large number of angry white men. Having run the country for 260 years, they seem to resent the fact that one of the Other has succeeded in winning the votes of many people who are not white and/or males. I received a couple of Emails the day after the election from a couple of very angry white men who felt betrayed and claimed that everything they had been brought up to believe had been totally discredited by this unbelievable turn of events. One even sent me a breakdown of the Obama votes, showing the percentages of African-American, Latino and WOMEN voters who had gone for President Obama. It looked like something out of the xenophobic Pat Buchanan playbook, hastily put together to demonstrate the unworthiness of the victory: Well, there you are, you see! I reminded him that until 1920 almost all voters were white males and until 1964 most voters were white, period.

(On Facebook I saw another chart someone had put together showing that the states with the highest educated population  had also  gone for Obama, but I didn’t sent that to the angry white men, who also happen to be pretty smart and well educated themselves…but obviously seriously misguided.)

Some angry white men are trying to secede from the United States, claiming it does not reflect their values. Which are apparently similar to the South’s, circa 1860. I could have bought into that idea of secession during the eight agonizing years of the Bush administration, but I’m not an angry white male. I was more depressed than angry during those years, feeling a sort of despair that thinking people could have elected, at least once, such an incompetent (unless you were very wealthy) group of scoundrels.

So what shall we do with these angry white men? They happen to be the “job creators” who have spent the last four years trying to make sure that President Obama would be a one term president, and now their dreams are dashed.  They have enough money to retire retreat to the islands where most of their money is, so maybe they’ll just sulk until 2016, or withhold their job creating powers another four years to prove how hurt they are by the betrayal of the 47% for voting the wrong way. And it will be Obama’s fault, of course.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mia Famiglia

My little brother Ed, who tuned 76 last week organized a trip for Michael, the next to youngest brother (77) and me to drive up to Corning, N.Y. to visit our sister, the world famous Mary Lu Walker. The drive up NY State Rte. 86 is one of  my favorite rides, pretty even in November. It was the day after the election, so some of s were quite joyous in a very subdued way, since some of us had been on the other side. Being civilized  and loving people we shelved all discussion of the election outcome.
We had a lovely sunny, warm day and arrived around 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
We were pleased not only to greet our sister and her husband Don, but niece , pretty Peggy, down from Buffalo. She had brought dinner with her, and since she is a marvelous cook, we felt coddled.
 We wined and dined and talked and laughed. We do stay in touch, through the Internet and the phone, so we didn't have any new news, but it just felt so good to be together in the flesh.
The next day, we test drove ML's new Spark, a sweet little blue mini sort of car from Korea, and had lunch downtown at the fine deli. Another niece, Jane, arrived from Ithaca, with Speck, one of her Corgis. She brought with her a smoked turkey from the flock she raises for food. Jane gave us a demo of the skill training she does with her Corgis, and Speck performed perfectly. Cuter than a baby duck, that dog is. We did more talking, had a massive photo session with Jane's Hasselblad and Ed's and my IPads. Later on I Facetimed Emily in Germany and she joined the conversation.  We had a demonstration of the miracle of the cyberworld. Ed showed Emily the pictures from the morning, then Emailed one to her which she put on Facebook, all within minutes. Almost too much for us geezers to comprehend although we are all computer literate and have been messing with this stuff for years. It goes so fast now.
All in all, it was a time of storytelling, laughter and affection. It had been two years since we were together, and that was at a wedding and there had not been time to socialize with each other then. It's so good to be with each other, especially as we are getting older.
We are very lucky.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Who Cooked Mother Goose?

Some years ago I attended a week-end storytelling workshop which featured a storyteller, Mary Hamilton, I had studied with down in Tennessee a few years earlier. One of the sessions which she ran involved taking nursery rhymes and turning them into stories. The participants in this session were probably in their twenties and thirties, most of them school teachers.

When she asked them to recall a few old nursery rhymes, she was met with a series of blank stares. “You mean, like “The Three Little Pigs?” asked one. When reminded that that was already a story, or nursery tale, the student looked confused.

“Well,” Mary said, “Do you know “Jack and Jill,” for instance?” Some heads nodded. “Any others?”

Blank  stares.

Finally someone spoke up and said that they really hadn’t learned those kinds of things when they were little, nor had they “studied” them in teacher training. Mary looked at me, trying not to roll her eyes. She asked me to name a few, which I did, the common ones you’d think everyone would know: Little Bo-Peep, Old Mother Hubbard, Little Boy Blue, Jack Sprat Could Eat No Fat, Baa, Baa Black Sheep. I might as well have been speaking Swahili.

Since no one knew anything about nursery rhymes that made that session pretty much a bust, and Mary changed it to another theme. Afterwards we discussed this. How had so many people missed what was a rather key part of childhood? The workshop was in a university town, the people in the class had degrees in education, and they all spoke English. I still don’t know if they were unique, or if Mother Goose has been cooked. These rhymes are part of our cultural literacy alluded to in literature, the various media, even in advertising and general pop culture. They are historical, symbolic and mythic.

I have a number of Mother Goose books, one of which is fairly recent (the 80s, called “Lavender’s Blue”) and one by Chas. Addams, featuring his creepy characters and a macabre take on the story line. Of course, that’s my children’s favorite. I find it interesting that, even in the newer ones, everyone is dressed in old fashioned clothing, mainly from the early 1800s.

I also have the Opie’s “Annotated Mother Goose,” which gives the historical significance of the rhymes and what they actually represent. Do they reach that sort of thing in English departments these days? Probably not. But the language alone is worth the trip through some of the quaint verses.

Oh, wait - we speak text now. And reciting to a kid such lines as “Ride a cock horse to Bannbury Cross” would probably get you arrested for obscenity these days. And if you talked about Jack Horner putting his thumb in a Christmas pie, you might be thought to encourage rude food habits. To say nothing of Peter putting his wife in a pumpkin shell. Or the old woman who lived in a shoe beating her children and putting them to bad. Or Georgie Porgie chasing the girls and making them cry. Well, these  things are totally politically incorrect. But wonderful.
I have to believe that somewhere parents are reading these to their children.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Art Imitates Life

This is what "ver home"  looked like in the movie.
Last week I watched one of my favorite movies on my IPad – “A Trip to Bountiful.” written by the terrific Horton Foot. I have seen it a number of times and it always gets me. My sister once pointed out that Geraldine Page does this thing with her mouth that is annoying, and she’s right, but it’s such a fine performance that I don’t mind. The thing is, the character reminds me of my mother-in-law, the late Ernestine Wagner Burnell. She grew up in a tiny town in Southern Ohio, on the Ohio River. It was called Letart Falls. (Was it named for a French hooker perhaps? Oh, I guess that would have made it LaTart Falls.)  After she married, she moved to Charleston, West Virginia, but Letart Falls was always home for her.  My husband said that every holiday, they would go “over home,”  as she put it. That’s where her family and her church were.

I wrote once about a Thanksgiving I spent there with her and her sisters, Beulah, Frieda, and Genevieve and their husbands. Genevieve’s husband owned the general store, which contained the Post Office. Frieda’s daughters owned a flower shop in a neighboring village. Beulah married into a coal nine owning family in West Virginia and lived near Charleston. They were not too keen on men, the main reason being that their father, who had been the superintendent of schools, had left their mother to marry his secretary and start a whole new family back in 1914. In that small community, in those days, this was a scandal that marked them all for life. His name was never mentioned, nor was his new family acknowledged by the sisters. Their mother, Lily Wolfe Wagner, became a martyr, living her life out in the village, occasionally moving in with a daughter. She always had a lugubrious expression and died forty years after the main tragedy of her life.

I guess Letart Falls had been a thriving little community when Ernestine was growing up, but when I knew it, Uncle Herb’s store and the church (where the piano sounded as if it had barely survived the 1913 flood) were pretty much all that was around, except for the houses where people still lived. There was a funeral parlor and a community hall for the town government met, and where get togethers could take place. There had been a chicken processing plant right in the village center, but it had recently closed. Dial phones were a recent luxury in the early 50s as were indoor toilet facilities. But, to Ernestine and her sisters it was “over home.” She is buried there along with a host of the Wagners, and her husband, who grew up in nearby Racine. Three of the sisters had sons, all of whom died before the age of 40, a fact that I find unbearably sad, especially since one of them was my husband. They didn’t have much use for men, but they adored their sons.

“A Trip to Bountiful” reminds me of Ernestine because the character looks so much like her. She was a large, but not fat, woman with prematurely white hair which she had “dine” every week. She was the prettiest of the sisters, with an olive complexion and clear gray eyes.. I don’t remember her being very religious, because her church was “over home,” and not in Charleston. She was big in the DAR and the Colonial Dames and the Democratic Party. One highlight was meeting JFK when he came to campaign in West Virginia. She had been a secretary before her marriage and used her office skills during political campaigns. She never quit being a country girl from an Ohio River village, though. Letart Falls was in her spirit, and even after all those years in Charleston, that’s where she wanted to be, in that small cemetery among her family.

Some twenty years ago, I took a trip down to Southern Ohio and Letart Falls was one of my stops. Just as in the movie, it was all but abandoned. Uncle Herb’s store was gone. The community hall had broken windows with tattered curtains blowing in the breeze. There was almost nothing there but a few old houses. I went to the cemetery, which is still well kept, by whom I do not know, and there were even   a few newer graves. The largest monument there bears the Wagner name, a large white stone the family bought for the bereft Lily Wagner. Ernestine is nearby; along with her husband John Burnell, Sr. It is all very quiet and lonely. And Ernestine is home.
Below is the latest Holmes County painting. Still no word from the library about an exhibit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall and Other Stuff

It’s been a busy time around here, mostly because of the beautiful autumn season we’re having. The colors are brilliant; the weather is sunny with blue skies against which the golds, oranges and reds are vivid. Sunday we drove through back roads to Carroll County for the annual Algonquin Mill festival, a sort of pioneer celebration, with women spinning and weaving and men using steam powered machines to saw and plane tree trunks into boards and shingles. There was a horse walking in circles, attached to a grinder turning sorghum stalks into syrup. Years ago, I went down there and there was a very old man who made stone butterflies, beautiful things he set with gemstones. He used blue and gray agate which he had split into thin pieces for the wings. Butterflies from stone! Of course he wasn’t there this time; he’d be over a hundred by now. I had rather hoped he’d have a son or daughter who’d continued his craft.

Yesterday I went on one of those geezer bus trips, having been invited as a guest by a friend. I was not enthusiastic about going, but it turned out to be just fine. It was a trip down to Holmes County, the site of my recent paintings. The great thing about it was that we went on back roads, my back roads, including what I thought was only my secret way to the Doughty Valley. It was a gorgeous day. We made a number of stops for shopping, which is mot my favorite thing to do, but it was a pleasant group of geezers and some even younger folks.  We had a good lunch in a fake chalet with a visit to a cheese place across the road where everyone except me bought tons of local Swiss. We then stopped at an Amish apple orchard on top of a hill with a wonderful and bucolic view of the countryside. Our last stop was a winery with really bad wine, wine of which we were given a tasting. I only tried two and they were so bad that I didn’t bother to try any more. Most of the travelers were so loaded down with purchases that it was not easy for then to get off the bus unaided by the time we were back to Kent.

Our first stop had been the legendary Lehman’s Hardware store in Kidron. It had been a nice hardware store catering to the non-electric, non-gas-using Amish. When the scare about the millennium, ending the world as we know it, Lehman’s made a killing, selling wood stoves, lanterns, wash tubs, brooms, clotheslines,  and other survival kinds of things to city folk, advertising nation wide.  Now instead of a neat store carrying things the Amish need, it has become this enormous spread of spaces carrying things like Tilley hats, hard by the Amish straw toppers, CDs, jams and jellies, and you name it. It’s a tourist destination kind of place. They still have the old things, but they are hard to find. Now there are $8000 mega stoves (run with wood or gas/electricity), like the gas you see in England. Hardly the sort of thing the average Amish farmer could ever afford. I find it depressing, but it was a popular stop and some of the folks didn’t want to leave it.

No one bought an $8000 stove, though.

Today I introduced yet another citizen of this area to the wonderful West Side Market in Cleveland. I am amazed at how many people who have lived around here for years have not gotten into the West Side Market habit. It’s easy to get to, and has just celebrated its 100th anniversary. My Greek bakery lady told me that they had a big celebration a coupled of weeks ago, involving a parade of the vendors (sounds like something Sousa should have written) and a big party. My friend went crazy, as most people do on their first visit, buying all manner of things just because they were there. I love that place. I hadn’t been there in almost a year and there are new vendors since my last trip. The old guard is mostly gone, with all sorts of new ethnic goodies available. The sauerkraut folks have been replaced by the Asian hot sauce lady’ the German butcher by the middle astern deli person. It’s all beautifully arranged as you walk in, with so much color and variety one becomes a bit overwhelmed. I brought home some pepperoni bread, a baguette, bananas, Hungarian sausage and spiinach, not the baby kind, but the grown up wrinkly kind which is currently bubbling away on the stove for Portuguese soup.

Apropos of nothing, I read recently that kudzu had reached Ohio.  I spent my childhood in kudzu land. I didn’t know what it was called but it took over vacant lots and woods in Georgia. There was a vacant lot in downtown Atlanta which we would beg our father to drive by. The vine had covered a tall tree stump in a way that looked like a dinosaur, the one you saw on the Sinclair gasoline sign – a brontosaurus, big and green. It fascinated and scared me a bit. One of my favorite comic strips was “Alley Oop,” and he rode a brontosaurus, which nay be wherew the creationists got the idea.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Favorites

The skies are so beautiful this time of year. Since I’m not the one driving, I can feast my eyes on them instead of watching the road. I find it interesting being a passenger anyway, because I am seeing things I never noticed before: houses, gardens, fields, landscapes I’ve passed probably thousands of times and never really saw. It’s a new perspective from a different side of the seat.
A friend called the other day to tell me she had booked a trip to Amish country on a tour bus and invited me to be her guest. The problem is that we will not be exploring the back roads I love, but will have to stick to the main ones. I will enjoy it, because she is a good friend, and good company, of course, but it won’t be the same. However, John has promised a ramble, too, and we will hit the offbeat areas.
Next week, there is the Apple Butter Festival up in Burton, to which I took the kids when they were young, where one can watch the Amish stir giant copper kettles of apples into apple butter. It’s held in the Pioneer Village, up on a hill from which you can see miles of autumn colors. It smells good, too. That same day, though, is also the first of the Met Opera HD broadcasts, so I will not be smelling boiling apples. The village consists of historic homes and buildings which have been moved from around the county and restored. We always loved to go into the one room school house, especially to see one of the desks on which a child named Emily had carved her name ---or maybe a little boy who liked her carved it. There’s a general store, which used to sell penny candy, a milliner’s shop ands a number of wonderful Western Reserve houses. We quit going when it got too popular and overcrowded, but we all have fond memories of those days. They also used to have a steam machine festival, with sawmills, tractors, and steam rollers. The Amish continued to use steam powered machines and maybe still do. Since the village is on a hill, you could see it from miles away from the black smoke rising into the sky. I think they quit doing it because of the pollution. It was fun to hitch a ride on a steam tractor with a whistle you could barely hear above the clanking of the mechanical parts of the old iron contraptions.
We drove through the golden tunnel yesterday but it’s not quite golden yet. I think this week it should peak. It’s the highlight of the fall for me. Here’s an IPad drawing of it, more or less.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

Finally decided to try a bigger landscape, rather than a close-up kind of thing I’ve been doing. The photo I have of this place was taken in the early spring and I thought I would try to make a snow scene of it, since I had done a smaller version of it in snow for a tentative book my sister and I were going to do based on one of her songs. (Which I think we should still do, by the way.) Problem is, it looks like a damn Christmas card. But at least I tore myself away from the IPad and got back to reality for a while. I had fun with it, while listening to the BBC. One of today’s programs on was a series of David Sedaris monologues. He is one of the funniest people writing theses days. I love his family pieces.

Did not watch the so-called debate the other night. I was watching an old TV programs station – one of those sub-channels called ME TV, and enjoyed a Mary Tyler Moore show. During the commercials I flipped to the debate and heard Mitt nattering away, and the next time I flipped back, he was nattering away at the exact same thing. Two or three times the same thing happened. What few glimpses of the president I caught, he was looking rather bemused, and seemed to be watching Mitt’s mouth moving and mentally shrugging. Since I have a firm distrust of people who voted G.W. Bush in for a second term, I find it a bit frightening to think that these same people could be gulled into voting for the invisible man Romney. Who is he, anyway?

And we have another damn month of this to go.

Sally just brought over a couple of good books, so I shall bury myself in them and ignore all the political hullabaloo I’m voting for President Obama and that’s all there is to it.

Oh, I am going to have a piece in a New York gallery. Along with 60 or so other people who participated in a very clever coloring book exercise, our work will be at the ABC No Rio gallery on Nov. 2, in a preview of what the creator of the project hopes will be a longer exhibit later. All sorts of professional and non professional artists chose a masterpiece picture form a coloring book and made it their own in very interesting and colorful ways. If you're going to be in New York around that time, check it out. As you can see, it is not exactly the Met, but much more fun.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

IPad Addiction

I now have KNOWLEDGE right in my hands. No need to trudge across the room to access my Desk top to find the name of the actor who just waked across the screen. I reach down for the IPad, click into IMDB and there is the name my ancient brain hasan't been able to extract from the huge data base of trivia which used to lodge there. Who won the Oscar for best actress in 1963? Google knows, and so do I, in the wink of an eyelash. Handy for those nasty Friday and Saturday cross word puzzles, especially when it comes to sports (although John is handy for that) or rap or rock music titles and names. Is that cheating: Don't know, don't care.
I am also neglecting the real painting for the virtual stuff. It's like finger paining and there are all sorts of clever variations one can do with a little click here and a little click there. I am not by any means skilled at this and may never be, but it is fun. I still have a couple of Amish scenes to do with real paint, but I seem to have found it easier to just fool around with the digital, virtual junk painting at this point.
"The Master still looms large as a topic of discussion. John discovered a blogger with an interpretation that makes a lot sense. His analogy of the relationship between the two main characters equates it to that between a dog and his master, with Phoenix's character the dog, of course, and Hoffman's as - ta ta - the master. It certainly works well on many levels. If it weren't such a difficult film to watch, I would see it again and find infinite parallels. As much as I did not like it, I have certainly done a lot of thinking about it. It's that kind of film.
Here's a digital image made while watching "Dancing With the Stars,' a guilty pleasure. How 'bout that Apollo One dude?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Art and Movies

Well, I have to get one more post in before the end of September, which is today. The IPad is raking up too much time. Now I have a near drawing program which I use to waste time. I tried several, and settled on this one, which I think was designed by a 12 year old kid. I had some questions about it, and I had barely emailed a query than the answer zoomed into my inbox. The only problem is that it doesn’t have a zoom function, which makes it hard to work on fine detail. Otherwise, it has a lot of colors and brushes.   So did the others, but this is the easiest. Working so much on the Pad has caused me to try to sweep my fingers on this laptop, or try to pinch things to enlarge them, with no results except to smear the screen. Anyway, here are a couple of attempts at digital paintings, one of which is the late, great, still missed Dupree.

Movie reviews:

“Arbitrage.” Of which you may not have heard. I happened to see an interview with Richard Gere on the TV. He plays one of those hedge fun guys who helped crash the economy and gets away with it. Well written, well acted and not deserving to be missed.

“The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, and another disappointment as was “There Will Be Blood.”  It’s doing well at the box office, and I am glad that I saw it. The hype is all about Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is good, but Joaquin Phoenix is the real star, doing in incredible turn as a mentally wounded WWII vet. Everything about his performance is so real that it seems as if the director went to a VA hospital and asked for a recent casualty of war veteran to play the part.   His face, his body language is all twisted in mental and physical pain.  I had to wonder how he managed to do that without its affecting him. The problem with the film is that it plays as if Anderson shot 100 hours and edited it down to 2.5 hours and lost some cohesiveness. He stated out with a splash with “Boogie Nights,” which was dark, and then “Magnolia,” which was darker, and then “There will be Blood.” Which was dark and violent and now this one, in which almost everyone in it is a nut case and it’s hard to care about anyone. No one changes, nothing gets resolved. It’s the kind of movie that, if you go in feeling good, you come out depressed and anxious, and if you go  in feeling not too good, you’ll come out feeling much worse. And I came out feeling terribly worried about Joaquin Phoenix. And noticing that Phillip Seymour Hoffma still has those grimy, black rimmed fingernails. What’s wrong with this man? (I can't get the l ink thing to work, so I wrote about his fingernails in January, 20009,so  you can check it out.)
Oh, I got the link to work!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Stuff

My laptop has been neglected ion favor of the IPad toy. Last week I watched all the episodes of “Doc Martin,” which our PBS channels had not been carrying. I loved it. However, on looking at the next week’s TV guide which our paper carries, I see that it is starting on 45/49, our local PBS station. I don’t need to watch it again. Set in Cornwall, where I have not been, it was a treat to see. It is fairly typical of those kinds of British TV series: a small village full of stereotyped characters, some quirky, some weird and many annoying. It was the lead actor whom I most enjoyed, playing a hemophobic (the sight and smell of blood gives him panic attacks) doctor who did not suffer fools gladly. Downright refreshingly rude, he is.

When I wasn’t watching that, I did some more painting. I still haven’t heard anything from the library about getting into the gallery/wall there. We’ll see.

Went up to the beautiful apple orchard in Hiram on Saturday. They’re having a pick your own thing going on until the middle of October. We didn’t do that, but did take a hay ride into the middle of the orchard. The wagon was full of people who were doing their own apple picking, everyone smiling and enjoying the gorgeous blue sky day. We bought a quarter peck of a variety of cooking and eating apples.

I have a brief rant about freedom of speech. Whatever happened to “I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”? (I’ve probably messed up the elegant original statement, but the gist is there.) A friend of mine who is a brilliant writer, whose work appears frequently online (Common Dreams), happens to be disappointed with the president’s use of drones, among other things, and stated so in one of her columns, which is published in the local paper. She was soon after called by the local chairperson of the Obama campaign and told that she would not be welcome to work on the campaign. Since my friend plans to support and vote for the president, she was pretty ticked off at the chairperson’s assumption that one cannot be critical and still work for a candidate. Beware of True Believers. Don’t express an opinion that is less than totally positive. We have come to punish those who do not toe the line. Any time anyone says anything that we do not agree with she/he must be silenced.

There is a big difference between hate speech and the expression of an opinion with which we disagree. It’s getting ridiculous and this attitude simply shuts a lot of people down…but not my friend, who will continue to call ‘em as she sees ‘em.
So here's my presaonl gallery.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Sunday Visitor

This will probably wear off after a while, but I find Facetime quite fun. I accidentally called Emily this morning. I had noticed that there was a little red number on the Facetime icon on my IPad desktop. I remembered that Emily had told me she tried to Facetime me from Fauborg, so I wanted to see if she had been able to leave a message. I kept clicking on her  name in red on the contact list and hearing the phone ring, but thought she was calling me, even though it was not my ring. The message at the bottom of the screen only had an “End call” notice. After a while I realized that I was calling her, and that she was not available, so I hit the end call thing. A few minutes later my Facetime thing rang and I answered it and Emily was wondering why I had called her. I explained and the, as I brushed an English muffin crumb off the screen, she disappeared. I finally got her back, once I figured out how to actually on purpose make a call.

I had been about to fix breakfast, so when John came down to talk with her I went out o the kitchen. John decided that she should join us for breakfast, which she did, although we could only show her the delicious hash brown potatoes I made. At her hone, behind her in the kitchen, Chris was preparing dinner, where we could see him chopping things. He was making vegetarian goulash, with tofu. Emily said it was going to be delicious, but we didn’t get to see it finished. We chatted during breakfast, as you can see.

We’ve invited her for Thanksgiving dinner, too.

So I am having fun with this gadget, but I must steel myself to leave it and do something useful now and again.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer's End

August is winding down. What few neighborhood children there are here have gone back school. The university students are back, which makes the local merchants happy, especially the bar owners. The mornings are crisp, the skies are that August blue, and we actually had a very nice, rainy day at the beginning of the week. The tomato plants are full of green tomatoes which had better hurry up and start turning red before the first frost hits.

I have become slightly addicted to the IPad, finding it ever so handy to look up things with on the spot, so to speak. Say I’m watching a movie and I wonder who that actor is. Instead of getting up and going to the laptop. I just reach down by my throne, pick it up and zoom to IMDB and there it is. I have downloaded “Ulysses” to read. One of those books one is supposed to have read before one turns 85, and have at least started it. Who knows if I shall actually make my way through Joyce’s arcane allusions and ya hadda be there jokes and puns? This is not an annotated version. We’ll see.

Still painting but I am running out of photographs to paint from. I have a lot of them, but not all are suitable subjects. I haven’t tried any landscapes yet. Probably should. The local library has pout out a call for local artists for a new gallery they have started. It’s basically a wall under the stairs, but I think I’ll check it out.

Here are the latest, hot off the palette.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Painting and IPad

Still at it, painting away in Amish country. The house above is in Geauga County, on Bundysburg Road.  I love that name. I wonder if there is a Bundysburg somewhere up there. There is one part of that road that provides a stunning view in the fall. It is on a hill and through a gap I the trees you can see in the distance a group of farms below. I may try a picture of that, since I have a number of photos I have taken over the years.

The yellow barn is in Stark County, just before you get to Holmes County. I have always liked that barn. I don’t think it is an Amish farm any more, but is definitely an Amish barn. The front part of the little shed next to it has that yellow brick that is common down in Holmes County.

Besides painting I have been playing with my IPad. With Sally’s help I have downloaded a couple of interesting free apps. I’m waiting for a clear night so I can use the one which shows you what you’re looking at in the night sky. The night of the Persiaed showers was too cloudy to see anything, which is not unusual around here, not that I would have needed the app to see that. I Miss the starry skies of my youth, before we lit up the darkness and created light pollution….at least here in Northeastern Ohio.

I’ve used the IPad to watch a couple of movies on YouTube. One night I watched “Death in Venice,” featuring music from Mahler’s 5th symphony, that beautiful Adagio movement. I used to do my Tai Chi set to that. As long as I was in the Mahler mood, I watched a zany bio flick about Mahler by Ken Russell. Totally surrealistic, with the beautiful Michael Powell (he also played Jesus Christ in another movie) as Gustav. Fine music along with the craziness’ of Russell’s interpretation of Mahler’s life.

I am not doing this on the IPad. With one finger typing it would take me all night. But I do enjoy wasting time with it. Oh, I did Facetime with my German daughter the other day. Great fun. John said we should put in at the table and have her join us for Sunday dinner.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Birthday and Techno Geezerdom

I turned eighty freaking five this week. It was quite a pleasant birthday. Emily made a really lovely “Happy Birthday” video which she put on FB and also sent to everyone in the known world. As a result,  I received a lot of very nice Email from friends and family from all over. That was a really nice surprise. John brought me back a fine little book from Canada, where he had been attending a Celtic folk festival. The book is about the Group of Seven, Canadian painters from the early 20th century whose style is similar to that of Gabriele Munter, the German expressionist whose work I am emulating (trying to, that is) in the Amish paintings I’m doing. Polly sent a lovely bowl of sunflowers. John and Sally and I went out to a fine dinner at the Bistro, a new-ish local restaurant with pretty good food and a stylish ambience, located in the site of a favorite family eatery, Missimi’s ( child friendly joint with spaghetti the specialty).  

The day after my birthday a package arrived for me and in it was an IPad, from Emily and family. I spent a few fruitless hours trying to get an Apple ID, fruitless because it refused to accept my Email address. A phone call to Apple got that sorted out and now I can go anywhere on it. I expect to waste huge amounts of time playing with it. The best thing, for me, is the ability to enlarge the print so easily and eventually download books. And also to play with the Facetime app with the far off Petrou family….much better than Skype.

I am determined to continue painting. These are pre-IPad, of course, but I have some subjects lined up. Just ordered more canvas board and gesso from Cheap Joe’s, a terrific online art supply place I have used a lot in the past when I was taking art classes at KSU a few years ago. The book about the Group of Seven has given me more ideas, so I shall have fun and do crazy, wild things with paint.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What I'm Doing

And the Holmes County obsession continues. The one above is on a trade above the village of Charm. Somewhere I have a photograph of the village school, with the name “Charm School” sculptured in sandstone above the entry. I’ll have to fig around to find it. It is right in the village, rather than our on a country road, and is not strictly an Amish school. I have always loved that school sign. Charm is a neat little village with a pleasant restaurant, an antique shop, an Amish shop and a few other businesses. At one house in town, the Amish owner had a cage with two very fat and beautiful squirrels and a fenced in yard with deer. I think he hopes that tourists will stop and from the size of the squirrels, they do. From Charm, you drive up into the hills to Doughty Valley and that’

S the road on which the farm with the red barn sits.

The one below is that Amish meeting which I saw but did not photograph, so this one is done from memory. The Amish generally meet at their homes, and you will see dozens of buggies pulled up in the yard when there’s a meeting. This one was at a church, so it might have been a particular sect which does use meeting houses or church buildings. It was near a very small village on the border of Holmes and Columbiana counties. It was a study in green, black and white and left quite an impression on me. I used a small color pencil sketch of this scene on a previous blog.

I think what I’m going to do next is a painting of the men at the horse auction in Mt. Eaton.

Maybe I’m doing all this because I can no longer hop in the car and go down there when I fell like it. It’s a beautiful place. Then again, we have an area closer to us in Geauga County and I have taken a lot of pictures up there, too.  Watch out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Holmes County On a Roll And a Diverfsion

As you can see I have been painting a lot. Maybe I’ll take a rest, but I am enjoying it immensely. Here are two more that I have cranked out in the last week. There are numerous little schoolhouses in their communities where Amish folks live. Sometimes they are devoted to a particular sect. Some of the Amish children attend regular public schools, too. It used to be that most children went to school through the eighth grade, and in the stricter sects that is still the case.
The things that  look like little witches are wheat sheaves. You can see them lined up in the fields in late summer, and it's a lovely sight. (and a lot of hard work for the women.)

Making these paintings  has almost  become an addiction. Since I have all these photos there seems to be no end to it. But I shall try to post something different soon.

Maybe about gun control. God knows somebody has to mention it. What has happened that no one is talking about it in the wake of the Colorado horror? Obviously the guy has lost his mind, but has access to the kinds of weapons used in war. Columbine, Virginia Tech, the psycho army psychologist (!!!???) – dozens of people dead and critically wounded for no reason except that guns are so easy to buy and we live in a gun-loving vulture which spends more on fire power than on mental health services and research.

I hate to write about this in the midst of the pictures of the pacifist Amish community, but in this election year when the two candidates for president apparently don’t want to or are afraid to piss off the NRA, I feel the need to rant.

I guess that’s why I feel so drawn to the Amish. They don’t use Uzis when deer hunting.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Here a some more Amish houses, from pictures taken a number of years ago, The one below is quite unusual, and looks as if it had not started out as a house. For one thing, it was not a wooden house, and the shape is very different from the usual architecture.  

There was a storm coming in and  the house shone out like a beacon against the dark sky, as the sun still was shining on the front of it.

The otter house stands on the road to Doughty Valley and was a new house, which hadn’t been there earlier. Again, it was late afternoon, so the light was that intense brightness you get in late winter at that time of day.

I’m still looking for summer photos, which I must have taken at some point, when things were green instead of brown and ocher.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Amish Farm Houses

For years I have driven through Amish country in Holmes and Geauga Counties, and have taken lots of pictures. I seem to have spent a lot of time there in the autumn or winter. I decided to give them the Munter treatment, so I have been painting away for the last few weeks, splashing paint around and having fun.
All Amish houses are white, but I have used reflected colors and tried to see what  results. I can't find any photos taken in the middle of summer, when everything is green. I don't know why that is. I have searched through dozens old albums from thirty years back. I haven't searched through my digital photos, so maybe I have some summer ones there.
I am working in the style of Gabriele Munter, about whom I have written before. I don't have the Alps as a backdrop, but Holmes County has a few hills and valleys. My favorite place down there is Doughty Valley, through which runs Doughty Creek. it is the most serene place. You have to park in a little Mennonite cemetery. I have photographed it in three seasons, but not summer. It is so quiet there that you can hear cow bells and once in a while the creak of a windmill. I haven't been down there for several years. For all I know, it could be a development by now.
So here are a couple of Amish houses. one in winter, one in autumn, both late afternoon, both in Holmes County, Ohio..

Hard of Seeing, Part II

I have a coupe of new “Hard of Seeing” goofs, both of which happened yesterday and today. I had been doing quite well for a long while, but for some reason, these two cropped up practically back to back. And at my last appointment with the4 retinologist, I had not even needed a treatment. I think it is just the random juxtaposition of letters that does it.

The first comes from the latest AARP magazine. It headlined a letter to the editor and seemed quite ominous and out of place in the current political climate. It read (to me) “A Warning About President Carter.” What ob earth was this person going on about here? He’s not even running. The magnifying glass cleared that up. It was actually a warning about Prostate Cancer. Now that may not look like President Carter to those of you with 20/20 vision, but it certainly did to me.

The second was in today’s paper and it read “Starting Pistols Behind Spread of TV Blackouts.” Of course it didn’t make any sense, but then a lot of today’s technology seems to possess magical powers, so it could be.

However, on closer examination, it was “Stalling Profits” that are the actual problem.

When I was telling a friend about this, he said that he had read somewhere that you should be able to read the first and last letters of any word and understand it. I said, “Not if you have macular degeneration, you can’t, or sat least you can’t read it correctly.”

And so it goes.

Had a nice, quick visit with Nancy and Joe from Near Philadelphia. They were in town to visit their friends Roberta and Lloyd, who invited me to join them for dinner. Lovely to see them in person. I keep up with them via blog posts, but face to face is always better.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It's July, Dammit

I know there is climate change, global warming going on, but this is not the hottest summer I have ever tried to live through. I remember summers of month long 90 plus degree temps, when we would eat down in the basement because it was the only cool place in the house.
Weather people like to claim things like: "This is the hottest 2:00  P.M. on July 3rd on record  or, since 1905." TV channels are in love with their weather gadgetry, pinpointing tornadoes on your very own street, and urging you to get into the nearest closet. We have become edgy about weather, thanks to 24/7 availability of dire news. And lots of sweaty whingeing form the populace.
I remember when I was a kid in Georgia, sitting on the brown, dry grass in the back yard, listening to the cicadas and locusts or whatever bugs made shrill noises. . I don't remember feeling particularly hot. We used to go swimming almost every day at Mosely Park, where it was free before noon. Somehow that cooled us off for the rest of the day, even though we had to walk to get there, through some dusty old roads which felt good on our bare feet. (We had a neighbor who was convinced we would get hook worm by goinng around without shoes. She was sure I had worms because I ate a lot but was very skinny. But the, she had grown up in the country.)
Change of Subject (whatever that may be...)
PBS is running a neat series on arts on Friday nights. The first was called "Two Gentlemen of Cremona," and was about Amati, Stradivari and Guarnieri del Gesu. Emily took me once to Mittenwald, a Bavarian town noted for its violin makers, with a museum and an informative video on the violin.viola,cello making process.Theyy are lovely, hand made instruments, but not considered quite up to the standard of the Crenmona masters' work.
PBS show had more of that sort of thing. It is hard to imagine that these delicate instruments can last hundreds of years. The program compared the two main masters, Strad and Guarn, demonstrating the different tones they created. I guess if you're a violinist, you can discern the difference: Strads are brighter, Guarns are mellower. Since they are both worth millions, I don't think the average string player will ever have a chance to compare them by playing.
Last night (Friday) the program was about Islamic art, mainly architecture, which is sublimely beautiful. One of the most interesting was a mosque in an African town, made of adobe i.e., mud. It is so unique and a fine example of people adapting their own unique style and materials. The other mosques are grand and full of outstanding sculpture and marble and mosaics and intricate and sophisticated carving. Great show about something I know nothing about.
And almost all of this great Islamic art has been done in countries where is is VERY HOT most of
the time.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yeah, It's Hot

It’s dog-breath weather time here in Ohio. Makes ya long for February – almost. Thank goodness John put in a bunch of window air conditioners in last year. I don’t like the noise, but I do appreciate the cooth therefrom.

In keeping with the wool blanket air, there will not be much cooking going on in this house. We’re eating a lot of salads, throwing in all sorts of fruits, cheese, and meat (mainly chicken) and filling up on greens. It’s too early for the really great things to be available at the market like local melons or peaches, but there’s enough being shipped in from further south to satisfy.

On an entirely different note, I have noticed a strange word choice being used by more writers these days. Instead of a character leaving a room, getting out of a car, or walking from a restaurant, they are using the word “exit.” Characters exit a car, exit a room, or exit a restaurant. What is this about? It seems quite awkward to me. I think it was the Hanna-Barbera high stringed cat who shouted “Exit, stage right!” as his image shot off the screen. Could that word “exit” have imprinted on the brains of tots watching that show, and these tots, having grown up into writers and liking the sound of that word be using it to enhance their prose style? Which it doesn’t.

Well, I shall exit this post now and get back to reading the work of an exit obsessed writer. If she doesn’t stop it, I may have to exit the book, or the reading thereof.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Garden of Uneden

The rogue lily has been breeding underground and  new baby lilies have sprouted, so now I have all of these things springing up. So far I think they have intimidated the deer, so they have remained uneaten. They have intimidated my poor little cilantro and sage plants, which I shall move to the regular garden as soon as it is ready to have new things planted in it. I weeded it yesterday and it looks like something out of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. We need rain.

Every year I am determined to thin out the less showy Stella d’oro lilies and have not done so. The poor things are so crowded they are not blooming as much as they should. I know they will be hard to dig up and will probably need a hack saw to separate, but it must be done.

If plants were protected like children, I would be hauled into court for neglect.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bigger Than A Breadbox

Three are problems with large print books, I have found. I just waded through one that had just fewer than 900 pages. The damn thing weighed over five pounds. I am not a weakling, but that’s a lot of paper to wrestle with for an hour or so.

The book is “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I guess it was an Oprah book, even though there was no child sexual abuse in it. It started out well, reminding me of one of my favorite writers, John Irving. However, it began to deteriorate after a few hundred pages.

I was at a children’s literature conference some years back and one of the authors/illustrators talked about the fun and necessity of research when working on the kind of book which requires that the writer knows what h/he is talking about. Then, he said you put the research in the background, confident that your story will reflect but not spell out what you know. Lately, I have found that some authors don’t know how to do that. The result is that some of the characters start spouting information in stilted, pedantic speeches or boring conversations that impede the narrative flow, all in aid of letting the reader know how much the author knows... Are writers being paid by the word now? Do editors edit? I looked in the back of the book to read the acknowledgements, and he had dozens of readers and editors helping him, he says, over a number of years. No one had told him the truth, apparently. I have no problem with wordy writers: Hardy and Dickens did wonders with words. This book, which I finally gave up on entirely, managed to bore the hell out of me. Repetition, repetition: people going over the same thing, and then disquisitions in the form of letters about dog breeding.

In spite of all the dog research, he has a female dog standing on three legs to pee.  I know it can happen, but he makes such a point of knowing all about dogs that I just lost all respect, if I had had any, for the so-called writer. I stopped halfway through, and, hey, that’s over 400 freaking pages. (I skipped to near the end and they were talking about the same stuff.)

It’s too bad, because there was the germ of a good story there.

And the damn thing hurt my wrists.
The one on top is the one I am writing about. The one on the bottom is a normal book.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Queen's Life

Since there’s nothing on TV these nights, I found myself watching a PBS special about a trip to the U.S. of A. by the queen back in 2007. Housekeepers in the posh inn where she would be staying were all in a flutter to show off how well they had prepared for the royal visit. The bed linens, they gushed, had been washed FOUR times – this before the regal body had mussed to sheets.  How many times AFTER she slept on them would they have to be washed? Does the queen think that previous guests had cooties? One maid proudly showed off the brand new TOILET seat, saying the she was sure Her Majesty would appreciate that. This caused in my mind a visual that I really didn’t choose to entertain. DO you think maybe a lackey rushed in with another new one each tine the queen flushed? Or did a lackey rush in to flush, too? A new roll of TP?

This whole think started me thinking about the life of a royal personage. I wondered, for instance, if the queen had ever made a sandwich, or even knew how. Manly years ago, in the old, original Kent Kapers, I wondered that sort of thing about our own American queen, Jackie Kennedy. After her death, I wrote about the things she had probably never done, and I shall now plagiarize myself and apply the same sort of probing questions about the British monarch. These are women with the sort of life one may think is full and rich, but actuality lacks much.

For example, has Liz ever eaten tuna noodle casserole? Much deserved derision surrounds British cuisine (except for roast beef, of course), but this tasty and easily prepared staple could add some savor to the land of Spotted Dick and Toad in the Hole.

Has she ever fished a child’s toy out of the toilet? Used a coat hanger to pull matted hair out of a drain?  Cleaned up after one of the Corgis had an accident on the royal Persian rugs? Shopped at a Wal-Mart? Dressed herself? Gone outside without one of those HATS on? Actually changed a nappy? Washed out her underwear in the bathroom sink? Bought groceries? Taken out the garbage? Seen garbage? Mopped a floor? Made a bed? Used a plunger on a stopped up sink?

Let’s face it. The woman has had an incomplete, unrealistic life. Tiaras and ermine robes may be fun to wear, and being the richest woman in the world means you can have anything money can buy, including happiness (who believes not?) but, come on, you’re not really LIVING. You end up basically incompetent to survive in the modern world, I think.

But it would be nice to have a new toilet seat every time you sit down in a strange place.