27.8.07

Notable Quotes

There's a thin line between genius and bottom-barrel stupidness. I hover delicately on a tightrope between the two, wondering where I'll land if I ever fall.

23.8.07

Bookcases Galore

If I didn't have these, I might have bookcase envy
(and then there are all the wonderful photos over at Kimbooktu!)

Me and my jalopy

The Beloit College "mindset" list gets critiqued.

My personal "huh" on the list is 4. They never “rolled down” a car window. I can name three students at MPOW that have, in my 2005 Toyota Corolla.

Maybe I should take this ancient relic on a road trip to Beloit?

20.8.07

Notable Quotes

And do you know what I think? I think it's all a load of crap. I don't doubt that there is a God, although maybe even that's more habit than true faith, God knows, but I don't think that anybody in any religion has said one damn useful thing about Him or Her or It. You never noticed religions seem to get invented by men? When you ever hear of a cult or sect started by a woman? Hardly ever. Woman have the power of creation in them; men have to fantasise about it, create Creation itself, just to compensate; ovary envy. That's all it is.
Whit, Iain Banks

19.8.07

Lost in Texas

At the Tattoo, they had this tribute to Great War Songs ("Over There" would have qualified if this had been an American Tribute). The Great War Song from the current Gulf War? Is This the Way to Amarillo by Tony Christie.

Never heard of it. Or him.

I do Know the Way to San Jose, though, and I can Point [You] in the Direction of Albuquerque.

Slowly catching up

Some time ago, Walt Crawford suggested that I simply mark all the blog posts in my reader "read" when I came back from vacation, and move on. HAH! We all know me well enough to know that wasn't going to work, didn't we?

Instead, I've been triaging the 1000+ posts from my 122 feeds (luckily, not all post in vast quantities). First I started with Blogs with New Posts < 5... < 10. By this morning, I've read all but one blog (Lifehacker, if you must know). I've also read all my e-lists, and gone through my mail (except for the last two Saturdays Globe and Mail).

If only I felt caught up... there's still Bill Paying and Cleaning to be done. Not to mention serious cuddling with The Gang, reading, blogging the backlog, etc..

A Lazy Life is never done...

Festival City

The main reason I decided that Edinburgh would be a great vacation spot was because of the Festival (and, of course, the Fringe). The first thing to do was choose who to see when. Thing One was given carte blanche, but many of the things he wanted to see were playing after we were there (which doesn't mean we wouldn't have wanted to return, but it would have been very expensive to pop over for an evening's performance - not to mention disruptive of the sleep and work cycles). We settled on one event/evening, and that worked out nicely. The biggest problem for me was that I'm an "early to bedder" and getting back to the hotel room after 11pm was a little difficult on my system. Still, I survived.

Without further ado, the reviews:
  • X-Files Improv. Absolutely the best thing to have started this trip off with. For those not up on their X-Files trivia, Dean Haglund played one of the Lone Gunmen and help "solve" many of the cases. Lucky for Dean, many people aren't that up on the X-Files, and lucky for us he's decided to share what an episode was like. To do this, however, he needed audience participation - the first act (aka "a Mysterious Event occurs") required help with sound effects, the second (aka "the Government Cover-Up") required someone to be the Official Arms, the third (aka "The Battle") required a human puppeteer, and the fourth (aka "Lone Gunman to the Rescue") required a Mulder-stand-in. Throughout all of this, there was interaction with the audience, mostly in the form (when I saw it) of picking on Rupert Murdoch's empire. The end result? Pee-in-your-pants, laugh-till-it-hurts funny. And, given what the previous few days at work had been like, so very, very perfect. Official review (scroll down)

  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. Weirder than it sounds, trust me. We got tickets to the SFSP because a colleague recommended it to me. Had the room not felt like a cross between Dante's tenth level and Union Square Station on a 100o day in August, it might have been a lot funnier. As it was, the Shakespeare bit was very funny and the rest was mildly humorous, but not enough to take my mind off the Extreme Heat and Humidity. Official Review

  • The Edinburgh Military Tattoo We had to queue for this one, in the just-starting-to-drizzle morning hours, but we got tickets to the 10:30pm Saturday show (which includes fireworks). I'd seen the Tattoo before, but Thing One hadn't and I thought it was the sort of experience everyone should have at least once. Just be aware: the seats are tiny and you do need to rent the cushion! After queuing for a while before the performance, we got into the Castle Esplanade and sat down. Mr. Announcer did a good job of greeting the audience, and then the fun began. Highlights: the Russians, the Taiwanese, "Hey Jude" on Steel Drums, and the finale. Best of all? It didn't start raining again until we were on our way out!

  • Camille. Who knew that there'd be two acts with similar names and albums out there? I thought we were seeing this Camille, but in reality it was this one. Not that I regretted it, mind you. Always nice to get exposed to a new performer, and this Camille is certainly a great performer. I can't see her heading to the Big Venues (although I know she's played the Sydney Opera House), but places like Roseland or Irving Plaza would be wonderful for her. She didn't do any new material, but her covers of Brel, Cave and others were done in new ways, so you didn't feel like this was yet another cover artist. After, I got her three CDs and have been thoroughly enjoying them as I drive along. And isn't that really the whole point? To enjoy the music? Official Preview.

  • The Bacchae. The Big Event - Alan Cumming returns to the Scottish Stage. Was it worth it? For the most part, yes. I was struck by the similarities between this story and that of Jesus (both born of God-Father/Human-Mother, both doubted as Gods - or demiGods - by their people initially, both questioned by The Authorities). Thing One thinks I took that a little too far, but hey, it's my interpretation. And the fact that Cumming makes his entrance in an upside-down cross stance, lowered from the ceiling didn't lessen my impressions. According to the program notes, I was supposed to be thinking about issues of gender identity, politics and questions of personal identity - sue me if I didn't. Pentheus and Agave were very well acted, a difficult task given the high powered nature of Cumming's performance. They were more nuanced, while he was more pouty/petulant/angry/fey (all at the same time, usually). There were times when I thought it was a bit too campy, and the singing of his followers started a game of "what pop song would better fit than what they're singing" in my head, but overall the performance was really solid and enjoyable. Except the bit where he's wrecking vengeance by destroying the palace of Thebes and there's a special effect where fire shoots up along the walls of the set. Not the best thing to see at that moment, you know? I know this is going on tour, and perhaps it'll come to the US. If so, I suspect it'd do well at BAM, not at a main Broadway stage. Official Reviews.
There you have it: what we did at night in Edinburgh. Next up - the daytime sights.

17.8.07

Travel Rant

Anyone out there flown on a 757-200? For 6-8 hours? Really, it's not a good experience. Even worse is flying Continental, trans-Atlantic.

"Do tell", I hear you ask. "How could trans-Atlantic travel ever be anything but wonderful?"

Let's start with check-in in Newark. The computer thing that you're supposed to use to swipe your passport didn't work. So after standing there for a while, we waited for help. The helper was so uninterested her job it was interesting: where were those idiotic questions about our luggage? Or does Continental figure that anyone going to Edinburgh isn't a threat?

The airplane itself is cramped, with some of the narrowest seats I've ever been in for a flight. Put it this way: if you're in the middle, the only way you can do anything (eat, read, write) is to pretend you're a T-Rex with short arms. On our flight back, when I lowered my tray it was clear that the fabric was pulling away from the frame of the seat (and this held true for about 1/3 of the seats in eyesight). Because we were flying for so long, we got fed. On the return trip we had a choice of beef lasagne and some chicken variation that no one had ever heard of - you guess which was actually chosen by the passengers. I felt bad for the people at the end of the cabin without a choice! Our snack/lunch included stale chips ("best buy" date of 8/2/2007 - we were flying on 14 August). On the flight over, Thing One's ginger ale was flat. And if you're offering free entertainment, provide headphones (I know it'd be too much to ask for real entertainment, but The Last Mimzy and Are We Done Yet just don't count! And, note to programmers: not everyone loves Raymond)

The security in Edinburgh was much better, but it did remind me to wonder: when they ask if your luggage has been in your possession since being packed, how truthful can many of us be? I mean, I packed at home... drove to work... worked for a few hours with my luggage locked in my car. Does that count as being in my possession? Should I declare that it's possible that someone opened my trunk and put something into my bag, or not? Luckily, with lax security, that dilemma didn't really arise.

Next post: the sights of Edinburgh.

16.8.07

Imponderables

What's with the new fashion(???) trend of wearing a cheap, ill-fitting polyester dress over semi-baggy jeans? Thing One vaguely remembers a similar trend in the late 60s (which may explain the drug usage in that era!), but really - aren't there better things to reintroduce to the world?

(this trend was spotted on both sides of the Atlantic)

15.8.07

Meeting Musings

As is my wont when I'm in a new place, I decided to go to Meeting in Edinburgh. The building is right near the Royal Mile/Castle Mound, and during Festival time it's pretty noisy there. But in Meeting itself, there's the usual calm and quiet.

I was sitting there, centering and trying to hear whatever I was supposed to hear, but my mind kept wandering back to MPOW. Just before I left for vacation, one of our art teachers told me that he thought my attitude of "hey, this is a great opportunity" was brave. I don't quite see it that way, it's more a question of getting on with things because, really, what else could I do?

So the first message was about Amnesty International's booth at the Book Festival, and how the people wandering the Fringe in packs, shoving flyers in our hands to advertise them or their friends, seem to gather bravery because they're part of a group. Yet AI's booth was hosting writers who spoke of true bravery: those that stood apart from the pack, voicing a dangerous opinion or suggesting a dangerous course of action.

There were two other messages in this vein, and finally a woman spoke about a Ukranian psychiatrist she'd known who was imprisoned for refusing to declare someone mentally damaged. Just before his jail term started, he wrote "Free at last, free at last - thank God almighty, I'm free at last". She wondered how horrible things had been that he felt freer going to jail, and how brave he'd been to finally stand up to Them.

It seemed to me that Someone was trying to tell me something - that I was right in suspecting that I wasn't being brave but practical. And it made me think about how brave I've been in the past... and how truly brave I could be in the future.

8.8.07

Time Out

Today I leave for my Big Summer Trip. Yes, given recent events, it couldn't possibly come at a worse time but, there you are.

The impetus for the trip came from Thing One, who decided that I had not taken any real vacation (or done any non-family, non-library travel) in ten years. Yep, ten years. So the gift of a trip was one of my Christmas presents. I thought... I pondered... and I suggested Edinburgh, home of the International Festival and Festival Fringe. I haven't been there in 25 years, and Thing One has never been.

(Completely coincidentally, and I do mean this, the biennial Book Festival is also the weekend we're there)

So, we've lined up tickets to: The Bacchae (with Alan Cumming), X-Files Improv and Camille. If we can get Tattoo tix, we will, and there's other stuff we'll see as the mood takes us.

I suspect a fair bit of sightseeing is also on order, and we're planning to lunch with the Head of Modern Languages at MPOW on Sunday.

No blogging, no checking e-mail, no nothing but travel and fun and forgetting for the next six days. See you when I return!

5.8.07

Asking

a very good question.

I've read some of the books mentioned, and each time I keep coming back to the C.S. Lewis dictum about books being good books, no matter what age group they're written for. As an adult reader of Children's/Young Adult books, and as a child/young adult reader of adult books, I've never really thought about "age appropriate". If it was(is) a good story, that's all that mattered.

Then, and now.'ve