Monday, December 27, 2010

Jackie Chan with an American Accent

There’s a small stack of movies on my DVD shelf set off from the others.  Loners, outcasts, many still in their plastic shrink wrap, these films sit, collecting dust, waiting for me to finally pop them in the DVD player. 

I often rummage through my DVDs, looking for ones I seldom watch, or have over-watched to go out with the next round of Amazon sales or Goodwill boxes.  But, I will not oust a film I have not seen.  And so, these lonely films continue to wait.

Then a moment comes, a moment like today.  A day for me to do me things.  So while sorting laundry, eating meals and straightening up my home, I popped in one of these lonely waiting movies, Jackie Chan’s The Young Master.

Pretty sure I picked this up from one of those $4.99 crazy bins in Walmart some years ago.  You know the big baskets in the middle of the store aisle where you rummage through has-been films, straight to DVD duds and classics no one appreciates any longer.  Piled willy-nilly on top of each other, it’s like a Chuck-E-Cheese ball pit of rectangular plastic cases.  I must have had The Young Master sitting around for awhile, “Chapter Stops” are listed as a special feature on the case.  That’s like listing the ability to rewind as a special feature on a cassette tape.

The movie’s pretty cute.  I suppose that’s not really an appropriate word for an action movie, “cute,”  but that’s what this movie is, cute.  At least, that’s what this American release DVD version is.  The whole audio-track is dubbed.  It’s funny to see Jackie Chan’s mouth move and hear some random American.  It’s even more amusing to see a cross-eyed cop that sounds like Yogi Bear.  Other characters have all sorts of random English accents from different parts of the world.  The music sounds like it’s also been replaced, being almost completely late-70s rock music.  I’m also still trying to figure out why the Master reminds me so much of Tim Curry.

Silliness created by odd dubbing aside, I quite enjoyed the film for its story and very well choreographed fight scenes.  One of the neatest things about the film is that it could be taking place at any time – or at least, I couldn’t put it in any specific period.  Maybe someone more familiar with China or the history of Kung Fu could date it.

Now I just have to decide, keep the film?  Or send it to Sir Barnabas, royal knight and protectorate of Queen Jackie Chan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My First CDs

My first cd.  The first cd I bought.  Both gotten when I was in 6th grade and both, despite many purges of my cd collection, still in my possession.  Back in the day when music didn’t magically appear at your finger tips, getting your first album was a big deal, a special occasion to remember.

The First CD I Owned

I got my first cd before we even had a cd player.  It came free with a subscription to this newsletter my mom had gotten me and I got to choose “Compact Disc or Cassette.”  Even though we didn’t have a way to play it, I chose the CD.  I knew cassettes were on their way out and figured sooner or later we’d have a cd-player.  I guess I was, in the words of Mr. Trizzle, future-proofing.

The newsletter was called How on Earth, self-abbreviated to HOE.  It was a very Berkeley-esque publication about saving animals, preventing animal cruelty, not wearing fur, not eating or using animal products.  All that environmental stuff that was really in for awhile in the early-90s.  I wasn’t that into most of the stuff in the articles, but I saw the subscription as a nice gesture on the part of my mother to show that she supported me in my newly-declared vegetarianism.  Even if she thought it was just a fad.  That meant a lot to me.

So this CD came with it, Tame Yourself, a crazy collection of anti-fur, pro-animal, pro-vegetarian songs by some of the eras best genderless save-the-world-singers, and some random artists like the B-52s.  It was played a lot when we finally did get a cd player, for awhile being the only disc we owned.  (I still remember how exciting it was the first time we could fill up our 5-disc changer.)

Of course, my sister and I had a favorite song on the album, which we played over and over and over again – a task made so easy by that new “repeat” button!  My poor mother.  Our favorite song was called “Don’t Kill the Animals,”  and it was our favorite pretty much only because it had this really obnoxious part in the chorus that went “ee-ee-eeeee” in a very high pitched squeal.  And I just happened to find a video for it so you can hear it yourself!

The First CD I Bought

As if I were designing my cd collection solely for the purpose of torturing my mother, the first cd I ever bought, and thus the second cd I actually owned myself, was The Village People’s Greatest Hits.  Yeah.   What sixth grader actually buys that as their first album?  One who’s too young to know any better.

You see, what happened was Alfred and I were watching some tv show that was showing old clips of The Muppet Show and there were all these Viking muppets in a ship and they were singing, you guessed it, “In the Navy.”  And we loved it, and we loved the song.  And we made our own ship out of the back of the couch and sang “In the Navy” as we rowed through the family room.  We liked it so much, we put our tape recorder next to the tv speaker to tape it so we could listen to it and sing along.  It was probably the only moment in our life when we liked any vikings.

At some point while steering our giant couch and recruiting pillows, Timmy Bear and Daddy Bunny to join our navy, Mommy walked in and went, “oh, no, disco!?” And nicely informed us that the song that so delighted us was originally by the Village People.  That was all I needed to know.  Pretty soon we were running around the house singing not just “In the Navy” but also “Macho Man,” “Hot Cop” and, of course, “YMCA.”  The dream of every parent that had survived the 70s. ;)


It’s kind of funny, those two cds seem to predict my ending up in San Francisco more than anything else in my life.  I wonder if today’s kids will remember their first mp3.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crafting Crafting Crafting, Keep Those Girls a-Crafting

About a year ago I joined a book club.  I was looking for something to do and a way to meet  people that weren’t Mr. Trizzle’s friends.  There was an ad on Craigslist by Book Club Kate for a new book club forming in my area.  So, I joined.  So did a whole bunch of other girls.  (The two guys that came to the first meeting quickly disappeared.)

What I learned over the next several months was that I don’t really like book clubs.  A bunch of the other girls learned that, too.  Many of us had come for the meeting people purpose rather than the book club purpose.  The book club sort of dissolved into nothingness and that was that.

Then, Book Club Kate had a brilliant idea.  We wanted to meet people and have a chance to hang out, but we didn’t really like the homework aspect of book club and didn’t care to read the same types of books.  What we needed was something else to gather around: craft club.

Last week, we had our first craft club meeting and it was fabulous!  Five of us gathered at Book Club Kate’s with our various projects: beading, mending, sewing.  One girl was making adorable animal head hats for a craft fair, another repairing a present for a friend.  We sat in the cozy living room, orange flames flickering from the fireplace, a nice breeze from the open porch door, Christmas music playing in the background.  It felt so old-fashioned and nostalgic and, well, perfect.

A great time hanging out with friends, chatting, eating, but also being productive.  The best way to spend an evening.  I can’t wait for the next one.

Friday, December 10, 2010

You Say ‘Potato,’ I Say ‘Latke’ (or ‘Twas the Last Night of Hanukah)

‘Twas the last night of Hanukah and on the house boat, Short Fabulous was hosting a party that’d float. 

The potatoes were laid on the counter with care, in hopes that her friends soon would be there. 

The candles were lit in the menorah of tin, burning quite quickly much to goldenrail’s chagrin. 

And Meg&Jack with a bowl and her potato shredder, scraped furiously while Short Fab mixed the batter.

While on the stove top a pan of oil did heat, we all stared at it eagerly, waiting to eat.

Into the pan it dropped with a splash, shredded potatoes and some salt, just a dash.

Potato and onion and egg made up one.  Another to come after those were done.

The second were simpler, they came from a box, supposedly Jewish like bagels or lox.

With a flip of the spatula by Meg&Jack’s man, the potato pancakes were upside-down in the pan.

The grease sizzled and popped and made them all brown, as Short Fabulous hollered out “Gather around.”

“Sit, Meg&Jack! Sit, goldenrail! Sit, Mr and Pole!” 

“Pick up your napkin and fork she did call.”  Now sitzen sie, sitzen sie, sitzen sie all!

A smattering of latkes they sat on our plates, sour cream and applesauce waiting to mate.

Into our mouths one forkful at a time, a piece of potato on each little tine.

“Yummy!”  “Delicious!” “Scrumptious, you bet!”  “Such flavor.”  “Good taste.”  “I haven’t tried that one yet.”

Four kinds we did eat, each made a good latke, except for the box, which were a bit farkakte.

Once the dishes were cleared it was time for dessert, rich marble halava from her friend Bert.*

And with dessert must come games oh happy delight, a long round of dreidel lasting into the night.

With the coins all won and then given away, we packed up our items to make no delay.

Up the stairs to our shoes, our coats and our boots, we said our goodbyes and made our way off  of das Boot.

We heard Short Fab call as we walked up the dock,  “Happy Hanukah friends, now try not to get lost!”


*As far as I know, Short Fabulous does not have a friend Bert and purchased the halava herself in Jersey.  But Jersey does not rhyme with dessert.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have I Mentioned I Hate Bugs?

A Story

I was exhausted, it had been a long, hard-fought battle against the ants.  I collapsed onto my bed, my luxury princess bed in my mud and thatch castle.  The large pile of blankets atop the foam mattress felt like heaven.  I tucked a satin-cased pillow under my head and reached for my book.

Three days, it’d been at least three days, this battle with the ants.  At first there were only a few.  I didn’t mind a few, as long as they stayed on the ground or the walls.  They weren’t the impashi (“ihm-posh-eee,” fire ants) that can devour a human baby whole in a few minutes.  They were regular little ants.  And after all, inside isn’t all that much different than outside when everything’s made of mud and grass.  But then, they’d started getting into things, those pesky ants.  Climbing over the salade (“salad-eee,” cooking oil) bottle, around the balsamic vinegar cap.  Hey, that’s my breakfast!  Getting on stuff I needed to touch: the chair, the table, my sewing machine.  That was when I decided to fight back.  I had no idea it’d be so long or so torturous a fight.

At first, I just swept them out.  Short straw broom, hunched over, sweep, sweep, swee-eep.  Out go the ants, back outside where they belong.  But it wasn’t enough.

I put all the food away.  Well, the little bit that was out.  Most of the food was already tucked away in thick plastic buckets with tough snap-on lids to keep the imbebe (“ihm-bey-bah,” rats) out.  So the few glass jars and such, into the buckets they went, too.  With out any food out, there should be nothing to attract the ants.  Another sweep, sweep, swee-eep, and the ants were gone.  Briefly.  It wasn’t enough.  Time to call in reserves.

Ba Lenix, Ba Feya, Ba Joyce and Hampola came to investigate.  Where were the ants entering?  Maybe there was something we could do to block the entrance, or to make the entrance less appealing.  Considering the windows didn’t close, the roof didn’t meet the ceiling and the whole place was made out of mud, this seemed like an odd idea to me.  Oh well, anything’s worth a shot.

With the hut half emptied into the front yard, we found a few possible entry points and brushed some wood preserver around the areas.  On the brick, on the concrete, on the wood.  Sweep, sweep, swee-eep.  Goodbye ants.  Seemed good.  I rested. It wasn’t enough.  Time to call in the extra special back-up reserves: the village.

Ba Lenix had decided the ants were coming through the cracks in my concrete floor.  We emptied the hut, again, this time everything but the bed.  Ba Lenix and several men from the village began chipping away at the cracks in the cement floor.  The cracks had been small carcks, now they were deep gorges carved out with rough hoes and spare pieces of metal.  The men filled the newly enlarged cracks with new cement from a spare bag they’d scrounged up.  The previously smooth and shiny, but slightly cracked floor now looked like a relief map of the Missouri-Mississippi river system, with rough lines of various thickness running here and there.

It was done.  No more ants.  I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled.  I took out my floor polish and polished my new floor ‘til it shone brightly.  Everything was moved back into place and I polished the legs of my table and chair and bed, the bottom of my bookshelf, anything that touched the floor that the ants might want to crawl up should they come back.  There would be no more ants.  I was determined.

Finally happy and relieved, I dropped my exhausted body into that princess bed.  I lay there reading my book, muscles aching, smile on my face.  Then I felt a little tickle on my neck.  I reached my hand up to move my hair away, but as I brushed at my neck, I noticed my hair was not there.  I brought my hand back to where I could see.  There was an ant.  Slowly, stiff with fright, I rolled my head to the left.  The entire side of the bed was a wave of ants crawling over the mounds of fabric, headed straight towards me.

A Summary

That feeling, that twitch on my neck, the stiff fear that took over my body, the view of hundreds of ants coming directly towards me at eye level, it’s one of my most vivid memories from Zambia.  It was probably my hardest days there. One of those things that once it happened and I didn’t flee for the US made me realize I could handle a lot more than I ever expected.

I didn’t necessarily handle it well.  I jumped out of that bed and out of that hut as fast as I could.  I threw all the blankets and sheets  over the clothesline and hopped on my bike for town.  I  fled.

A Repeat

Today, I got to relive part of this story.  When winter starts in California, it rains.  And when it rains, ants become a problem.  I keep boric acid, and when I see some ants start to come in, I line the baseboards with boric acid.  That generally gets rid of the ants.

My roommate was supposed to move out while I was gone.  He did.  But before he did, the ants started to come.  I had emptied all the trash and put away all the food before I left.  If the ants came before my roommate left, he’d put down the boric acid and they’d be gone.  At the very least, the ants would just be trailing over empty counters.  After all, he’s a grown-up and grown-ups are responsible, right?  Nope.

Apparently, the ants did come before he left.  A lot of them came.  My roommate sprayed them with all-purpose cleaner and left them, large piles of drowned, smooshed ants all over the kitchen floor, the counter, the sink.  Knowing there were ants in the vicinity, he proceeded to leave dirty dishes in the sink, food out on the counter, and empty beer bottles and cans around the apartment.  And then he moved out.  Happy homecoming goldenrail.

Not only did I have those lovely piles of dead, drowned, smooshed ants to clean up, I also had nice streams of live, crawly, creepy ants to clean up.  Armies of ants marching across the walls.  Lines of ants going in circles on every bottle in my liquor cabinet.   A wall of ants covering the sink with its dirty dishes.  Even the faucet handles were teaming with ants.

This time, there was nowhere to run.  No reserves to enlist.  No super-special reserves to call.  Just me.  Me, a pack of cleaning gloves, a sponge and my boric acid.  Have I mentioned I hate bugs?


ants close in Double click for full-size terror.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Garden–Book Review

They say don’t judge a book by its cover.  For Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden, I’d say don’t judge a book by it’s first 60 pages.

I was bored.  So very bored.  Nothing in the book was grabbing me.  The only part I got even mildly interested inwas when one of the characters was at a lodge in Livingstone staring at the Zambezi river.  I was only getting through the pages by forcing myself to read a chapter a night before bed, like homework.

Then, something changed.  It took awhile for the characters to develop, for the story to start to come out of the book, but once it did the depth and intricacy were amazing.  I found myself sitting at the breakfast table wishing bedtime would arrive soon.  I couldn’t wait to get back into the story and find out what would come next.

The novel revolves around a small nuclear family somewhere in the northwestern US.  While the two daughters struggle to figure out where their lives are headed, they also find themselves deeply involved in a quest to understand the mother they never knew although she’s been there their entire lives.

Half everyday modern America, half war-torn Russia, Winter Garden is all human life.  And it’s worth trudging through the first 60 pages to get into the meat of the book and the fabulous ending.

I’m glad I read this book in WI, saves me the shipping cost of sending it to Mommy. Winking smile

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 1st is World Aids Day

It was a hot sunny day, the kind of day common most of the year in Southern Province and especially during Zambia’s hot season.  Stretched out on citenge clothes spread across the hard packed dirt of the yard, hunched over on small wooden stools, we sat together chatting and enjoying the afternoon.  The thatch overhang of the nearby mud brick hut provided welcome shade as a soft breeze rustled through the nearby mulberry tree and made the hot day comfortably pleasant.

It was the time of day for easy tasks, the types of chores that can be done in the half asleep loll of a lazy mid-afternoon, Shelling groundnuts, slicing vegetables for the evening meal, getting maize kernels off the cob.  It was also one of my favorite times of day, sitting together with the wives.  Not just enjoying the beautiful weather, but also enjoying the good company, the chats, the friends.

I couldn’t always keep up.  With the same Tonga imageskills as my four year-old brother, Mazoka, I was lucky to follow any of the conversations.  When the neighbors came over I was particularly lost, imagethey talked so fast.  But the wives, Ba Fare (pronounced Feya) and Ba Joyce, they were wonderful and always tried hard to make sure I was included.  “Mwonwa?” they would ask, “do you understand?”  “Inzya,” I’d answer them.  “Yes.”  Or else just look at them with my brows furrowed and say one of my favorite Tonga words, “ndapyopyongana.”  “I am confused.”

This particular afternoon was more than just the regular small talk; there was news to share.  The second wife had gone to the nearby mission.  I knew little about her.  She lived on her parents’ compound in some nearby village and came infrequently to ours.  When she did come, it seemed it was only to yell at her husband and clean her and her daughter's hut.  She had been sick for a long time, on and off.  Everyone said that was why she lived on her parents’ compound.  I wondered if it wasn’t also because she and her husband (and the other wives) got along so poorly.

But on this day, there was no yelling, no screaming, no strange plastic items launching into the blue sky from the doorway of a small round hut.  Today there was just the quiet voices of Ba Joyce and Ba Fare as they talked about the news.  “She’s gone to the mission.”  “For a workshop?”  Lots of people go to the mission all the time for all sorts of events; it’s the center of activity for many villages across this side of Monze.

“No. She has gone to the hospital at the mission.”  I listened, unsure what it meant, stones of fear piling up in my stomach.  “She has been sick a long time.  She is sick enough now to need to be at the mission.”  “Everyone that goes to the mission hospital is tested.”  She means tested for HIV.

Understanding dawned in my eyes, I could feel them widening, my eyebrows creeping up my forehead.  I’d thought of this before; it would have been hard not to.  At this time, the HIV positive rate in Zambia was 20%, one in every five people.  I’d looked at the statistic and looked at my family.  Wife 1, Wife 2, Wife 3, Wife 4, Husband, 5.  But that was just statistics.  That was just numbers.  This was my family.

I looked at Ba Fare, afraid to ask, afraid to hear the rest.  She looked at back at me, our gazes saying more than words.  Then she laughed a sad half-laugh.  “Tuyakufwa.”  “We are all going to die.” 

We are all going to die.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From home to Home by Rail

By Rail

My second night aboard the California Zephyr, headed from California to Chicago.  On my way to Milwaukee.  I picked up the route guide.  Somewhere between Fort Morgan, Colorado and Mc Cook, Nebraska.  Wherever either of those are.  I scanned the list of cities we’d been through and were headed to.  So many places I’d never heard of. 

I flipped the guide over to the back, to the connection guide.  Denver, Colorado Springs, Vail, Boise, Twin Falls, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas.  All these places I knew nothing about.  All these little connecting buses that meant nothing to me.  I looked out into the deep dark nothingness of the planes, somewhere between Colorado and Nebraska and felt so lost.

I looked back at the route guide and something made me smile.  At the top of the route connections, “Emeryville * San Francisco/Oakland.”  And the connection listings below, “Emeryville Amtrak Station, Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, Market St., Caltrain, Jack London Square.”  These meant something to me; these all meant something to me.  They meant home. 

Wait. What?  could the Bay really be home?

home?  How did this happen?

The thought surprised me, but it didn’t take much more thinking to realize its truth.  In a year and a half, I feel like I know the Bay Area better than I know Milwaukee.  I  grew up in Milwaukee, my entire life .  All of it on the South Side: Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy.  I went off to school the next county over, to Waukesha, and rarely ventured off campus.  Bubbles, little patches of space I know very well, but so little beyond that.  I should say ‘knew’; things change so fast.

I’ve been to Downtown Oakland more times than I’ve been to the Northside in Milwaukee.  I’ve been to Berkeley more times than I’ve been to the Eastside.  I may even have been to San Francisco more times than I’ve been to Downtown Milwaukee, though that one might be close.

I have my church, my fun extra-curriculars: the returned Peace Corps group, the wind ensemble, the bell choir.  My absolutely fabulous job [link].  (I’m pictured in two of those three links. Can you find me?)  And as I recently learned, I have really great friends nearby, friends I can rely on for anything, that get the frustrations with the Bay Area, that challenge me, and most importantly, friends that love me for me.  In short, I have a community.  And no plans to leave anytime soon.


Don’t get me wrong, Milwaukee will always be Home.  I’m excited to be arriving there today, to get to see Mommy and Daddy and my aunts and uncles and my grandma and (fingers crossed) snow, to eat cheese that doesn’t feel like rubber and drink milk from cows that are actually happy, to watch the Packers take down the Vikings after church, to sew with Mommy, to decorate the house for Christmas, and to sit by the fire with Daddy, and to just be Home.

But when my two weeks is up, I’ll also be happy to get back on the train and head home to El Cerrito.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Growing Forgiveness Book Review: Rachel’s Garden

There’s something I really like about books set in Amish country.  Maybe it’s how real the characters’ struggles are, or grace and peace fill the books. 

True, every Amish-set book has the same themes in it: young people working through their Rumspringa and someone choosing to leave and winding up under the ban; a death caused by a car colliding with a buggy; a death caused by a barn collapsing; and people resisting the love God has planned for them.  It does get redundant and a little predictable, but I still enjoy a romp through Dutch Pennsylvania every once in awhile.

rachel's gardenMy most recent romp was via Rachel in Rachel’s Garden by Marta Perry.  Rachel is a widow whose husband died when a barn collapsed.  Her husband’s best friend, a widower whose wife died when a car hit his buggy, is determined to build Rachel the greenhouse her husband had promised her.

From the beginning of the book, it’s apparent to everyone except Rachel and the widower that God intends for the two of them to be together.  And no, I haven’t ruined anything; it’s apparent to the reader, too.   The book is a gentle ramble through Rachel’s life as she and the widower figure this out.  There’s a few other little conflicts along the way that I won’t get into; those are the real surprises.

For those who are wondering about the missing standard theme, Rachel’s twin brother has left the Amish to become an Englisher and is under the ban.  I’m under the impression that happened in the first book of this series.

The best part of this book was a simple piece of wisdom given to Rachel by her pastor (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting):

When you’re struggling to forgive someone, just treat them the way you would if you had already forgiven them; then forgiveness will come.  

So clear, so straightforward.  Not always the easiest thing to do, but once you do, it makes your life easier.  The story itself was sweet and a nice temporary break from life, but in my mind it will always be a great book just because of that piece of wisdom.  Act like you’ve already forgiven.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exciting (Huey Lewis and the) News

The best friends in life are the ones that challenge you to do something new.  Not just for the sake of doing something different, but to join them in something they enjoy that you otherwise might not have tried.  This is one of the reasons Short Fabulous (formerly Short Artichoke) makes such a good friend.  She’s absolutely crazy.  Crazy about Huey Lewis and the News.

Huey, Huey, Huey

Almost since the time I first met her, Short Fabulous has been trying to get me to go see Huey Lewis in concert, listen to Huey Lewis on the radio, watch Huey Lewis on tv.  If it’s Huey, you name it, she’s tried to get me to do it.

Ok, ok, she hasn’t tried to get me to wear Huey Lewis underwear.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, though.

Well, she finally succeeded, taking me a few months ago to a Huey Lewis and the News concert out in Saratoga.  It was a good show, but it was nothing compared to what Short Fabulous got me and another of our friends to do last weekend.

Handshakes, Pictures and Friends

It’s 7pm on a Saturday night and were standing around inside a book store stuck staring at the cd rack next to us, the fake jazz section, oh joy.  The line is growing, we can see the tables arranged near the front.  That’s where they’ll be soon, Huey Lewis and some of the News, to sign autographs and take pictures.

It’s me and Meg&Jack, no Short Fabulous in sight.  Where is that girl?!  She asked us to meet her here at 6.  She’s been going on about this event for weeks.  She can’t wait to introduce her friends to the band, all of whom she knows well.  Huey, Johnny and Bill come out, the line cheers.  Still no Short Fabulous.  The line starts to move, slowly winding around the corners.  Still no Short Fabulous.  Then I feel something down by my elbow.  I turn.  It’s her!  Short Fabulous has finally arrived.

We get up to the front of the line and Huey greets Short Fabulous by name.  A wide smile spreads from ear to ear, “I brought some friends,”  she says.  “You have friends?” Huey jests.  She introduces us all around, Johnny Colla, the sax player, Billy Gibson, the singing drummer, and of course Huey, the Huey.  Then it’s time for a picture:

Huey silly picture

Meg&Jack, Johnny, Short Fabulous, Huey, me, Bill

We hung out until the end, Short Fabulous and a few others chatting it up with the band for awhile.  The entire band, especially Huey, was in a kooky mood, so it was a lot of fun.  We rounded out our adventurous evening with a trip to the local Puerto Rican restaurant, plantains all around.


P.S.  That green jacket on Short Fabulous was one of the finds from the 10 hour fashion day.  Cute, isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Southerners Stick Together

I couldn’t read their name tags, but I didn’t have to.  The bright orange polo shirts with paw prints over the chest told me where they were from.  Clemson.  Ed and Frank, the bright orange casual shirts in such contrast to the deep brown leather sofa on which they rested as we talked about new computer memory developments.  Incredibly nice gentlemen.  But then, everyone there was nice, it was the Southern School Mixer.

Clemson, Vanderbilt, Duke, Georgia Tech, USC, Virginia, the list goes on.  Alumni from nearly every southern university gathered together to enjoy some wine (or water, as it were) and friendly chats.  Apparently, these mixers happen two or three times a year.  This was the first one I had attended.

High above the City in the University Club.  Only the fourth floor, but the hill atop which the University Club stands is so large that looking out the windows down toward the financial district, you imagine you’re on a 27th floor.  Decked out in dark woods, deep carpets and intricately patterned wallpaper, the University Club transports you to another time and place.  A piano in the corner of one room.  In another, a billiard table and backgammon set.  The library walls stretch high towards the paneled ceilings, shelves upon shelves holding neat rows of leather bound books in antique autumn hues.  A large mirror hung over the fireplace, adorned by crystal lamps.  I felt I’d walked into the library at Pemberly.

I wandered around the rooms, taking it all in, stopping here and there to chat.  Sharing with a group of USC alum glad that for a moment they didn’t have to explain “South Carolina, not Southern California”.  Reconnecting with other Vanderbilt alum I’d met at Vandy events.  Totally connecting with a Vanderbilt alum I had not met before, who wants to become a patent lawyer and work with innovation in Africa, who was at the same conference as me a year ago out in Stanford, and who, most graciously saved me from a rather overzealous MIT graduate who had crashed the party and was repeatedly offering me a ride to the BART station, not to mention invitations to every event he could think of.  I hope I run into her again at another event, that amazing Vandy alum,  at the very least to give her my thanks.

As fancy as the surroundings were, and as nice as the new people I was meeting were, the best part of the entire evening was seeing one of my old friends from law school.  We’ve been in and out of touch out here, even though she lives just over the hills.  It’s always nice to see her, but this night was particularly special.  She had the most exciting news: a new job, a new job doing exactly what she wanted to do, doing what she went to law school to do.  Those are the best kinds of jobs, those dream jobs.   The way her face lit up as she talked of her future, of this new path, she just glowed with joy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adjustments Take Time, Even in the Closet

“The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”  So said Mark Twain, supposedly.  You know what? Summer isn’t the only time it’s cold here.

The Chill – first bad, then good

When I first moved here, the fairly constant chill – October is a reprieve – meant one thing: a lot of complaining.  (Poor Mr. Trizzle!)  But a year and a half later, it means something new: sweaters! and lots of them.

Zambia, Nashville, not exactly your permanently cold places.  Even Wisconsin, so very different: hot summers, warm autumns and heat in the buildings during the very cold winters and slightly-less cold springs.

Closet Fail

My wardrobe was not ready for the Bay.  Short-sleeved cotton dresses, tank tops, loose flowy skirts, light blouses and shorts.  On the other end, heavy jersey knit and long-sleeved stretch velvet dresses, thick down jackets, thermal shirts and cozy socks.  My closet was built to handle two extremes and nothing in the middle. 

In all the places I’d previously lived, temperatures in the 50s and 60s were fleeting sprites marking the border between seasons.  They were the days you threw on a light jacket over your warm-weather clothes, or they days you removed your jacket from over your cold-weather clothes.  Those were not real temperatures in their own right, they were slight modifications of whatever the usual temperature had been the weeks before.

In the Bay, it’s different.  Especially in San Francisco.  Temperatures in the 50s and 60s are the norm.  Too cool for short sleeves, too warm for a heavy jacket.  Add to that the de minims use of indoor temperature control and the requirement of spending time outside getting to and from public transportation and I had a pretty frustrating situation.  Until I discovered the beauty of sweaters, and the even more delightful sweater dress.

Making Improvements

Now that you understand how badly my wardrobe needed adjusting upon my moving here, you will totally understand that I did indeed need to buy a new dress.  - Yes, all that background was to justify my spending money on clothing. 

I will also add that I set a budget for myself before starting my search for new sweaters and dresses and I stuck to it.  There.  Do you feel better about it now?  I do.  (Well, a little bit better. A teensy bit better.)

Smashing New Dress

The dress seemed to call out to me from the catalog.  There was something retro about its styling yet unique and new.  I debated for awhile.  The strange styling on the top looked like it could go either way.  When the box arrived and I opened the dress, I was even more apprehensive.  The U-shaped neck line hung funny on the hanger and the dolman sleeves appeared overwhelming.  There was only one thing to do.  Try it on.

So on it went.  And I loved it!  It’s so warm and comfy, like being wrapped in a thick cloud.  Yet it’s flattering, not at all bulky or pulled down by its own weight.  Best of all, it won’t need to be ironed.

11 09 2010 (6)

P.S. I know it would have looked better with my beige on beige seamed stockings and some brown pumps, but it’s just too cold here at this time of year for that much bare leg.  The boots are pretty cute anyway.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Bit ahead of Myself

Sometimes, there’s nothing to say.

Sometimes, there’s a hundred things to talk about.

Lately, my life has been much more the second than the first.  I have had so much going on, so many fun adventures, that I’ve had blog posts coming out my ears.  Ok, coming out my fingers if you really want to be precise.

So much to share, yet I only post one story per day.  This creates a bit of a backlog (frontlog?).  Posts scheduled for the next free day, sometimes three or four days out from when they’re actually written.  For example, the post about The Story of My Life, was actually written on Friday shortly after I returned from the show.  But, it was not posted until Monday.  There were others in line first.

For those few readers who actually see me and talk to me on a daily basis, this might cause a little bit of a disconnect.  Don’t worry; that should be minimal if it happens at all.  For everyone else, you probably won’t notice.  I did want to give people a heads up though, just in case anything seemed out of wack.

“Well, that’s great.  Now you’ve gone and wasted an entire day to tell us there aren’t enough days,” you might be thinking.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  *sly smile*  I suggest scrolling down to the Toy Box at the bottom of the page and picking out a toy to play with for a bit.  Maybe one of the more popular ones, like “Katrina” or “Wendy.”  Maybe one of the tiniest ones, like “drug search.”  Or something else that tickles your fancy.  Choose a toy, and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fashionita for a Day

I was 10 minutes early.  I’d factored getting lost into my commute time estimate and had somehow managed to get there without getting lost.  That was a first.  9:20am on Saturday morning, and I’m standing on Short Artichoke’s… heck, I don’t even know what to call it.  Porch?  Ramp?  Plank?  Standing outside the door of her houseboat trying to figure out why she’s not answering the door.  Why?  Because I’m ten minutes early.

Short Artichoke invited me over to help her sort through her wardrobe and maybe identify some missing pieces.  I figured it would take the morning, and maybe part of the early afternoon.  Boy, did I underestimate the extent of her wardrobe!  And I thought I had a lot of clothes.  10 hours.  10 hours of clothes.  On, off, store after store, shop, shop, drop.  It was after 7pm, when I finally slumped into my car, exhausted, but happy.  The day was worth it.

Redoing Short Artichoke’s wardrobe, we had our work cut out for us.  Let me start by saying that there’s a reason she’s called Short Artichoke (much to her disapproval).  One day, shortly after I met her, she was dressed head to toe in artichoke green, and she’s short.  You get the idea of where we were starting.

As I settled onto a kitchen stool, Short Artichoke began hauling clothes into the living room.  (Ok, Short Artichoke, in addition to being annoying to her, is a pain in the vampire to type. From now on, she will be SA.)  Shirts, trousers, sweaters, even a couple of dresses.  Piles of hangers, mounds of fabric, everywhere you turned, clothes.

Surprise after surprise came out of those piles.  Including a few goodies for me that were too big for SA.  Sure, there was the expected stuff  - the army green array of every article under the sun, the blazers and crew neck T’s I’d seen her wear.  But the expected was easily dwarfed by the unexpected.  A gorgeous burnt orange gauze blouse that fit perfectly and accented SA’s dishwater hair and green eyes.   A black vintage 1950s sweater from her grandmother.  Two suits that fit better and looked nicer than anything I’d ever seen her wear.  She even owns some heels!

But by far, the biggest surprised wasn’t in the clothing itself; the biggest surprise was what the clothing revealed.  SA has a figure! This discovery reminded me Pretty Wendyof when the neighbors and Munchkinhead and I played dress up with Alfred when she was in 5th grade and discovered she was really pretty.  Or when they played dress up with me in high school and we discovered I’d finally gotten some shape.  I was stunned, and super excited.  
Pretty Alfred.

The best part was when SA herself discovered just how great she could look.  We’d been jousting back and forth, me saying those jeans looked amazing on her and her griping about how she didn’t like them and yadda yadda.  Or her saying she loved some shirt and me telling her it was too stretched out and didn’t fit her well.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Then, she put on these jeans that were so different from her normal high-waisted tapered old-lady/Aflred style jeans,  resting a bit above the hip, boot cut, and a black button up blouse she’s practically never worn.

“Oh my goodness,” I exclaimed, catching my breath.  “You look amazing!”  Here she was, little ms SA, little ms frumpy t-shirts with the army barracks palate standing in the middle of her living room in a pair of blue jeans and a black blouse, looking like she was about to go out for a night in the City and arguing with me about how much she didn’t like the way she looked.  “Turn around.  Look in the mirror.”  Still muttering her complaints, she rotated around to the full length mirror.  “Oh,” she said, disappointment in her voice, “I do.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Story about Friendship

Friday evening, a friend and I went to the opening night of Contra Costa Civic Theater’s new show, The Story of My Life.  It was incredible.  An exploration into the depth of relationships.

The Story of My Life is a two-man show, and it’s a musical.  There isn’t a moment of the play when both men aren’t on stage engaged in the story.  There’s some serious acting ability involved here.  The two men have been friends since they were children, and the play goes back and forth between the present and their childhood memories, the stories of their lives.  It begins as one friend, the successful best-selling author, attempts to prepare the eulogy for the other friend’s funeral.

At this point, the two aren’t really friends anymore.  I mean, they sort of are.  To the one who has past away, the friend who is a bit eccentric and loving and humble, they were always best friends.  To the author, the friendship was one of those things you just grow out of.

It’s a very moving story, heartbreaking at times.  These two friends are up there reminiscing as the author attempts to express his feelings in the eulogy.  Stories about all the happy times in their lives and about their struggles, pieced together by both of them.

But the author isn’t really trying to figure out how to express his feelings.  He’s trying to figure out what his feelings are.  As he struggles to figure out what happened to his friend, why he’s here battling to write a eulogy,  he realizes that he has pushed everyone out of his life, including his best friend.  He has these excuses for what he’s done: he needs to focus on his career, he has to sort out his thoughts, he must establish stability in his life, and he is going to do it all on his own without anyone else’s help because he doesn’t need anyone!

The best friend sees it coming, the audience sees it coming, but the ‘successful’ man doesn’t see it coming. *Poof* before he knows it, he’s completely alone.  Alone and lost.  Having pushed all the inspiration out of his life, he’s unable to write.  Unable to succeed.  Alone.


As an audience member, it was heartbreaking to sit there and watch this happen.  Though it is fiction, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to old friends, to relationships I’ve brushed away, to struggling souls I know who seem determined to push everyone out of their lives.  That’s the point of the play, to make you realize the value of your friends.  The director even said during the post-production talk, ‘after you all call that friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, come join us for punch.’  Luckily, I had a good friend sitting next to me.

For those in the Bay Area, the show runs weekends until November 28.  Tickets.


Post Script: one of the really neat things about this show was that I could see The Great Ecclestone playing either role very well.  Maybe someday, I will get to see that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Being a Black Man - Book Review

Race is a difficult subject to write about.  Though I’ve touched on the subject a few times, I generally avoid it, sometimes discarding half finished posts that aren’t coming out right.  But, I made a deal with myself that I’d write about the books I read.

imageThis week, I finished a book called Being a Black Man.  It’s a collection of essays from The Washington Post and should really be called Being a Black Man in Washington D.C.  Each essay focuses on one or two different people, and every single one of those people lives in the Washington D.C. metro area.  Most of them in one community in Maryland.


Overall, I found this book very, very frustrating to read.  The book has a number of interesting articles, including one about a hair dresser who was wrongly arrested and a black republican from the South who is still half-shunned by his home town for his political choice.  The frustrating part was just seeing how much some people still blame on racism, as if everything that goes wrong is because they’re black.

[Note: the article about the wrongly arrested man was also very angering to read, because of the sheer incompetence and stupidity exhibited by our criminal justice system.]

No Job, No Fault

There was one guy who’s unemployed.  Why is he unemployed?  Because most black men are unemployed.  The numbers of black unemployed are something like 6x greater than the number of whites unemployed.  (Or was in 2006, before the big crash.)  This guy had a job, a good job that was steady, paid well and was full time.  What happened?  He got bored.  He quit.  He quit before he had another job lined up.

Boardroom Blindness

Bob Johnson, founder of BET, complains that there aren’t enough black CEOs and company owners because getting those positions is all about networks and knowing the right people and being in the  good ol’ boys club.  Black people don’t know the right people; they don’t have the connections; they aren’t in the good ol’ boys club; that’s because of racism and that’s what’s keeping down black people, he says.  But there are thousands of people of all races, including white, who don’t know the right people, who don’t have the connections, who aren’t in the good ol’ boys club.  I’m one of them, most of my white male friends from high school are also in that group.  This is a social and economic thing, not a race thing.  Unfortunately, race and class are so often correlated, it’s sometimes hard to see them separated.

It’s My Great-Great-Great-Great Grandparents’ Fault I’m Not Married

By far, the most frustrating article for me was the one article focusing on a black woman.  It was about the lack of eligible black males in the dating pool.  I get that this is an issue, that the numbers, even when you count the young men in prison (which is a lot) are horribly skewed.  And I get that some women don’t want to date outside their race, and that’s fine. 

What irked me was that this woman’s behavior and that she blamed her inability to find a husband on slavery.  Yes, slavery.  Despite the fact that research cited in the article shows that the % of black married couples was very high until the 1970s, when it dropped off precipitously.  (Seems there’s a good case here for the real culprit being the white woman’s movement, but I digress.)

As this woman insisted that it was slavery’s fault she wasn’t married, she treated the guy she was trying to date rudely.  She kept telling the reporter about how she’s special, and valuable, and worth chasing.  So she makes the guy have to chase her, making herself difficult to reach, trying to change plans at the last moment without considering the inconvenience she might cause for the guy.  And the guy, since he’s had one five minute conversation with her up to this point, gets tired of it and moves on.  Good. 

Maybe I’m just extra sensitive about this topic because I’ve been at the receiving end of those “how dare you steal our black men” glares.  Because Mr. Trizzle and I have actually had to think about whether it would be appropriate for me to go to certain events simply because I’m not black.  Yes, in modern times, yes in the very diverse Bay Area.   But even if I am sensitive, there’s one thing that remains true:

If You Want to be Valued, Show Your Value

Look, I don’t care what color you are, how old you are, or how many degrees you have.  You probably are wonderful, but the guy isn’t going to know that until you show him.  You can’t just expect him to assume you’re better than other women, that you’re worth it.  Relationships are risky.  They take time and a lot of energy.  Both people want to know if the investment is going to be worth it.  And they want to find out before they start investing too much.

I know I’m worth it, that I’m special and valuable.  But, I had to show that to Mr. Trizzle before he could know.  And I continue to show him I’m worth it everyday, just by being me.  The same way he shows me how valuable he is just by being him.  Self-confidence is all well and good.  I wish some girls who think they’re so very priceless were more willing to show it before demanding something in return.  And especially before blaming slavery for the bumps in their road.

The New Black Youth

One article just made me sad.  It was talking about how youth culture in black communities has shifted so drastically in the past 40 years.  How young black men are afraid to love.  Stuck in a cycle where violence and ignorance are glorified traits.  Where to be calm, to try to talk, or even to want to get an education are seen as sellout traits, going against the community, “acting white.”

Personally, I think this is starting to change.  Due in large part to a shift in urban music and what’s “cool.”  Hip hop and R&B are becoming more pop influenced.  Lyrics are starting to be less about drugs and violence and more about other things.  Stars like B.O.B. changing it up a bit.  The article mentions this briefly, though it uses Chris Brown as an example – written pre-Rihanna fiasco.  And there’s intelligent, educated, high-profile black role models.  Most notably the Obamas.  It may take some time, but this issue is shifting.  A little bit of positive in a negative mess.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Zebra says “Meow”

Apparently, the See and Says sold in Oakland are a little out of wack. 

On Halloween, I dressed as a Zebra (or Zebula in Zambian English).  All day at the Raiders game and at the BART station in Oakland, I kept getting meowed at.  It didn’t help that there was a Batman in our group at the game.  That prompted quite a number of cat woman comments.  The most unbelievable comment came from an elderly gentleman at the Coliseum BART station who told me I looked like Halle Berry.  In his defense – I guess – he was smoking pot at the time.


Mr. Trizzle, Batman and me at the game.




A cat? Really?  A cat?!  How many cats with zebra stripes have you ever seen?  Me, I’ve seen one.  And he was wearing a zebra striped jacket.  Maybe I should save my outfit and go as Cat next year.  (By the way, I saw a Raiders jersey at the game that said “Lister” on the back.)

Anyway, despite the not-so-bright people at the game, I really liked my costume.  It was soft and fuzzy and warm.  I’m still a little bit stuck in Wisconsin mentality.  I think Halloween costume and I think “ok, either needs to be really warm or needs to fit over a snow suit.”  So my costume was really warm.  A full-length, fuzzy, turtleneck body suit.  It even had a beige bodysuit underneath it for an extra layer.  It was in the mid 70s the entire day at the Raiders game, sitting out in the sun.  Whoops!

Sewing Time

Making the costume was a bit of an adventure.  As usual, I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like and had to go on a bit of a hunt to find the right materials.

First task, the pattern.  It took a bit of online searching, but I finally found something that looked like it would work, KwikSew Pattern 3052.  Unfortunately, the pattern is discontinued, so it took a bit more searching to find one actually available for purchase.

Second task, the fabric.  I wanted fuzzy.  Obviously, it had to be zebra print.  And it had to be at least somewhat stretchy.  I found something that worked at the Jo-Ann across the BART station from my house.  Soft, fuzzy, zebra, some horizontal stretch.  I could work with that.

The beige under-body suit was easy and came out pretty good, after I lengthened the legs about 5”.  It was a little bit baggy in some areas, but the fabric was so thin, I figured it would work fine underneath the zebra suit.


Then I set to task on the zebra suit.  I took the pattern in a bit where it had been baggy on the under-body suit but didn’t adjust anything else.  Fail.  Major, absolute fail.  I forgot to take into account that the zebra fabric didn’t stretch at all vertically and had only about half the horizontal stretch that the pattern called for.  The result would fit Munchkinhead.  (I asked her if she wanted a zebra costume, but she was already going as a ‘40s pin-up girl for Halloween.)

Back to the fabric store.  I bought all the rest of that zebra fabric that they had.  Nearly twice what the pattern called for.  Then I resized the pattern for my actual measurements, compensating for the lack of stretch.  I had to add another 6” to the inseam, lengthen the sleeves about 4 inches and the upper body a good 2 or 3”.  By the time I was done, the pattern didn’t fit on my kitchen table.  Which, I guess makes sense since it’s a neck to ankle pattern and I’m longer than the kitchen table.  I almost didn’t have enough fabric!


This time, the zebra fit!  It was actually a bit big in the mid-section, but that was easily solved by taking in the center back seam. I had a fabulous zebra-suit.  Final touches: some black gloves, black socks and black heels for my hooves, and some banana clips to make a mane.

Me as a fabulously cute zebra zebula girl

Friday, November 5, 2010

My First NFL Game

Last Sunday, I got to go to my first ever live NFL game. It wasn’t a Packer game, but hey, we can’t all be Mommy.

I missed the tailgating, because the bell choir was playing in church.  We played Phantom of the Opera for the end of the service since it was Halloween.  I love that music!

DSCI0005Anyway, I got to the parking lot just as Mr. Trizzle and his friends were packing up to head into the stadium; perfect timing.  Our seats were way, way, way up top near the goal line.  It would have been perfect for watching marching band.  Wasn’t too bad for watching football either.  I had a lot of fun watching the game with Mr. Trizzle and his friends.

DSCI0004I was surprised how few Raiders fans were in costumes.  On tv, it looks like the fans always come dressed up, and this was Halloween!  There certainly were a lot of people in Raider’s jerseys, even old Jamarcus Russell jerseys.  The oddest thing to me, being from Wisconsin, was that there were open seats, and lots of them, in nearly every section.  Now that’s something you’ll never see at Packer game.

It was the Raiders vs. the Seahawks and the Raiders were playing really well.  Not as well as the week before when they set a scoring record and completely creamed Denver, but good enough that it wasn’t a very close game.

But the game wasn’t the most interesting thing to watch.  The most interesting thing was the birds, filthy birds.  Seagulls had swarmed over the parking lot as the tailgaters left their vehicles.  By the middle of the third quarter, the seagulls were starting to migrate to the field.DSCI0007

They perched on the scoreboard at the end of the field.  They swarmed around the outer edges of the field.  And then, they began to swoop down into the stands.  Soon, there were flocks of seagulls everywhere you looked.  Worst of all, they were exactly where you didn’t want to look.  Up.


By the fourth quarter, the seagulls had lost all fear.  They came low, they came often.  They were landing and resting on empty seats not far from people.  And they had started dropping presents.

Mr. Trizzle got a small present on his trouser leg.  Being the big, tough man he is, he got a napkin and took care of it.  The people four rows in front of us fled after one guy got two presents.  Then more people started to flee.  I was getting scared.  Cleaning goo out of long hair is not as easy as wiping it off a pant leg.  But  I was sticking it out.  More people fled.  We fled.


The game wasn’t over.  There was a minute and half or something like that left.  We traipsed down the long, winding ramps to a lower level and ducked under a covered area with open seats.  The Raiders got another touch down, right before we ducked into the viewing area.  We did get to see the extra point, though. 

The Seahawks may have lost, but the seagulls sure won.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Growing Up Vampire

My little munchkinhead grew up convinced she was a vampire.  I still remember the first time she bit me.  Waddled in on her little legs, chomped down on my hip, and waddled back out.  Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t believe me until I showed them the bleeding teeth marks.  She was two.  Today, she’s twenty-two.

Munchkinhead.  My pretty little munchkinhead.  She’s a senior in college now.  She’s been around the world, lived on three different continents, spent weeks on a fourth – she’s still trying to get to Antarctica – and she is still in love with vampires.  Though I think she’s stopped biting people.  Maybe… katrina biting callum

They say the best way to be happy is to make your passion your job.  Well, Munchkinhead ought to be very happy, because she’s done just that.  Her senior capstone paper, the big, long paper she has to write in order to graduate is about, you guessed it, vampires.  Not just any old vampires.  Her paper is specifically about the roles of females in ‘60s era American and British vampire films. 

For the past couple days, I’ve been helping Munchkinhead with proofreading her draft.  In addition to having lots of vampire-filled nightmares, I’m also really impressed.  Despite the fact that it is a pretty feminist paper, it’s really good.

I don’t think I’ve read a paper of Munchkinhead’s since her If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-styled essay from freshman year of high school.  That was cute.  This is better than cute.  This is a well-written, thought-out paper that uses examples to illustrate a point.  And, best of all, it’s interesting.  A sneak peek:

[Marianne's] reaction to [Van Helsing’s] suggestion is not one of fright but of gladness to be rid of her horrible fate, once again allowing and needing a male to intervene on her behalf putting males in the dominating role. This was especially important for Hammer[A1] during the early 1960’s and late 1950’s because the Cinema audiences were changing from families to young male teenagers, and so Hammer began to orientate their movies toward a certain age group of one gender leaving the other gender under [A2] developed.[1] This male dominated role continued though the 1960’s in other Hammer films and in a few American films. Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Blood of Dracula’s Castle are two such films.[2]

[1] Barta, Tony. Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History. Westport: Preager, 1998. P.122 and 111

[2] Blood of Dracula’s Castle. Directed by Al Adamson and Jett Hewitt. Produced by Paragon International Pictures. 1969

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not perfect.  This girl still needs to learn the difference between “then” and “than”.  And for someone who hates run-on sentences, she sure hasn’t befriended enough commas.  But, it’s on its way to being a really amazing paper.  About vampires!  Maybe if you ask nicely, she’ll let you read the whole thing.

Perhaps someday Munchkinhead will find the perfect job as curator at a vampire museum in Scotland.  In the meantime, keep enjoying those vampire films and,…

Happy Birthday Munchkinhead

Pirate and Captain (9)




Even as a pirate she has vampire fangs, gold vampire fangs.


If you click on Munchkinhead’s link in the toy box, you’ll see lots of vampire pictures and get more vampire stories, like The Not-So-Little Vampire.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sweet Story, Sweet Magnolias–Book Review

Not every book is a classic.  Not every book is so fabulous you want to read it over and over again.  But even books that aren’t strikingly brilliant or must re-reads can be enjoyable.  Honeysuckle Summer by Sherryl Woods was one of these.  A nice entertaining read to take you away from reality for a little while.  A quick read with pleasant, real characters and a plot that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with your friends.

Honeysuckle Summer (Sweet Magnolias)Honeysuckle Summer is part of a series about a group of friends called the Sweet Magnolias.  In this story, one of the Sweet Magnolias, Raylene, faces her fears.  Facing down her ex-husband and agoraphobia while trying not to botch the first chance she’s had a real relationship in a long time.  It’s a cute story.

There’s a few other background stories, but unlike some books I’ve previously read, they stay in the background and don’t create a jumbled soap-opera styled mess.  And they’re related to each other enough that the reader doesn’t stop and think ‘now what’s that doing here now?’

It’s a short review, but it’s hard to say much when there’s little to rant about but not much to rave about either.  It’s a sweet novel, and although it’s not unforgettable, it’ll stay on my mind for a bit yet.  If I happen to come across another Sweet Magnolia novel or one of Sherryl' Woods’ other 100 published books somewhere, I’ll probably read it.


P.S. Don’t worry Mommy, I’m not sending it to you.  Putting it for sale on Amazon.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Swearing on the Grave of Elvis –Book Review

You know how some movie reviews say ‘wait for it on video’?  Well, for this book, I say wait for it to enter the public domain.  I know that’s a really long time, but trust me, if you die first, you won’t have missed anything.

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes has nothing to do with any one having the blues and there isn’t a single pair of new shoes in the entire book.  That’s the least of the misleads.

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes | [Dixie Cash]The book’s summary describes it as a mystery novel about Elvis’ blue suede shoes going missing just before the start of a huge celebration for Elvis’ birthday in Salt Lick, Texas.  It talks about how these two friends who run a beauty shop and a detective agency are going to have to figure out what happened to the shoes.  - Apparently this book is part of a series about these two women. – It adds that maybe they’ll have some time for some match making on the side.

Ok, the book begins with the shoes going missing, that plot’s there for a second, and then the whole book is pretty much about that match making part.  There is almost no sleuthing for the shoes, with the whole missing shoe thing being barely a background story while the two out-of-town reporters being match-made take over the story.  It doesn’t matter though, the reader will figure out what happened to the shoes before the plot even goes off track.

Just before the end of the book, it’s as if the author suddenly remembered the original plot and has the detectives find the shoes, exactly where the reader expected them to found back at the very beginning.  There, the chapters end, without resolving that whole match-made love affair that was the main focus of most of the book.  So there’s a rushed little epilogue added onto the end, basically saying “and they all lived happily ever after.”

So the book was distracted, predictable, a little boring.  None of that was that bad, and listening to the story (this was my audio book for bus rides) was better than listening to people on their cell phones.  Mostly.  There was one thing that absolutely drove me crazy about the book.  The two main characters, the detective, beauty-shop, middle-aged women had the foulest mouths I’ve ever encountered.  And I listen to rap music!  If I had switched all their swear words to vampires, this could have been a Twilight novel.

I don’t know why the author felt the need to write the f-word and other four letter friends so often.  Maybe it was supposed to some how be more realistic (do adults in Texas really swear that much?!), but all it was in reality was  very, very distracting.

Note: I finished two books today, one physical book and this audio book.  Tomorrow’s book review will be much happier.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From “Austin” to Nashville

I know it was Amanda.  I don’t remember why or when or even how, but I know it was her.  She has this way of waltzing in and overthrowing everything before you know it.  Born a few decades earlier and the government might have had her on special missions to South America.

Anyway, I know it was Amanda, and I wish I remember why or when or how she got me to sit down and listen to this song called “Austin.”  Staunchly in my Eminem phase (it was college, I remember that much), I listened to two types of music, West Coast influenced hip hop and Metallica.  Well, ok three, there was a heavy dose of 1776 in there.  Yet somehow, this crazy girl got me to listen to country.  That’s right, country.

The door was cracked open.  Granted, it never became wide open, remaining for the next however-many-years ajar, but it was still far more open than I ever expected.  Heck, I never thought that door would even be unlocked.  From “Austin” to Alan Jackson to Toby Keith, new music started to slip into my previously anger-filled cd player.  All because of Amanda and “Austin.”

Blake Shelton was inducted into the Opry this past weekend.  Just happened to be the weekend I was in Nashville.  And we just happened to look into Opry tickets (after discovering that To Kill a Mockingbird at the TPAC was sold out).  As soon as I saw that Blake Shelton was joining the Opry at the show that night, I had to go.

When people join the Opry, they’re invited and then inducted by current members.  In this case, both the invitation and the induction were done by Trace Adkins.  That meant both Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins were performing at the Opry. Woo hoo!  - I started liking Trace’s music while living in Nashville when I heard a song with a theme similar to much hip hop, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”.

I didn’t hear “Austin” or “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” at the Opry.  But the performances by both men were great.  And their duet, “Hillbilly Bone” was quite entertaining.  Of course any song with Trace Adkin’s deep voice is going to sound good to my ears.  I’d love to hear him and James Hetfield do a duet.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Packers Beat the Vikings, so Why am I so Glum?

Sunday Night Football, a national game, meaning a Green Bay game was actually on in the San Francisco Bay.  I was ecstatic.  Curled up on the couch next to Mr. Trizzle, I was all set to root for my team.  Let’s go Pack!

And I did.  And we won.  But I wasn’t ecstatic.  I was just eh.  Why?  How could this be?  We won!  We defeated our arch enemies, ‘that expansion team from out West,’ that traitor Darth Judas Favre.  But no, there was no massive elation.  No overjoy.  Not even the silly laughter I’d had at the end of the Raiders blow-out 59 to 14 victory earlier that day.  Nothing.

It wasn’t a real win.  It was a present handed to us.  And I don’t mean handed to us by Favre’s three interception passes, two of which went straight into Packer hands and the third caught in a flying leap over the intended Viking’s head.  No, it was a present handed to us by the refs.

Coach Childress called it the “Worst officiated game [he’d] seen.”  I kind of agree.  The Packer touchdown that was out of bounds.  The overturned Vikings touchdown where having two hands on the ball and holding onto it was somehow not having control of the ball.  I’m sorry, but with better officiating, that game would have been a loss.

Ok, ok, so you want to argue how there’s rules and challenges and Childress could have challenged the Packers’ touchdown and didn’t so it’s valid and fair.  And I suppose you’ll make some argument for the validity of the overturning of the Shiancoe diving catch pass, too.  Fine, go ahead, because I think there’s something else bothering me than just bad ref-ing and a stolen win.

When Favre comes out on that field, on Lambeau field, in a Vikings jersey, it’s like seeing your ex-boyfriend show up at your party with his new girlfriend.  Your stomach lurches, your mouth goes dry, your heart pounds into your throat.  You hate him.

But you also feel protective.  There’s no way that new vampire he’s with is going to hurt him.  And when the evening starts going badly for him,  when you see him sad, left alone in a corner, hurt, you feel sad.  You feel pity.  There’s nothing you can do, and even if there were, you probably wouldn’t want to, but still.  It sucks to see someone that used to mean so much to you shriveled and worn, and hurt.

Watching Favre Monday night, even just the little head that pops up and blinks from the stats bar on the bottom of the screen, was depressing.  The grey hair, the wrinkles, the tired half-grimace half-nothing expression on his face.  It’s too much.  He’s struggling, yet trying so hard.  The officials unfairly take the game away, we fracture his ankle, and by the end of the night, he seems like just a lonely old man, deep sadness set in the eyes brimming with tears.  How is it possible to look at the hurt in those eyes and not feel the tiniest bit of compassion?


The NBC announcers were speculating that someday Green Bay and the Packer fans will forgive Favre and there will be a Favre Way or something near the stadium.  Maybe someday, but I doubt it will be while he’s alive.  We’re hurting, too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Roses Comes up Roses

The trouble with finishing a good book is that it’s finished.  I have trouble; I finished a good book, a very good book.

Last time I wrote about a book, I said I was hard to please.  I certainly felt that way, having been disappointed by so many books in a row.  But this time, I was far from disappointed. 

imageRoses’ back cover promised to delight and thrill and at that usual stuff.  And boy did Roses deliver.  Leila Mecham’s book is described as a Texan Gone with the Wind.  This isn’t really fair to Roses.  Although there’s a bit in the novel that is reminiscent of GWTW, like the dark-haired heroine who cares more about her fathers land and is willing to sacrifice everything for it, Roses stands on its own as a great novel.

It’s over 600 pages long.  I started it on Thursday morning.  I finished it yesterday, on Sunday.  Four days.  Of course it helped that I had some long flights in there on which to read, but it wasn’t just the flights.  Whenever I had to put the book down, I found myself lost in thought about the story, wondering about the characters, thinking of them as real people.  No matter what I was doing, I couldn’t wait to pick up my book again and dive back in. 

Even now, even while listening to a different book on the bus or reading email or walking down the street, my thoughts are on the main characters, Percy and Mary.  Or drifting off to other characters, feeling a sad loss and pity for Lucy.  Wondering if it’s really even possible to balance family traditions and love.  Thinking of the great romances in the book and comparing them to all the others I’ve known, fictional or otherwise.  Roses is one of those truly great books, the kind where you forget you’re reading; the kind that transplants you to another place and time.

Highly recommend it, but you’ll have to find your own copy.  This is one book I’m not selling on Amazon or mailing to my mommy.


Post Script: Of course, nothing is perfect (well, except maybe Pride and Prejudice), so I do need to point out the one downside of the book.  The one part that suddenly woke me up out of my dream-like haze.  Two paragraphs of the entire 600+ page novel take place in San Francisco.  Two paragraphs.  And twice in these two paragraphs, twice, San Francisco is described as sunny.  There’s even a part that describes a sunny home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Stop.  Right there, trance gone, groan. Thought: “well this author’s never been to SF.”  Sunny, maybe once in awhile.  Sunny and a view of the Pacific Ocean?!  Maybe once a year.  Luckily, another two paragraphs and I was back, lost in the magical world of East Texas.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Autumn Paradise

DSCI0071Warm sun, cool breeze. Crisp autumn leaves.  Beautiful reds, golds and oranges adorn the trees, decorate the sidewalks.  Crunching below my feet as I walk, whirling into little rustles of mini-cyclones.  It’s Fall in Nashville, and it’s beautiful.

I’m here on a mini vacation.  Vanderbilt Homecoming this weekend – the unveiling of a special portrait for an amazing recently-retired professor and a visit to friend who is going for his third Vanderbilt degree (and he didn’t even go here for undergrad!).

The campus is more beautiful than I remember.  Brick buildings, regal reminders of another time, rising high and mighty against the blue sky.  Cobbled pathways that were always murder on my stilettos.  And trees, all the beautiful trees, everywhere trees

The people are different, but they look the same.  Polo shirts and khaki shorts; side-swept bangs and pearls.  Prim, proper, hair done, make-up on, bright colors, dresses, shirts, ties, even just for a Saturday afternoon football game.

The law school.  Unchanged.  Well, except for those new fabrics on some of the chairs in the main sitting areas.  Those were needed, I remember some of the chairs being quite threadbare.  Far fewer familiar faces, but that comes with the passage of time.

I spent most of my time wandering around the campus, not the law school.  I often rambled around campus, going to other buildings, studying in the main library with the undergrads, eating in the campus center cafeteria.    It was these places I wanted to see.  The paths I used to take home as I cut through campus between the law school and my apartment.   The Commons area of campus where Mr. Trizzle and I would often hang out.  The ins and outs of my happy memories.

I miss Vanderbilt. I miss living in Nashville.  It’s a really great place.  But I wouldn’t trade my fabulous job for it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday Letters on a Thursday


As good as any other start since it’s October.

People have been complaining – and I do mean people and not just my mother – that I haven’t been writing.  You probably all assumed I got too busy to write.  Wrong.  Well, I am busy, but not too busy to write.  That wasn’t it.  Anyway…

There are some books that just pull me in completely, make me part of the world; the characters are people I know in another life.  And then, there’s most of the books I read.  Sadly.  Maybe I’m just too hard to please.

Last night, I finished one of these ‘usual’ books.  It was called The Wednesday Letters.  It wasn’t a bad book (thank goodness!) but it wasn’t stellar either.  It started out with this neat idea – old couple dies in bed together, kids find special letters their father wrote to their mother every week of the marriage.  Neat, sweet.  After the first chapter I thought I’d send the book home to my daddy.  Seemed like the sort of sappy love stuff that would make him hug Mommy a little tighter.

Then, I kept reading.  Pretty soon, crazy stuff started happening and the book wasn’t about the Wednesday letters.  It was about eight different storylines crammed soap-opera style into 150 pages.  I’m sorry, but unless your book is a large, thick tome, it shouldn’t have more plot lines than Les Miserables (which, please note is a large, thick tome).    And resolving them all at once just comes off as unbelievable.  I hate being reminded I’m reading a book.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by my love of Pride and Prejudice and it’s beautiful handling of only three plot lines, all of which end at different points and are realistically intertwined throughout the book.  Or maybe I’m just bitter because the last novel I read, A Blue and Gray Christmas, had the same ridiculous amount of plot lines crammed into an itty-bitty space like Genie in his lamp.

The current book I’m reading is 600+ pages.  At least I won’t have to worry about jumbled plots.


P.S. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of these novels, I still think it’s really neat that the authors sat down to write them, turned their ideas into reality and got their books published.  So kudos for that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Testing Knowledge of Wisconsin Law, or Knowledge of Wisconsin?

Next week, across the nation, thousands of fresh law grads will be pouring into large conference centers, pouring all the information they’ve spent the last two months memorizing onto an answer sheet and watching the sweat pour down their faces.  With them will be a smaller, and theoretically less nervous, group of veterans.  Attorneys who have done this before; glutens for punishment that have found a reason to take another bar exam.

I’m one of them. Next week, I’ll be in the happiest place on earth, sitting for my second bar exam.  Wisconsin, here I come!


In preparation for this upcoming exam, I’ve been doing a bunch of essays from previous Wisconsin bar exams.  The hardest part is not going to be remembering the law, applying the law or finishing on time.  The hardest part is going to be remembering how to be a Wisconsonite.

The questions are full of language, incidents, names and the occasional joke, that will only make sense if you know Wisconsin.  Essentially, the questions are written in Wisconsin-eese (not to be confused with Wisconsin cheese).


Here are some examples of things that would have a non-Wisconsite surely perplexed:

Last Names, like Lomanski and Bielski, Backhausen and Mentzel.  More ski's than Tahoe, more sch’s than Cindy Brady.   String a bunch of those together and it’s enough to make most people skip over half the page.  But not in Wisconsin.  Not only can we read those, we can pronounce them, too!  Heck, we probably have a bunch of friends with those names.

 Geographical locations “Whiskey River,” image“Nonesuch County” and “Waukesha.”  That first one would stop most people dead in their tracks out of pure shock.  The second would leave them scratching their head and the third, although it’s a real place, would leave them tongue-tied.  (Trust me, I’ve heard enough out-of-staters try to pronounce it.)

Whiskey River falls into another category of things, the things I call the “wait, is that acceptable?” category.  Sample answers that begin, “My prayers and thoughts are with you” in a tax advice letter to a terminally ill client.  Prayers?! in what you’re supposed to write?!  Why that’s enough to make a Californian turn blue and pass out from shock. 

My favorite though was the answer that pointed out the police officer’s stop was probably a pretense for profiling, but then goes on to explain why that’s ok under the law.  I had started to write that in my answer and then thought, ‘no, wait, I shouldn’t include that, it’s not time to get on a soap box.’  Should’ve stuck with my gut, my Wisconsin gut.

Schuh Cousins in 60's Seemingly-crazy situations which really aren’t that crazy: a family with six children, each of whom has four to eight children of their own;  a foot of snow falling during the work day and a guy losing control of his car on I-94 driving home through the storm; an acre of quarry in the middle of a farm; or a person signing a check over to another person.  -  I once asked Mr. Trizzle to sign a check over.  He and the Legend looked at me like I was nuts, called me nuts, told me it wasn’t possible.  Hah! – These aren’t parts of the issues in the question’s fact patterns, just supplemental details, but they’d certainly trip up a non-Wisconsinite into going down a very wrong path.  (probably into Whiskey River).

Photo: My mom and most of her cousin’s on her mom’s side of the family (more were born later).  She’s one of 6, her mother was one of 9.

Oh, and then I musn’t forget, the questions that aren’t asked.  The Wisconsin problems tend to ask one, fairly specific question, when what’s really wanted is the answers to four questions.  This is different than the questions on other bar exams, for example the California exam, where there might be on big question that requires answering a bunch of small questions in the process. 

No, this is more like asking “did you go to the store” when you really want to know if the person bought pickles, if the new store next to the grocery, which is implied by “store” in your question, is open and if the cute cashier was working that night. 

It’s the sort of thing I do to Mr. Trizzle all the time.  And it’s taken him a long time to break me of the habit of answering all the unasked questions when he asks me a question.  He’s not from Wisconsin; he’s actually only asking me one question.

“Did you make it to work on time?” 

“Well, the original bus didn’t come, but I did get on BART, which then broke down, but it was ok because I left half an hour early because I had a good night’s sleep last night and had no trouble picking out an outfit this morning.”

The your-doing-it-again look shot in my direction…

“Yes. I made it to work on time.”

At least they throw in some nice midwesterner funnies, too.  How about a potentially unconstitutional diversity policy at Great Lakes State University?  Or a company in IL called “Flatland”?  The only way that could have been better was if it was Flatland International Bank, FIB.


Hopefully, my few extra days in Wisconsin before the Bar Exam will get me wholly back in the Wisconsin mind-frame needed for this exam.  Mommy, I think I better get some Leon’s and cheese curds when I arrive.  You know, to help me remember Wisconsin, hey?