Friday, November 30, 2012

It's A Major Award!

Daniel Day-Lewis, who is doing a stunning turn as President Abraham Lincoln in the Spielberg film Lincoln, is known for craving privacy.  He does, however, make it a point to be present whenever he is nominated for an award.  When asked about it, he said that his mother, famed British actress Jill Balcon, told him that when someone is nice enough to give you an award, you should be gracious enough to show up and accept it.

I kept that in mind when J. over at Thinking About presented me with the Reader Appreciation Award, which came with the task of a meme.  Longtime readers here at the Dept. know that I traditionally eschew memes, but for dear J., I decided to emulate DD-L.  (Look what it's done for his career.)

::Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?  In my huge leather armchair in the livingroom.  Usually, a cat is curled up on the backrest behind my head, snoring.

::What books were your childhood favourites?  As a very little girl, I loved when my mother would read aloud the Little Golden Books The Poky Little Puppy and The Color Kittens.  I learned to read years before going to kindergarten and soon moved on to the Little House series, Beezus and Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Rupert Piper collections, all of which I loved.  I looked forward to our weekly trips to the tiny storefront library and its librarian, Miss Mamie, who not only waived the eight book limit for me, but also introduced me to so many wonderful books.  My big sister Patti loaned me her Nancy Drews, and I collected Trixie Belden mysteries.  My usual punishment back then was, "Go sit in that chair...AND NO BOOK!"

:: Who is your favorite fictional character?  This is, for any teacher of literature, I’m sure, like asking which child we love best.  I thought about this question for such a long time!  Because I know them so thoroughly and intimately, it’s natural that I should choose a character from one of the works that I taught for so very many years.  How can I not choose Jay Gatsby, who remade himself for love?  Who believed wholeheartedly that you can, indeed, repeat the past if your objective is the love of your life?  Who can wear a pink suit, call everyone Old Sport, yet still be shy enough to be afraid of a tea party? 

 And the flawed yet righteous John Proctor, who speaks so forthrightly and has such command of any space he occupies, but suffers mightily from a guilty conscience.  He is a favourite of mine as well.  This is a Puritan man who has fallen away from his God so precipitously, yet he projects his sin and guilt upon his wife, who is the very paragon of Salem virtue.  His journey back to goodness is heartbreaking and human, and he shows that the better angels of our nature can win out.

“The better angels of our nature”…I stole that from President Lincoln, you know.  And it reminds me of yet another fictional character whom I love, Atticus Finch.  I used To Kill a Mockingbird as a parenting manual.  Atticus Finch taught me to raise my kids by appealing to their humanity and with the confidence that ultimately, their better nature would assert itself and they would do the right thing.  Did they make mistakes?  Everyone does.  But they never did the cruel or criminal thing.

Oh, I could go on and on because I love them all:  Hester Prynne, Scout Finch, Santiago….  And yes, I miss them on the most passionate level because I don’t talk about them anymore.  They don't live for me as they used to.  But my all-time favourite is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.

I love Holden because he cannot love himself.  He wants so many things that should be so easy to get, but Holden can’t have any of them.  He wants his home, his family, love, and he wants his brother Allie back.  He wants to belong to someone or something so badly, yet he craves individuality.  He identifies with, of all things, ducks on a frozen pond; he worries where they will go when their home ices over.  Will someone come and take care of them?  He misses his dead brother Allie, but he can’t visit his grave because it’s surrounded “by dead guys”, and he feels terrible when it rains and all the mourners can seek shelter in their cars and later, nice warm restaurants for dinner.  He is overcome by guilt, knowing that his mother is still nervous and ill from Allie’s death, and now she has to deal with him getting kicked out of yet another prep school.  Through it all, Holden is by turns funny and bitter, but all the while, he is falling apart.  And searching, hunting for what and who he needs.  The mother in me hurts for Holden, and I want to take him home and heal him.  His needs are so simple and so urgent, and they have been so terribly ignored.
::What is your favorite time of day and why?  I love the mornings between 7:30 and 9:00.  It’s my coffee and newspaper and online time now instead of hall patrol and first and second period.  Rather than being frenetic and time-conscious, it's relaxed, quiet, and a daily affirmation of my retirement.
::Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?  Yes, especially after the 2008 AP story broke about my other blog, The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives.  Now, not so much is new out there.

::Who would play you in a movie of your life?  My whole life?  Lots of people used to say I looked like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss during her Elaine days.  Now?  Maybe someone who knows me can cast it.  I don't really know who I look like.

The rest of the questions are not terribly enlightening, so in their stead, I'm offering The Major Award itself, designed and pasted up by me.  J., make sure you copy and paste it proudly at your site.  I've already done so.  And tell your recipients to Come And Get It.

Some of my most faithful readers and commenters are not fellow bloggers, so this Major Award is simply symbolic for Nanceketeers like fauxprof and Nancy.  J., a Valiant Commenter Extraordinaire has already been tagged and awarded.  The Bug is a Chatty Commenter whom I deeply Appreciate, so, Bug, consider yourself Awarded.  Ortizzle, Mary G., LaFF, all of my commenters, really, can answer any or all of the questions of the meme on their sites or in comments.  You all should know by now how much I appreciate you reading here, especially those who take the time to share thoughts.  A special welcome to newest commenter Ally!

I share this Award with all of you.  As Sally Field said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me; right now you like me."  And I like you right back.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Forgive Us, Al Gore, For The Dept. Hath Sinned

Part of Thanksgiving this year meant having a long weekend with Jared, my eldest.  He works at a job which gave him Thanksgiving and Friday off, plus the regular weekend.  Except for a night over at younger brother Sam's, Jay gave The Old Folks a thrill and hung out with us.  That's not to say that a few of Our Old Annoyances didn't pop up here and there.
Scene opens interior of small hallway with adjoining bathroom, master bedroom, dining rooms visible.  Doorway to upstairs suite visible, right.  Jared appears from dining room, wanders casually into bathroom and turns on shower.  Nance, in bedroom, is getting dressed.
Nance:  Jared!  You realize that we're leaving in less than fifteen minutes!
Jared:  (leans out into hallway)  Mom.  (insultingly calmly)  It takes me two minutes to shower.  It takes me less than two minutes to get dressed.  Seriously, calm down.
Nance:  (irritated)  Jay, you've had all morning to get in that shower.  For heaven's sake--
Jared:  (wanders back into kitchen via dining room)  Hey, Mom?  (something inaudible and unintelligible; after a moment or two, slowly wanders back in)  Never mind.  Got it.
Nance:  (styling hair now; grabs can of hairspray; applies in short, angry bursts)  Holy crap.  Hey, Jared?  Al Gore called.  He wondered why the shower has been running all this time and you're still not in it.
Jared:  Tell him 'Same reason you're using aerosol hairspray.' (walks into bathroom and gets into shower)
End Scene
picture found here

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In Which I Invoke A republican To Strike Fear In The Hearts Of My Pets

Scene opens on interior of living room.  Rick and Nance are on the couch.  It is approximately 8 PM.  Suddenly, in a move completely uncharacteristic of him, Piper, the normally well-behaved cat, jumps onto the coffee table and begins nosing around.  Nance is shocked and nearly, for her anyway, speechless.  Rick is almost asleep.

Nance(loudly and sternly) Piper! What on earth are you doing up there?  How ridiculous!  (to Rick now)  Do you see that? 
Rick(drowsily)  Yes.  Yes, I do.
Nance:  No, you don't.  You were asleep.  (During this exchange, Marlowe, the chronically disobedient cat, has leapt up onto the coffee table as well. Both cats sit staring at Nance.)  What in the--!  What are the two of you doing?  Not even close!  It is not even close to your night feeding!  And on the table!  I have absolutely had it with the two of you.  And Rick, I wish you'd speak to them.
Rick(eyes closed)  Hey.  Cats.
Nance(rolling eyes at Rick; speaks directly and sternly to cats in Teacher Voice)  You know, I am about ready to go right down to the Friendship APL tomorrow and march right in there and adopt the oldest, crabbiest, male cat they have.  And I am going to bring him home and name him...BobDole and have him just regulate the two of you!  BobDole will come in here and ride herd on you bad cats and shape you right up, do you hear me?  (to Rick now)  How about that, Rick?  How awesome would that be, to have a crabbyass old cat and name it BobDole?
Rick(rouses himself for this)  That's pretty good.
Nance (starts laughing)  Remember how cranky Bob Dole always was?  How he talked about himself in the third person? (breaks into Bob Dole impersonation a la Norm MacDonald on SNL) "Bob Dole won't raise your taxes!" BobDole is a great name for an old, fussy cat!  And if it had a mangled little paw, it would be even better! Remember how Bob Dole had the one hand that was---
Rick: (patting her hand)--okay, Nance, okay.  I get it.  Okay.
Nance:  I won't really adopt another cat, you know.  But the whole idea is pretty funny.
Rick(still patting)  I know.

End scene

cat photo found here

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gaining A Little Headspace: How's Your November Zen?

Quick!  Grab a Moment Of Zen right now because thanks to Halloween being Officially Over, THE HOLIDAYS ARE UPON US! I need room for all of that in my head, thanks to crass commercialism/consumerism via The Media (aka Target and KMart Layaway, the first retail outlets that I saw to air Christmas commercials), so I'm going to have a bit of a Cranial Clear-Out.  Here are a few embryonic thought nerfuls that have been nattering around, taking up space both in my head and on my Desktop StickyNotes.

^*^Parkinson's Law^*^ This principle is stated thusly:  Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  First proposed satirically by Cyril Northcote Parkinson to criticize the British Royal Navy in the 1950s, this rule is now cited as often as the famed Peter Principle when skewering the operation of large organizations, most notably corporate entities.  All I can do is lament the fact that I was oblivious to the existence of Parkinson's Law when I was In Education!  I could have used it almost daily.  Every single teacher knows that no matter how long you give for an assignment, the vast preponderance of students will fritter away that time frame and still do the task the night before it is due.  OR, if possible, do it in the hallway five minutes before class.  These days, Parkinson's Law still applies to my life.  Now that I have an entire day to do, say, the laundry, grocery shopping, and cat maintenance, well, that is exactly how long it takes to do it.  Often, those chores are still incomplete at 5:30 when Rick gets home, and I am sheepishly folding towels as he walks in the door.  Oh well.

^*^I Don't Love Messes. Here's My Mommy Card.^*^ So I'm watching TV, and a commercial comes on for Clorox Clean-Up.  It shows a mommy in the kitchen, cooking/baking with her children.  Messiness and wonderful loving happiness ensue.  The mommy cheerily cleans up all of the foody messes with Clorox Clean-Up while hugging her kids and smiling.  The voiceover says, "Clorox Clean-Up...for the messes only a mother could love."  Really?  I've been a mother for over twenty-seven years, and I have yet to love a mess.  Or cleaning a mess.  And let me tell you, there have been plenty.  Even the Christmas cookie decorating messes, which are the worst, actually, with all the little nonpareils, the chocolate jimmies, the colored sugar, and heaven forbid if the food coloring gets spilled.  Did we have fun in the kitchen?  Usually, yes. But did I love the messes? Hell no.  Come on, Clorox.  Time to get real.

^*^And Yet Our Government Is Full Of Them^*^ By far, my favourite quote about men still comes from the book Bridget Jones's Diary.  The titular character's staunch friend Sharon maintains that "men--...are so catastrophically unevolved that soon they will just be kept by women as pets for sex...outside in kennels."  It is terribly mean, but think about it when you read the following dialog sent to me by Jared, my eldest.  It is a small snippet of a conversation that took place at his job, a workplace staffed almost entirely by men (They have one female employee).

Jared:  Dave, do you have the DC/Baltimore/Maryland map I created?
Dave:  No.
Gabe:  It's hanging right on your wall, Dave.
Jared:  Did you even know that that existed?
Dave:  The wall?
Jared:  Yeah.  Yeah, Dave.  The wall.
Dave:  Oh.  Yeah.  Yeah, I knew about that.  Just didn't know the map was on it.

Shake loose a few of your own Cranial Cobwebs in comments.  But hurry!  Here comes...well, you know!

illustration found here
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