Monday, November 30

A Quick Work in Praise of Slowness

In Praise of Slowness: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed. Carl Honore.

I had to read this book quickly. And now I have to blog quickly because my home internet isn't working, so I'm at the library, with one hour to complete my tasks.

Need I say more?

Honore makes a compelling case for the costs of a speed-driven life, and describes the historical development of the "cult of speed." Of less interest to me were the descriptions of "slow" alternative medicine, tantric sex, and slow food. I was familiar with his examples and he didn't present much new material.

If you're looking for a reason to jump ship, and a rationale, you might enjoy this book.

Wednesday, November 18

"Landslide" by PS22 youth chorus

This is beautiful. I love their expressions when they sing, "Can I handle the seasons of my life? Oh, I don't know." They look so wise and wistful.

You can check out their blog for many more songs, and interviews.

Monday, November 16

I Regret Everything

One of my theme songs!

 I can't remember the name of the woman I heard perform it, but the Divine Miss M is a fantastic substitute.

The video seems a little out of sync (or it could be my computer download speed.) If it's too troublesome, just close your eyes--it's the song that's key.

Thursday, November 12

Wolcome Yule!

Origen, a father of the Christian church, argu...Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year I'm most enthusiastic about Christmas. That nagging "Should I fake some sort of costume?" Halloween question has been resolved in my traditional fashion (costume, no; 50's hat with plastic grapes, "Harvest Goddess," yes.)

I haven't made a Thanksgiving meal in years because I travel to visit my sister. Thank you, Darcy, thank you, thank you, thank you!

After Thanksgiving I must actually prepare for Christmas in whatever minimal fashion I can muster. Jarrett hates holidays (actually he hates change, and disruptions in routine) so ours is Very Minimal! After Thanksgiving I must start reminding myself that Mom had the help of several enthusiastic kids for cookie baking and tree decorating, and that it was usually Dad's growl that got our rears in gear to start cleaning (no one here to whom I can delegate growling.) And since it's just the same old me, I shouldn't expect Christmas miracles beyond the oft-prayed-for sense of humor.

But right now is when I love Christmas most, when I browse through women's magazines, and just for a fleeting moment of insanity think of repainting one living room wall to make a better foil for decorating. Or read in "Last Minute Christmas" a plan to make one or two or five incredibly beautiful wreaths of embossed cream velvet leaves, each wreath requiring 100-150 individually crafted (in 6 steps) leaves. I know, but it's really pretty!

And I temporarily pretend that Jarrett can tolerate Christmas music, and that I'm not diabetic, and that I'm not broke. Because where, I ask you, is the fun in any of that?

In American pioneer days Christmas was celebrated with much drunken revelry, firecrackers, and gunfire. Most people lived in isolation, and everyone lived in quiet, and no one had nearly enough sugar. So a holiday, a change of pace, was filled with longed-for community, celebrating, and general whooping-it-up, as well as an extra egg, a pat of butter, and a tablespoon or two of sugar in the bread.

As recently as my parents' youth, we were in the midst of a great depression. My mother-in-law remembers watching a little girl across the street sit on her stoop and eat an orange, and you can still hear the longing in her voice when she tells the story.

Now we are in the peculiar situation of being surrounded by a merciless torrent of people, information, worldly goods, sugary delights, seasonless grocery shopping, and entertainment. Most of which I kind of like, truth to tell. But what is it we lack?

My point here is not to moralize, but to say, let's give ourselves a break from the idea of a bigger, better, faster, shinier Christmas. We've got a lot of big, fast, and shiny already. That's not what we long for.

Besides the obvious -- enough money, enough time, a healthy portion of sanity and courage -- what I want is time with family and friends, and quiet moments at home. Christmas exists to serve us, lightening our darkness, not we to serve it. Christmas is the time I put on the silly "Christmas in Sweden" music and dance around the living room. As well as the time I put on the tender "Christmas in Germany" music and sit in the firelight and cry for beauty and memory.

Cue the music, begin the dance. And duck and cover --- it's coming!

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Wednesday, November 11

50% of U. S. kids will use food stamps

Community-supported agricultureImage via Wikipedia

Nearly half of all U.S. children and 90% of black children will be on food stamps at some point during their childhood.

Economic woes stemming from the current recession will probably push those numbers higher. The report was based on analysis of data from 1968 to 1997.

For a family of four to be eligible, their take-home pay can't exceed about $22,000.

This info was released Monday, November 2 in the November issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Pediatrician Paul Wise, in an editorial in the same issue of the journal, wrote,

"The current recession is likely to generate for children in the United States the greatest level of material deprivation that we will see in our professional lifetimes.

"I find it terribly sad but not surprising."

Monday, November 9

Silver and Gold

Neither an early post about Christmas decorations, nor a comment on economic conditions: Silver and Gold is Norman Hartnell's book about his career as British fashion designer, most notably as Dressmaker to the Royals.

The book is illustrated with photographs and Hartnell's sketches, and each description is a little morsel of deliciousness. Here is Her Majesty the Queen in an afternoon dress of duck-egg blue and brown printed taffeta; there, an evening dress of swathed and gathered peach-pink organza. Another sketch shows the young queen in a mimosa tulle dress, and, for a Royal Visit to Norway, June, 1955, an evening dress of embroidered ice-blue satin with plain satin drapery and panel.

Oh, Swoon!

Hartnell began designing costumes for theater in the 1930's. His career as designer to royalty began when he designed the wedding dress for Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester in 1935, and reached its apex with the design of Queen Elizabeth's coronation gown in 1953.

If you are interested in fashion, fashion design, textiles, embroidery, or theater you'll enjoy this book, with its gossipy backstage glimpses of the Royals, descriptions of wartime shortages and improvisationg

This book may not appeal to everyone, as suggested by its storage at the Minnesota Library Access Center (MLAC -- virtual tour here), the huge climate-controlled storage area at the U of M.

To get a glimpse at some of the sketches and illustrations, go to this post on Hartnell on the blog "Worn Through--Apparel from an academic perspective," where Heather Vaughan has posted 18 wonderful pages of sketches scanned from the book.

I like Hartnell's enthusiastic and slightly loopy prose style:

". . . [at the Coronation] I took my seat in the Queen's Box whither I had been ushered by Gold Staff officers.

". . . I was thankful to be early in getting to the Abbey to witness the arrival of all these noble men and women so gorgeously arrayed. Why didn't every one of them, every day, dress like this at breakfast time? What is the merit of choosing the drab when beauty hangs in the wardrobe?

"I have never seen anything so transcendentally beautiful in my life. One after another the peeresses glide up the bright blue carpet, trailing their robes of crimson velvet, and hasten to their allotted seats like rubies in a hurry. Opposite are row on row of peeresses mounting towards the very roof. They look like a lovely hunk of fruit cake; the damson jam of the velvet, bordered with the clotted dream of ermine and sprinkled with the sugar of diamonds. On my left are the peers, attired in their masculine version of ermine and velvet, their jam puff coronets nestling in their laps."

You might enjoy this sweet and a little silly (a lovely hunk of fruit cake? jam puff coronets?) trip back in time to Hartnell's world of color, textiles, fashion design, and royalty.

Sunday, November 1

Burning books and frying chicken

Hate, Fear, and Southern Hospitality

Well, as long as it's friendly-like! Here's an interesting juxtaposition of hate, fear, and Southern hospitality!

From The Minnesota Independent, A Center for Independent Media site,
"Religious Right Watch: Happy Halloween, Heathens."

"A church in North Carolina . . . is marking Halloween with a book burning. Called “Burning Perversions of God’s Word,” Amazing Grace Baptist Church will be torching books and CDs it deems evil. “We will also be burning Satan’s music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goldies, etc.,” the church website says. “We will also be burning Satan’s popular books written by heretics. We will be serving fried chicken, and all the sides.”

Here's more

". . . one writer for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network warns parents that witches curse Halloween candy.

“[M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches,” wrote CBN’s Kimberly Daniels. “I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”

Daniels continued, “Halloween is much more than a holiday filled with fun and tricks or treats. It is a time for the gathering of evil that masquerades behind the fictitious characters of Dracula, werewolves, mummies and witches on brooms. The truth is that these demons that have been presented as scary cartoons actually exist."

Aren't all the witches too busy dancing skyclad under the harvest moon to bless all that candy? There's a lot of candy bought and sold for Halloween, and not that many witches! Just sayin'.

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