Saturday, March 31, 2007

Othello Film (Raving Reviews)

I finally got around to watching Othello last night. I was going to watch it the evening before I met with the discussion group, but life happened and I didn't get to watch it then. Afterward, I didn't really feel that excited to see it, because I had watched a program that featured some English professors discussing Othello, and also had some scenes in order to show the audience what scene exactly they were talking about. Well, it wasn't even a real movie mind you, but I still got the chills when Othello murdered Desdemona, and it haunted me later on. So anyway, I sort of felt that maybe I better not watch the movie, because of this first reaction. I kept the film around though, if for nothing else then that it is starring Kenneth Branaugh as Iago, and he is my favourite Shakespearean actor.
Well, am I ever glad that I did watch it! It was suburb; the costuming, the set, the acting, everything. I even feel like now I understand the character Emilia, and why she gave Iago the handkerchief, because of how they did the scene where she gives it to him (this was a real problem for me before.)
Branaugh's Iago is brilliant. It was amazing to see how he would be so caring, and human when talking with someone, and then a second later, when looking at the viewer his eyes would completely change, like he was another person, or rather, another creature. Very creepy indeed.
The murder scene wasn't so bad however, and I was very glad for that, because I was dreading it. Too often those things are too gory and graphic nowadays. I really enjoyed how the director chose to portray certain things like how Iago comes to the decision of what he is going to do to ruin Othello. He was playing with chess pieces. I thought that this was very poetic, considering that it really was like only a game to him. Also at one point Iago is watching Desdimona and Cassio speaking though the refection on his knife; oh, the poetry! I just can't get over how good this production is. I actually really want to see it again now, so that I can revel in the finer details.

Almost French

I finished reading Almost French by Sarah Turnbull last Saturday. It is a memoir of her experience as an expat living in Paris. I tossed back and forth while reading this book, between liking it and not. In the beginning I was rather taken with it, as I love reading about Europe and Europeans, but after a while I got kind of annoyed with it. She didn't attempt to hide her ugly Australian in her account of her story, but I would hope that she was exaggerating for the goal of trying to be funny. As someone who is European, I didn't not find these things funny, and as an American, I found myself embarrassed, knowing too well that Americans are often guilty of the same offences. Well, all of that is personal for me, but concerning the writing, I felt that she dragged on a bit too long about not fitting in, and worst of all, how no one was going out of there way to make her feel accepted. It just came off as whiny, and I really couldn't help feeling like she should be the one trying to fit in, and not trying to change the people she was choosing to live among. Well, about a third of the way through, the character of her story changed, and she seemed like she was actually making an effort to fit in. Many of her descriptions of Paris life were fun, and made me long to go there again. She wrote a fun chapter on fashion, and how the french look at clothes. I think that was the best part for me. Overall, this was an average book for me. I don't think I would have finished it if it wasn't for the fact that we are reading it in my book club, however it ended up more fun toward the end and I am glad I got to read what she had to say about french fashion and food.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Our Incredible Library

Time and again I have been amazed by our library here in Lincoln. It is actually a collection of seven buildings that are spread out around Lincoln. On Wednesday I went to the library with Joseph and a CD course on Russian Literature caught my eye. I am not interested in Russian Literature, but I thought that there might be other things of interest in the series. I checked it out at home, and sure enough there are lots, and lots, of really interesting courses including Greek Mythology, History from Antiquity to the Renaissance, and even Medieval Literature! The courses are a series of seven one hour lectures, along with the suggestions for the readings one should do to follow the course. Anyway, after checking out the website, which you can see here, I went the library catalogue and soon found out that they actually have every title that I typed in! This is no small surprise, because these courses cost around $100.
Numerous other things have really caught my attention about how vibrant this library is. Some other great things are that there is at least one story time four days a week (at alternating branches,) a place to sit and have a drink (though not really a cafe, it is called that), movie nights, and lots of different groups meeting in the community rooms. The library in Lincoln is truly a community center, and it is used heavily.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Apparently there is no such word. I had long thought that this was the word one would use in order to discuss feelings of deep distress, however I came across heart-rending in my reading today (which I had never heard of.) I looked it up and found that it has the definition that heart-wrenching would have Then I looked for heart-wrenching, and it wasn't even there. I decided to check the Internet, to see if it was just me who has this misunderstanding. Apparently I am not though, because I found lots of documents that contain it.
How heart-rending!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Just One of those Days

Today was one of those days, for all three of us. The clothesline broke
(it fell over from a large gust of wind,) the truck battery died, and
Joseph pulled a ligament around his knee, to name a few things.

On the bright side, we had a delicious dinner of Baked fish (Orange Roughy) over orzo, with sauteed vegetables (eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini), and spinach/ arugula salad. Now I am going to eat some strawberries. MMMM.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I am so excited; I got a clothes line! Jim made the stand last weekend out of the big bucket you can see in the photo, and by filling it with concrete (around the tube for the post.) I got to first use it on Thursday, and the clothes dried so much faster than they dry in the bathroom. It has been humid lately, so that is why they are not drying so well.

A Package from Holland

The other morning we got a package from my mom in the Netherlands with lots of great stuff. The pyramid of yarn will become a beautiful little cardigan from my viking knitting book. I haven't made anything in this color before, but I really like it. It is a very feminine pattern, so I think this 'old rose' is very appropriate. The other things are some beautiful tea and hand towels for my kitchen, a really cute sweater for Joseph with a tractor on it, and some sweaters for Jim (from Oom Folkert.) Jim really likes the sweaters, although considering the weather lately, it will be quite a while before he can wear them. Joseph did not arrive in the package, of course, but he eagerly looked at the photos that were included inside, and it was easy to persuade him to sit in the middle of it all. He loves the photos, especially of Beppe with the tractor, and of Beppe's two cats which he recognized instantly. Thank you, Mem!

Discovering the Meaning of Life

When I was sixteen I launched a survey among my friends, and coworkers at the movie theater where I worked, and asked what for them was the meaning of life. When I first started thinking about it, I had no idea how different the answers I would get would be from the type of answer of which I was thinking. I remember how stunned I felt when my boss said that it is to work, and to work hard. Most of my friends said that it was simply to have fun. I was equally stunned by this. I mean, there is so much more to life than work, and also so, so, so much more to life than just having fun. However, there was one person who felt the way I did, and that was my friend Brad. We had long discussions about the meaning of life, confirming that we both thought that there was more to the question than a one sentence response. For years I contemplated the question, and always ended up figuring that I would never be able to pin it down.

A year ago this spring, while on a walk under the beautiful puffy clouds that appear for only about two weeks each spring in Southern California, it occurred to me that I had actually discovered the meaning of life, at least for myself. I realized that I had known all along what the meaning of life was for me, but that I just hadn't put it together. What was so confusing was that I was always trying to boil it down to one, essential thing. But for me that one essential thing, is the link between study and art. The funny thing about it all, is that those two things I have been doing all my life, albeit not always in an orthodox manner. While it may sound pedantic to some to pin a name of something like this, it was important to me. The problem for me was that whenever I was studying I felt like I had strayed from the path, if study was not my purpose in life. Likewise, when I was making art I felt like I was just flouncing around having a good time, if that was not my purpose. When I was studying, I pined to be making art, and when I made art, I always spent lots of time in the library. Now I finally understand that this is often the case with artists; in order to create any work of substance, a person has to study a lot. And of course, also make lots of artwork. So even when I thought I was so lost, so purposeless, I was actually right on track all along.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Preposition Practice

Joseph is trying to use prepositions more and more, and it is just so cute. So cute that it is difficult to resist repeating what he says, the way he says it. This morning I told him it was time to leave for the library and so then he said "Going to, in the car!"

Something else he says that is so cute is 'key car'. As in 'car key.' This is something he started saying last fall, and for some strange reason he started saying it again today.

As an aside, another really cute thing he is doing lately is playing lots of pretend games. He likes to pretend he is going somewhere and last weekend he kept saying "bye, going to librabry." Then Jim and I have to say "Bye!" or he will keep telling us, getting more and more demanding until we acknowledge that he is going somewhere. He decided that a tree in the backyard is the library, and I decided to join him in the game and told him the the leaves are books. He loved it, and has been playing this game all week. For fun last weekend I told him that the seed pods from the tree are dictionaries, and the sticks are grammar books, not that he knows what that means, of course. Today he brought me a stick and told me it was a 'Grama book.' He pays remarkably good attention to details!

First day of Summer

Yes, I said 'Summer', because that is what it felt like here today. The last week and a half have been quite warm, and we have been drinking our coffee outside almost everyday. This morning when we were going to the library, it was balmy out. I just couldn't believe how similar it felt to last August when we first moved here. I guess the old stereotypes of Midwest weather (it is either Hot or Cold) are really quite appropriate.

Today after Joseph's nap I took Spot for a walk, and wore Joseph on my back in the Ergo. When we got back I was positively sweating, and had to put on a short sleeved shirt. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the backyard and Joseph mostly played in the dirt. Here he is stopping for a snack. He is wearing his new Boy Shoes. I don't know why, but that is what he calls them. I think that maybe when I was sorting through the shoes at the store I might have said something about boy shoes and girl shoes.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Once upon a child...

This is the name of one of my favorite stores here in Lincoln. It is a kids store that sells mostly used kids clothes, toys, and furniture (and some new also.) I went there on last Wednesday, because after the very warm weather we had in the beginning of the week I decided that I better get some new clothes for Joseph (well, new to us anyway.) I got some really cute things, and they look mostly new. It's great because a lot of the outfits cost only $6.50, and that is probably only a third of the price from the same type of outfit in the store. My best find on this trip, however, was a pair of pants a sweater that will only fit him for a little while longer because they are size 18 months. It is a Gymboree outfit of a light brown sweater with an orange fox, and brown cords with tiny foxes and leaves embroidered into them. It's not what I was looking for, but I just couldn't leave it, and since it was used I didn't feel like it was a waste of money. I will post a picture when I take one (well, it turned out to be not such a good photo, but look how nice he is coloring!)

Some other great things I got are a work bench with tools for his birthday, and a rocking chair that will come in handy next fall when we are in the house a lot again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


It is so true that we hear echos in the voices of our children. So far it has been a nice thing, though. A while ago Joseph started saying 'Umm.., sure' in order to say yes. Then I noticed that I say that too.
Tonight we were taking a walk and he wanted to touch a tree that we were passing. I said OK, and then, for no particular reason other than my naturalist background, I said 'That is an Oak Tree.' He said 'Have Oak Tree at home...that's right, Jo-jo. ' I almost burst out laughing, because, while I think I have probably told him that the Oaks around our house were Oaks, I also heard my own voice say 'that's right, Joseph' when he did.

Midwest Weather and a New Fence

If I had to characterize Midwest weather with one word, I would pick variable. Two weeks ago we were building snow creatures, and now yesterday we sat outside to have coffee in the evening. It was almost too hot to wear jeans during the day, and I definitely had to take my socks off.
Joseph is absolutely loving the warm weather. On Saturday we went to the park, but we still had to wear light jackets. There were lots of other people there, and everyone seemed happy to have this warm turn of weather. Yesterday I took Joseph outside for most of the day, and I decided that we HAD to figure out some sort of fencing for the yard. Joseph thinks it is hilarious to run toward the street and scare me, though he has never actually gone into the street. Another thing that I also am not crazy about, is that as soon as we are outside five minutes (if it lasts that long) he insists that we take a walk. It was really starting to drive me crazy to not be able to sit and have my coffee outside, and also not so good for Joseph because he never got to just focus on things in our yard and was always completely obsessed with things out of the yard. So, this evening Jim put up a fence around the back area of our house. It is great! Already Joseph seemed more relaxed in the yard, though a couple of times he tried to push the fence down. Toward the end of the evening Joseph and I played peek-a-boo around the giant old oak tree in the back yard. We have never been able to play relaxed games like that in the yard before, because he was always so focused on getting out of the yard. Oh, what a relief; I think this fence will really change my life.

A Beautiful Book

I know, I know, you are never supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just couldn't help it when I went to the library last week and saw this edition of Anne of Green Gables. A hardcover book like this, with beautiful full color illustrations, is just so much more attractive than a pocket sized paper back with no drawings at all. The illustrations in this book are particularly good, too. Perhaps I am superficial, but I am convinced that reading this illustrated edition is making my reading experience more delightful, more memorable, more ....colorful.

**I just uploaded the photo, and can't find another suitable one, so the 'search inside' thing has to stay. It is ironic, considering the subject of this post... I guess that is the way it goes.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Just over the last few days or so Joseph started using prepositions. Last week on the way to the library just for fun I asked him where we were going. I expected him to just say 'Librabrey' (which is how he pronounces it,) but instead he said, plain as day, 'To the librabrey.'
This morning when we woke up he said 'Daddy,' like he always does. That is always what he says first when he wakes up. I always say 'Daddy went to work,' at least during the week I say that. This morning he responded 'Daddy went to work...on the bus'
When I came down stairs, things seem somehow different. He is somehow older this morning, after this weekend. It is amazing to witness these imperceptible changes, that are nevertheless noticeable after they occur. Just now he is playing with his cars on the carpet, and is perfectly entertaining himself

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Reading

I found this on someones blog; it looks like fun, so I think I'll give it a try. I already have some ideas: The Odyssey, The Autumn of the Middle Ages, etc. And the great thing is, they are already here on my bookshelves!

Spoon Rack

Last Thursday I went for a walk with Joseph and we happened to pass by an Antique store near our house. I was just browsing, but saw a spoon rack like one my mother used to have. There was also a windmill spoon in it, also just like one she has (the blades actually turn.) I have been wanting such a spoon rack for quite a while, but the dealer intended to sell it with the spoons in it. In the end I bought the rack, and the windmill spoon too. As an interesting fact about it, her husband made it about thirty years ago. I went and got it today, and hung it up right when I got home. Joseph really likes it too.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Classics bookclub

Yesterday evening was my first meeting with the classics book club. It was really a lot of fun. Most of the people there were retirees. In fact the only young people there besides me were one young couple and a woman who is probably 10 years older than me. I guess that most people who haven't retired feel like they don't have time for such things.
Anyway, they are using the first series from the Great Books Foundation, and the next two weeks they are reading Hume. I am not going again until May however, when they read Antigone. I really just want to focus on classics that have some application toward my studies in Art History, and I am just not that interested in philosophy.
It was great to discuss Othello after having just read it; almost felt like I was in classes again, but without the pressure.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Pleasant Surprise

Just as I finished writing my last post, the postman dropped off our next Netflix rental. It is Othello staring Kenneth Branagh as Iago, and Laurence Fishburne as Othello. I haven't actually seen the play yet, so this should be fun. I was really hoping I would get to watch it before our book club discussion tomorrow night, but had doubted that it would get here in time.

A Change of Heart

Right after I wrote that I wasn't enjoying Othello very much, I started enjoying it immensely. I often have to be careful of what I say aloud, because my outspoken opinions often get the best of me. Perhaps it is my nature of always defending the underdog.
Anyhow, I finished the play last weekend, and then started reading some critical literature about it. I read the synopsis of the story by Cinthio from his Hecatommithi, which is the primary source for Othello. While it is true that Shakespeare changed a lot of details (in most cases probably so it would work on stage,) the story is almost identical in plot. One of the differences is how Desdemona (Disdemona in Cinthio) dies. In the Hecatommithi, Iago and Othello beat her, and then arrange that part of the ceiling falls on her, so as to cover up the murder. Now, surely Shakespeare changed this because this would not work well on stage, but something I wondered while reading the play is why did Othello choose to smother her? He first talks of poison, and then Iago says that no, it should be done by smothering. Somehow, Othello thinks this is more just. I found this rather confusing until, in The Friendly Shakespeare by Norrie Epstein, I read that this serves symbolic purposes. The play that seems a bit unfocused in the first scene, telescopes into a suffocating, oppressive thing by the end.
There were lots of other things that bothered me in the beginning too, like why is Othello so gullible? But now I realize that this probably has to do with how the Moors were viewed in England at the time. It is also possible that it just serves the plot to characterize him has being naive. However I still am annoyed by the character Emelia. Why did she just give Iago Desdemona's handkerchief with barely a question? She is obviously a woman of the world, as is evidenced by act 4, scene 3. So why is she so dim when it concerns her husband? I think this is where Shakespeare's alteration of Cinthio's story is weak. Emelia is Shakespeare's character, not Cinthio's. In the original story Iago steals the handkerchief himself, by distracting Disdemona with his three year old daughter. Granted, having a young child wouldn't have worked in 17th century England, but couldn't he have written something more believable?
Overall, the strong points of Othello are the language, but I maintain that it doesn't hold a candle to Hamlet.

***Update. I am now not annoyed with Emelia, since I saw the movie. I simply love this play now; I have seen the light.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

He's getting so Big

This morning when Joseph and I got up, Jim was already shoveling snow. Joseph wanted to go out and help, so after I asked Jim if that was OK, I got him dressed and sent him out. I watched him go down the steps, and he went down all by himself. Jim had gone and gotten the snow shovel, so when Joseph got it he promptly dug it in to the snow, and plopped a big scoop of it on the walk. He is very enthusiastic about helping!

Anne; the continuing story

Like most Friday evenings, Jim went to bed fairly early yesterday evening. I was tired too, but I decided to watch 'Anne of Green Gables, the Continuing Story' (Part 1.) It is the final installment of the Anne of Green Gables movies series, the other two being 'Anne of Green Gables,' and 'Anne of Avonlea.' The third movie has all of the same actors and picks up the story where the second movie leaves off. So far it is really good, though very different from the first two movies. This film has Anne living in New York working for a publishing house, and later working for the Red Cross in France during WWI. I finished watching it last night right during a scene of an attack by the Germans, where Anne is left holding a baby whose mother has just been shot. It was a critical point in the story, so I am anxious to get back to it.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Blossoming Speech

Joseph's speech is really blossoming. He is regularly speaking in sentences now. Today when we saw a bus I said "I bet that is Daddies bus" (because it was just after Jim comes home, and we were driving toward home) and he said "Daddy get out bus." Tonight when I was putting him to sleep he starting talking about one of his favorite books called 'If you give a mouse a cookie...' He calls it mouse cookie. I said that it is at the library and we can go get it tomorrow. So he said "check it." I replied, "Yes, that's right. We can go check it out tomorrow." And a few minutes later, after reflecting on that I suppose, he said "Check it out."
One of the fun games we play is that I sing a song, and Joseph fills in the word. Here is a video where we are doing that. I am smiling at the end because what I sing is "Memmy shakes the dreamland tree, and from it fall sweet dreams for thee," and what he always says is "me", instead of "thee." I think that is just so interesting, because of course he has never heard the word "thee" except in this context, but nevertheless he picks a word that fits the sentence, and has the right sound.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Book Club Meeting

Tonight I went the my first book club meeting for which I had read the book (March.) We met at a Mexican Restaurant in downtown Lincoln and had a really good discussion about the book. It was so nice to sit in a bright, warm, tropical looking place drinking a beer, eating chips and guacamole and having a good intellectual discussion. I had looked forward to it all week, and it lived up to all my expectations.
This next month we will be reading 'Almost French' by Sarah Turnbull. It is a memoir by an Australian reporter who goes to live in Paris with her French Boyfriend for a year.

First Snow Day

This morning Joseph and I woke up to the sound of Jim kicking the snow off his boots on the back porch. He had gone to work, but lucky for us, it was a snow day. They make their decision early in the morning to close the university, so even though the snow storm wasn't too bad the school was closed for the day. We spent much of the day playing in the snow in our front yard. Making snow sculptures was a lot easier this time because of the warmer weather. So, Jim made a snowman.

I made a really fat snow cat and a big snow fish. I would have made the fish more detailed, but it was hard with Joseph climbing all over it.

It really was a beautiful day and lots of squirrels were out as well, so I was able to get this really great picture of one.