Monday, January 31, 2011

English Country Dancing

So you know how a few days ago I blogged about how I love proposal stories? Well I have one more to share with you. On Sunday the Jane Austen Fan Club I attend hosted an English Country Dance. Some people from Fermilab who do those dances demonstrated and then they taught us a few. I had just seen Jessica and J (who have been dating for a few years now) on Saturday (which I’ll tell you about later)- Jessica was ring free. When we got up to dance, pretty much the first thing I noticed was her shiny new ring. Later she told us her story.
On their first date she and J had walked to a local landmark known as “the castle”. Yesterday J made her go for another walk to the castle, which she didn’t really want to do, because it was cold, but she did because after all she does love him. When they got there she was looking at the castle and he was standing behind her. He tapped her on the shoulder and got down on one knee and asked “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Of course she said yes, and the rest is romantic history (or future depending on what you’re talking about).
She apparently knew it was coming soon-ish because they had picked out her ring together, but she says she was still surprised, and of course my JAFC and I are happy for them. Congratulations guys!
Also, English Country Dancing is fun. If you don’t really know what I’m talking about, watch any Jane Austen movie, the dancing they do at the ball is English Country Dancing. Alternatively, you could just check out my pics.
First the demonstrators:

Next a group of people learning the dances:
Here are the participants, participating:
Jessica and my friend J (he recently told me that "like many people a part of him wishes he could be blurry in all photos" therefore, I think he turned his head on purpose):
Kristin learning to dance straight from one of the fermilab men (I danced with him later, he was very nice and very good at what he does)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

King's Speech and Black Swan

Do you suppose King Edward VIII and King George VI (also know as David and Bertie in King’s Speech) could feel the weight of history pressing on them? They are poised on the edge of history, but in the time the movie chronicles, did they know how close to the brink they? Did Edward VIII know what he was walking away from when he abdicated? Could George VI sense the weight of the mantle that he was about to take around his own shoulders? These are the questions that raced through my mind as I settled in to watch The King’s Speech. Obviously the movie cannot answer them for me, but I felt the actors had asked themselves the same questions. This is how good the acting is- at no point did I think of Colin Firth (who plays Prince Albert/George VI) as Mr. Darcy, my favorite role he’s acted.
On the other end of the movie spectrum, we have Black Swan. Honestly, it’s probably the better movie, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much because it is intensely disturbing. Nina (the main character) lives with her mother in a thirteen-year old’s bedroom, complete with pink bedding and stuffed animals lined up on the window sill. She is fragile and innocent, perfect to dance the part of the white swan in Swan Lake. She is also cast as the Black Swan, who seduces the White Swan’s one chance for true love. We watch as Nina changes, descending into madness as the part of the Black Swan takes over. It was fantastic, but hard to watch.
I watched both films as part of my crusade to have seen the movies nominated for Oscars this year. Having seen Black Swan, I can tell you it was robbed, and the Oscars haven’t even aired yet. There is simply no way it shouldn’t have won for costume design (which I know isn’t a big deal, but hear me out) and it wasn’t even nominated. The costuming of the ballet was perfect, and the costuming of rehearsal? Nina starts rehearsing in white but as madness slowly warps her, she begins dressing in subtle shades of grey. It was beautifully symbolic and subtle and should have won the Oscar.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Sweetest Stories

You know I don’t particularly want one of my own, but I do like to collect proposal stories. The ways in which men, that wonderful gender not known for the ability to express themselves, choose to express love fascinates me. Some of course are better than others. For instance take my little brother. He found out my SIL was pregnant and pretty much said “So we should get married, huh?” It’s not really a great story. But then there are the good ones…

  • A young man whose girlfriend’s friend told him his girlfriend’s “dream” proposal (it involved a long walk in Chicago and a visit to a small church garden). So he took her for that walk, but it was raining and she had a cold and she just wanted to go home. Then they got to the church garden and as they stood at the banister he told her loved (for the first time) and proposed.
  • A friend who proposed to his girlfriend on HIS birthday, because she was all the gift he could ever want.
  • A young man who wrote a poem, proposing to his girlfriend, split it into stanzas and wrote a clue to the next stanza on the back of each piece, and then hid them all savenger hunt style, with the last clue leading to him, on one knee, ring in hand.
  • A young man who slipped the ring on his girlfriend’s hand during the fireworks and waited for her to notice so he could say it. Only to realize she hadn’t noticed at all because the fireworks completely distracted her.
  • A friend who went on his evening constitutional with his girlfriend, a walk they had taken many times before, only to fake a loose shoelace in front of a bench. She sat down to wait for him, he knelt to tie his shoe and proposed instead.

I like these stories. You don’t need a lot of details. You don’t need to know what the people in the stories wore, or the exact words that were exchanged. All you need to know, is that here is a couple of people so in love that they’ve decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Maybe it’s because I can’t even imagine loving someone THAT much, that I don’t feel any need to ever have my own story, but it’s nice to know that people do still love each other. Every single one of the marriages that came about from those proposal stories has lasted to this day. With two exceptions- the first one is the story of a dear friend of mine who passed away a few years ago, married to the man who loved her enough to make her take a long, rainy walk when she had a cold, and the last one, the story of my friends who are getting married this summer. That last story, by the way, was shared with me not by my friend the bride-to-be, but by her husband-to-be as he and I walked by that very bench.
If you read this, and you have a story to share, I’d love it if you left your proposal story in my comments for my “collection”.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan ThievesThe Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh…my word. That was simply beautiful. I finished mere moments ago, and already I long to pick it back up and start again, looking for the meanings I missed the first time through. It wasn’t what I expected, based on Kostova’s previous novel I expected something more…supernatural I guess. Instead I found an achingly beautiful novel about love and loss and heartbreak and so much more. Honestly, this is one of my favorite novels. My biggest problem is how very much it made me want to see some famous paintings. It made me long to create something beautiful or haunting. There are simply no words beyond- read this novel. Drop everything, call in sick to work and snuggle in to read this.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 14, 2011

Doctors Lie

So, I know I've been on a kick lately where I tell you about the news instead of whatever you normally get here. And I do promise to get back to that other stuff real soon, but first I have to share one more news item with you...
Dr. Burke reports, "No evidence exists that feeding children a high-sugar diet will induce hyperactivity, despite the common belief that it does."
Uh, really? Because I work with kids on a daily basis, and let me tell you- sugar snack day is always crazy day. Not that we give them pure sugar or anything, but if we have cookies at 3:00 for snack, I promise you by 3:30 when we're getting ready to go into our classes, the kids are hyperactive and insane.
Don't believe a real doctor said it? Click here for the full article.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Yesterday I was in the newspaper. It was just a picture of me and a few of the kids in my class on our daily walk. The local papers love to go to the park across the street from my work for human interest stories, and so my school ends up in the paper fairly frequently. Anyway, since I was in the paper of course I had to buy the paper. And since I had to buy the paper, I was darn well going to read the whole thing. That’s where I got the article that I quoted yesterday when I talked about political climate again. I found something else I wanted to talk about.
There’s this little section in the Daily Herald called “World & nation in 60 seconds”. Under The nation part of that section there is a little paragraph that reads as follows:
“An Ohio science teacher accused of burning the image of a cross on student’s arms said Tuesday he’s disappointed school officials voted to fire him. John Freshwater was accused of preaching Christian beliefs in class when discussing topics such as evolution and homosexuality.”
Before I jumped to conclusions I did go looking for more information. I assumed I must have read the first part wrong, or misunderstood it. Since it’s an AP item, all I could find was the exact same article over and over until eventually, I found this:
“An outside investigation has found that an Ohio public school teacher taught creationism in his science class and used a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.
One family filed a federal lawsuit against Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater and the school district last week, saying their child was left with a burn mark for three or four weeks.”
Also, this:
“… He also was accused of using a scientific device to mark several students' arms with a cross and keeping a Bible on his desk.”
Now I have no problem with teachers, even in public schools, sharing their religious believes with students, provided it’s done in certain ways.
See, this is a good bit of my problem with religion. It’s not that I have a problem with God, it’s that I have a problem with his people. Some of them are caring and kind, I have a few friends that fit in this category. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians I know or have heard of don’t fit in that category, they fit in the second category of CRAZY PEOPLE.
It was a small article I originally read about this. But it was an article that really made me think about how I feel about religion.
Also there’s this- How did that guy get a job teaching at a high school, and then a nice unassuming well qualified young woman like myself can’t get a teaching job? I promise not to burn crosses (or anything else) into my potential student’s arms!

Political Climate Pt. Five

I don’t care what your politics are – Democrat or Republican, Communist or Theocrat. You don’t have to agree with me for me to respect you, or for me to expect you to respect me. However, we all need to band together and agree this is not okay. (Seriously, click that link).
“The Westboro Baptist Church said Monday it plans to picket Thursday’s funeral for Christina Taylor Greene because ‘God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America.’ The fundamentalist church has picketed many military funerals to draw attention to it’s view that the deaths are God’s punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.” (Daily Herald, 1/12/11, page 2)
Christina Taylor Greene was nine years old when she was shot and killed Saturday.
I had heard of the church’s activities before. I even know of a group that defends military funerals from the picketers. Enough is enough! Christina was nine. God did not kill her to make a political point! Out rhetoric has gone too far. It is time to agree, as a country, we respect people and we don’t threaten death to make a point. I, for one, will be keeping a close eye on my politicians and I will draw attention to them if they threaten violence to anyone. More to the point, I will not be voting for those who do so.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Political Climate Pt 4

Last night I watched the Daily Show expecting a refuge from thinking about the weekend's shooting. Since I had taken a short sabatical from the news, I didn't really know what else might have happened in the 24 hours BEFORE the shooting and I figured Jon Stewart would have to cover something other than the shooting (making light of tragedy isn't really his thing, but making light of everything else is). Instead he talked a bit about the shooting, not to make fun of it, but in a very intelligent way. I wanted to share that with you (in case you don't watch the show). Therefore, enjoy this clip...
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Political Climate Pt. Three

In 1170 King Henry said something along the lines of "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" or "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" Six months later Thomas a Beckett was murdered by men believing that they had done what their king wanted. Thomas was canonized by the church, King Henry was punished and the English crown was weakened for some time as a result of Henry’s thoughtless words. We as a country need to learn this lesson- words are powerful, especially when they come from powerful figures.
In case you don’t know exactly where this post is going, I’ll fill in a little background info. Yesterday at a political rally in Arizona, a man opened fire and killed six people (twelve are injured including Rep. Giffords the politician involved). One of those killed was a little girl who begged her parents to take her to the rally because she wanted to learn more about politics because she wanted to be a politician. She had become interested in politics as she got old enough to understand the significance of her birthday – September 11, 2001.
You may recall that I wrote a few posts on this subject prior to the last election, but I never posted the final two entries I had written on the topic. One of the posts I never posted was about exactly this. When we are so divided and no one listens to anyone else and people in position of respect and power (like our newscasters) are saying things like “Don’t retreat, reload” (Palin) or drawing crosshairs over the faces of politicians they don’t agree with (Palin again) or “We will use bullets if ballots don’t work” (Schultz on Meet the Press) or saying someone can’t go home or “he’s a dead man” (Boehner), it’s time to double check our priorities. On the MSNBC website I found this quote “intemperate rhetoric from politicians and from news media personalities might encourage some individuals to act violently”. I don’t think that goes far enough, because I don’t think there’s any “might” about it. When you threaten violence, even if it’s just a rhetorical device, you have still threatened violence.
I think Kristin put my thoughts into words best as we AIMed about this tonight. “There should be some sort of legal ramifactions for public figures who announce others should be "taken out." They might mean it metaphorically, but wackadoodles have taken them literally far too many times for it to be excused.” If I told you on this blog that I intended on killing someone, and then that person wound up dead through suspicious means, I guarantee that the police are going to come question me. But apparently if you say that you think someone should be hurt or killed and someone ELSE does what you said, you aren’t responsible for that and I don’t think that’s right. I think we all need to make responsible choices, and threatening public figures is not a responsible choice.

Movie Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I normally only make it to the theater about twice a year because I hate spending that much money to see what is generally dreck. However, this was actually the second movie I’ve seen in as many weeks (although the first one of the new year). I told you before about how exciting I found The Fighter, but you guys I have been DYING to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader since well before it even came out. Like pretty much since I found out they were making new movies out of the books. I have loved these books since I was a very small child and my dad read them out loud to my brother and me.
Visually it is fantastic. The beginning in World War Two England manages to be both dreary and war torn without falling into the grey overtones that so many period pieces fall to. Narnia is a beautiful place and I think the cinematographers did a fantastic job overall.
The big problem with this one, is that I’m not sure the screen writer actually read the book before he wrote the script. There are some fairly major changes to the story as Lewis wrote it that I can understand (i.e. changing what temptation Lucy falls to while reading the magic book). And then there is the change to the story that I don’t understand and that took up so much time they had to change almost everything else about the story to accommodate it. I refer here to the evil green mist. Yeah, if you’ve never read it, that is not in fact in the book. One of the places they visit is indeed an “island” where your dreams (not fantasies, but actual dreams) come true, but it is a brief scene, not some extended “villain” throughout the story. They had to sacrifice some of the most powerfully moving parts of the story like a boat of Narnians to the green mist storyline, and I was just befuddled.
Had I never experience the story as Lewis actually wrote it I would have found this movie fairly fantastic. Therefore, I have to assume that the fact that I find it merely okay is because I am a die-hard Narnia fan. It is the Narnia stories that fed my love of epic adventures and high fantasy. From reading my brother and I these stories (I was about 4 the first time I heard them), my dad moved directly onto the LotR trilogy and I will always have fond memories of both of those series because of those memories.
If I was grading this movie I would have to say-
Standing on it’s own merits: B
Held up to the book: C-

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Eve

This weekend Jamie gathered a great group (of which I obviously a part!) of people. First it was bride’s maids and their significant others to pick out our dresses for her wedding. So we went to David’s only to find that the color she had picked mere weeks earlier and had been carting a sample of to florists and such, has been discontinued so she has to pick a new shade. At first the David’s lady tried to sell us as a group on this shade of pink

But the maid of honor is Kristin. Who you may know has skin approximately this color.

She would have looked naked. And based on the dress we wound up picking, she would have looked like she has a weird shoulder growth. Instead Jamie picked this shade (which I like significantly more than the original actually).

After that minor drama, we stood around a picture of the dresses David’s offers telling the lady which ones we like and she just keeps saying “No, that one doesn’t come in the color you picked.” Jamie had pre-selected three dresses for us and only one came in the color she picked. We wound up trying on the one she picked and two others and unanimously agreeing to the final dress we tried on. It looked the best on the most people and everyone looked great. The one I tried on even fit me correctly, although the sizing chart said I should be wearing (depending on the body part) one-two sizes larger, I ordered the one that fit.

After dinner, we went back to Jamie’s apartment for the rest of the holiday weekend. Actually one bride’s maid and her husband went home and the rest of us went back to Jamie’s, but that’s okay because the next day other friend’s joined us, and sleeping arrangements were already tight. Games were played in which we split into groups like “White Sox and Cubs” (those wearing white socks and those wearing a color) and “Techies and Luddites” (those who own a Nook and those who do not).

Friday we split up to see a movie. Team Awesome (the boys plus me) went to see The Fighter, which was A-MAZE-ING! Except for the part where I kept having to shove my fist in my mouth to refrain from yelling at the screen for Mickey to, a-hem, beat someone up (because of course I was not in fact so into the movie that I was swearing at the screen. Honest.) Team Lady-parts saw Tangled, but I don’t know if that was any good because I didn’t see it.
And then, finally, what I’m sure you really wanted to know about, the New Year’s Eve celebration began. And it was awesome. Something awesoemly ridiculous was said at one point, and I said I was going to use it as the title of this post and then only include ridiculous pics and no words for the rest of it. Alas, I cannot remember what was said, so instead I included all of the above words. But I shall include the following pics as well...
Jenna and Justin
This is all of us playing a game (I think Finish Lines) and that is, of course, mearly juice in the Martini glass.
At some point we took a group picture, which turned out nice since I had never used the self picture option on my camera before (good job Chris!)

John brought peppermint schanpps and chocolate syrup so we could take a shot and then have chocolate syrup squeezed down our throats. Somehow, this was far messier than it sounds :)

But, it was also delicious (I hear, I of course have never taken a shot nor drunk even one drop of alcohol!)

John really could not understand why I was taking pictures.

But he seemed to finally get into the spirit of just being weird and enjoying it. I'm not really sure how he'll feel about the appearance of these on my blog actually.

Aww...aren't Jessica and John adorable?