Monday, February 28, 2011

Blogging the Oscars

Well, it's the night of MY "Super Bowl." It's the 83rd Oscars. We had brunch with Ned and Marta and went to see The Illusionist today and Ned asked me afterwards if I would be blogging the Oscars. I actually hadn't planned on it, but I always do what Ned suggests, so here I am blogging the Oscars. I guess this is supposed to be the "young, hip" Oscar telecast, hence the young hosts. I'm the product of the golden age of Hollywood and find it a little harder to relate to what I've seen thus far. Anne Hathaway is cute as a button, but her co-host, James Franco doesn't do much for me.

I suspect I wuld have enjoyed the opening film if (a) I'd seen more of the nominated movies, and (b) hadn't been putting the dogs' dinner together at the time.

Despite being a mom who expected one of my kids to get up on stage and win an Oscar some day, the Mom and Grandma in the audience didn't do anything for me...this is the Academy Awards, after all, not your high school senior class play.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kirk Douglas, shame on you for hijacking the show. You have to hand it to the guy for remaining an active part of the Hollywood community despite the effects of his stroke, but dragging out an already long show by trying to be funny (when he wasn't) was very uncomfortable. Someone should have used the hook.

Only--what...?--the third award and already they are bleeping F-words. Melissa Leo appeared shocked that it had come out of her mouth. I did like how sincere she was and how she thanked her family over and over again.

[aside--I'm watching this while at the same time being a doggie trampoline...not the easiest thing to do!]

Continuing the young and hip theme was Justin Timerlake and I didn't catch the name of his partner. Not funny. Uncomfortable.

Yay for Toy Story 3's win. Even though we'd just seen The Illusionist, an excellent film, how can you not give Toy Story the win?

I do love Helen Mirren. I swear I'd watching her read the phone book.

David Seidler gets best original screenplay forThe King's Speech. His father always told him he would be a late bloomer, the 74 year old writer says. He accepted the award in the name of stutterers everywhere--that they have a voice. He, himself, developed a stutter in his teen years. I remember Colin Firth talking about how he learned from him what it was like to stutter. Sure no sign of a sutter tonight.

Hathaway's rewritten "On My Own" didn't do anything for me. I am just not young and hip any more. I do have to say, though that Hathaway in a tux is much more attractive than Franco in a pink dress. Bad, bad, bad. It's a long way to go for a dig at Charlie Sheen. Where is Billy Crystal when you really really need him?

I guess I'm going to have to see that fight movie. Christian Bale has won all the awards for suporting actor. (Amazing that he didn't seem to be able to remember his wife's name, though!) I was hoping for Geoffrey Rush, who I thought turned in an excellent performance--but then I didn't see Bale.

Most of these presenters are people I don't recognize. I am so old...

I don't care if you ARE a costume designer, nobody wants to watch you stand there in your black lace gloves and read an acceptance speech--badly.

Whew. Kevin Spacey. For one brief moment things seem smooth and professional and like someone was finally in charge.

Oh lord, it's Oprah. It's not enough she has a talk show and owns her own network, now she's on the Oscars too? She is the Second Coming, you know. Don't let the fundamentalists know that Jesus has come back as a black woman.

Finally someone turns in a political comment about Wall Street criminals. "not a single financial executive has gone to jail"

The answer to a prayer: Billy Crystal. Too late for a save, but again, so nice to see someone in charge. ...and Robert Downey, Jr. is also very funny.

Oh dear, Social Network wins for film editing. Not a good sign for King's Speech.

Given what's going on in Wisconsin and across the country, I expected a lot of award recipients to thank their unions, but so far only one has.

Apparently Hathaway is the only person who thinks Franco is funny.

Jennifer Hudson looks fabulous. Congratulations, Jenny Craig! (Or is she Weight Watchers...I forget which is which)

I've lived long enough to see Gwyneth Paltrow starting to look old.

The dead people montage came on without introduction and left without comment, but Celine Dion looked like she had a bad headache. Either they are including more non-actors in the montage now or all those directors, agents, cinematographers and costume designers are getting old and dying off.

It's impossible for Halle Barry to look bad. Nice tribute to Lena Horn.

What time is it. Isn't this thing over yet...? I'm getting butt fatigue (and I'm able to get up and walk around!)

Just because the show isn't long enough already, now they have presenters to introduce presenters. Here we go...director award. YES! The King's Speech!!! Loved the director's story about his mother finding the script for him, and his conclusion "listen to your mum."

Whew. Commercial time. I can pee...

Annette Benning should watch how she holds her head when photographed, though I wouldn't mind having all those wrinkles if it meant less fat. I guess it's no surprise that Natalie Portman won the award, but it would have been nice to see a nice lesbian movie featured, especially since everyone says Benning is sooo good in it. I do want to see Black Swan. Portman gave a beautiful speech.

Whew...Colin Firth takes the Oscar. I'm speechless. (that's a joke, son)

OK...I'm happy now. The Kings Speech won best picture. And finally someone thanked his boyfriend. Watching this show tonight you'd think that everybody in the movie industry was straight.

James Franco immediately seemed to forget which movie won. Who in the world decided to have this guy host?

Awww...ending with "Over the Rainbow." Such cute kids. The guy in front on the right was just too much fun to watch.

The show was 3+ hours long, which was entirely TOO long. But it's over, the good guys got their recognition and I can get back to my life.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, I Guess

Poor Walt didn't exactly have an exciting birthday.

I slept a bit late and woke up not feeling 100% (not bad, but just some minor concerns), and I almost forgot it was his birthday, but did remember to wish him a happy birthday.

He reheated yesterday's leftover coffee for himself and took the newspaper and went back upstairs to bed while I sat in the recliner and kind of "recovered." I eventually managed to make fresh coffee and I put his gift and card at his place on the kitchen table, but he was in and out of the family room all morning before he saw it.

The morning passed uneventfully. I was at my desk most of the morning while Max sat at my feet eating my desk, as so many other dogs have in the past--Max is just big enough he might actually consume enough to cause the desk to be very unsteady, if he were to stay here more than just a couple of days.

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At 11:45 it was time to take him up to Petco and while I was getting him out of the house, Miss Polly-I-am-afraid-of-everything decided to escape and went on a nice little jaunt smelling the flowers of all the house up the block until I finally got close enough to her that I was able to trick her into thinking I was going away from her and she ran into the driveway, where Walt caught her. At one point she darted across our very busy street and then changed her mind and decided to run back right in the path of a car. Fortunately he saw her. Damn dog.

When we got to Patco, we discovered that Patty had NOT, as we thought, been adopted, but was there in a cage. The two big puppies live in separate foster homes now and seemed happy to see each other again, though Max is quite a bit bigger than she is now.

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After Max came home from Petco, Walt went to the store for milk and dog food, I gave him leftovers for dinner, and we went to see Guys and Dolls at Davis Musical Theatre Company, where we also saw a group of Davis Comic Opera Company (DCOC) friends in the audience.

The group was the same group we had seen the previous night at a small party for our friend Diane, sister of Ned's best friend, who was out here from Massachusetts with her new husband. Phil and Lester were back in Massachusetts taking care of Diane's son Ag.

It was only two weeks ago that we had seen all the DCOC people at a concert. Very nice to have a chance to visit again not once, but THREE times, as we hadn't seen them in a long time and they are some of our favorite people in Davis.

Walt got calls today from his sister, his brother, Jeri, Ned and Tom (who helped Bri sing Happy Birthday to Grandpa). He wasn't here for the call from his mother, so he will talk with her tomorrow.

So the day was fairly low key, but when you turn 71, you probably can't take too much excitement anyway.

Tomorrow we're having brunch with Ned and going to a movie.

I'm married to a 71 year old man. I never dreamed I'd be married to someone so old. (And if I'm not careful, soon I'll be that old myself!)

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I received an e-mail from Kim at the SPCA last night. "Can you please take Max for the weekend?" she asked.

I've been feeling guilty because I knew that she had been looking for foster homes for those chihuahuas for a long time and I finally decided that I would do it. It would only be for a weekend, right? And it would be fun to have a playmate Polly's size for a few days.

So I settled down to wait for Max, the chihuahua, to arrive.

Imagine my shock when I opened the door and saw our Max, Max the puppy I had bottle fed. Max the horse!

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He's grown just a tad from when he was a puppy not quite 2 lbs that fit in my hand, though he still thinks he's a lap dog. Walt weighed him--he's about 30 lbs now!

And whatever relationship, if any, that he once had with Polly has totally disappeared now that he's a bazillion times her size. There has been lots of teeth baring and growling and outright attacking (all on Polly's part; Max just ignores her). You can see her ears under my arm in my lap. She's snarling quietly.

In the short time that he's been gone, not only has Max grown a lot, but his voice has changed. No more little puppy yap. He now has a deep throated bark that sounds very scary if you don't know him.

Sadly, one thing about Max which has not changed is the size and/or consistency of his bowel movements.

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They are large, and very, very soft.

He was always a happy puppy and continues to remain exuberant in his adolescent years, which may not always be a good thing, given how tall he is when he jumps up.

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It's nice to have Max come home again for a visit, but I'll sure be glad when Monday rolls around!

February 26 is Walt's birthday, if anybody wants to send him a happy birthday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday Thirteen

I don't do "Thursday Thirteen" on Funny the World, but I do do it on Airy Persiflage. It's a weekly meme that just lists 13 random things every Thursday. Everything from "things you can find in my purse" to "Things I Love to Smell" to "Ways to Stay Warm" to "Things I remember about the 1950s."

(If you're interested you can go to Airy Persiflage, the mirror image for this site, and check the right column for "Labels" and click on "Thursday 13," which will bring up only those entries. I've been doing it for 82 weeks now.)

This week's Thursday 13 was a list of "things I can see from where I sit at my desk" and Kwizgiver left a message, What a delightful collection! And I bet the stories that go with each item are very interesting!

So I thought I would write the stories that go with each item. You'll note that most of them are very dusty, and most not really all that interesting.

1. A back scratcher. Actually there isn't really any special story about this item. My back itches frequently and I started buying back scratchers many years ago. If they break or a drop them and a dog gets to them, I just go and buy a new one.

2. A Simpsons clock. This was a gift from one of the kids, I think. Probably Ned. But it seems as if I've had it forever. It hasn't worked in years.

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3. A Gumby keychain. I gave this to Gilbert once, which makes it at least 25 years old. I took it after he died and it has hung on my cork board ever since.

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4. A clock from Austraila. This was a Christmas gift from Peggy about ten years ago. I keep it on Australia time.

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5. A portrait of me painted by my doctor-boss. This was a 1998 going-away gift from Dr. Conrad-Forest, when I parted company with Women's Health. She was experimenting with painting at the time and this represents what she thinks of me. I've never figured out if this is a good thing or not! (I don't know if she still paints...I should ask her...)

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6. A cobweb covered calendar displaying July 1986. This was hanging on the styrofoam board it still hangs on when Gilbert died (he died July 14). I took the board, posted it in my office and have never taken it down.

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7. A paper apron made for me by a kindergarten class. I think this was Paul's class, because I used to go and teach cooking in the class once a week. Originally it had a check pattern on it, but it has been hidden behind other things for years and I haven't seen the front of it. There is a post-it note attached to it, but the words have long since disappeared.

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8. A publicity photo of Judy Garland in A Star Is Born. (I won't bother to photograph that)

9. A canned wombat. A gift from some weird lady in Australia.

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10. A gargoyle sucking its thumb, which was a gift from my friend Lynn, who now lives in Texas. She just thought it was cute and wanted to get it for me. It sits in a line with a bottle of Fiji water, which I just kept because it was a pretty bottle, and an angel, which Peach bought me one year because she just had a feeling that I was going to need an angel to watch over me. Two years later, David died.

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11. Buttons from gay pride events, from the days when we had a Gay Pride day in Davis and I used to work at the prize table for all of the give-aways.

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12. A ceramic goddess. This was made by a woman who visited our writing group one day and brought a goddess statue for each of us. This actually is the Venus of Willendorf, which I believe I first saw in England.

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13. A cardinal beany baby. I bought one of these after I returned home from Houston many years ago. I had gone to help with my friend Mike's partner, Bill, who was about 3 years away from dying of AIDS. Bill and I would spend hours in the family room watching birds at the bird feeder in the back yard. It was here where I saw my first cardinal and I loved those birds so much that when Bill went into the hospital the next time, I bought him a cardinal and sent it to him, and got one for myself as well. He had it in his room when he died.

The cardinal is joined by a stuffed emu that Peggy sent to me for Christmas one year, and a little kangaroo that her dog, Chippa brought to me the morning I left Australia.

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And there ya have it, Kwizgiver. I hope this answers all your questions!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Over the Top

If you want to make yourself really sick, go to this page of the San Francisco Chronicle and read the story of the first episode of a TLC television program called "Outrageous Kid Parties." This is not a show that I intend to watch, especially after seeing the two brief videos that are posted on the web page along with the article.

princessbd.jpg (15536 bytes)In this kick-off episode, the mother of a six year old girl spends ... THIRTY TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS to throw a ... well, "lavish" hardly seems a proper word ... party for her daughter's sixth birthday.

The party started with spending $3,000 for hand made invitations made to look like medieval scrolls, delivered by the guest of honor's older brother, who, for a mere $100, dressed as a jester to make the deliveries.

The little girl arrives at her party in a horse-drawn carriage that looks like Cinderella's pumpkin chariot and she is accompanied by her friends, who are all dressed in what looks like baby wedding garb.

There is a troup of dancers who perform and I don't know what else (because I only watched the brief film clip) and the child of the hour seems to be having a great time until they bring in the birthday cake, which is at least three times taller than any cake I ever baked when I was doing cakes. I didn't look closely, but it may have been a duplication of the Cinderella castle in Disneyland. But at the top of this gargantuan cake was a life size bird, which I imagine was fashioned out of cake and gum paste and which looked not only life size, but life LIKE. When the little girl saw it, she burst into tears because the bird was purple and it was supposed to be blue.

This would hit me wrong at any time, but on the day after I heard from Fred that they spent the family's Christmas present on rice so they could bury his little sister just made it that much more disturbing. Fred is an about-to-be 8 year old who has never had a birthday cake because his family can't afford it. (I'll bet HE wouldn't cry if a damn cake bird was the wrong color!)

$32,000 is an amount of money I can't even fathom spending for a child's party. Obviously these people are rich enough to afford it (though the article says that the mother tried to lie to her husband and let him know the party only cost $15,000), and who am I to tell rich folks how to spend their money. But...$32,000...????

We have had lots of parties, some of them quite good, if I do say so myself, and none of them came in at even triple, let alone quintuple digits. We had a Star Trek party for Tom's birthday one year where I made a tribble cake and cut out Spock ears for "Pin the Ears on Spock" and made cloth tribbles that they could throw at Klingons. Nobody complained that it wasn't fancy enough.

There was the Tom Sawyer party for Ned, where I let the kids paint the back fence with tempura paint and then strip and play in the wading pool. It was the perfect idea, with lots of mess and no complaints abouat clean up, until I found out that tempura paint soaks into wood grain. I think the stuff they painted on that fence was still there when we sold the house.

We used the nursery school to do a pirate party where the kids got head scarves for a party favor and they did things in the playground like digging for chocolate "dubloons" as buried treasure. They wore eye patches and carried cardboard swords, walked the plank and said "arrrghh" a lot.

For Jeri's birthday one year, I taught the girls how to make sugar eggs (the kind that you build scenes inside and then look through a hole to see the scene). Everyone had a great time and I think that replacing the linoleum with Pergo finally got rid of the last of the sugar on the floor. But it was great fun.

We had a Superheroes party for Ned on year and I made a Superman cake and all the games were geared toward super heroes.

We had scavenger hunts and pizza parties, where each guest got to build his/her own pizza. Once in awhile we took a group to a real pizza parlor, but mostly we did things at home that were fun and didn't cost a mint.

I know kids' parties aren't like that now, but I don't see the need to put yourself into hock or to play the game of one-upsmanship just for a child's birthday. I would rather see children appreciating what they have and not crying because the damn bird on the multi-thousand dollar cake was the wrong color.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I can see from where I sit at my desk.

1. A back scratcher
2. A Simpsons clock
3. a Gumby keychain
4. a clock from Australia
5. A portrait of me painted by my doctor-boss
6. A cobweb-covered calendar displaying July 1986
7. a paper apron made for me by a kindergarten class
8. a publicity photo of Judy Garland from “A Star is Born”
9. a canned wombat
10. a gargoyle sucking its thumb
11. Buttons from 3 gay pride events in Davis
12. A goddess statue
13. A cardinal beany baby

(To properly describe what is in my office, I will need 100 Thursday Thirteens....just to start)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Body of Knowledge

"I think we dodged a bullet," Walt said to me tonight after he read a review of the show I thought I was supposed to review last weekend. In truth, I had not been looking forward to the show in the first place. The promotional materials all spoke of "audience participation" and this is the sort of thing that makes me run screaming. I am NOT an "audience participation" sort of person. Maybe it enhances some people's enjoyment of a production, but it just strikes fear and terror into my heart. I'm the sort of person who refuses to make eye contact with anybody who is going to come out into the audience and drag some poor hapless soul up on stage to make fun of them. It would be like dying and going to hell for me.

This particular show was a dance show and while I do review dance shows, I freely admitted to Derrick 10 years ago that I have zero expertise in the field of dance. So when she is available, he has, in the past, asked Pamela Trokanski, a local dance instructor to review dance shows. Bruce, the new guy, hadn't told me he had arranged that she would review the show, and he apologized to me for it. I told him that I was thrilled that she was going to be doing it.

When I read her review this evening, I was even MORE thrilled that she had reviewed it. No way in the world could I have written this. It's brilliant, and I wanted to share it with you.

It could have been science, an experiment in human behavior. It could have been art. It could have been groundbreaking. It could have been well-done. It could have been some or none of these, but ultimately it failed, for me, as a memorable experience in performance art.

'Body of Knowledge' is a 90- to 120-minute production, directed and choreographed by Karl Frost, who is pursuing a master of fine arts degree in choreography at UC Davis. The program notes that the work 'sits in the territory between somatic psychology, experimental theater and human ecology.'

It could have been science. Part of the performance is audience participation in an experiment where we were told we could win money. The dancer in charge of my group told us that data was being collected and that Frost had received a grant to study people's behavior.

Was this theater or reality? Was it simply a ploy to keep audience members from walking out, as winners were revealed at the end? Was it an experiment in misdirection? Were we participants in a study that was set in the context of viewing an experimental theater piece?

It could have been art. There was contact improvisation, there were spoken dialogues, there were video projections and recorded sound. All the elements of an artistic 'happening' were in place.

It could have been groundbreaking, but wasn't the night I saw it, at least not as performance art. The program notes implied that a rather edgy experience was about to take place, stating that there might be nudity, or adult content. There was a 'safe' zone established for any audience member who wasn't comfortable interacting with performers. (As my friend pointed out, that only served to make her feel that the rest of the space was unsafe, as if dancers might suddenly grab her.)

But ultimately, there was nothing edgy or new in the work. This kind of experimental theater/performance art has easily been around since the 1960s.

It could have been well done, and some of it was. The scenic design by Gian Scarabino turned the theater space into an interesting maze of small performance areas, forcing audience members to pick and choose what they were viewing. The costume design, by Maggie Chan, was variations of white/cream-colored pants and various tops. Simple, yet effective, it identified the performers and provided contrast, for their movement, against the black floor and curtains.

The video and sound designs, by John Zibell and Sharmi Basu, respectively, helped create various environments that helped construct context or serve as foils for the physical and verbal dialogues. Some of the contact improvisation was very good. I saw two exchanges that were breathtaking. Other exchanges, not so much.

A great deal fell short of its potential. The program noted that the performers were 'individuals engaged in a process of investigation,' and that they were 'less interested in this work as attempt to construct a unified, simple, narrative and more interested in the accident of collage.'

So this became, in my opinion, a crucial element of the work. Improvisation can create wonderful epiphanies of movement and theater, the aforementioned 'accidents of collage.' But while all improvisation has structure, there is still a craft to it, and it shouldn't have an agenda that drives the work.

Unfortunately, there appeared to be an agenda, whether or not it was acknowledged, and that created some clumsy and contrived interactions. There were certainly accidents, but not necessarily ones that made for good theater.

The spoken dialogue didn't always evolve organically from the physical dialogues, and often seemed stilted and unnatural, perhaps because some of the performers found it challenging to both improvise movement and create coherent dialogues simultaneously. An element of really good improvisation is sensitivity to timing. Some interactions went on way too long, and some never developed to a conclusion.

Someone with less experience in performance art might have found it novel. Someone with a background in behavioral science might have found it a unique way to gather data. Ultimately, for me, it became an 'accident waiting to happen,' because there was no real 'aha!' moment.

Of course, as an improvisational work, other performances might be more compelling. I saw opening night and only sections of the entire work. Others will certainly have a very different experience. As my companion, previously concerned about possibly being dragged into an improvisation, said, 'At least we didn't run from the building screaming.'

I can't help but think that if we had, at least it would have been more memorable.

Lucky me--I was at my mother's playing 65 and having birthday cake.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pack Tissues

I can't believe Brianna is about to turn 3 in a month. Where have the past 3 years gone? You can certainly tell they've passed when you look at her photos and videos.

Tonight, Walt and I were sitting and watching something on TV when there was a commercial for the about-to-be-released Blu-Ray version of Bambi. My favorite Disney movie and perhaps my favorite tear-jerker of all time.

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(Don't do it! Don't go out into the meadow!!!)

Before any of our kids were even dating seriously, I bought lots of Disney movies on VHS (remember VHS?) so I would have a stock on hand to play when our grandchildren came to visit. I now have quite an outdated stash of Disney films, but nobody has VHS any more, so some day I will just give them all to the thrift store, I guess.

When starting to build my Disney library for all those grandchidren I knew we would have running in and out of the house and spending time here with us while their parents were--lord knows where--the first tape I bought was Bambi.

I wish I could remember the first time I ever saw Bambi. Undoubtedly it was in a theater, but since the movie was released a year before I was born, it's pretty clear that I didn't see it first run. I know I saw it several times throughout my young years.

I remember vividly the first time I took Jeri to see it. She didn't exactly see it because she wouldn't be born for another month yet, but it came around in one of the Disney cycles and I had to see it.

It was playing in a little theatre on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Walt refused to go with me, but he dropped me off so I could see it. There was a line of mothers and children and I was the only one there without a child. I remember talking to a little girl who was next to me in line so it would look like I was with her and nobody would talk about this pregnant lady there to see the movie, without having a child with her.

And I sobbed all the way through it. No kidding...all the way through it. It started with the opening credits, then that cute little newborn fawn and the friendships he made. Then he dashes off into the thicket when the hunters come, certain that he and Mother have escaped them.

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Then wandering through the snow calling "Mother! Mother" until his scary father, the big stag, finds him and lets him know his mother is dead.

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What pregnant woman with raging hormones isn't going to sit and sob and sob and sob. If I remember correctly, I sat in the theatre for awhile after the movie ended so I didn't have to leave with my face all blotchy from crying.

Why do we think moves filled with such tragedy and scary stuff is good for kids? But it must be, because it's still my favorite feature cartoon. And so I've ordered the Blu Ray to give to Bri for her birthday. Maybe we'll have time to sit and watch it together.

I'll be the one with the box of Kleenex in my lap.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Heart Sore

21 February 2011

Fred2011.jpg (6846 bytes)My heart aches tonight for the family of Fred, the little 8 year old boy I write to in the Philippines. I have come to know his mother a bit through the letters she writes for him. At Christmas I sent a family gift (you can only send money) and I thought it odd that I hadn't heard from her in quite a long time. She is generally so good about writing often.

When I finally did hear from her yesterday, a letter dated December 23, she thanked me for the money I sent and said that they used it to buy rice for Fred's younger sister's funeral. I had no idea that his sister, April Lyka, was ill. She had never mentioned that, though she had twice told me that Fred helped with care of the little girl. I have sent a message to Compassion to see if I can get any more of the story. But to bury a child on December 15.... There is no "good" time to bury a child, but Christmas time has to be the very worst.

I have not yet received the above photo of Fred officially, but it popped up with my account information on line and I have to say that this is a less angry, more happy looking photo than I have seen of him thus far.

I have had some time this weekend to get caught up on some of the TV shows that were recorded that I never had a chance to watch until now. There are my favorites, but new shows have popped up this year that I wanted to check out.

So today, I watched the new Criminal Minds, Suspect Behavior the spin-off of the original Criminal Minds. I have become a big fan of Criminal Minds, which I first watched because it starred Mandy Patinkin, who has (as he always does) left the show after one or two seasons. I was slow to warm up to Joe Mantegna, who replaced him, but I've come to like him perhaps better than Patinkin. I have even gotten used to the stern moody character Thomas Gibson plays, after I was used to seeing him in the comedy Dharma and Greg.

I was interested to see what the spin-off was going to be like. With a cast headed by Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo, it looked like it had potential. I'm not won over by the first episode, though I hated NCIS-LA when it started and have now become a fan, so I know that shows can improve after smoothing out initial problems.

There are some odd differences between the two Criminal Minds, though. Both teams work for the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit out of Quantico, Virginia, though the original team wear business suits and work out of a business office...

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...while the new team seems to work in a deserted warehouse and dress like longshoremen.

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The original series guys fly in a fancy plane to wherever their cases are, this team seems to drive everywhere.

In the original series, everyone maintains a calm, cold, analytical approach, while in the new one everyone seems to be running at an emotional high at all times (perhaps because they work in a warehouse and have to drive instead of fly and don't get nice clothes).

The link between the two teams is Penelope Garcia, who can find anything on the computer in a split second. I'm not sure who would win a computer search race -- 24's Chloe O'Brien or NCIS's McGee, or Garcia, but she was able to locate the driver of an unlicensed blue van, find out he had lost a daughter, learned that he used to live in Cincinnati and somehow locate the home where he grew up all in a split second, in time to get the team from wherever they were to the right location where he was about to murder two little girls. I know Garcia is good, but that stretched the bounds of credulity.

Garcia on the original series is quirky and fun; she is more toned down for this spin-off, which makes me wonder if she has to change clothes when she answers questions for the original team.

I'm not giving up on it yet. I think it has the possibility of growing into a good series, if they get just a tad more realistic in their plot lines and tone down the hysteria.

However, I have given up on Brothers and Sisters after four seasons because I find I just plain don't like the Walker family any more. I don't want to listen to another hour of their squabbling. I've almost reached that point with Desperate Housewives too. I was attracted to it for its quirkiness and its fun, but in the last two seasons it seems all gloom and doom and there is very little interaction among the women any more. If it doesn't lighten up soon, that, too, will go the way of Brothers and Sisters on my DVR.

I mean...jeez....after a Criminal Minds marathon and all that blood and gore, you really need to have a nice frothy, wacky show like Desperate Housewives to watch.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Very Very Martian

I love my mother, but I guess she is of an era where everything you did was viewed through the lens of your ethnic background. My father was that way too. He preached racial tolerance, but was about as intolerant as you can get. I remember how we laughed (to ourselves) when he had a run-in with a member of the Black Panthers, who accused him of being a racist and to prove that he was not a racist, he invited the guy to come to our house and listen to his Art Tatum records. He couldn't possibly be racist if he loved this African-American pianist, could he?

Then there was the time when my sister had made friends with an African American guy who was one of the cable car operators on the car she frequently rode. He invited her to go to a movie with him and my father went and visited him at his work to tell him that he might be a nice guy, but that he (my father) didn't believe that the races should mix. (I often wondered if he ever regretted that when he realized my sister was lesbian!)

My mother's attitude toward people of other races never really came out until she remarried. I recently came across the diary I wrote when I went traveling with them, for one v-e-r-y long week, in their RV, up to Oregon to celebrate my uncle's 70th birthday (the trip I mentioned in my recent entry about my uncle's P.O.W. memories).

That trip was so difficult for me because of having to listen to my mother's husband, whom she idolized, sound off on just about every ethnic group you could think of. There were always the stereotypical negative things about this or that race incorporated into his experiences with the person about whom he was talking.

It wasn't until that trip that I had ever heard my mother echo the same statements and it bothered me a lot. Fred's been dead for nearly 20 years now, but I am still painfully aware of her racist sentiments. People tell me it's just because she grew up in that kind of era, but I really don't believe that all people in her age group speak like this. But I may be wrong.

She struggles with the term "African American" but most of the time refers to "the coloreds." (This is bothering me even more now as I read the book, "The Help" and become acutely aware of the treatment of the servants in white homes in the south at the time of the Civil Rights movement).

SHarris.jpg  (18333 bytes)But it's more than what she calls this group of people. I often hear her talking about African American actors on television and how she doesn't like this one or that one...and what she doesn't really like is the look of them. I remember her rants about the old TV show The Practice when actor Steve Harris joined the cast and how it ruined the show for her because he had such big lips that it turned her stomach to look at him, and why did they have to get a guy who had such big lips?

Maybe I'm just hyper sensitive to it, but I so wish my sister were still here. She would have been even more sensitive to our mother's ethnic slurs. I don't know how being raised by our two parents could have made us so completely different.

But the thing that has bothered me most in the past few years is my mother's attitude toward her next door neighbor. I won't say what ethnicity she is, so let's just say that she's Martian. My mother hates her. She has hated her since the woman moved in. She speaks with loathing and nothing the woman does is ever right.

When I ask her what is wrong with her, all she can say is "Well. Let's just say she's very, very Martian." I finally told her I didn't understand what that even meant, and all she could tell me was that her home had Martian decorations visible at various times of the year but she couldn't tell me any other reason why she hated this Martian woman.

Now that she's in her 90s I've noticed that she has no problem whatsoever about speaking of people who are within earshot--complaining that this one's clothes were not attractive or that one's hair looked horrible or whatever or why in the world was that woman wearing those horrible shoes. All within earshot of the stranger she was criticizing. Bev cringes and pretends not to be with this woman!

But yesterday when we were in the restaurant where the tables were practically on top of each other, she started talking about some guy she knew and a problem she was having with him. Peach asked what the problem was and she took a deep breath, and in what seemed to me to be a loud voice she started out, "Well, for one thing, he's very, very Martian," and then went on to list the Martian traits in him that she found offensive. I wondered how many Martians there were in the tables around us.

To be fair, she also talks about the Dutchmen and their negative traits (her husband's parents were from Holland) and about the damn Irishmen or Scottsmen (we are Scotch-Irish), so she's an equal opportunity bigot, even with her own family. But I have never understood why anybody has to be labeled by his or her race. It's OK not to like someone, but don't like them because they kick cats or drive too fast or have done something wrong to you. Don't dislike them just because they are "very, very Martian."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crab and Chocolate

I've been fetted in grand style. The plan was to go to San Rafael, pick up my mother and Peach, drive to Sausalito for a birthday lunch, and then come back to Davis again.

That was a nice plan, but by the time we got home to my mother's it was 4 p.m. and pouring rain. It didn't take much to convince me I should spend the night!

Our reservations at The Spinnaker were for 3 p.m. and it was a grey, drizzly day, but we could still see San Francisco and enjoyed the view by our window table. At one point there was a whole line of pelicans flying close the water for as far as the eye could see in any direction. The photo shows the middle section of it!

(Click on photo to see larger size.)

All three of us ordered the Dungeness Crab salad (of course).

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We ordered one dessert to share, some decadent chocolate thing that the waiter served to me with a candle in it, since Peach had told him it was my birthday.

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I really had planned on driving home, because I thought I had a show to review that night but when I found out that Bruce (the new editor) had assigned someone else to review the show, that's all the convincing I needed. It was dark and stormy and there was promise of birthday cake later, so why should I go home?

Peach gave me a card with 14 lotto scratchers in it. I warned her that I was not lucky and that I would probably lose, but I set to work scratching off the dots.

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I did have one winning card, and I won a whole $4.

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We played several games of 65, which my mother lost (not very happy about it), while we ate hors d'oeuvres they had picked up at Safeway--fruit and veggies in various dips, and something called a Champagne Cosmo, which Peach made.

By the time we were tired of cards, we introduced my mother to Harry's Law, which she seemed to like, and then they got out a chocolate cake they had bought for me. If I had gone home, as originally planned, I would have missed out on my own birthday party!

So I had a surprise birthday party after all. We just were sad that Kathy wasn't there, since this week was her birthday, too!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Quiet Birthday After All

It's nice to have the ability to be flexible.

I exected to be having crab at The Spinnaker in Sausalito today and enjoying a rousing several games of "65" in the afternoon.

Didn't happen.

Kathy wasn't feeling well so she canceled, but Peach said that she still wanted to go to my mother's for Cousins Day. She doesn't drive on the freeway, so her husband would drop her off here and I would drive. I would also find something for lunch and dinner, since we had planned on lunch out and hors d'oeuvres for dinner. Peach was bringing something to mix with champagne that my mother had for drinks.

Only it was raining. And we only have one car. And Walt had to go to work. I couldn't see leaving him alone with no car and if Bob drove both of us to San Rafael, I would have no way to return in the morning. So since Peach really wanted to go to my mother's, Bob would drive her down and I will probably drive down just for the day tomorrow, so my mother can have a birthday celebration with me.

So I stayed home with the dogs, which was nice because it gave me the opportunity to read the over 150 Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday. Trust me, if you are feeling at all insecure, just have a Facebook birthday.

I also had an instrumental message from Jeri on my cell phone, an adorable video from Tom. Blogger Mike Moon made a video of himself singing "happy birthday" to me. My friend Michael Sugar sent a link to an I Love Lucy birthday party, which I'd never seen before. Tsui, from the Davis Community Network sent a video of a parrot singing "happy birthday," Patti Roberts of the Sacramento News and Review sent a video of chipmunks singing "happy birthday" and Tom Sims, an old CompuServe friend, sent a video of Victor Borge playing "Happy Birthday" as only Borge could.

Bill Dahn, from our CompuServe group posted the qualities of those born on February 17:

If You Were Born Today you are a responsible, success-oriented, and driven person who rises to most any challenge that comes your way. Your staying power is tremendous, and others are generally in awe of your ability to overcome obstacles. Your professional life is extremely important to you. You need to be careful that your worldly a...mbitions don't take over your life. Others admire you for your cool and collected approach to the world, and although you enjoy this reputation, it can come at a price--you don't always open your heart to others and might feel alone even if you are surrounded by people. Famous people born today: Rene Russo, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Jordan, Denise Richards, Billie Joe Armstrong, Paris Hilton, Margaret Truman. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Birthdays in the age of the internet are so much fun.

It was a rainy day today, at times pouring rain, which I like -- a nice birthday gift from Mother Nature to me, watching all those doggie toys turn soggy in the growing puddles on the back patio. At least I didn't have to worry about the dogs barking at the back fence. They didn't leave the house.

I checked on movies on TV and found Tom Hanks' Cast Away. Perfect treadmill movie, so I climbed aboard and watched it. It was raining outside, and raining in the movie and it was not a movie you could put on and have running in the background, as I do so often. You had to watch the movie, so it helped the time pass while walking on the treadmill.

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Walt was gone all day and when he got home, I really didn't feel like going out to shop, so we had leftover soup for dinner with some cheese biscuits.

Tom called for a chat and Bri sang "Happy Birthday" to me again, from the bath tub

Tomorrow I'll head on down to my mother's and start celebrating all over again, but I'm ending the day on a quietly high note and isn't that a nice thing to say about a birthday?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Restaurant Review

I dont usually write restaurant reviews, but I felt that the place we went to tonight needed one. I am writing this on February 16th for February 17th, the day I turn 68. Today was supposed to be Cousins Day, but Kathy asked if we could postpone it a day, which meant, of course, that I wouldn't be home for my birthday.

Walt suggested that we go out to dinner and asked where I wanted to go. There is a new place that has opened up in the location of the old beloved Osaka Sushi. It's called Monticello Seasonal Cuisine and its emphasis is on serving seasonal foods purchased from local producers. I was disappointed that it had no menus posted on line, but that may be because the menu may change too often for that.

It only opened on January 11 and I first read about it in Davis Live Magazine, an on-line publication. I checked it out on the Davis Wiki and found really mixed comments about it. The general feeling seemed to be that the food was good and the service needed a lot of improvement.

Ned decided to join us, which was nice.

Before we left, Walt had to open a box from Shutterfly addressed to him, which I had resisted opening, thinking it was probably something Tom and Laurel had made for his birthday, which is next week. However, to my surprise, it was a book for ME (says so right on the cover).

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The book is a delightful collection of photos of Bri from birth to now. I told Walt it was a good thing that self-publishing was not as it is today when our kids were growing up or I would have run us into debt publishing books like this. I just love it.

We met Ned at Monticello and were pleased with the remodeling of the old Osaka. Instead of being dominated by a sushi bar, it now has a clean, open look to it, with a nice wine bar at the front.

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(cloth table cloths suggest that it ain't cheap...and it isn't.)

The Wiki comments about the slowness of the service were sadly true. While we were seated immediately, we were there for 15 minutes before we got water or bread. It was 45 minutes before our food came and we waited 15 minutes for the check. I should add that the place was only about half full and one table of patrons was seated, served, and left before we got our food.

However, from reading the Wiki, I was kind of prepared for that and was determined to relax and enjoy. Ned and Walt ordered steak, I had lamb chops and I have to say it was the most delicious lamb I've had in a restaurant in a very long time, and perfectly cooked medium rare.

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Ned and Walt had the same comment about their steaks.

There are only two entrees on the menu with prices attached and the others were all specials, so read by the waitress, who never told us the price (more expensive than I expected, we discovered when the bill came)

A strange complaint is that they use some special salt in the shaker,but the crystals seem to be too big to go through the holes a normal shaker. My lamb needed salt and no amount of shaking produced enough to make a difference. The potatoes and bok choy, however, were very nicely seasoned. I am not a big fan of bok choy and was pleased to discover that it was delicious.

Since it was my birthday dinner and since comments on the Wiki raved about the desserts, I let Walt know I wanted dessert. I was surprised that there was no dessert menu, but the waitress rattled off four choices. There was both a chocolate tart and a chocolate torte and I wasn't sure which I ordered, but we all decided to share it.

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I'm so glad we decided to share it because it was way too much for one person, even a chocoholic like me. But was definitely delicious.

The service didn't improve throughout the evening. It seemed to be more important to clear and re-set the table next to us than to take our order and it took an equally long time to actually get a bill at the end of the evening. We were there, all told, 2 hours, which isn't really all that bad, given that we weren't being rushed, but they definitely need to work on their wait staff skills (or hire a second waitress!)

But the food was good enough to make up for the lack in the service area. I may give it another try, but not real soon, since the cost makes it definitely a special occasion dinner.

I also wanted to add that I got a wonderful gift from Ned & Marta, who bought an order of bees through Heiffer International for me. That meant a lot to me, to know that someone somewhere will be able to pollinate their crops and harvest honey thanks to my birthday gift.

All in all a really special birthday--and it's not even really my birthday yet!

Happy Birthday to me!

Thursday Thirteen

Today is my birthday. Here are thirteen things I’ve learned in the past 68 years

1. Never lose the opportunity to tell someone you love may never see them again
2. They aren’t kidding when they tell you to learn to like exercise when you’re young–by 68, it’s too late
3. Mushrooms taste better than you think they do as a kid.
4. It is possible to be on the road an entire holiday weekend and see no other cars (or pavement)
5. A college degree isn’t everything
6. Collecting “stuff” can get out of control
7. It really IS better to go to the head, instead of the foot
8. Your body is much happier in good fitting shoes, whether they are stylish or not
9. A good friend is more precious than gold
10. Living a long, long life is not necessarily a good thing.
11. You can live without a lot of things, as long as you have good books around you.
12. Happiness is a warm puppy...or a whole litter of warm puppies
13. The older you get, the shorter the interval between birthdays.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The World Gone Mad

I had one way this was going to go, but then I started doing some reading on the internet and it may be quite different. In either case it's kind of a "what in the world is happening to us?" kind of question.

Anybody watch The Today Show and see the "sell your house" lady, Barbara Corcoran being asked a question about what to do if you're trying to sell your house but you live next door to an eyesore, a guy who has junk cars all over his yard and a house in disrepair. I thought Al Roker would drop his teeth when she said 'Well, if it was me, I'd probably take a gun and shoot the guy." Roker went on at great length about how she was only kidding.

Apparently Corcoran didn't get the "ix-nay on the illing-kay" memo after the Arizona shootings.

I don't doubt that Corcoran wasn't really advocating going out and shooting a neighbor because you don't like how he keeps his property.

Sadly that is not what people are trying to make happen in the state of South Dakota.

I couldn't believe it when I read the article this morning.

South Dakota's HB1171, scheduled to be voted on in the House tomorrow, would expand the legal definition of justifiable homicide in the state. The measure legalizes the killing of abortion providers by saying a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" an unborn fetus. The bill has already passed committee, by a vote of 9-3 (9 Republicans and 3 Democrats of course).

As someone wrote today, "Apparently they believe that passing through the birth canal destroys all right to life."

In the meantime, those wacky Republicans (you know--the guys that were going to make jobs a priority) are trying to change the definition of rape and to exclude from any federal funding for abortion women whose pregancy occurs as a result of "forcible rape," a legal term that includes the following categories of rape: date rape, gang rape, marital rape or spousal rape, incestual rape, child sexual abuse, prison rape, acquaintance rape, war rape and statutory rape. Apparently to qualify for "forcible rape," there has to be a police report filed, so if you want to have an abortion and you would like the government to foot the bill then you need to provide proof that you were raped or be a minor in a situation where it might be dangerous for you to report the rape or your caregiver could hurt you further.

All potential rape victims, please be advised to know your legal rights and responsibillities before the rape occurs and try to keep your wits about you afterwards so that you cross all the Ts and dot all the Is so that if a child is conceived, you have a possibility of having government assistance, if needed, for an abortion. This is especially important for those under the age of 13.

But what is really bugging me today, given the Marriage Equality gathering I went to yesterday, is what's happening in Uganda. I have a special interest in Uganda, now that I sponsor a young girl there and it frustrates me, somewhat, to know that I can never discuss this with her, given that I sponsor her through a religious organization.

Because I have an interest in Uganda, I watched an hour long program about the anti-gay campaign going on in that country. I did a lot of reading after that, so I've lost the place where I read that the country had a more lenient view of homosexuality until American evangelicals visited the country and spoke at a conference called "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda."

One of the ministers was Scott Lively, a pastor from Springfield, MA who believes that countries like Uganda can still protect themselves from the scourge of the gay agenda. (Gosh darn it...where is that document? I've been promoting gay rights for decades and I've still never seen the gay agenda.)

Lively told the conference's audience that "even though the majority of homosexuals are not oriented towards young people, there's a significant number who are. And when they see a child from a broken home, it's like they have a flashing neon sign over their head."

The message was embraced by Pastor Martin Ssempa, the "star" (for lack of a better word) of this report from Uganda.

"Anal licking!," he shouts, directing the crowd's attention to the images of hardcore gay pornography that he's projecting via his laptop. "That is what they are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms."

"Everything having to do with eating of the poo-poo…heterosexuals do not eat the poo-poo," Ssempa said. "And if they do, they are misguided, they are not real heterosexuals. We don't practice, that's an abomination. It's like sex with a dog, sex with a cow; it's evil."

The crowd gets worked up, more and more disgusted by the images they are seeing.

Pastor Ssempa's campaign resulted in the introduction of The Anti-Homosexual Bill of 2009. The bill creates a new category of crime called "Aggravated Homosexuality," which calls for death by hanging for gays or lesbians who have sex with anyone under 18 and for so-called "serial offenders."

The bill also calls for seven years in prison for "attempt to commit homosexuality," five years for landlords who knowingly house gays, three years for anyone, including parents, who fail to hand gay children over to the police within 24 hours and the extradition of gay Ugandans living abroad.

A man in the film said that if he learned that his daughter was lesbian, he would take a gun and kill her himself.

The anti-gay sentiment resulted in the death of gay rights activist David Kato, who was outed as gay by a local newspaper. (I'm not 100% certain, but I think Kato was the gay activist being interviewed in the film I saw...a lovely man, who knew that his life was in danger)

The editor of the newspaper who outed Mr. Kato made an incredible statement: "We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them."

All of these things have been done by God-fearing Christians and I sincerely hope that they do fear God because I don't imagine that He is going to be ecstatic about their un-Christian attitude towards their fellow human beings.

I don't know exactly what Jesus would do, but I am pretty sure he wouldn't be supporting any of these actions.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where's the Protest?

I drove to the Woodland County Courthouse and got there early, in time to mail a package at the post office across the street. I thought it odd that there were no protest trucks in front of the courthouse. I'd been to the Valentine Day actions before and there were always big trucks with big signs talking about abomination and sin and people going to hell and quoting scripture. One year there was a gang of what can only be described as Russian thugs--mean, strong looking guys with abomination signs who glared at us and who had to be removed by security. One year a guy ran through the building shouting "abomination" and had to be taken out by security.

I went into the courthouse to greet the group of same gender couples that was starting to assemble in the lobby. I asked someone about the protesters and she said that it was probably too early and they would probably be there later. It was a stranger group than the last time I attended because some of these couples were legally married, but many were not.

Reporters started to show up, with their cameras and their notebooks and began to interview Shelly and Ellen. I loved it that the Fox reporter was wearing a Marriage Equality sticker on his jacket.

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When Yolo County Recorder, Freddie Oakley, appeared, they interviewed her too.

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Freddie has always been very supportive of same gender marriages and made all the news a couple of years ago when she handed out apologies to couples who came on Valentine's Day asking for marriage licenses. Today she handed out IOUs and explained to reporters that it was for not being able to give them the 1,138 rights and responsibilites enjoyed by opposite-sex couples but not available for same-sex couples.

She expained that only a few of those rights included a survivor being able to collect Social Security benefits , workers' compensation or public assistance benefits; spousal insurance benefits through one's employer; Veterans benefits (dependency and indemnity compensation, monthly pension, medical care) when one's spouse is in the Armed forces. Same sex couples can't get spousal benefits through Medicare or have medical decision-making power or hospital visitation rights. There is no protection for families of crime victims. Same sex spouses cannot immigrate to the US. There is no family reunification for asylum seekers.

The list goes on and on. There was one young lesbian couple there who had never heard of some of these rights that are denied to them by virtue of their being unable to be married....or if they are able to be married in some states, the federal government does not recognize the marriages.

The event was dedicated to Linda Waite, a tireless fighter for LGBT causes, who died last month after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

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Linda's wife, Judy St. George (they were legally married in Massachusetts, and again in California) was at the gathering and said that this event had been described as an event to demonstrate the gay community's frustration, but she said that she wasn't frustrated, she was furious about the way she was treated for so many years before she and Linda were allowed to be married. Her speech was very moving and I was upset that my video card filled up before she had finished, though I was able to record most of it.

Several couples presented themselves to the office asking for marriage licenses. Freddie politely apologized to each one and gave them her IOUs.

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When it was over, there was cake for all.

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There were still no protestors outside when I left but then I saw a lone woman across the street holding a poster-sized cardboard. With my bad eyes, I couldn't read what was written on it, so I crossed the street and approached her.

It was a flattened special delivery box she had just purchased at the post office.

There was no protest at all.

I hope that's a good sign. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

Monday, February 14, 2011

POW Memories

I was cleaning up some stuff in my office today, when I came across a journal that I had written when I went on a week's trip with my mother and her (now late) husband in 1991. We went up the coast to Bandon, Oregon and ultimately met with a lot of other family to celebrate my Uncle Bill's (Kathy's father) 70th birthday. (Good lord, Walt is older than that now!) I talked about it a bit in 2002 and mentioned a conversation I had with my uncle Scotty, but also said that I hadn't been able to find the notes that I took at that time. Well, now I have and I'd like to record them.

By way of introduction, this is an uncle who had never really spoken to me before, but we found ourselves seated together at the far end of the family table and he began telling me about his experiences in a prisoner of war camp in World War II. It killed me that I had NOTHING to take note with--no paper & pen, no recorder, not even a camera that would record video. When we returned to my mother's RV after dinner, I raced into the thing, dug out my laptop and wrote as much as I could remember. Here, unedited, is what I wrote...

scotty.jpg  (5574 bytes)I think I knew he was a P.O.W., but I had never known much about it and there we sat, the two of us, oblivious to the rest of the table, and Scotty talked on and on about his experiences in Germany in WW II.

He was shot down over Germany and spent 9 months in the camp. I can't remember where he was at first (a name I couldn't pronounce and don't remember hearing before), but he was moved to Nuremberg and then marched 100 miles to (Musberg?). On the march he befriended an older German sergeant, about 55 years old, who was in no shape for a 100 mile march. The sergeant was trying to find a truck to hop aboard, and Scotty signaled to him to let him (Scotty) carry his (the sergeant's) pack, which he did.

After they got to Musberg, they were sitting around cooking C-rations when this sergeant and another officer walked by. The sergeant shoved his hand in Scotty's pocket and walked on. Scotty put his hand in and found an egg and 2 onions. Nobody in the camp had even SEEN an egg, much less one, in literally months and he said "you wouldn't believe what I went through to cook that egg without anyone seeing me." The next day on the march he ate the onions, though "we weren't supposed to eat vegetables because they put human manure on the fields, but I ate them anyway."

Another tale was when one guy was going around with an empty can trying to collect a spoonful of powered milk from everyone in the camp. The deal was that there was a guy who said he would masturbate in 3 minutes and if he was unsuccessful, he would contribute a whole can of powdered milk. The whole camp gathered in the bathroom to watch and the guy did masturbate in 3 minutes...and then asked if anyone wanted to bet another spoon of milk for him to do it again (nobody did).

There was a German sergeant they called "Mr. Stoop" who had, it is reported, strangled 3 American POWs with his bare hands. But Scotty ran into him one time and the guy gave Scotty a cigarette. After the camp had been liberated by Patton's troops, they lined up all the German officers and paraded the POWs past them to indicate which were the ones who had done them wrong. The sergeant who had given Scotty the egg, "I think was taken into another room and given a medal; everyone liked him," he said. But Mr. Stoop was not to be found. Later they found his body in one fiend and his head in another some 12 miles away.

They were liberated by Patton's troops, as I said. Scotty said that this one day he and his friend decided to take a shower. It was the day for officers to shower, but he and his buddy had not showered in something like 6 weeks, so lined up with the officers (I am not clear on whether they were without clothes or not--they must have been because Scotty said that you couldn't really tell the officers from the enlisted men--they had to argue to get the group in because there were 2 too many and the officers weren't going to give Scotty and his friend away). Anyway, they had to cross a courtyard beneath a guard tower to get to the shower, and as they were making their way across the area, Patton's troops in tanks arrived and opened fire on the guars in the tower. Scotty said, "if you've ever seen men trying to dig instant foxholes in concrete, this was it!"

After the liberation, Scotty's friend came across an English soldier who was roughing up a German housewife who hadn't really done anything, but who was German. His friend tossed the Englishman over the bridge, 40 feet to the water below.

He said that he weighed 174 when he went into the service and 138 when he came out of the camp, but returned home on a troop ship on which the baker had just quit. There was a sign up that there would be no bread unless someone volunteered to take on the job. Scotty said he had worked as a baker when he was about 12, so he agreed to take on the job. He was so good to the troops that he ended up with a key to all the store rooms, full run of all the ship's stores, and his own private stateroom. And when he returned to Galt, he weighed 174.

I don't know if all this reads interesting in the telling, but the best part of it was that it was fascinating, and it was just Scotty and me talking and I think that it was the first conversation I have ever had with one of my uncles about anything. I left the restaurant feeling as if I had discovered an uncle--and feeling that this was the best night of the whole trip.

NOTE FROM TODAY: Scotty and I never had another conversation and he died a few years after this incident took place. But I will treasure it always as a wonderful night.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Day of Compassion

I try to send off letters to the Compassion Kids at least every other week. Sometimes I go three weeks, sometimes every week, but my goal is every other week. Compassion, Int'l has a wonderful way of reminding sponsors how important letters are to the kids. I've also come across wonderful blogs of people who are so organized with their letter writing and who have marvelous suggestions for how to be creative with the things we send to our sponsored children.

Michelle is a home schooling Mom who has made sponsoring chidren a family project and projects part of her teaching. She writes Blogging from the Boonies and I have been greatly inspired by things she has written about.

"Ava's Mom" has dedicated a whole blog to Letter Writing Ideas and has great photos of things she has sent to her sponsored kids and interesting ideas for how to decorate the letters themselves.

There are a few others I've started following, but these seem to have the most ideas I've incorporated. Of course I've had to learn a whole new way of looking at things, because religion isn't foremost in my thoughts at all times, as it is for these women--and more power to them for it. They frequently offer Bible verses that they have sent to their kids, and as my knowledge of the Bible is pretty skimpy (I was raised Catholic, you remember!), I occasionally borrow their suggestions to send to our kids, especially the two who are most hungry for conversation with me about the Bible. (Lotsa luck, kids!)

Today I had the house to myself so I spent the day putting together a packet of letters and "stuff" to send to each of the 7 children.

The letters are always relatively short (having pity on the translators), with longer letters going to Shallon (Uganda) and Fred (Philippines) because these two don't need translators (Fred's mother speaks English, and English is the official language of Uganda).

Sometimes I write one letter and copy it to each of the kids. I pretty much did this for five of them, telling about our week of sick mothers and sick Polly and asking each of the kids to remember all of them in their prayers (hoping God will take it retroactively, since it takes about 2 months for a letter to get from me to them!)

I also told Fred about my recent dental appointment because I had found a book of Bernstain Bears which had a story about the little bear going to the dentist. It was thin enough that it would meet Compassion's strict regulations about what can't be sent.

I had some car tattoos which I sent to Wainaina in Kenya. He's 14 and I don't know if he will like them or not, but I wanted to send him something. I haven't received a letter from him yet, so I have no feel for what he might like to have.

I had sent Pedro some games from a puzzle book recently. He's in Brasil, so I know he doesn't speak English, but I included some tic-tac-toe pages and a maze that I hope can figure out. I also sent him an activity book of Tonka trucks. I really don't have much of an idea what he likes since he rarely mentions things that I send to him.

I sent three of the girls gift bags from Christmas, each with a colorful poinsietta on them. You can't send anything that's not paper, so I had to remove the ribbon handles, but I thought the little bags were kind of nice.

I had made a photo collage for Shallon but I also sent her a Mary Engelbreit bookmark which had a place where I could insert her photo. I thought it was very cute.

I'm really jazzed about these photo collages. I found a package of 8x11 glossy photo paper that I bought years ago and never used and I'm discovering that it prints beautiful photos to send off to the kids. I could cut them up into snapshot sizes, but I think the large size is really impressive. I'm thinking that next time I write, I will print my letter on the backside of the photo collage. (It's also a good thing to get me to go on these walks of mine, thinking all the time about what things might be of interest to the kids.)

So I'm finished for another 2 weeks and I feel good about the variety of things I found to send to the kids. I realized that some of the things I bought years ago for young children are getting out of date since the kids are growing up, so I'd better be more conscientious about sending things!