Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sexist Republican double standard

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the rotund man to the right, has said that our glamorous, shapely first lady has a big butt. Yes, he is criticizing HER figure.

Obama, Sensenbrenner said loudly on the phone in Reagan National Airport, "lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself." He was recounting a conversation he had at a church event in Wisconsin, so you can bet he's spouted this obnoxious, sexist opinion on more than occasion. Yes, he apologized, but only after being called on the carpet in the press.

He's not the first LARGE Republican man to criticize Michelle Obama's appearance.

In February, the grotesque and repellent Rush Limbaugh said that Obama was not walking her talk. The conservative commenter Andrew Breitbart, no slim wisp himself, published a horrible cartoon on his web site showing Ms. Obama wolfing down multiple cheeseburgers and talking about eating healthy (which I will not share here).

This is not only partisan crap, but it's also a misogynist double standard. I'll take Michelle Obama's beautiful figure any day, and I'd far rather look at her than the likes of these rude and fat white men.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random discovery of amazing tap dancer acrobats from yesteryear!

This evening Nicholas hit his elbow when Mike was carrying him the back door. After giving him lots of hugs and affection, he seemed to forget about it. When he remembered his injury, he said, "Mommy, gimme some love." That reminded me of the song "Gimme Some Lovin'," so I looked it up on youtube and played it for him.

Then he wanted to type his name into the search engine (he's been really interested in writing and spelling things out recently), and lo and behold, we discovered The Nicholas Brothers in a clip with Cab Calloway from "Stormy Weather" (1943).

Mikhail Baryshnikov once called Fayard and Howard Nicholas the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life. Gregory Hines declared that if their biography was ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one could duplicate them.

Perhaps if I watched more old-time movies I would have discovered them before now. I couldn't help but ponder if they would have been more famous if they had been white. So readers...have you ever heard of the Nicholas Brothers, or are we alone in being ignorant?

I've never seen such sheer athleticism and synchronicity in a pair of dancers. Needless to say, Nicholas was delighted with this video clip (the song starts out with Cab Calloway, and then the Nicholas Brothers jump up and start dancing at about 1:33):

Those splits down the stairs look positively painful to me! Fred Astaire described this dance number as the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen.

Like Virgina Woolf's  theory of Shakespeare's sister (who wouldn't have had the opportunities and chances for success that Shakespeare had), I am convinced that the Nicholas Brothers would have been legends had they been white men and had their life circumstances been different.

Then Kieran wanted to type his name into the search field, and we discovered a talented 12-year-old drummer from "Britain's Got Talent" named Kieran Gaffney (who has reportedly only been playing the drums for a year!).

Ron Paul's racist and homophobic closet skeletons

I've ranted and raved here about Michele Bachmann's views and stupidity in the past, but I've decided I need to be more egalitarian in my approach. Since the Jimmy Fallon show went over the line when Bachmann appeared on his show (playing that horrible song at her entrance), I've decided to hold my tongue about her or Sarah Palin as much as I can help myself. Palin and Bachmann do say a lot of obnoxious stuff, but I want to make sure I rant and rave as much about the other Republican candidates. :)

So let's take Ron Paul for example. He is viewed by many as the most reasonable of the field (as is at the top of the polls in Iowa), yet he allowed a racist and homophobic newsletter to be published in his name as recently as the 1990s. He claims that these were not his views, yet they were espoused under his masthead! I don't buy it. It's easy to say NOW that these are not his views, but surely he had some kind of editorial review before the crap was published. The newsletter said that people with AIDS should be banned from restaurants and claiming that 95 percent of all black men are criminals.

These issues matter. As Phillip Klein writes in the DC Examiner:
"[I]f you're a public figure, it's your responsibility to monitor what is being published under your name. And if your best defense is massive disorganization within a business you ran that had just a few employees, it's a pretty severe indictment of your management abilities as you seek the presidency. And this is where we get to the double standard part.

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have both attacked each other for what was written in their respective books. If either of those books had included a number of overtly racist statements, their candidacies would be over before they started. If they used the Ron Paul defense – that they didn't write the words themselves, they didn't know what was in the books and don't even know who wrote them, it would only make matters worse. They could kiss their political careers goodbye."
So why is Ron Paul allowed to get away with it? It goes without saying that there is an awful lot of hate going around among the Republican candidates. They all hate someone--whether they be gays, Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. I just have to pray that the majority of Americans see the bigotry and hate for what it is.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS (since I posted this): Ron Paul walked out of a CNN interview because he got so peeved. Classy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My date for the Nutcracker

Kieran's been wanting to see the full Nutcracker ballet for several years now. Here he is at age six with some Nutcracker toys:

A few years ago we went to see a condensed version, "The Nutcracker Tea" at PCC Sylvania, produced by the Northwest Dance Theater. But I finally caved this year and bought tickets for the real deal. We had great seats--fifth row--but my sight was blocked a bit by the guy in front of me. (Fifth row in the Keller Auditorium is probably not the best for short people!)

I especially enjoyed watching the Japanese dancer Yuka Iino, who danced the role of Dewdrop.
Martha Ullman West, the Oregonian reviewer, noted that "Yuka Iino's Dewdrop, an extremely difficult role, with its rapid-fire turns and unsupported balances, was fearless and near-as-dammit to flawless, exemplifying the clarity with which this company is dancing these days."

West further commented that the same was "true of the snow scene, dangerous to dance because the artificial snowflakes make the stage as slick as one of Portland's silver thaws." In fact, the snow scene and Iino's dancing were the highlights of the show for me.

Kieran and I both noted that toward the end, it looked like the Sugar Plum Fairy's consort was about to drop her...really, he was probably just a bit shaky, but it was unfortunately noticeable to both of us.
My handsome date
We both enjoyed our evening out at the ballet! And we were highly amused to run into the mother of one of the Hullabaloo actors (the woman who played Ignore, the nanny) in the lobby at intermission. She and Lisa have been going to see the Nutcracker together since she was 3 (she's now 25). We waved at Lisa as we were rushing back to our seats for the second act.

It's all about making a joyful noise!

I am addicted to this hilarious video of a nativity scene song in England (Funny Nativity) which a little angel takes very seriously the direction that she should sing out loud and clear!

The tall angel in the middle with the gold halo is her (very) embarrassed sister. I love the expressions on the boy in blue in the front row--he's not quite sure how to react. For the most part, though, the children all do an excellent job of keeping their stage faces. Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Final run of the Hullabaloo

After two months of constant jaunts to SE Belmont (five days a week for one month, and three days a week for the past month) for the Hullabaloo, our lives can get back to normal! (That's if proceeding directly into the Christmas week is anything like normal!) Today Kieran ended his 25-show run of "Frankenstein: The Little Monster." The last time I posted about the play, he was halfway through.

Because of the theater's location across town and the fact that he's only eight, either Mike or I have been at every single performance (mostly me, in fact). We know every song by heart by now, including Nicholas. (Sunday afternoon I had to keep covering up his mouth because he was audibly singing along, and he was always the first on his feet for "Hammer Time!")

We are sooooo grateful to all of our friends and family who came out to see the show. I know it wasn't very convenient for many of you. Our brother-in-law's brother and his wife drove all the way down from Puyallup to see the show, and drove back that evening! It really meant a lot to us that you took time out of your busy lives to support our budding thespian.

It's been an amazing experience for Kieran, and exhausting, stressful, and incredibly hard work as well. We've had tears, and we've noted the stress on such a young person. At times it was lonely for him as the only child in the show, and it was the first time that he was the least-experienced actor in a play. (Typically in the children's acting classes he's taken, he's been one of the more confident ones onstage.) For weeks he's been talking about how he can't wait until the Hullabaloo would be over. Saturday night, I suggested to him that he might be a TINY bit sad when it was over, and he said no, he didn't think so. Moms always know, though, because as soon as it was done he said he was sad. I'm glad he's feeling that way, because now he will look back with the experience with fondness and without regret.

On Saturday they did a final photo shoot of the cast, and here are photos of some of the final shows' special guests (I didn't capture all of you on film--sorry if I missed you!):

With friends Jeremy, Kate, and Samuel

With Mission of the Atonement friends

With more Mission of the Atonement peeps, Kieran and Nick's preschool teacher,
and my cousin Tim, his wife Ginger, and family 

Nick with Teacher Marah (who came to the show on the
evening of her last day of school before break!)

With Michael, Matthew, Tim, and Beverly

With friend Logan and parents Heather and Tim

With dear friends Caley and Mark and their daughters and a few friends

Big group who came out to see Kieran last Saturday--friends from church, Precious Beginnings, and "Bluegrass Babes"

With my coworker Dana, her husband Brent, and daughter Mara

With church friends Sherry and Rick
(who are always so great about coming to see our kids' plays)!

With friends Steph, Pasquale, and Natalie (last weekend)
Last day: with my parents and their friends Frank and Marilyn, and family friends Sue and Bruce

After the LAST SHOW! (with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Terry)

Such a special treat! Kieran's and Chris' second grade teacher, Renay Schaeffer, came with her niece, and his third grade teacher, Karen Scherlie, came with her husband Sean. Didn't get the little monster in the photo, unfortunately!
I had a camera casualty between the shows yesterday--I dropped it! Sadly, Friday we also discovered that our videocamera is broken. Now I'm in the market for a new camera to replace both. :(

After the final show, we went to Dick's Kitchen to celebrate. We gave Kieran a new tie-dyed shirt and a box of everlasting gobstoppers to congratulate him. His winning monologue (which landed him the part, along with his solo of "Little People") was about everlasting gobstoppers.

With his first-ever paycheck for acting: $50! (comes to $2/show)
(We plan to open a bank account for him, so he can deposit it and start saving!)
It's not about the money, though! We probably spent $500 on gas and food (snacks while waiting for him during rehearsals or between shows), just ferrying him back and forth. The Hullabaloo was a great experience for him. I'm so proud of my little actor for surviving and doing his best!

Cast photos!

On Saturday between the shows, they had a photo shoot. These were taken before my camera broke!

Milk and Cookies

Hammer Time!

Saying goodbye to Emily Post

"It takes a Village People to raise a child"

"We're Gonna Be Great!"



The Village People

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to start a great book group (like mine!)

(This is a cross-post from Marie's Book Garden)

Okay, so I guess that sounds pompous, since I helped start our book group...but it is great! Here's how we started our great book group:

A little over a year ago, my friend Kristin had the bright idea to start a book group and it didn't take too long to convince me. Mike and I were in a book group before we had children, and although I enjoyed it, I often felt that I had to shout to be heard. (It was a coed group.) Also, it seemed like the loudest people had their books chosen to be read.

So we each selected three female friends who were fun, vivacious readers and fully interested in engaging in lively conversation. We did not consider anyone who might hog the conversation or be pushy.

On the first evening we gathered, we discussed the following:
  • Personal introductions (name, hometown, family, occupation, hobbies, favorite types of books)
  • What each person hoped to get out of the group
  • Previous experiences with book groups, positive and negative
  • Frequency and time and place of meeting
  • Food and beverages
  • Book selection process
  • Book discussion (would we have someone lead the discussion or do reseach?)
  • Group size
  • Other items to consider (e.g., what to do if someone hasn't read the book, or should we have a name like my friend's group, the Wild Women's Literary Society?)
I know everyone made fun of me that first night, because I arrived with my list of questions for us to discuss. I like to approach such things in an organized way! (If you are wanting to start your own book group, you can e-mail me and I'll send you my detailed list of questions.) Last December we had our first holiday book exchange, and we did it Yankee Swap style.

We've been meeting for over a year now, and we've lost a few members along the way who were not able to make the commitment because of other things in their lives. We recently added three new members. Last night we had all of us here for the first time, perhaps ever, plus our three new members! We're all moms (of at least two kids), and one of us is a grandma. Two are married to Brits and one is a Brit. We are nursing professors,  lawyers, and marketing or publications professionals.

December's book was Bel Canto, which led to our best book discussion so far--first, because of the richness of the story and the writing, and second, because more people mean more perspectives. I had a much better appreciation for the book after hearing how others interpreted various plot elements. I love lively, illuminating conversation about books!

At the end of the evening, we exchanged our books. This year we drew names at Tina's suggestion, allowing us to tailor our choices to fit the recipient's taste. This proved trickier than initially thought because of our three new members. (The rest of us have gotten a pretty clear idea of each other's preferences.)

Caley opening her book

"I've never read this!"

The best part of our book exchange was that not one of us had read the book she received. Not one! And we are a prolific group of readers!
Here's what we received:
Tina: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (Kim didn't know if she'd read it or not, so she brought a backup: Breaking the Cycle of Low Self-Esteem!)
Nicola: The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe
Michelle: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (Caley took a calculated risk in choosing that one, but Michelle--whose first book group meeting was last night--was one of only three people in the group who have not read HP!)
Kim: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Kristin: Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Gitte: Room by Emma Donoghue
Jolie: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Caley: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott
Me: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones (Kristin, who drew my name, very cleverly searched my blog to find out if I had read the book)
The Slipper Muses with our books
Until we come up with a better about the Slipper Muses? The inspiration for that name--taking off on the Tenth Muse--is the fact that many of us bring our slippers to our meetings, making ourselves at home!

We might have a biracial president, but man do we have a LONG WAY TO GO.

First of all, technology blogger Gene Marks writes at, "If I were a poor black kid," positing that technology can solve the inherent setbacks posed by extreme poverty and racism. Although he does admit he's a middle-aged white guy and a "short, balding, mediocre CPA," what he completely fails to grasp is how privileged his perspective is. His overly simplistic and patronizing prescription for a bootstrap pick-me-up fails on every level. I realize he had good intentions when he wrote this article, but he comes across as condescending and belittling...classic "blame the victim." The "poor black kids" who fail to take advantage of all of the awesome technology and resources available to them have only themselves to blame (after all, "Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet. Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all..." because after all, most poor black kids are members of professional organizations!!!! WTF?). And there are so many websites out there available to help kids study, like CliffNotes!
  • Marks' prescription is painfully simple:
  • Get good grades (even if you're at the worst school in the city!).
  • Get a cheap or free computer.
  • Use Skype to work with other kids (also requiring a video camera).
  • Go to a magnet or private school.
  • Make friends with the guidance counselor.
  • Go to college.
Toward the end of his article, Marks actually does admit all of this might be just a teensy bit hard for a "poor black kid," but claims that inequality has nothing to do with it:
"But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids...don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grandmom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction. Technology can help these kids. But only if the kids want to be helped. Yes, there is much inequality. But the opportunity is still there in this country for those that are smart enough to go for it."
So if the child does not succeed, it's only because he or she does not want to be helped.

Then we have our friend Newt, who says that poor kids "have no habits of working and nobody around them who works.” Here's a cogent response to Newtie from a "poor black kid" who must have been pulled out of poverty by technology!





Best tweet on the topic: "I would ask him to share the link to mitigate poverty,oppression, & systemic racism. Is there an app 4 that?"


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hillary Clinton, again standing up for human rights...

What she did for women in Beijing, she's now doing for gay rights in Geneva. A number of people in the audience represented countries that are persecuting gays and lesbians.

One commenter on the Huffington Post noted, "What is particular­ly significan­t about this speech is that only one year ago this discussion was banned in the UN... A small minority of African delegates was manipulati­vely using their committee appointmen­ts to censor certain discussion­s and preventing the mention of LGBT rights. This is actually a world-chan­ging and groundbrea­king speech."

I love it when politicians stop talking politics and instead take stands for human rights.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Most powerful images of 2011

Man, what a year! As I say to Kieran when he's had a bad day (and also say to myself occasionally), the best cure for a bad day is to go to bed so it will be over...and you can start fresh again tomorrow.

Take a look at these amazing (and many, upsetting) images of a year full of more disasters, 2011.

And let's all hope and pray for a calmer, more productive year in 2012...across the world...of course, filled with a democratic victory (yes, my politics are showing). The last thing we need is to go further backwards.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What I read in November

Read my full reviews at Marie's Book Garden, or click the title to see the review.

Drama: An Actor's Education,
by John Lithgow

Best nonfiction of the month. Loved it. If you have a yen for theater, acting, or just John Lithgow, read it. He's a Harvard grad, and had me in tears during the prologue.

Hardball, by Sara Paretsky

Best fiction of the month. Paretsky was the first mystery writer I'd ever read, and she's still one of my two favorites (I also love the Rei Shimura series by Sujata Massey, since most of it takes place in Japan). I hadn't read a Sara Paretsky mystery for some time, and I enjoyed this one very much. In this one she wades into the race riots in Chicago in the 1970s and grapples with issues of class and race. And her political stripes are showing, but they're the same as mine so I don't mind.

The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan (first in the Ranger's Apprentice series)

Not my typical pick, but it was a book group read. I'm not a big fantasy lover (with a few exceptions like Harry Potter); however, I found this to be better written than the Percy Jackson series. It's kind of like a more readable Lord of the Rings (yes, I know I'm probably offending loads of Tolkien nuts).

Jesus Boy, by Preston L. Allen

Just not my cup of tea. Gave up halfway through.

Up the Capitol Steps: A Woman's Guide to the Governorship, by Barbara Roberts

I've always admired Barbara Roberts, and I do now even more after reading her memoir. Not only did she accomplish amazing things in her pathway to becoming Oregon's first woman governor, but she also did it all while fighting for her autistic son, being a single mom, caring for her sick husband, and then grieving the loss of her loved ones...without it affecting her cheerful public face. An excellent overview of the life of a seriously ethical, principled, and hard-working politician.

Over halfway done with the show

As of this evening, Kieran's done 13 out of his 25 shows of Frankenstein: The Little Monster, and either Mike or I have seen every one of them. Nicholas has seen well over half of them as well, and continues to enjoy the show as much each time. I think he knows all the lines and songs by heart now. We have to shush him so he won't sing along!

Nick with his cousin Ryan last weekend (waiting for the show to start)

With my brother-in-law's brother Dennis and his wife Judy,
who drove all the way down from the Puget Sound area to see the show last weekend!
One of the features of the show is a walk-on, which is offered to anyone in the audience for a $50 donation (Jane: A Theater Company is a nonprofit corporation). Nadine and I decided to put some money together (and my parents pitched in some too) to buy the walk-on for our friend, Jeanne. Initially we weren't sure if she'd get into it, but she seemed to LOVE her time in the spotlight--and she took the opportunity to flirt wildly with Dr. Frankenstein:

With Dr. Frankenstein and Ignore the Nanny

With the cast

Waiting in the theater lobby--such a good influence on his cousins, eh?

With the Village People biker

Kieran with his aunt, uncle, and cousins,
who saw the show a couple of times over Thanksgiving weekend

With my dad and brother and our friends Neal and Annette,
and Corey, Nandita, and 2-year-old Tarun

Sunday afternoon show, with more friends
This Saturday and Sunday the shows were not quite as full as last weekend, but another one of Kieran's classmates came to see him today:

She's very camera shy--before this photo, she was hiding under the table!
I know I'm completely biased, but I will just give my subjective review anyway. This is the third Hullabaloo show we've seen, and I firmly believe it's the best one so far. The story (by Kim Bogus, the artistic director) is fun and family friendly, the music by the talented Greg Paul is wonderful and melodic, and the jokes sometimes too clever for the audience! (Today one of the audience members caught on to one of the more obscure jokes.) With other shows, I'd surely get bored...but I am enjoying it each time I see it.

Between the shows today, they took cast photos, and I got to be one of the photographers.

With his martial arts teachers--
he was pretty excited to have them come see the show, especially since he gets to do a few martial arts moves and show off his improved push-ups!!
(They look very different when they are in regular clothing!)

With friends Jon, Mara, Bill, and Judy
I can tell that the stress of a month of rehearsals followed by 25 performances for 5 weeks is wearing on him a bit...but I also know that he's loving the spotlight. I have a feeling he'll be disappointed when it's over, but fortunately the closing is followed by a week of going to the Nutcracker, Willy Wonka at Northwest Children's Theater, and then Christmas. He's found a class he wants to take at the Oregon Children's Theatre in January, so it won't be long before he's on the stage again...this time with other kids.

Today we learned that Chris has got a chorus part in the Jesuit High School production of "Singin' in the Rain," and rehearsals start next week. So one actor in the family will be starting on the next one before the current one is finished with this run.