Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crud buckets.

First off, we're changing our personal rules about the computer. That's why it's been quiet in these parts.

Second, AFI isn't going as planned. The vouchers were a terrible idea: We barely got into The Eyes of Me (which was absolutely wonderful) because there were so few tickets left; Monday's documentary shorts were completely sold out and we couldn't go; and there were only six tickets left to Sugar (two of which we got). Rough Aunties has fallen through due to time constraints. Next year I'll send Chris into Dallas with movie titles and times and we'll just buy the tickets in advance. Buying the tickets online would cost $8.50 a pop, but if you go to the box office it's only $5.00--the same amount as 10 vouchers.

Oh well. Lessons learned.

Friday, March 27, 2009

AFI is here!

Yes, AFI kicked off last night with a big red carpet premiere that would cost you $125 just to stand in a line in hopes of getting a ticket. I wasn't there--can't imagine why (although "I could buy food and clothing and still have money left over for that amount" springs to mind). Our personal AFI kicks off today, and we did the smart thing and buy a ten-pack of vouchers. At $50, it wasn't cheap; however, five movies with two people per movie at $8.50 a ticket ... what's wrong with saving $35, I ask? Nuttin' at all.

Here's our extreme movie-viewing schedule:
Today: Double Indemnity @ 3:00PM
Tomorrow: The Eyes of Me @ 12:30PM
Monday: Selected nonfiction shorts (Push Button House included) @ 10:00PM
Wednesday: Sugar @ 7:00PM
Thursday: Rough Aunties @ 4:00PM

Competitions are rampant at AFI, so I think we might get to vote on which of the shorts is best. Cool beans.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our little girl's becoming a woman!

I am coming to the realization that I’m not in college anymore. I knew that for the most part, actually: I read for pleasure now instead of by coercion, I don’t wear pajama pants everywhere I go, and I don’t wander aimlessly into college classes only to discover that I’m not supposed to be there. But now that I’m living outside of a college town for the first time in my life, I’ve come to the realization that my wardrobe is not up to snuff. Jeans and a t-shirt may work wonderfully well in Collegetown, USA--hell, I might be overdressed in that--but I feel like I’m contributing to the downfall of civilized society when I wander through the Nasher Sculpture Center in that garb. So with heaviness of heart, I admit that it’s time to toss the wardrobe and start over from scratch.

I remember reading a book that I found at the library of my former abode called What Should I Wear? It was about tailoring one’s wardrobe so as to have things that look good in any occasion, but at the time I felt that they were recommending an awful lot of clothes for a book claiming to simplify one’s closet. It makes more sense to me now: There is a need for some variety amongst casual clothes, dressy clothes, and everything in between, which differs dramatically from my previous attempts to just make casual clothes as dressy as possible. Now, allow me to give voice to my thoughts so I can sort them for myself.
Shirts: I feel like a slob when I wear t-shirts--not to say that there isn’t a time and place for them. I obviously can’t put on a nice silk twinset and go hiking or work compost into soil. But I’ve got all the t-shirts I could possibly need for my purposes--the greatest needs lies with nice short-sleeved shirts. There will be no more summers of shrunken t-shirts in church or the Nasher.

Pants: Like with the shirts, I need cruddy pants for hiking and gardening. If I paired the silk twinset with lovely tweed trousers and stomped up the hill of Balcones Canyonlands NWR, I’d be an idiot. And I’d have a heck of a dry cleaning bill. But for those excursions to, oh I don’t know, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, I probably need only 3 pairs of pants at most: 1 black pair (of course), 1 lighter pair (for when I’m wearing a black shirt and don’t want to look like a goth), and possibly a wool pair for those nice, cold winters. And they need to be of a quality that I’d want to get them altered as necessary and not just purchase new ones every 6 months.

Skirts: In these days of ready-made clothing, nothing’s worse than being short and fat. If pants fit me in the waist, they’re too baggy in the hips. If they fit in the hips, they’re probably too tight in the waist. If they actually manage to fit in both places, the crotch is down by my knees. There’s nothing I dread more than having to buy pants, so I know deep down that I ought to buy more skirts and wear them with greater frequency. I acquiesce to my fate. I do have one fairly good special occasion skirt--the rest are nice and casual.

Jackets: I’m not talking about cold-weather jackets but rather the “I’m nicely dressed and there’s nothing you can do about it, bozo” jackets. And I just bought the first one of my adult life. I think it’ll do admirably in those instances where I need to look a lot nicer in a jiff.
The switch to nicer clothing is something I’ve been avoiding for several years now because I believed that if I kept my wardrobe to a casual level it was somehow more simple. Ain’t necessarily so--I still amassed too much clothing and was left scrambling when the situation called for something nicer than what I had. And what the book said seems to be holding true: You can greatly simplify things simply by having a wardrobe the fits well, looks nice, and meets all occasions!

Care for another time waste?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dine In Dinner

I'm putting on my public service hat for a second to see if I can incite anyone else among my limited associates to hold a Dine In Dinner. It's a nice, simple premise: You hold a meal in your home among friends in the hopes of raising funds, recruiting advocates, and/or spreading information on behalf of Feeding America. Feeding America used to be America's Second Harvest, and it's a network of over 200 food pantries in all 50 states. Those food pantries in turn support over 63,000 charitable agencies. It's a massive and important hunger charity.

The Dine In Dinner is for hunger among children. Although he could speak on it more eloquently than I can--note that he's not writing the blog post, I am, so apologies all around--Chris became familiar with this kind of hunger when he taught in Dallas. Many students came to school simply to have two meals to eat a day. The football coaches had to violate rules regarding benefits for athletes because one of their players ate so little during the summer that he was unable to practice. Many elementary and secondary schools left their cafeterias open during the summer so the children would have a place to get food.

Not every school district leaves its cafeterias open--Dallas has a huge school district and deals with a huge number of poor students, but that doesn't mean other school districts don't have students whose families deal with food insecurity. It also doesn't mean that Dallas-area charities aren't stretched thin in the summer months with higher demand. People are very giving around Christmas, but summer is a real crisis time for hunger-related charities because there's less to give and more people needing help.

Wow, I meant for this to be much shorter. If you've been hankering to have a dinner party with your best buds before April wraps up, consider doing a Dine In Dinner. When I pledged to have one yesterday (it will coincide with my birthday because I'm weird like that), 280 people had pledged out of a goal of 3000 on the part of Feeding America. It's up to 345 today, so I'm going to do my small bit to get them to their goal. Plus, every pledged dinner means a $5 donation from Stouffer's.

Have a Dine In Dinner. I demand it for my birthday!

Friday, March 20, 2009

This is bad, this is bad, this is very, very bad!!!

You know I'm not one to overuse exclamation points, but I'm so glad Chris quit Dallas ISD now!!!!!! Yesterday the front page of the Dallas Morning News had a story on Dallas ISD's South Oak Cliff High School ... where the administrators didn't break up fights, but rather tossed the students into a steel cage and let them duke it out there.

Today I sat down at the computer and saw a headline on it on my news-laden homepage. "Oh, it made national news, of course," I thought.

That's when I realized ... I wasn't reading national news ... it was a headline on the BBC.

This cage fighting story is the most read and second most shared (email, Facebook, etc) new story on the BBC. DISD is about to get scrutiny like it's never seen before--you can give the Morning News or Dallas Observer the run-around, but BBC reporters don't back down so easily.

I'm not so much thinking that I'm glad that Chris doesn't work for DISD anymore, but rather that I'm glad he doesn't work there now or that he never worked for South Oak Cliff!

Storm's a-comin'--wait and see.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AFI 2009: The Short List

The short list is complete! Now there's only time-table checking to be done.

The Eyes of Me
Push Button House
Sugar
Rough Aunties
Zombie Girl


Double Indemnity is also waiting in the wings and hoping that one of the other movies falls sick and can't take the stage. We're also trying to figure out if Push Button House, which is a short, is going to be shown on its own or with several other shorts. Why the interest in Push Button House? Yours truly might be just a little obsessed lately.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's Back: The 2009 AFI Film Festival in Dallas

Yes, the AFI International Film Festival is back, which means Chris and I are spending valuable time poring over the 100+ movie options. We have a particular method for doing this (even though we didn't make it last year--meagre offerings) which is helped by the fact that he's in Houston doing business and I'm at home doing nothing: We both look through the films separately, then we compare lists to see what's in common. If we don't agree on a particular movie one person wanted to see, the interested party can lobby for it. That's how we ended up seeing the two films we did two years ago: I lobbied to see an Indian film (with possibly the most perfect ending a movie's ever had), and Chris lobbied to see To Kill a Mockingbird on the big screen followed by an interview with Gregory Peck's widow.

I don't mean to be this way, but I don't like to go see movies in the theater. I don't know why--it used to be that I couldn't focus while wearing glasses (out-of-date prescription) and my contacts would dry out, so there was no ideal way to view them. But now that I wear glasses exclusively that can't be my excuse anymore. I even waffled on going to see the new Batman. I still haven't seen it. And I love Batman. That said, I actually do gear up for AFI. These are movies that may never be on DVD--you have to see them while you can.

So for grins, here's our initial lists. We have to make our choices PDQ since it starts in a week!

We both agree on ...
Adam Resurrected - Adam Steiner survives World War II’s concentration camps by working for the Nazis, performing his clown act while other Jews are sent to the gas chambers. After the war, he lands in a mental institution where he reads minds and confounds doctors.
Megatron - Maxim’s turning 8 years old. For his birthday, his mother takes him from the village to a McDonald’s in the city. [Note: It's a Romanian movie.]
Double Indemnity - An insurance agent, Walter Neff, meets Phyllis Dietrichson when she renews her husband’s auto insurance policy. An attraction begins and the two plot to murder Mr. Dietrichson for his life insurance money, until the plan goes awry. [Note: I want Chris to see the movie so he'll know what I'm thinking now that our life insurance policy is in place. :) ]
The Eyes of Me - Following the lives of four blind teenagers over the course of a school year at the Texas School for the Blind, The Eyes of Me is a thought-provoking look into the day-to-day thoughts, emotions, highs and lows of adolescents who lost their sight at different stages of their childhood.

Chris will be making cases for ...
Yoroi: The Samurai Zombie - A family on vacation is car-jacked and kidnapped by a couple of criminals. To elude the authorities, the criminals take the family deep into the woods that is cursed by the spirits of the undead. There, the group must face their inescapable karma and destiny. [Japanese film ... you're welcome to question Chris's taste and judgement now.]
Skin - Spanning 30 years in the history of South Africa, this story follows the life of Sandra Laing (Sophie Okenodo), a young woman who, despite being born to a white Afrikaner parents, has light brown skin and curly hair. From a white African family but possessing of black African physical features, Sandra defies the classifications that served as the foundation of South Africa’s systemic racism. It is not until she is thrown out of the same all-white boarding school that reality sets in: Sandra will not have the same opportunities as everyone else in her family. Sandra’s parents set out to have her legally classified as “white” in 1960s apartheid-era South Africa, setting in motion a legal battle that marks Sandra with the strength and self-awareness that ultimately enables her to embrace her identity and cultural legacy as an African woman.
Moon - Nearing the end of a three-year contract with Lunar Industries, Sam Bell is counting the days until his return to Earth. The lone occupant of a lunar mining base, Sam monitors the tractors that harvest the moon’s surface for helium energy. He combats monotony and isolation by tending to plants and interacting with the station’s robotic computer, Gerty. But Sam is beginning to unravel mentally. After a hallucination causes him to crash his lunar rover, he wakes up in the sick bay and soon realizes that his life at the base is not what it seems.
Sugar - For many Dominicans, baseball represents the pathway from poverty to wealth and glory. And so when Sugar, a gifted 19-year-old pitcher, gets called up to the American minor leagues, it seems a dream fulfilled for him, his family and his community. But life on the road and under the glare of the lights carries more challenges than the young man imagined. [Shock-horror, Chris wants to see the baseball movie!]
Zombie Girl: The Movie - Most 12-year-olds are busy with friends, homework, and online chatting. So is Emily Hagins, but Emily found time to write and direct a feature-length zombie movie as well. Zombie Girl: THE MOVIE covers the two years it took her to make it. With the help of her mother as agent, crew, and biggest fan, Emily launches an epic adventure in genre filmmaking, complete with decapitations, disembowelments, and as many brain-sucking zombie sixth-graders as she can muster.

Finally, I will be flexing my lobbying muscles for ...
Hunger - Though ostensibly about the 1981 hunger strike initiated by Irish Republican Army leader Bobby Sands, this poetic-realist debut by Steve McQueen ventures into far deeper territory, seeking to visually articulate the very nature of oppression and resistance. [Note: I don't think it's that Steve McQueen.]
Rough Aunties - Kim Longinotto documents four South African women determined to stem sexual abuse in their country. Through their nonprofit group Bobbi Bear, which uses teddy bears to help children explain their abuse, the women battle racial, socioeconomic and cultural barriers.
Push Button House - Investigates the creation of Adam Kalkin's creation of a shipping container that blossoms into a sleek, modern, pre-fabricated home.

If the gentle readership wants to offer any opinions, then by all means--we can't see all of them!! (The Eyes of Me is the only certainty, and everything else is being debated on the floor.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Castor Beans, Day 33

Big day for the castor beans today ... or at least what remains of them.


Where did the second one come from? My planter--it's the one that came from last year's castor beans. But they're in the ground and looking pretty darn good! Here's hoping they make it!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Top 25 Very, Very Random Thoughts on Watching Alexander Nevsky Late at Night

Note: I hear there’s been some disappointment about the extreme lack of content on the Loquat of late, due in large part to the fact that, like everyone else in America, I spend most of my waking hours on Facebook. I originally conceived this for Facebook, where the “25 random thoughts” format reigns supreme. However, I so amused myself last night that I thought I’d share it here too.

I’m so obsessed with the composer Sergei Prokofiev right now that I really went off the deep end and bought the two films he scored, Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. Because time with the hubby gone is apparently not time well spent, I was up past 1 AM last night watching the movie. For whatever reason, I kept notes of my thoughts throughout the viewing experience, and I’ve ranked them here for the general amusement of all. I think random thoughts are at their best completely devoid of context, but just to prevent too much confusion I’ll say that if you don’t get it, it’s probably a reference to sound quality ... except the one time that it isn’t, when it’s a reference to costuming. You’ll see what I mean.

25. Poor horse.
24. Pythonesque helmets there.
23. Choose the cute one, Olga!
22. Pskov sure rebuilt fast.
21. The Cardinal can’t decide if he should cross them like they’re Catholic or Orthodox.
20. They’re sure okay with a girl fighting.
19. What a terrifying dirty joke!!
18. Should the orchestra sound so out of tune with one another?
17. They found the most evil-looking man in Russia to play the Cardinal.
16. That Mongol speaks impeccable Russian.
15. Sing along time! [Annoyed the dickens out of the cat, by the way]
14. Just what do they plan to set on fire at this point? Alexander?
13. Oh no. A Russian lake, even in springtime, is not a good way to go.
12. And people thought Lord of the Rings was one long battle scene.
11. Possibly the best conversation on fishing I’ve ever heard. “What’s wrong with fishing?”
10. Vasilisa! Very flattering chain mail!
9. Apparently the Germans have always been annoying.
8. They dragged a pipe organ to the front?!
7. Stalin left enough people alive just to film that scene.
6. I commend the comic use of the trombone.
5. Crucifixes can’t save you now, Germans!!
4. Brunhilde just wandered in straight out of the Ring Cycle.
3. I know Prokofiev had a great sense of irony, but this is almost “Benny Hill”.
2. Ice battle! Ice battle! YAY!
1. The kazoo band is in fine form.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Castor Beans, Day 29

No pictures for you today--the little buggers are dying! Well, all but one are. One has completely bit the dust, the other's just fine, and there's no telling what the other will do. They're back in their humidity dome with a heat pad.

Sunday's the last frost day, so I'll plonk whatever remains in the ground then. They're ready for new environs. I'll also try starting a few more in the hopes I get the desired amount. Poor devils.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hooray!

There's content up over at Chandler Plays the Classics! Check it! (There's a link in the left-hand column, but you ought to have added it to your RSS reader by now anyway.)

Also, I'm getting tired of saying there's pictures up over at Chandler's Victory Garden. If you become a member of the site, it sends out digests when something changes (often for just changing the background color--I'll save that for days when I put pictures up or something). If you want to be members of Chandler's Victory Garden, Backcountry Peripatetic, or both, you can give me your email and I'll send you an invitation. If not, you can just pop over there periodically and see if anything's changed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's March 9, 2009

LET'S DO A FIG COUNT!!!!!!





There are five confirmed with the possibility of two or three more (it's hard to tell the difference between a fruit and leaf buds at the beginning). I'll keep you posted as they grow.

These pictures will be added to Chandler's Victory Garden shortly.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I'm back.

You may rest easy now. I'm still severely limiting my time online, but I won't be gone for a week again any time soon (not till Holy Week).

New pictures up at Chandler's Victory Garden. Mostly of peas, but the other plants are working on it, and my transplants will arrive in late March. Eventually you won't see so many peas!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lent for the uninitiated

Lent in the Orthodox Church starts tomorrow--tonight is Forgiveness Vespers, where everyone in the parish asks the others to forgive them their sins. The point is that our sins do have an impact on others (take, for example, Hitler), so we begin Lent with mutual forgiveness of one another.

After that comes Clean Week, which is not some official form of spring cleaning. During Clean Week, you fast unusually difficultly to kick-start yourself in the fasting process. Fasting includes abstention from meat, dairy, eggs, and oil (at least olive oil, but the tougher ones often take that to mean every kind of oil) as well as cutting down on annoying distractions of life. Tonight at midnight, the TV, the radio, and Chris and I will be disappearing from Internet World until Saturday the seventh. I do worry about being in a news vacuum, but the paper will fill in admirably, I'm sure.

To give a better, more spiritual explanation of why we Orthodox do what we do, I'm copying a blog post from one of the blogs we read. You can find it in the left-hand column under the blog feature: Glory to God for All Things. Oh, and I've been Orthodox for nearly two years and I find the stuff on hesychasm very dense, so don't stop reading just because you don't get that part.

Fasting is not very alive and well in the Christian world. Much of that world has long lost any living connection with the historical memory of Christian fasting. It is as though they were Jews who heard there was such a thing as kosher and decided to make up the rules for what to eat and what not to eat because no one knew what was actually kosher.

There are other segments of Christendom who have tiny remnants of the traditional Christian fast, but in the face of a modern world have reduced the tradition to almost meaningless self-sacrifice.

I read recently (though I cannot remember where) that the rejection of Hesychasm was the source of all heresy. In less technical terms we can say that knowing God in truth, participating in His life, union with Him through humility, prayer, love of enemy and repentance before all and for everything, is the purpose of the Christian life. Hesychasm (Greek Hesychia=Silence) is the name applied to the Orthodox tradition of ceaseless prayer and inner stillness.

But these are incorrectly understood if they are separated from knowledge of God and participation in His life, union with Him through humility, prayer, love of enemy and repentance before all and for everything.

And it is the same path of inner knowledge of God (with all its components) that is the proper context of fasting. If we fast but do not forgive our enemies - our fasting is of no use. If we fast and do not find it drawing us into humility - our fasting is of no use. If our fasting does not make us yet more keenly aware of the fact that we are sinful before all and responsible to all then it is of no benefit. If our fasting does not unite us with the life of God - which is meek and lowly - then it is again of no benefit.

Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not about keeping a Christian kosher. Fasting is about hunger and humility (which is increased as we allow ourselves to become weak). Fasting is about allowing our heart to break.

I have seen greater good accomplished in souls through their failure in the fasting season than in the souls of those who “fasted well.” Publicans enter the kingdom of God before Pharisees pretty much every time.

Why do we fast? Perhaps the more germane question is “why do we eat?” Christ quoted Scripture to the evil one and said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We eat as though our life depended on it and it does not. We fast because our life depends on the word of God.

I worked for a couple of years as a hospice chaplain. During that time, daily sitting at the side of the beds of dying patients - I learned a little about how we die. It is a medical fact that many people become “anorexic” before death - that is - they cease to want food. Many times family and even doctors become concerned and force food on a patient who will not survive. Interestingly, it was found that patients who became anorexic had less pain than those who having become anorexic were forced to take food. (None of this is about the psychological anorexia that afflicts many of our youth. That is a tragedy)

It is as though at death our bodies have a wisdom we have lacked for most of our lives. It knows that what it needs is not food - but something deeper. The soul seeks and hungers for the living God. The body and its pain become a distraction. And thus in God’s mercy the distraction is reduced.

Christianity as a religion - as a theoretical system of explanations regarding heaven and hell, reward and punishment, is simply Christianity that has been distorted from its true form. Either we know the living God or we have nothing. Either we eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have no life in us. The rejection of Hesychasm is the source of all heresy.

Why do we fast? We fast so that we may live like a dying man - and in dying we can be born to eternal life.