Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Plain People

Last night on PBS, I watched a documentary on the Amish. It was filmed in both Pennsylvania and Ohio and was very well done and very respectful of the Amish desire for privacy, in that close up photography was not used.

Ohio has the largest Amish population in the U.S. of A. I live between two large communities; one is north of here in Geauga County and the other is south of here in Holmes County. The northern one is supposed to be the stricter, and they do not cater to tourists. The one in Holmes County is full of tourist attractions: shops, restaurants, farms and homes to tour, B.amd B.s and a few large hotels. Both areas are quite beautiful, with little back roads to explore and great scenery and green hills

In some of the shops run by the Amish, you can hear Swiss German sprinkled with English words. Some of the farm wives run little shops next to their houses, full of notions, toys and interesting coloring books, published locally, containing wonderfully strange drawings done by area folks. One of the shopkeepers told me that she could spend all day coloring if she had the time. There are a variety of small school houses, differing by sect. The children play baseball, jump rope and tag, and it seems very old fashioned and fun. Schooling ends after the eighth grade. It is a hard life, though, especially for women, since there is no electricity and such niceties as vacuum cleaners and washing machines and families are quite large.

The above scene is one I saw a few years ago on one of those lovely June days we have here in Ohio. Everything is brilliantly green. This was at a crossroads in Holmes County on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know what the occasion was, but in the midst of all the green was this group of men and women all dressed in black,, with the white aprons and white shirts. I wanted so much to take a picture of it, and I probably could have with my tele-photo lens, but I just didn’t think it would be right. I’ve kept it in my memory. It’s the sort of thing you’ll never see again and it was so striking that I’ve never forgotten it.

NOTE: Someone has put some fake links in this blog. Do not click on the highlighted words. I don't know how it's been done and I can't seem to undoi it in the edit mode. Blogger Help is no help.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Busy, Busy Week-end

I just had a rather crowded, but enjoyable week-end. ON Friday I went up to Cleveland with friends. The dsy started with the Cleveland Orchestra concert, featuring Schubert’s “Great” Symphony, and it really was great. I didn’t buy a season ticket this year, figuring I would pick and chose those concerts I really wanted to attend. My old seat is taken, but that didn’t matter. After the concert, we went over to the Botanical Garden for lunch and a brief stroll through the orchid exhibit, which is quite spectacular.

Then it was over to the art museum which is having a Rembrandt show. Lots of portraits. I had planned to go up with the family later so I just wandered through and let my friends spend time examining paintings while Ii just wandered. Last year I spent a lot of time up there when I took that “Drawing in the Galleries” class, which I did love. I miss it, but since I can’t drive, I can’t take it again. The museum is still being remodeled, rebuilt and rearranged. There are places I loved which no l longer exist. The print galleries and now in a bland set of rooms. They used to be in a really quiet, long passageway with little byways. It was like a private gallery. Their print and drawing collections are fantastic, so they could be changed and displayed different treasure forever. I first discovered those galleries when I was a student and they were always my favorite place to go. One of the worst things they have done is to roof over what had been a lovely outdoor plaza, with trees and sculptures which was right by the cafeteria, so you could go outside and eat your lunch and watch the birds and the sky and relax. It will now be a glass enclosed space, all hard edged and unfriendly. Don’t know why they do these things.

After Rembrandt, we went to Berea, the home of Baldwin –Wallace College, where my husband used to teach, to attend a choral concert. My friends’ grandson, who is a student at the conservatory there, was conducting the women’s chorus. He did a fine job and the concert was splendid. I had not been in that auditorium for over fifty years. While we were living there, I had been in the Bach chorus and had spent a lot of time in that auditorium. The campus has changed a lot. Where our house was (it belonged to the college) is now performing arts center. Many of the houses I knew are gone, replaced by college buildings.

Saturday I had thought to go to the Live HD opera, “Ernani,” but I was too tired after that long day and stayed home and listened to it on the radio. The singing was pretty awful so I didn’t muss anything, I guess.

Yesterday, Sunday, I went to see the university’s production of “Ragtime.” It was stunning, one of the best things I’ve seen them ever do. The actor who played Coalhouse Walker is a professional Equity actor, but he wasn’t the only good thing about it. Great dancing, singing, sets, orchestra, everything. It was a real treat.

Last night I watched the Oscars and was crushed that Martin Scorsese didn’t win for best director. I did love “The Artist,” but I think of it a more gimmicky that great movie making. I had also hoped that Michele Williams would have won for best actress. I do like Meryl Streep, but I didn’t see her Margaret Thatcher turn. Glad that “Midnight in Paris” got a writing award for Woody Allen. Loved that flick!

So it was busy week-end.

On A Different Note Entirely.

There was a horrible tragedy in a small town about 30 miles north of here today. A high school shooting, which resulted in the the death of at least one student and the wounding of four others. Happened to turn on the TV around 11 o’clock and found that the usual TV news crews were doing what they do, while knowing absolutely NOTHING: Speculating, passing on rumors, talking, talking, talking, repeating scraps of information gleaned form other news reporters. I wonder why they do this? They know NOTHING, but they keep talking, talking and talking. They managed to interview one poor kid and then kept repeating what he had said as if it was new information over and over again. It would be so refreshing if one of them had just said, “We don’t have any information at the moment, but when we do, we will let you know.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Grand Old Party Party

They can’t be serious, can they? I mean, look at the line-up, what’s left of it. I think Newt’s still in, assuring everyone of his brilliance. (Oh, does that make him one of the dreaded “elites” which used to mean upper class, but now seems to mean people who can construct a sentence or read French.) Romney’s still in, but they are so afraid of his religion and his money (Republicans afraid of money??) that I think they’ve pretty much written him off. Ron Paul is hanging in by a thread. Donald Trump, whom they seem to fancy as some kind of king, maker, has deserted Newt and thrown his ego-inflated support to the complete nadir of  presidential campaign history: Rick Santorum. (This after he had said that he, Donald Trump, would run if Newt didn’t become the front runner.)

Are they all nuts? My God, they gave us eight years of dumb already and are aiming to do it again. Have they listened to Santorum fumbling through his twisted pseudo-theological rambles? He’s not happy about birth control or pre-natal testing. I love it that every four years, the Republicans rant about this sort of thing while the country is grappling with economic, energy and serious world issues. The Republicans also put great emphasis on the state of candidates’ religion so long as it’s Christian regardless of their personal ethics. Interestingly, Catholicism is now a good thing to be part of. Newt’s a convert and I think Santorum was born into it. I must say, Newt picked a helluva time to become one, considering the disarray the church is in over the preponderance of child abuse by the clergy. (I am a recovering Catholic myself and have a hard time wondering why anyone would choose it over, say agnosticism or paganism.)

The GOP candidates have had a gazillion “debates” which have no resemblance to the form, and spent gazillions of dollars on ads blasting each other on TV ads, which, fortunately have not played yet in Ohio. I can just imagine, now that they have trashed each other, the kinds of vitriol they will pour onto President Obama during the campaign. With the Super Pacs wallowing in so much money, thanks to the “non-political” Supreme Court, I think it would be a good idea to cancel newspapers, turn off the radio and TV next fall and find a comfortable cave to hide in until after the election.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hard of Seeing

We all know people who are “hard of hearing,” and how often they miss what one is saying and respond to something completely different. It is frustrating for them, of course, but sometimes the results are funny, too. Well, I am “hard of seeing” because of the macular degeneration I inherited from my father. Fortunately for me, there is now treatment which can slow down the process. Nothing will cure it, of course, and I have reached the point where I had to give up driving last summer.

However, I still can read with the help of large print books and handy magnifying glass. I think I have one in just about every room these days. My main problem is letters and numbers, which tend to be distorted if I don’t use magnification.

When we read, we don’t really read all the letters of words; we just register the whole word based on a few letters. When you can see clearly you can just skim through words, not even consciously “reading” them.

When one is hard of seeing, though, the skimming missies some rather key letters which don’t register. I have been keeping a list of some of the ridiculous interpretations of what I think I have read.
These are usually small headline topics that I don’t need to magnify.

There was “Twinkies Destroy Park.” That’s the sort of information that gives one pause. The word was “Twister.” Not very interesting except maybe to the kiddos who might have been enjoying the sand box at the time.

Then there was my favorite: “Medicare Discovery in Crayon a Mystery” Mein Gott, are they trying to kill us geezers with some kind of loaded drawing materials? Or did a crayon contain some sort of miracle substance that would rejuvenate us? Shucks, no; it was about a macabre discovery in a canyon that was the mystery. Ho hum! In California!

There wads the felt pen scandal, which turned out to be about Phen Fen, some dangerous diet drug that wrought havoc among weight loss fans some years ago. Someone has written a book about it and I swear the cover art did look a bit like a felt pen.

Just yesterday the headline read “NYPD Monitoring Museum Students in the Northeast.” What had those haughty would be curators been up to, I wondered. Of course, it was Muslim students, some of whom may well be museum students for all I know.

This kind of reading can be much more exciting than the usual headlines, adding a more interesting take on the dull news of the day. Maybe I should find a hard of hearing person who gets his/her news from an audio source and compare notes on our audio and visual misinformation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Off the Cable

After much thought, triggered by overpriced cable costs, we have returned to the days of non-cable TV. We are in a good location to receive signals from a variety of channels. We had been using UVerse, which provided us with over 200 channels, only 5 or 6 of which we actually watched. Golf channels? Cooking channels? Who watches that kind of thing? We were spending around 80 bucks a month more than we needed to for TV alone.

The in-house handy man bought and installed an old fashioned antenna. We cancelled the UVerse account and went with another provider for the phone and online service and are saving those 80 bucks a month for other things.

The main reason I wanted the expanded channels was for TCM, Turner Classic Movies. However, now one can watch old movies on Hulu or YouTube. While it was nice having DVR to record multiple shows, one can catch almost everything online the next day. We cab connect the laptops to the big TV if we want to.

Fortunately, we now have multiple PBS channels, since each of our two stations have 4 or 5 sub-channels, which we couldn’t get with UVerse. As long as I don’t have to miss “Downton Abbey” I’ll be all right. (Oh, it ends this coming Sunday! What shall we do?)

I still have my Internet radio, which I use more than TV. The Beeb is celebrating Dickens’ bicentennial with wonderful dramatizations of his hovels. They’re doing “Our Mutual Friend” and “Nicholas Nickleby” right now. Actors like Ian McKellan and Michael Kitchen (“Foyle’s War”) are in the casts of these programs, as the BBC does not stint when it comes to quality.

There was an article in the Akron newspaper right about the time that we decided to make these changes, written by their business editor. She and her family had decided to do the same thing last year, for much the same reason. She claims that this is the coming thing, that many people are watching TV quite differently, using their computers more and watching their own selections, rather than being stuck with multiple unwatched channels. I think the only thing that would make me want to sign up for cable service again would be if I could choose only those channels I want to watch and pay accordingly. Maybe some day they’ll wise up and offer such a deal.

Monday, February 6, 2012

R.I.P., F. U. Bob

It's been a sad week in our town. Last week Gordon Vars was struck and killed by a car. Gordon was a retired professor of education at the university, a gentle, scholarly man who loved to sing in the church choir and the Kent chorus. He founded the Friends of the Bog, and stove mightily  to protect the Thomas Cooperrider tamarack bog, which had been threatened by developers. He was much admired and will be missed by many in the community. I will miss seeing him at concerts and plays, which he and his wife attended at the university. A lovely man, he was.
This past week-end, F.U. Bob died suddenly of a heart attack. Bob got his nickname as a result of what was probably Tourette's syndrome. If you passed him on the street, he would automatically greet you  with a certain comment or flip you the bird. He meant no malice by this but the nickname was how everyone knew him. My friend and former art professor Bob Morrow told me that Bob had been one of the most talented art students he had ever had. Morrow assumed that F.U. had damaged his brain with drugs during the high old times here in the 60s.  That may have triggered the Tourette's, if that's possible. At any  rate, in the last 15 or so years, F.U. quit greeting people in the old way and began to socialize and become part of the community. I assume that he was able to get some medical help.
He started painting and drawing and made color copies of his drawings and sold then at the farmer's market and art fairs. My friend Bob Morrow claimed that Bob had lost his magic touch. I had a nodding acquaintance with F.U. He was always at the summer chamber music concerts and any other art events around town. In fact, it was F.U. who inspired me to start taking my sketch book to those chamber concerts, since I had noticed that he always broght his books and markers with him. It's an ideal place to do this sort of thing, since it's dark and no one can see what you're doing and ask to see your work, which is fine with me. We never sat in the same place, and we never shared our work, but we were always drawing away to the music. He preferred the contemporary composers and knew a whole lot about their music and would tell you in great detail. I learned not to ask questions of him.  He would offer informed critiques, if one had the time to listen.
Actually he had a lot of friends. He didn't have a car, but people would offer him rides. I  didn't know what he lived on, but Sally said that he had a small inheritance  or maybe his family gave him money to stay away. I had thought he lived on disability, but I heard that he had refused any government help.  He was such a part of this town, that it's hard to imagine that he won't be shuffling along on his way to a concert, a play or conversation with friends.
Two men, quite different, but such a part of our town that to lose them creates a hole in the fabric of the community.