Friday, November 30, 2012

Fiction Friday: November 30, 2012: Argo

Inspired by Coach Laura's review of the movie "Argo," which Madame L wasn't sure she wanted to see because of its "R" rating, Madame L did go see it this week, and Madame L LOVED this movie!

Here's how good it was: You knew how it was going to end, but you were still hunched forward so you could reach your nails, the better to gnaw at them, as the movie approached the climax.

Go see it! As Laura pointed out, the movie "earned" its "R" rating because of the scattering of the F-word throughout. If this is more offensive to you than some movies that get "PG-13" ratings but are objectionable in other ways, then you will have missed a great movie. But maybe you can watch the DVD when it comes out, if it comes out in a version where they have changed all the F-words to some other words that are less offensive....

...All  of which of course could lead to a rousing discussion of the ridiculosity (yes, it's a word) of the Motion Picture Association of America's ridiculous rating system, if Madame L were at all interested in such a discussion.

But she isn't. So Madame L thanks Laura for checking out the "R" rating and vows to check out movies in the same way for herself in the future.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I've been fascinated with this form of Japanese poetry ever since it was introduced to me by an English teacher in high school.

We're all familiar with it, of course: 17 syllables divided so the first line has 5, second line has 7, and third line has 5. It doesn't have to rhyme, and it's usually an image from nature.

I picked up a book of famous Japanese haiku recently, and after reading some of the poems (translated to English) I wanted to know more.

For instance, did the lines rhyme in the original? Did they have any other unifying structure? How closely are they translated into English, so, if you read both languages, would you find the poems equally pleasing in both of them?

So, looking online, I found a fascinating web page with the basics, written especially for teachers who want to teach this form to young students. Here's an example of one of the haiku written by Basho, one of the best known haiku poets:

Furuike ya, kawazu tobikomu, mizu no oto.
Breaking the silence
Of an ancient pond,
A frog jumped into water-
A deep resonance.

I like the way this translation doesn't stick to the 7-syllable  middle line just to stick to it.

Here's the paragraph following the poem:

     "This poem is representative of Basho's mature style. On the surface it is a description of the actions of a frog. However, considered more deeply, it is also a mirror that reflects the author. Basho writes: 'Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one--when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. However well phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural-if the object and yourself are separate-then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit' (Basho, 33)."

Now I know there's much more to haiku than what I learned on this web page this day, but this much has inspired me to work on my own haiku, which I've been writing occasionally since I first heard about them. But I'm not sure my efforts qualify as "real" haiku.

More, from that website:

     "Haiku presents simple imagery, devoid of similes, metaphors, and eloquent adjectives and adverbs. When crafting haiku, think of a group of words that present an observation in a way that appeals to the senses. Use sight, touch, sound, smell, taste, or sensations like pain or movement. Tell of a specific event or observation; do not write in general terms. Write in the present tense. Try to indicate the feelings of the poet as she/he is writing the poem. When describing an event, present it as an image. For example, the following is NOT haiku:
"I watched the rain
Drops as they splattered
Into the puddle.
     "As written by a 4th grade student, the same sentiment is expressed as haiku:
Soft warm splatterings
Echoing in circles
Settle in the puddle."

Ah, as usual in life and literature, an example explains things much better than another long explanation. But does this one I wrote recently qualify as haiku?

Like the tree falling,
the man won’t die unless he
calls out. Which he won’t.

No, it doesn't, because it begins with that "Like..." I still like the poem, though, because I think it conveys the image I was trying for, even though it's not classical haiku. And I don't know if the classical form conveys it any better (at least the way I've written it). I think maybe it does:

Falling down he won’t
call out so he keeps living,
unheard, all alone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Leslie Nielsen, who died two years ago today, delivered some of the funniest lines ever. Of course someone wrote those lines, but it was his delivery that made them work, made us laugh so hard and remember these lines today. He would have made another joke about that, I'm sure.

Example No. 1:

Lt. Frank Drebin (Nielsen): It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girl dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.

Jane: Goodyear?

Frank: No, the worst.

Example No. 2:

Frank: That's the red-light district. I wonder why Savage is hanging around down there.

Captain Ed Hocken: Sex, Frank?

Frank: Uh, no, not right now, Ed.

Example No. 3: 

Dr. Rumack (Nielsen): You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has got to be gotten to a hospital.

Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?

Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.

Example No. 4 (and my all-time favorite):

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?

Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.

Rumack: I am serious. And don't call me Shirley!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Mostly I'm thankful for family. Because without family, none of the other things would matter.

So, I was going to post some photos here, but Google says I'm out of my 1 GB space for photos and I need to buy some more space. Are you kidding me?

Here are the photos I was going to post: Little Mugwai wearing her winter coat, looking embarrassed because she really doesn't like it and she thinks she looks silly, but she really just looks cute; little Lola watching the Redskins whomp the ... who was that team now? oh well, nobody cares about them ... ; and a few photos of the humans who also enjoyed the day.

Yes, the dogs are family, too. Also, the birds.

Anyway, I hope everyone who reads this had as wonderful a Thanksgiving day as we did.

Oh, I know what I'll do: I'll post these on some other blog. Not on Facebook, though. Sorry, that's just the way my current attitude about Facebook is.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Milky Way From South Sister

Self-portrait of photographer Ben Canales (and the Milky Way) on Oregon's South Sister. Click to galactinate.
Image credit: Ben Canales. Used by permission.

(Note: I bought a legal download of this photo and will post that one as soon as I can.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fiction Friday: November 23, 2012: Brave

Madame L finally had a chance to see this Pixar animated movie and enjoyed it, even though she was trying to do something else at the same time.

Madame L was particularly struck by what the spell does to the mother...

Oops, Madame L doesn't want to give away any of the story, but she will say that even though the overall plot is as predictable as a Disney-Pixar can be expected to be, it has a few surprises which make it better than Madame L expected.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks for Katie

Happy Thanksgiving! Reading this column in today's Oregonian made my day, so I'm sharing it with everyone who reads this, to help make their day, too:

John Canzano, the Oregonian's sports columnist, coached his daughter's fourth-grade volleyball team, and got a bonus: Katie Godoy, a little girl with Down syndrome, joined the team.

He wasn't sure whether she could join the team---they already had the maximum of 10 players allowed---but the organization made an exception for Katie and they called her the team manager.

Here's how the season evolved: "Katie's been a joy at practices. I've realized in the past three months that including her hasn't just been good for Katie, but also, for the other 10 members of her team. Also, for me. The other players take care of her. They watch after her. They are patient, and loving, and inclusive. It's not rare to see a teammate stop a drill at practice, and announce, 'Katie has to go to the bathroom,' and then, take little Katie by the hand and escort her to the restroom."

Then, after the team went 4-4 in wins and losses, they signed up for post-season play. More:

     "We arrived at last week's tournament match clinging to hope that we might go deep. I'd been conflicted over playing time, and what was the right thing to do. My wife (Read: chief adviser), meanwhile, had gone out of state to be with her ailing father, who was told last week he has Stage IV colon cancer. He's facing long odds.

     "I thought about my father-in-law fighting for more good days. I thought deep about my wife, faced with her father's mortality. I thought about what really matters -- each other. Also, I thought about you, the good people of this region who have taught me so much since I arrived here 10 years ago.

     "You love and connect with each other in a way that people just don't in other places. I see strangers stop to talk with the homeless. I see people holding doors for each other. I see people genuinely and deeply connected.

The final game:

     "The game started. And coach Tresa shuttled the girls in and out, making wholesale substitutions based on the charts. And then, the strangest thing happened.

     "Every serve was true. Every pass was accurate. Every point came easier than the one before. The girls were alive; laughing, celebrating, diving all over the court. They were playing together. And Katie, who was sitting on the bench, cheering, had the biggest smile of all. Maybe this column could end here.

     "But it doesn't.

     "Because we led the final game 15-3, with everyone playing. And I looked over at coach Tresa, and said, "Are you going to do it?" She smiled, and shot back: "I think we're thinking the same thing." Coach Scott, at the other end of the bench, just smiled.

     "In big-time sports, we say the postseason is all that matters. That, as the stage grows and the lights get brighter, you separate the winners and losers. That championship moments are met with championship performances. And I now believe that the postseason tournament for the girls CYO fourth-grade volleyball team is the biggest stage I've ever covered as a journalist.

     "'Katie,' coach Tresa said, 'you're going in the game.'

     "I wish I could say that Katie fell over laughing. But she didn't. She just rose to her feet in what Tresa would later call, 'My proudest moment as a coach.' And as Katie moved toward the court to substitute in, there was a gasp from the crowd.

     "Parents on both teams raised their cell phones to take photographs and video. Others just stared, wondering how this might unfold. And you should know, the girls on the fourth-grade volleyball team, smiled, and did what they've done all season.

     "They surrounded Katie with their love. They told her to get in a good, ready position. They showed her how to hold her hands. The players on Katie's left and right, and the player behind her, cheated over from their positions, protecting her. And this column could end right here, with my eyes glassy even now, thinking about Katie, knees bent, hands cupped, ready."

There's more still:

     "... Katie got to serve, and even as the ball only went a couple of feet, the entire gymnasium erupted as though she'd served an ace. Katie jumped up and down. Just as she did when we won the game, the match, and headed to a showdown for third place in the tournament.

     "So yeah. This is the day we traditionally give thanks for the things in our life. So thanks to my wife, for her big heart, flawless vision and for challenging me to be a better man. And thanks to my 10-year old, who was never happier to sit on the bench, cheering for a teammate than she was when Katie subbed in for her. And thanks to you, for teaching me why we should care about each other. But especially thanks, too, to the 11th player on the already crowded roster of the girls fourth-grade volleyball team."

And there's more. You can read all of it here.

And then wipe away your tears of joy at this wonderful little human being and all the people around here, and then give thanks again.

Monday, November 19, 2012


These birds often perch right outside the kitchen window.

At least two males and one female come and rest many times every day while waiting for a chance at the feeder there.

Even when they're perching there, they don't hold still, always on the watch for another bird that wants to keep them away from the feeder.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Did Pete cry? Goodness, no! He kept walking along, singing his song:

I think this is my all-time favorite picture book.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Pooperdog Workout: Bicep Curls

Here he is, the infamous Pooperdog, helping his friend work on his biceps:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fiction Friday: November 16, 2012: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds

Now, here's a book Madame L recommends wholeheartedly. This is the latest in Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series which began with "The Sunday Philosophy Club."

Isabel Dalhousie looks at the world very carefully through the lens of what is the correct or the best or at least the not-too-bad thing to do. And then, like the rest of us, she goes ahead and does what some inner voice tells her to do. And, like the rest of us, she puts herself in difficulties by following that voice.

Most of her difficulties come from accepting requests from acquaintances to solve problems. This time, one of these acquaintances who isn't even really a friend---who always manages to say just the wrong thing to Isabel and everyone else---asks her on behalf of another person to investigate the theft of a valuable painting from the home of a wealthy gentleman farmer.

Accepting the request, Isabel puts herself in some apparent physical danger but also in the position of not knowing who is telling the truth about the painting, the family relationships, the greed of the other family members, and, really, everything else.

But, again, like the rest of us on our best and worst days, Isabel solves the case almost by accident, not even knowing how it will turn out. Madame L won't give away any more than that.

Meanwhile, Madame L loves these stories for the references to Scots history and culture. Here's a great song she first heard of in this book: Sam Hall.

Madame L hopes her Dear Readers won't mind hearing the Johnny Cash version of the song. He makes it his own, and the other versions Madame L found online weren't nearly as moving.

P.S. What do clouds have to do with any of this? Read the book, Dear Readers, and then tell Madame L and Aunt Louise your answer!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Age Discrimination

I was in a meeting last week with a woman, even younger than me (and you know how young THAT is!), who was distressed because she couldn't find a job. She knew it wasn't because of lack of education, as she has earned a degree in anthropology; she suspected it was because of her age. What could I say? I suspected she was right!

I didn't know if her solution was the greatest (taking secretarial and accounting classes at the community college), but I didn't have any better suggestions for her.  I have myself read all kinds of advice about how to keep from showing your age on your resume and in your appearance as you get older. But here's the best thing I've read yet:

"The Dirty Little Secret of Age Discrimination": Oh, yeah, it's for real. But what to do about it? I loved this advice for a 58-year-old man who had tried all the resume-fixing and hair-dying tricks. 

     "Here's what I taught him to do. First, no more games with hair and resumes. No resumes at all. I helped him identify managers in companies he wanted to work for, and showed him how to contact them to discuss the problems and challenges they were facing but not to inquire about jobs. This yielded some meetings to discuss jobs. (It's amazing how some managers hate to be asked about jobs, but when they get to know you a bit, they want to interview you.)

     "At the meetings, John didn't wait to be asked about his skills or abilities. I showed him how to map out three challenges the manager was facing, and how to outline three things he could do to help. He presented this as a "mini business plan" for doing the job. The interview turned into a working meeting between a boss and an employee. The next time I saw him, John was beaming. He was waiting on one job offer, he said, and age never was an issue..."

Anyway, here's the link again, and it turns out this "Headhunter" has a regular column of his own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is Your Toaster Possessed, Too?

Go straight to minute 4 for the best part. The rest of this is just pretending to be news.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cannon Beach, Nov. 2012

Note: As of May 9, 2013, all photos have been removed from this page so I can add photos to some newer pages.

This is how we kept from stressing over the election results---go somewhere far away with no TV or internet access. It didn't work, though, as they had full cable and wi-fi where we stayed. But it was easier to refuse to tune in, and so we enjoyed the beauty of the area:

There were hundreds of these jellyfish along the beach just above the surf. We tried to put some of them back in the surf, but each wave that came in left them stranded on the sand again, even as it brought new ones in. Finally we concluded that this was the way Mother Nature has been doing this for centuries, and we could only let her natural ways take care of the jellyfish, for the ones that were strong enough (and lucky enough) to be deposited some place where they could thrive to be the ones that would survive and give birth to the next generation.

Veterans Day

I can't say anything about this any better than Pres. Obama did in his official proclamation for this day.

Have you ever heard of "Take a Veteran to School Day"? I just read about this great idea on the Veterans Administration website.

Here's some information about the history of Veterans Day.

And here's a photo of the grave of Effie Myrtle Pratt Kempton, a World War II veteran whom I love and miss. The photo is from the "findagrave" project. Madame L hopes soon to have a new contributor who will be writing about this project and others that help people find information about their relatives.

Here's a web page with information about Aunt Effie's service in World War II. It includes a beautiful photo of this beautiful woman which I can't paste here, so please go to the web page to see it. She was one of the greatest people, in body and soul, I have ever known.

And here's the web page with information about another favorite veteran of our family, James L. Wynn, a survivor of a German POW camp. The photo shows him after his imprisonment, back in Allied territory.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fiction Friday-Saturday: November 9-10, 2012: Grimm --- and "The Wendigo"

Madame L has been enjoying the TV series "Grimm" since it began last year, and thinks it's only getting better.

This week's episode, "To Protect and Serve Man," is especially interesting as it adds that essential word, "Man," to the usual police motto. That's right, the police are NOT supposed to be protecting wesen, especially not cannibalistic wendigos.

From the episode guide: "Nick decides to do a little research and digs through his Grimm files. Ferren's drawings match an ancient beast known as a Wendigo, better known as flesh-eaters. Ferren's drawings match those in the files and give clear evidence that there was more to the case than what Hank thought seven years prior. They decide it's important to speak with Ferren."

Ah, Dear and Gentle Reader, but if you haven't been watching, you may be wondering: "Huh?"

Detective Nick Burkhardt of the Portland Police Bureau is a Grimm, a descendant of an ancient line of folk who can see wesen, people who turn into animals when angry or provoked or scared. Grimms used to go around killing wesen, but Burkhardt just protects people from them, killing the wesen only when they are trying to kill him or other people. Burkhardt's partner, Lt. Hank Griffin, finds out halfway through the second season about the world of wesen and Grimms. Burkhardt's girlfriend, Juliette Silverton, hasn't found out yet, but it looks to Madame L like this week's episode is setting her up to find out. Burkhardt's boss, Captain Renard, is some kind of Grimm or wesen or half-breed; Madame L hasn't been able to figure this out yet and assumes this may be because she hasn't been able to watch all the episodes. (Dear Readers who have figured this out, please comment and let us all know what's happening with Renard.)

For more about the series, check out this page. There's a link to this week's full episode, which Madame L recommends highly (even though it's scary and creepy and violent and bloody---It's about a wendigo, after all!). Meanwhile, you can also find some trailers and promos on YouTube. Here's a great montage put together by a fan showing how Nick and Juliette's great love is lost after she is poisoned by a cat scratch and forgets who Nick is and all about their relationship.

(Video removed, 05/09/2013)

And now, because all the Grimm stories are based on old folktales and myths, here is one of the great stories ever written about that mythological creature, the wendigo, written in 1910 by Algernon Blackwood: The Wendigo.  (Thanks to the Project Gutenberg eBook people for making this story, and many others, available online.)

Warning: Read this story the same way you watch "Grimm": Not at night, just before you go to bed, but in full daylight, and followed by a chaser of non-creepy-creature-stuff. Maybe read this just before studying for a calculus exam, for instance. Or not.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Re-Elected President Thanks Campaign Workers

I love this video, which I received by email with a note from Pres. Obama's campaign: "Every single person who helped build this campaign deserves to see this thank you from President Obama.He wasn't just talking to those of us in the office — he was talking to all of you."

I'm excited for four more years of this great president working for those idealistic goals he mentions here and other values he has been working on for many years now: educational opportunities for everyone, health care for everyone, a tax structure that doesn't favor the wealthy, reforms to government excess and abuse, a cooperative and non-militaristic approach to world problems, and a willingness to work with opposition politicians.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Awfully Close to the Definition of "Christian"

Jeff's comment about the cancelling of the New York Marathon after Hurricane Sandy: "Hmmm. That sure sounds awfully close to the definition of 'Christian.'" It sure does!

And there's more: "Greetings from post-Sandy Staten Island" tells how some of the marathon runners helped, what they saw, and the responses of people on Staten Island. It's heart warming. It's sincere. It will make your day. It will give you hope.

Mary Elizabeth Williams knows what tragedy can do even to its survivors:

    "Its toll is not just still incalculably physical; it’s profoundly emotional in a way that will affect the soul of this city far into the future. And among the immense challenges it continues to present is how to heal from it without divisiveness and resentment and survivor guilt. I’ve seen the price those responses extract. On 9/11, my stepfather got out of the North Tower just in time, but several dozen of his Port Authority colleagues did not. Six months later, he was on an operating table getting a triple bypass. The burden of survival can, if we let it, be a terrible weight on the heart."

"...a terrible weight on the heart..." 

But read on:

     "As my teammates and I walked around Staten Island, we had people coming up to us asking for garbage bags, for bleach, for sweat shirts and warm coffee and bagels. A woman approached and asked, “Do you have any medicines?” And not one single person asked, “Can you please tell me how guilty you feel? Because that will help rebuild my house right now.” Instead, I had an older man, a local bus driver who was walking around looking for supplies with his adult daughter, just ask me for a hug."

Maybe you'll want to read the whole article. Helping those people seems to relieve some of that "terrible weight on the heart." Even if all you can do is send some money to the Red Cross, that's a way to help.

Beach Reading and a Foam

I'll post some photos, too, when I get home and find my connector thingy for my camera. How can anyone forget something that important? Good question.

Anyway, some people bring big fat books to the beach. I had one ready to bring but left it on the kitchen table. Which is not (by the way) where I left the camera connector thingy. That is in the computer at home where it belongs. Stay. Good camera connector thingy.

But I did bring two small books of poetry, and I did buy a magazine, and I've almost finished reading all three of those, which has inspired [sic] me to write the following poem (or a foam, as someone mis-heard me to say). So, here it is:

Thanks to Self Magazine

I know how to

and I know the TRUTH
ABOUT Curls.

Also I know that
you don't wear it,
you live it

and I have
A candy mantra

and thanks to Ellen and
Cover Girl and Olay I have
2 miracles in 1!
(Well I don't have them
but if I'm paying attention
at all I'll
get them.)
1 pump & 1 bottle. Yes
that sounds like a
to me.

And I read all about
"The yoga
pose that
changed my body"
. Now there's poetry for you.
And that's not all. I'll have

(The one simple secret being
Have wall.
Get fit)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NYC Marathon Turns to Aid Sandy Victims

Like everyone else in the country, I've been thinking about and praying for the people along the east coast (and inland) who have suffered so much from Hurricane Sandy.

I didn't know what to think when Mayor Bloomberg said at first the New York Marathon would go on as planned on Sunday the 4th: Great for the city of New York, bring some business in, and so good for runners who have come from all over the world to participate.

But when the mayor announced they were canceling the marathon after all, I thought that was for sure the right decision.

And I just now read that some of the runners are instead channeling all their preparation into running across Staten Island with food and water and other supplies to give to people in that hardest-hit area of the city.

From the Reuters article:

      "The idea for the Staten Island run came to 46-year-old Jordan Metzl, a doctor of sports medicine, and his running friends just as the debate was heating up last week about whether storm-battered New York City should hold a marathon...Metzl is expecting more than 500 runners to show up on Sunday at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Manhattan....Other informal runs will be held on Sunday that loop around Central Park, mimicking the original 1970 route of the New York City marathon."

Quick note: We can all do more than think about and pray for the people affected by the hurricane. Many of them are still without electricity and water, and some without homes or anything to go home to. I think the best idea is to donate money to the Red Cross.  (They appreciate money instead of canned goods and clothing, because they need to buy the specific items needed by people, not spend time and human-power sorting through stuff.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fiction Friday: November 2, 2012: A Conspiracy of Friends

Here's another recent book by Alexander McCall Smith, third in the "Corduroy Mansions" series, and apparently intended to be humorous.

The only reason Madame L is mentioning this book here, though, is because she promised hers and Aunt Louise's readers she would do so. 

If it weren't for that, she wouldn't even have finished reading the story, which involves interactions between a few "dim" (the author's characterization of all of them, and their frequent characterization of each other) people murking their way through their dim little insignificant lives with no moral values, high or firm ground on which to stand, ruining their own and each other's lives by making ill-considered and dim-witted decisions one after the other, never learning even from their own past mistakes, let alone from anything they may have learned through their education or through observing what's going on around them in the world at large.

Yes, it's true there were a few almost-laugh-out-loud moments, but someone should have told Mr. McCall Smith that, even in a comedy of ill-manners, characters are allowed to get into trouble through the odd silly coincidence, but such a circumstance can never be the means of their escaping from their self-inflicted problems.

Thumbs down. Stick with Mr. McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series.