Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day and Poetry

What's the connection here, you'll say? Well, of course there are many poems that memorialize fallen comrades from many wars. Many know the poem "In Flanders Field", but not many are familiar with Herman Melville's brief but anguished piece honoring the dead from one battle in our own tragic and bloody Civil War. Read Melville's "Shiloh: A Requiem" here.
Don't get me wrong, I like Memorial Day, but why don't we also have a day in which we remember and honor those others who have "given the ultimate sacrifice for our country" like police officers, for example? According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), which released its preliminary 2009 statistics last week, 125 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2009, which might not be even half the number who died in Afghanistan in 2009 (315), but is quite a surprising number all the same. And that 125 does not include those others who also work on the "front lines" of public defense, like fire fighters and paramedics. Visit the NLEOMF site.
Wreaths, fireworks, and parades are nice but...wouldn't it be nice to have all the annual "patriotic" hoopla translated into money for scholarships for the children of all fallen soldiers and peace officers? I'd like to see more done for the soldiers who do return, as well, but perhaps that is asking too much.
Love in Leisure, Repent in Haste
But back to poetry--this is the cover of a new book of poems by my mother, Diane Shea--and edited by Yours Truly. Published on (it's available as a download or a book there) you can see excerpts from it, read the covers, and even buy a copy on Amazon; it's called Love in Leisure, Repent in Haste.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, in whatever pursuits you endeavor to pursue, and whatever and whomever you choose to remember and honor.
hasta pronto!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Solar powered again!

It was a big moment--hooking up the solar panels (see the "Boat talk" page for more on those) and seeing the regulator blink on and start charging our boat's batteries. We are off the grid almost completely now, and only need to hook up the watermaker to complete our project of making the boat fully "self-sustaining". Boat projects like this take so long (much like house renovations) that one begins to lose faith in their ever being completed...Then, suddenly, task after task will get crossed off the "to do" list one after the other.
Cap'n Russel has been doing "home improvements" while teaching (two online screenwriting classes) this semester, and now that school is over, he'll be at it full-time for a few months. New additions greet me almost daily on my return from work. Friday was Bike-to-Work day and I bicycled home to find he'd installed the solar panel wiring, and was just awaiting another body to help with the final connection. Yesterday was a cabinet fashioned out of wood to hold our new clock, barometer, and depth sounder. Now installed in the main salon, it provides a wealth of information, seen out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, I'll be more interested in the depth of the water under our keel once we are again at anchor. And hopefully I'll have more time to read, purely for pleasure.
Just finished a re-read of Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" (free download) and was amazed to find myself anxious to find out how it resolved itself, though I knew perfectly well (I've also seen the wonderful Ang Lee film of the book more than once) Why is it that I so enjoy re-reading the classics? Of course, that term ("classics") is subject to each reader's definition--I include any book that will improve with time and re-reading...and a few select books are added to my "to reread" list each year.
Sunday brings the Hillcrest Farmer's Market and I'm off to select fruits and vegetables for the week, and some fish for tonight's table. Yes, fresh fish at a Farmer's Market--this is San Diego after all. And luckily the sun is shining again--re-charging my batteries in more ways than one.
hasta pronto!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

So many great little time...

Yeah, I know, every day you hear about some new thing you need to read, do, participate in--and you're already overcommitted and tired of input. Everyone tells me this, and I hear myself say it too--"too much input--enough, already!" But I've been thinking about this whole matter, and I think we're tired of the wrong input.
Bad news is a lot of what we hear from the media, because "if it bleeds, it leads" as we all know. So you'll have to make a conscious choice to open your ears and eyes to the world of positive news, and the ever-growing list of books and blogs and other media that are trying to make a positive difference.
Okay, I hear you--that's just one more thing I'd have to do, you're saying, and I'm tired...I'm overwhelmed, I've heard enough, I've had it. But you know as well as I do that good news is always a turn-on, new mail is always a possibility, the ringing phone is always the call that might be the one call that changes everything. Think of the media in all its myriad forms as a friend who can recommend a great book or film, or who can give you the right advice at the right time.
I highly recommend "Ode" magazine--I always put it down thinking that the world is a better place than when I picked it up. They have a great online community and this page of their site has only good news--you can even sign up to get "good news emails daily". What could be better?
I also love ArtsJournal, which you can check out at their site, or sign up to get daily in your inbox as I do--a great way to start the day. Cool arts videos, stories, and links to propel you into the day, thinking that if that many artists are doing that many cool pieces, performances, and projects, then there's hope for us all.
If you just need a lift, check out this site, THXTHXTHX, an ongoing projects about thank you's for all of life's little unnoticed wonders...or go to YouTube and type in "puppies", and see if you don't smile.
Or, if you insist on intelligent world-changing though-provoking stuff, read Seth Godin's blog here (I loved the latest column I read, on "elites") or read Jon Carrol's always enjoyable column on SFGate.
Lastly, rather than picking up the latest mass-market paperback by some Rich Author who was once cutting-edge and is now cranking out Formulaic Follow-ups, set yourself the goal of finding a book you haven't heard of--that isn't stacked in piles right inside your nearest booksellers windows. Try GoodReads to hear from "real people" about what they are reading, or visit RedRoom (where you can read and write!).
I've been reading books as a judge for the San Diego Book Awards, and I've been impressed, as always, by how much good stuff is written each year that never gets written about or reviewed in the big media outlets--some of it barely gets published...
So take the time (sometime soon) to simply browse in your local library, or in your favorite bookstore, and find a book by someone who is new to you--if, in doubt, try asking the bookseller or librarian what they'd recommend. Or try one of the books in my "recently read and recommended" list on this blog.
You'll be glad you did.
hasta pronto!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Day After Mother's Day (What does it really mean?)

Okay, I wouldn't have posted this yesterday, because who knows who out there is gonna get ticked off at me, but I really don't like Mother's Day. I love my mom, and I like celebrating her and the other mothers that I love, and the nearly-moms who have helped me along the way. But it's a day when I often feel odd, purely for being a woman of a certain age (I'm turning 49 this month) who is NOT a mother.
Anne Lamott to the rescue. This "Why I hate Mother's Day" essay by Lamott on was sent to me by my dad, and I missed seeing it yesterday, because I was at my mom's house, celebrating Mother's Day. This was following the morning of people asking me "Are you a mother?" as if it was a test. Of course it is...If you're a mom, they'll wish you a Happy Day, if not, the person will quickly smile and say something to cover up how sorry they now feel for you.
I'm currently reading Charles Dickens' Little Dorritt (since it'll be hard to find in a bookstore, I don't mind linking to Amazon) which has some of perhaps the worst mothers in all of Dickens' books in it, or at least a couple of contenders, and somehow it was perfect to start the day with them...Especially with horrible Mrs. Clenham, who lies, denies, and always, always, is right and righteous (I won't do any "spoiler" stuff here, so yes, there is more to it--it is Dickens after all).
I say, let's not just celebrate every person who birthed a child--which, after all, is a pretty basic step in "mothering" said child. I'd love to celebrate something called Good Mother's Day, or a Good Aunt's Day, even a Good Mentor's Day. Considering the Octo-mom, it occurs to me that quality is better than quantity in terms of shaping the future, which is what we humans are up to, by raising children.
Isn't the most important thing not whether I have had children (or if anyone has) but whether I care about your children (if you have them)? In fact, the big question is how much we all care about all children, not just "ours." And that applies to all of "our" children, such as politicians who talk about "America's children" as if they were more valuable than other children around the globe.
A good way to celebrate Mother's Day, or any other day, might be to consider how we can better use our time, talents, and resources to help "mother" everyone's children...If we all tried this, even once in a while, we would surely all be better off.
Hasta pronto!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sondheim and a Brilliant "Sweeney Todd"

Stephen Sondheim really pegged some universal truths--greed, vengeance, deceit--in his play "Sweeney Todd"...And an excellent production of the play couldn't have come at a better time. (Perhaps you've heard about some of these problems in society recently?) Anyway, I always think of it as a play about our "modern" capitalist society and its myriad failings, and I was glad to read on the play's wikipedia page, that "Hal Prince believed it to be an allegory of capitalism and its selfish qualities."
Last night's performance of "Sweeney Todd" at the Cygnet Theater in Old Town was as close to a perfect evening of theater as I've had the pleasure to see in many years. And, as the old NYC TV commercial used to go--"that's coming from a kid who's seen a lot of Broadway shows!"
Okay, we did start out with great Mexican food at La Pinata restaurant on Juan Street (try the veggie fajitas for a great filling meal you can still feel "good" about). And we did have Margaritas with dinner...But it is almost Cinco de Mayo, so there!
Of course, that is a lovely spot to walk off a big dinner, so we did...the Cygnet Theater's Old Town venue was just a short stroll away, and it was a nearly balmy, clear and starry spring night...
And speaking of stars, Deborah Gilmour Smyth was astounding as Mrs Lovett! The play is a delicate balance between dark comedy and just plain darkness (cannibalism, murder, and rape), and the linchpin character is Mrs L. If she works, the show works, honestly (Sweeney be damned) and boy does Smyth work. She's like a wacky little engine that always drives the show forward along its quirky track.
Sean Murray is artistic director of the Cygnet(and often co-directs and stars as he did on "Sweeney") and he was excellent as "the Demon Barber of Fleet Street", But as I said, its not his character that really propels the show...In spite of being a frustrated murdering crank, he's not the best "bad guy" in this piece.
That honor goes to the character of Judge Turpin, wonderfully played and sung by Steve Gunderson. Only those who have seen Gunderson's uniquely winning charm, and obscene amount of talent, onstage over the years (in shows like "Suds", "Forever Plaid" and the Globe's "Grinch") will realize what a transformation he has made in becoming this truly horrible and hypocritical sleaze-machine of a human being.
The entire show lived up to these performers, and I could go on about the great supporting cast, and brilliant set, costumes, and music, but don't take my word for it--read one of the many amazing reviews that this show has gotten here. Or if you don't trust reviewers, read the 4-star reviews by actual people on Yelp here. The only bad part is the show closes on May 9th, so if you're in Southern California, or can get there, you'd better buy your tickets now!
And for those who love C.M. Mayo and her writing as much as I do--here's a recent interview with her, by the fine fiction writer Michael Mercer in the Todos Santos (Baja California) publication, "El Candelario." Check it out...
hasta pronto!