cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “America”

Dogs–the new cigarette?


When I was a kid, the family dog was in the backyard and cigarettes were found everywhere. Today, dogs are everywhere and smokers are banned to their backyard.

I’m not complaining. Just wondering how dogs have reached such a thumbs-up public approval.

Check out this New Yorker article in which the journalist trots a turkey, a snake, a pig, and an alpaca in public places.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/pets-allowed 

Now, before we get started. I need to state right up front. I like dogs. Our family dog taught me to walk (I grabbed on to him and he patiently led me along), and we were buds until he died at age of fourteen. I still miss him. Not that it’s a big deal, but I nearly died trying to protect our neighbor’s Cock-a-poo who had been attacked by dogs gone wild.  I have considered becoming a trainer for guide dogs once I finally retire from teaching. And just today I reunited two boys with their list Labrador. So–I do like dogs.

I just prefer dogs in the proper setting. Restaurants, hotels, the library, grocery stores, the farmer’s market, my local Home Depot, and the post office are not places I expect or desire to interact with dogs. I have no issue with true service dogs. They are trained and serve a needed purpose. The wolfhound blocking the sidewalk at the local farmer’s market (where it is posted “No Dogs in Park)–purpose?

Some communities are crazy for dogs. Oregon’s Hood River is such a place. San Francisco is another city gone to the dogs, and many of its citizens are wondering if they have gone too far in embracing doggy appreciation (3-1 said yes in a poll). It’s become so prevalent to see dogs when I go out to eat that I’m tempted to ask if there is non-dog section when going to a restaurant. True service dogs stay at their owner’s feet, they do not share their table, nor their lap. No fuss is made over them because they are on duty. They are well-behaved. They aren’t that noticeable.

Regular dogs and their owners–that’s a different matter.

Even though it’s posted at our local community park, where the local farmer’s market is held, that no dogs are allowed, that does not deter either the locals or the tourists from bringing their canine with them as they shop for garlic cloves and search for the perfect scone. I see the sign “Service Animals Only” posted on the door of most businesses, yet that request does not apparently apply to the lady with the Pekinese stuffed in her purse as she rolls out her grocery cart.

The value of a posted ordinance, rule, or request is only as good as it is enforced. The farmer’s market association says it’s the job of the city to enforce the ordinance. The police department says they will stop by the park if they don’t have other pressing duties. The store manager says they risk a lawsuit if they ask the person if their dog is a service animal. Clerks have developed a “we don’t ask” policy at the library and post office. The people I encounter in public places who do not have their dog on a leash, although it’s posted to do so, say “Oh, no worries. She’s friendly.” Maybe so, but I still don’t want that friendly nose snuffing my leg. There’s a set of teeth ever so close to that friendly nose that may decide otherwise. It’s happened. 

I’m wondering if society has replaced the cigarette, a selfish, noxious habit that can harm those in its presence with another risky habit. Whoa, C. Muse. Equating cigarettes to dogs is a bit harsh. Maybe so. There remains a deep-seated amazement that people seriously think I want to share my space with their four-legged habit. I am not the only one who is wondering about this new dog-permissive attitude.

David Lazarus of the LA Times decided to test the new doggy permissiveness. Even though there are health codes, he acknowledged, he took his dog Teddy with him one day, wondering why no one stopped him when he decided on taking his dog everywhere he went. Perplexed at being ignored by those around him he summed it up: “I have only one answer to that. It’s L.A., dude.”

I will expand on that answer: It’s America. Americans don’t like being told what to do. Americans like to celebrate their freedom. Americans like their dogs.

Has anyone else noticed the new dog permissiveness? Are dogs as prevalent as cigarettes once were in public places? Dog gone it, I just don’t understand why society wants to have such dog day afternoons. 

 

 

Advertisements

The Art of Nap


I believe in naps. One of my dream projects is to create a coffee table photo fact luxury edition of the history, cultural significance, and medical conclusion of The Nap.

Dagwood would be the centerfold feature. Clothed, of course. Nude napping is not discussed on this family friendly site.

I have long held the belief that napping is a necessity and should not be deemed as a guilty pleasure. 


However, naps get a bad rap. Just ask any toddler. The stigma starts at four when naps are viewed with derision instead of anticipation. Fast forward to high school and napping is once again embraced. I could devote an entire post to napping styles among my students.

Seriously, napping is important. It’s so important that The New York Times ran an article about the need for the twenty minute sleep.

Damien Léger, a French doctor who runs the sleep-research center, believes the following:

  • 20 minutes is rejuvenating, anything longer causes grogginess
  • every worker should be given a nap period in the afternoon–it should replace the coffee break
  • napping is healthy, both physically and mentally 
  • the best naps should be in a safe spot, should be noise and light free–they don’t have to be lying down, but a pillow is recommended 
  • there is no shame in admitting to needing a nap 

   In Europe, actually most non-USA countries, recognize the need to nap. Then again we Americans get a lot done while we are awake. Was it Thomas Jefferson who coined the phrase, “You won’t catch me napping.” I would have said Benjamin Franklin, but he strikes me as a napper. After all, he did spend a long time among the French.

So I say we get a petition going and get corporate to install quiet rooms for workers. Take out the coffee lounge and just lounge. 

“Get Down With Napping.” Hmm, I’ll keep working on a rallying motto.

POM: April 4


Nikki Giovanni is a poet who knows how to capture a moment, a feeling, an event. She is a poet of note. This poem, never no matter it’s about Tennessee, gets me itching for summer. Summer and its treats is summer regardless of the state. Summer is a state all its own.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Nikki Giovanni, 1943

I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy’s garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep

Bond vs Solo: challenge post


Eli over at Coach Daddy asked me to write a comparison of two well-known heroes: James Bond and Han Solo.

Hmm, is what I said at first and thought it would make for a good post. He said he would match my post. Okay, challenge on.

First of all, I have grown up watching James Bond. As a kid I remember waiting for the clean version on television because there wasn’t any way my parents would have taken me to the theatre to see Sean Connery in all his bomb and bombshell glory. For me, Sean Connery remains the definitive Bond: suave, swagger, skilled, gentleman, although a bit chauvinistic, but hey, it was the 60s. Two years ago I had more to say on the Bond Birthday post, when Bond turned 50. Check it out.

Switch over to my college years and we have Star Wars on the screen. That I did get to see on my own. And I did so several times. Stars Wars was amazing! My dad loved westerns, especially John Wayne, and I immediately recognized that Han Solo was a bit of John Wayne in space. He played the rogue hero, the one who knew everyone, had a bit of reputation, knew how to get in trouble and get out of it. And he gets the girl. It was no surprise that Harrison Ford became the BIG star after his gig as Han Solo.

But to compare them, Eli? Seriously? Bond to Solo? That’s apples and oranges. I think they are best left to stand on their own merits. Spy Wars and Star Wars are two different categories. Although it is interesting that Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford became allies in that mash-up genre movie Cowboys and Aliens. Bond and Han made a pretty good team, come to think of it. I couldn’t see Connery slugging aliens, but he did play the Green Knight early in his career, and that’s pretty close to being an alien.

The real problem with this comparison is that there have been so many Bonds, and only one Han Solo. Each Bond played the role differently (again note past post). Han is Han: braggart, lovable rogue, a bit of a McGyver (Harrison even rocked a mullet in the 80s trilogy), a mercenary with a golden heart. Even with his mullet gone gray in the latest Star Wars movie, Harrison is still Han.

So–I’m not seeing much to compare. An apple is an apple next to an orange. I like both, but when it came to choosing which movie to watch in the theatre, I instinctively plunked my ticket down for Bond. Why? Craig has honed his Bond down to perfection, at least Skyfall impressed me. I’m not all that eager to see an aged Han Solo. Dude, who wants to see a hero age?
update: I did see the new Star Wars and was not impressed. I remain a purist. And it’s funny that Daniel Craig managed to get a cameo role. 

Okay, Eli. Your turn. Are Bond and Hans comparable, or are they stand alones?

Bond in space? image: 8bitnerds.com

Reading Challenge #44: Go Set a Watchman


‘Go Set a Watchman’ will land at No. 1 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

BEWARE: UNINTENDED SPOILERS AHEAD

No matter your opinion about Harper Lee’s “latest” novel, here are some stats from USA Today that can’t be ignored:

  • Publisher HarperCollins says more than 1.1 million copies of Watchman have sold so far in print, e-book and audio formats (the audio is read by Reese Witherspoon), making it the fastest-selling book in company history.
  • Barnes & Noble says Watchman‘s first-day sales surpassed that of any other adult trade fiction title, including Dan Brown’s 2009 novel The Lost Symbol, the previous record holder. B&N said it expects Watchman to be its best-selling book of 2015. (B&N declined to provide sales figures.)
  • At Amazon, Watchman has been the No. 1 best-seller in print since its release, and is also No. 1 on the Kindle Best Sellers list. (Amazon updates its lists hourly.)

I have been following most of the media blitz on Lee’s novel, ever since the hint that a second novel was “found.” I say most, simply because saturation was reached around June. I am a devoted To Kill a Mockingbird fan, who not only reads the novel once a year (or tries to), but teaches it most enthusiastically to ninth graders (when assigned that grade), so mention of another Lee novel definitely set my little heart pitter-pat.

And then the barrage of concerns floated about in the Net:

  • it was found after Lee’s sister Alice passed away
  • Lee resides in an assisted living home, having suffered a stroke, and suffering from hearing loss and macular degeneration gives speculative thought how coherent she really is
  • lawyers, editors, publishers are not in absolute agreement in exactly how the manuscript was found
  • many longtime residents, friends, and others who know Harper Lee were concerned enough about her being possibly coerced into consent that an elder abuse complaint was filed
  • not too many of my fellow Book Boosters have blogged reviews about the book

A lot of deep hmmm-ing took place over the subsequent months as I anticipated the novel’s well-awaited debut. I kept tabs on most of the articles and opinions that surfaced, although, as stated, saturation did preclude any deep dwelling, especially as speculative opinion was fast becoming redundant.

I deliberated continually of whether or not I would read the novel. My inner dilemmas ping-ponged accordingly:

  • why risk ruining the high opinion of TKAM?
  • why not risk it?–there will forever be the wanting to know.
  • read it and determine an opinion before others ruin the reading experience.
  • why should I let others sway since they usually don’t?

And so it went, until finally in June I called up the local library and asked to be put on the waiting list. I figured it would be December before it would be my turn. I received the book two days after it became available. Okay, just because it’s on hold doesn’t mean I have to read it. As I checked it out I noticed no other date stamps.

“I’m the first one to read it!”

“We ordered a stack of them. You’re the first to read this one.” Okay, Earth to special patron status. But at least it was in my hand. I asked my library kindreds if they had read the book.

“I had it in hand, and decided not to.” A non-com shrug from the other librarian. Great. I’m really in quandary now. Then again, who knows when I will read it once school starts. Summer is my reading season. Once school starts it’s back to reading essays.

Watchman stayed on my shelf for three days before I actually started it. A conversation with a fellow TKAMer teacher prompted me to actually open the book.

“There is a chapter that will take your breath away.”

“Which chapter?”

“You’ll know it when you see it.”

I started the book at 4:30 pm and finished it by 9:30 am. I did stop to sleep. Barely. And yes, the chapter mentioned did take my breath away. I knew it when I saw it.

So, as I read Watchman I jotted down notes:

  • For those who believed Harper Lee’s gift to the literary world, actually world in general, was a one-shot wonder–then this novel proves them wrong. Lee is an amazing craftsman, especially if this was a draft and not a final manuscript.
  • this novel stands on its own merit
  • the shadows of TKAM flit about the periphery, yet are only fireflies of reminiscence and are not needed to provide the illumination to the contents of Maycomb
  • Lee’s writerly brilliance shines in mundane moments, such as the Coffee episode, where she compares the bits of conversational banter to the scales of a piano as she played hostess with refreshments
  • Lee totally had me scrambling on more than one vocabulary word and allusion reference: Asquithian? Arriviste? Childe Rostand?
  • Highlight passages include:
    • “Although it was four hours away, she could hear her aunt’s sniff of disapproval.” (in reference to wearing slacks instead of a dress when arriving to Maycomb)
    • Uncle Jack’s explanation of the Civil War as related to the bubbling pot of politics and social norms being upsided in the South during the fifties/sixties

And this brings me to the SPOILER ALERT

  • There are issues that are still relevant fifty years later which aren’t being fully understood.

Here goes:

Being a Northern girl by way of the Pacific Northwest I am clueless about the South, and from time to time have to get edumacated by the MEPA, who was raised in the South during the fifties and sixties. He doesn’t read TKAM or The Help–he lived it.

One of the biggest concerns about Watchman: Atticus is portrayed as a racist.

This is where I heartily disagree. At one point, Jean Louise, follows her father and almost-fiance into a Council meeting. It’s just short of a Ku Klux Klan gathering. Jean Louise is physically sick that the two men who are most significant in her current life are lapping up racial rantings. Her world is shaken and she just about wipes her feet of Maycomb to leave her childhood home forever. Uncle Jack sets her straight with his quick synopsis of why the South went to war.

The book is powerful in its advocacy of accepting, not just tolerating, people for being people. Jean Louise is so disillusioned by what she sees as her father being a hypocrite she can’t abide looking at him in the face. She realizes she was raised to be color blind, she sees someone, not their race. Powerful stuff.

When she finally has her showdown with her father, she verbally berates him for undoing all that she has learned from him. She upbraids Henry, her hopeful fiance, as well. What she learns, and what Lee provides us, is a peek behind the curtain when it comes to Southern way of thinking. Atticus states he attended a KKK meeting because he wanted to know who was behind the sheets. Henry says he can do more good if he garners the trust of the people who know him. Maycomb is Maycomb. Basically what is being said is the time-honored strategy of getting inside the system to change the system. While it appears as racism to Jean Louise, it’s really savvy coping strategy. 

The MEPA reiterated Henry’s explanation to Jean Louise: to live in a Southern town means getting along with the town, even if comes across as being in alignment with their opinions.

When reading all the negative reactions to the book, I think readers are missing that point. Atticus is not a racist; he is a realist. He sees what the South is and where it needs to go and how it will get there. He still believes in justice, he still believes in equality–he believes in waiting. He is still Atticus. He hasn’t changed. Jean Louise has, and she acknowledges that painful discovery.

Overall, I am impressed with Watchman. It’s a stand alone novel, and I can’t help wonder what would have happened if it had been released earlier, about fifty years earlier. I have thoughts on that, and might expand on what just might be a conspiracy theory.

If you are on the fence about reading Watchman, I suggest you jump down and get a copy and read it for yourself. If you have read it, I hope you will dialogue with me.

Do you believe Atticus comes across as a racist, or is he actually a realist?

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Last Day–Flights and Angels


All really great things come to an end. Today was the last day of the Summer Academy. The day consisted of presenting our projects and acting out our scenes. What amazing projects the talented  participants  provided! They ranged from exploring the historical context of the ghost to women playing Hamlet (Sarah Bernhardt) to studying how Hamlet has been visually represented in old illustrations–and so much in between. I am humbled to have been part of this cavalcade of ingenuity. Since these 29 teachers are from all parts of the continental US, you  can rest assured quality education is still very much and profoundly around.

The second highlight involved performing. We only had two practices but some people managed to memorize their lines! Our group was assigned Act Five and we stylized it as a cocktail party. Hamlet played some melancholy blues on the stage piano and when Laertes walked into the party they fought with the cocktail swords. It brought down the house. I played my Horatio a bit too heartfelt. In retrospect, I would have camped it up considering my BFF was basically a lush and tended towards rash actions with deterimental consequences. 

What was really cool was the fact that we acted on America’s first Shakespearean stage.  Yup, my first and last stage Bard play appearance (maybe) took place on an authentic stage. The film crew did not return, which took a lot of pressure off our already ramped up nervousness.

Last events included food, fun, and fellowship–the best parts of the day.

Tomorrow I head back to (still) hot (but not muggy) Northwest. 

See ya around, DC. The rest will be a much anticipated silence from the continual hum of a great city. 

twice a day I passed the Capitol–wow!

Trivia: Folger broke tradition and kept the reliefs low so that people could see them. Each represents a Shakespearean play.

Cricket’s Great Hamlet Adventure:Day One


The day was certainly full:

  • Up at 3 am to catch a 6 am
  • Fly over at least 3 time zones
  • Learn quickly how to ride the MARC from Baltimore to DC
  • Figure out my hotel from Union Station
  • Where to eat dinner? Back to Union Station because the pub next dinner is not on my budget
  • Move with the masses to the Mall for fireworks–crowds are not my fave, but Fourth of July at the nation’s capitol? I got over myself and blended, absorbed, dodged, and weaved.
  • I claimed a spot and waited.
  • There were so many cultures represented I felt I was at an outdoor Ikea festival (okay, my odd personal reference since whenever I go to an Ikea it’s like a UN day, either that or my smalltown bubbling is showing)
  • The big moment:  

NOTE: our smalltown event lasts about 10 minutes consisting of very dramatically spaced singular shots. I was indeed properly dazzled by this pyrotechnic dazzlement. 

  • And then my approximate 19 minutes back to the hotel turn into an hour long “lost, yet flowing with the masses walking tour of DC at 10 o’clock at night”–it would have been scary except for there being two cops for every second block. Locals were very friendly and helpful in redirecting me. At one point after asking directions once again (I forgot to turn on my precise location indicator on my Google Maps–now corrected) a nice young woman caught up to me on the sidewalk and sincerely cautioned me about steering clear of the sketchy 8th street area. And I thought DC would be harsh and sense my smalltown girl and chomp me up. Everyone, especially the police, have been very nice.

DAY TWO: squeezing in Dorothy’s shoes before dinner

    All My Bag(s) Are Packed…


    I am ready to go. If you recall I earlier announced I am headed to Washington DC as one of the selected thirty teachers who will be part of the first ever Folger Shakespeare Summer Workshop. Though I won a spot, I still pay for the privilege. That was a different post.

    This post brings more details. For one: packing.

    I am in a firm believer in stow and go. I stuff what I need in my trusty Wally World roller, find an overhead bin and stuff it in. This trip is different. The MEPA, my most excellent personal assistant, will not be traveling with me. Flying six hours with a knee newly escaped from his brace is not on his list of really want to do that. Besides, he grew up on the east coast and has done Washington DC. I’ve not, and I am admittedly nervous. To save money I’m flying into Baltimore and will take the shuttle. I don’t want to look too much like tourist so I opted not to have a wheeled suitcase thumping behind me on the sidewalk. I shall be a bag lady instead. One of the sons left behind a nifty black sports bag and behold, all my stuff rolls up nicely inside. So packing is pretty much a done deal. Squeezing my needed lotions etc in the TSA quart bag proved more challenging (mousse or toothpaste–if the hair looks good do people notice teeth?)

    Because I have such an early flight (six-oh-my am) and the airport is about a two hour drive, plus having to arrive for early check in, I splurged and we are booked in at a Red Lion near the airport. I buy the room, the MEPA can spring for dinner. It might equal out because we favor this nice little spot that overlooks the river.

    My final travel prep entails my tourist itinerary. Having recently received my schedule I discover we are Hamletting from early morn to late at night. I have one day of DCing: Monday July 5 from 8 am to 3pm. Having scouted internet sources and weighing in opinions I’ve come up with this list of possibilities:

    • The Mall–apparently all the major landmarks harken in this area
    • The Library of Congress–I’ve already applied for my reader’s card
    • The Smithsonian–only if I’m very, very particular, as an entire week could be spent in just one wing. I’m thinking I would like to gaze upon Dorothy’s ruby red Oz slippers or Mr Roger’s cardigan. 

    What else, dear readers,  should I go for in such limited time? The Capitol is practically right outside the hotel, the website states. So much to do, so little time….

    End of Year Cheer


    Last night rounded out the academic year of 2015. I actually feel somewhat refreshed instead of the usual frazzle.

    My, to borrow a phrase, “parting of sweet sorrow,” began early in the day. Having posted my grades the day before, a perk of having seniors, and having already tidied up my room, I decided to plant lavender and poppies outside my school window. One teacher greeted me with “Hey, Miss Maudie!” I took that for a compliment.

    I then listened to essays of future AP students–promising beginnings. After that I polished some lesson plans for next year, arranged books in the library (you can take a librarian out of the library, but never the library out of a librarian), rearranged my room, and waited for the final bell. Having no students, I listened for how students would react to their release from captivity.

    “Summer!” “I can’t get out of this building fast enough!” 

    I’m not sure if those were student or staff voices crying out their jubilation.

      
    After a quick power nap, it was off to help ready seniors for our community graduation at the football field. A few moments of the usual panic–“my walking partner isn’t here yet!” “I lost my tassel!” “The valedictorian can’t find her speech!” “Do I have time to go to the bathroom?” but we managed to line them up, march them off over to the bleachers to the repeated strains of commencement’s “da da dada da da”. Many speeches later,  and after no pranks of slipping the principal interesting bits of memorabilia, the class of 2015 tossed their hats in celebration.

    Next stop: grad nite.

    How to persuade new grads from going to parties and ending a happy day with a series of unfortunate events? Easy. Throw a party for them. Having done this rodeo three times with my own kinder, I help out by selling tickets and wandering around as a floater. Fun, food, and a chance to hug students one last time? I’m all in–at least until midnight. And the band played on until the wee hours of the morning.

    This morning? I still woke up at 5:30 am. I guess my body isn’t quite ready for vacation yet.

    I am hoping to dust off the laptop and get some writing projects cranking before fall arrives sooner than I hope it will.

    Any other teachers, students, or parents embracing the delights of school being out?

    The Go-Slow-Need-My-MoJo Mode


    Today the seniors begin taking their finals. I have earned the sympathy of staff members who do not teach seniors. Senioritis hit shortly after Spring Break and only graduation can cure its outbreak. There has been epidemic of no shows, skippers, and non-coms floating in my classes.

    I have come to the conclusion that teaching seniors is not for sissies. There are only two of us in the English department who willingly sign up to take them on. Why the hesitancy, the reluctance, the fear? Well, this group of students is under the misguided assumption that just because they are eighteen they are adults and are entitled to set their own course. The half-baked logic of  “I’m signing out now because I’m eighteen and can do so” crops up halfway through class with some individuals. This reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin raises his hand and asks to be dismissed because his brain is full. Apparently, students are developing smaller brains because they seem to fill up quickly these days. It can’t be that they want to avoid British literature…no, that can’t be. Yet, these same proclaimed adults who have figured out they are able to write their own excuses, haven’t figured out that self-excused absences or any absence not sanctioned by school or a doctor’s note, add up and jeopardize graduation. It has now caught up, and many students are stunned that they haven’t gotten away with it after all.

    The reckoning forces are visiting classrooms in force these past couple of weeks. When the office aides come in bearing admin passes I gleefully announce, “More Wonka tickets!” Yes, these yellow slips of beckoning, these invitations, these golden tickets are summons for the select few.  Alas, no chocolate awaits. These little lovelies announce the privilege of coming in after school either Wednesday or on Saturday to make up seat time. I wonder how these same studrnts who do not comprehend the  “play now, pay later” reality will deal with the cause and effect of credit card usage and credit card bills. 

    Now with a handful of days remaining, I contemplate the need for time to slow down because I still have so much I want to teach them; however, I’m losing my Mojo because teaching seniors is tough. It’s as tough as herding cats, but I do it, because I’m no sissified English teacher. I’m tough, and I’m thankful for the opportunity of pouring some Dickinson, Keats, Yeats, and Thomas into their brains. It’s what I do. Yup, not everyone can do we do (EDS=English Department Staff). And when those students cross that platform and grab their diplomas, it’s all worth it.

    Post Navigation

    %d bloggers like this: