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Archive for the ‘7 Quick Takes’ Category

— 1 —

Add this to scenes I never expected to happen in my life:

Me saying to my HOMESCHOOLED son: “Hurry up and finish your work so we can go buy the MOUSE for your SNAKE to EAT.”

Just in case you’re around 30 years old and think that you know where life is going….

Speaking of learning and link-ups, Melanie Bettinelli is beginning one entitled “Guilt-Free Learning Notes” which I’ll be participating in – starting this Saturday. Should be fun.

— 2 —

So Sunday we went to Whole Foods after Mass.  We were just getting milk and my lime sparkling water so Joseph stayed in the car and Michael and I ran in.

At one point, an older man walked down our aisle with his cart. I looked at him, he glanced at me, I nodded because in that instant I recognized him, without knowing why or how and the nod just happened. He nodded back.  Courteous-like, the way we do down here.  We moved on.

But it bugged me.  I don’t latch on to random people, imagining that I know them.  If my subconscious is joggled, it’s for real.  I I just couldn’t identify him, though.  I definitely felt that I *knew* him in some sense.  I went through the checklist of my rather limited local circles. Church(es)? No. School(s)? No.  Neighborhood(s)?  I don’t think so…but maybe….

And then it hit me.

He looked exactly like the actor who plays the Senator in that fantastic show Rectify. 

I mean – didn’t look like him.  Looked to be him.

Could it be?  I mean, I knew that one of the Rectify actors lives in the area – Clayne Crawford, who plays Teddy, Jr, but..this guy? I didn’t even know his name. As the seconds past, the less sure I was.

So we checked out, we went to the car, and I sat behind the wheel. I got the Ipad from Joseph and looked up the Senator.

And this article came up: “Vegas, Gray’s Anatomy star Michael O’Neill moves back to Alabama.”

In fact, the man whose character went on a murderous rampage in a memorable “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale is a family man, an actor and an Alabama native who recently moved back to the area.

Originally from Montgomery, the Auburn grad moved back to Alabama in November of last year to be closer to his father, who has since died. He also wanted to give his three teenage children a taste of his home.

More recently, some of you might recognize him from this summer’s CBS show, Extant. 

Yup. That was him. Amazing. So..what to do now? Go be a fangirl, not only of him, but mostly of Rectify?

Damn straight!

The boys were, of course, mortified and declined to go back in.  I casually strolled up and down the aisles of Whole Foods, not at all in a stalkerish fashion, no not me,  and there he was – chatting with  couple of other women.  I waited until they were finished, and approached.  He was so very nice, asking my name, expressing both surprise and gratitude that I watched Rectify. We talked about the pleasures of a well-done program committed to be realistic about the contemporary South, I mentioned the appeal of the spiritual themes, and just thanked him for his work. Very gracious fellow!

(And no…I didn’t ask for a photo…)

— 3 —

My 9-year old is taking a boxing class with other homeschooled boys. He loves it.  I don’t know what it is about the coach/teacher who runs the class and the gym, but he has a gift for motivating.  The kid is wiped out by the end of the hour (a 9-year old? Taking shower in the middle of the day? Get out....) but also totally pumped and positive. It’s like magic.

— 4 —

I reread Waugh’s Handful of Dust this week, just because I was not in the mood for Collins’ intricacies. I’ll get back in that groove this weekend.  Boy I had forgotten how dark that book is.  You know, people always rag on Miss O’Connor for being “dark” and grotesque, but honestly – read Wise Blood next to the early Waugh, and you can see what real darkness – that is without even a glimmer of grace – is.  Precise, knowing and hilarious, yes…but ever so depressing.

— 5 —

Speaking of British things, do you know what I’ve never watched?  You guessed. Downton Abbey.  I don’t know why I’ve never been interested.  I think my deep loyalty to Upstairs, Downstairs has closed my mind to what I perceive as an uppity usurper.

And speaking of those old Masterpiece Theater series, what were your favorites? As a teen I gobbled them up, especially – in addition to U/D:

I, Claudius

The Pallisers 

Shoulder to Shoulder.

My parents were devotees, as I recall, of The Forsythe Saga and The First Churchills, but I was too young to care when they were into them and I only remember thinking that they looked beyond boring..  But I adored Derek Jacobi (Claudius), was captivated by the unwilling,but ultimately loving marriage of the Pallisers and probably a little in love with Donal McCann who played Phineas Finn.

Shoulder to Shoulder was a 6-part dramatization of the woman’s suffrage movement in Britain, and was a huge influence on me.  I think it helped situate my thinking about feminism in a historical context, giving my young self a sort of freedom from the secular feminist cant of the 70’s.  It’s a very powerful series and, oddly enough, is one of the few such series never released in recorded format.  Can’t find it anywhere.

— 6 —

My daughter, who lives and works in Bavaria, has taken a short trip to Verona and environs this week.  You can see some of her pics from Verona here, and catch what she saw yesterday – 9/11 - in Venice yesterday here.  

Us? Well, we went to Oak Mountain! Go, us!

"amy welborn"

That was actually a nice day – after the first half of the week full of lessons and classes (Because no socialization!) , we could finally get out after the hated cursive and not-quite-hated math was done.  A good hike, then a turn around Aldridge Gardens and then the library.  All the time with the steady soundtrack of detailed descriptions of Lord of the Rings Lego sets….

— 7 —

I’ve continued my slow march through my books…..for adults (including RCIA)  here...for kids here…devotional and parish materials here.  Still to come, materials for teens and the four books Ann Engelhart and I have done together.

(And remember…today’s the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary...so how about that free Mary book?)

St. Francis’ feastday is coming soon!  Time to talk about Adventures in Assisi!

"amy welborn"

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— 1 —

Well, neither vaguely desired Nashville trip happened, thanks to birthday parties and other gatherings.  But that’s okay.  I belatedly found some indifferent-to-critical reviews of the exhibits at the Frist I had wanted to take everyone to see so it seemed that it wouldn’t have been worth the time and expense anyway.  And, although the production of As You LIke It certainly sounded like a good one, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival released their season schedule this week, and that’s on the boards for them, so we’ll catch that one instead.  

This is docked up in Huntsville over the next few days, so we might attempt a trip up to see it.  Probably won’t happen though, unfortunately, at least with both of them. 

But at least we have ArtWalk today and tomorrow.  We won’t miss that. 

— 2 —

I’m super tired this morning because over the past two days, I’ve binge-watched the BBC series Happy Valley.  It’s really excellent in every way.  An absorbing, suspenseful storyline, fantastic performances, especially the deservedly lauded "happy valley bbc"Sarah Lancashire in the lead, sharp but not forced social commentary about the impact of drugs on a community and individual lives and a deeply humane vision.  It’s rough, though, so be warned.  At the center is a consideration of loss and the value of an “unwanted” human life, which is quite compelling.  As I said, it’s difficult to watch at times, but is as absorbing as almost any contemporary novel you’d pick up to read.  iReally good. It’s on Netflix. Far more worth your time, if we’re talking Netflix, than, say, House of Cards, which I liked in spurts at the beginning,but grew to dislike by about episode two of the second season, which I never finished watching.  

— 3 —

So excited to be following the homeschooling Bearing Blog family’s  trip to Europe which kicks off today!!!

— 4 —

Our nighttime reading is Penrod by Booth Tarkington.  It’s my father’s copy from the early 40’s.  I had read it as a kid, as well as, a little later, Seventeen and The Magnificent Ambersons.  We are all enjoying it, although I do a bit of ad-hoc, on-the-spot editing for two reasons:

1) Tarkington’s language is arch and complicated, partly to enhance the humor of the situations this ordinary boy gets himself into. I don’t strip it down much because the effect really is amusing, but sometimes it’s a bit much and I just get tired of reading it. 

2) And yes, the racism.  It’s infrequent, but when it does pop up, it’s worse than what one encounters in Twain.  Twain is trying to paint an accurate picture of his time,and that includes being real about how people speak and act.  There’s no doubt, however, that Twain views Jim as fully human and deserving of respect, and that the white characters are, in a way, judged by their view of Jim’s humanity, and so for that reason, I wouldn’t even call Twain’s work “racist,” even though I acknowledge that I might certainly feel differently if we were black.   It reflects a racist society, but the authorial point of view is clearly the opposite.   I may have said before that this last time I read Huck Finn it seemed to me to be a very long metaphor for the American struggle to understand and act on the full humanity of African Americans.  In particular, I puzzled over the lengthy set-piece, running over a few chapters of Tom and Huck’s plan to free Jim after he’d been captured.  If you recall, they argue about this constantly.  Huck just wants to get ‘er done, while Tom insists on formulating elaborate, ridiculous schemes because that is just the way it’s done and it wouldn’t be fitting t do it any other way – wouldn’t be right.  As this went on and on, I wondered if Twain intended this to be a commentary of sorts on the pre-Civil War conflicts over abolition.

Okay, but back to Penrod.  Tarkington is not so subtle.  The two black boys who feature in the story are not quite caricatures, but close.  No, the problem is that Tarkington speaks of them as “darkys” and drops  allusions to the purported negative qualities of “coloured” people as a group.  Yeah, I skip over those and say “boys” instead even after forthrightly explaining the problem. 

So why read it?  Well if these issues cropped up on every page, I certainly wouldn’t.  But it’s rare enough and editable enough to make the sometime riotous humor and knowing view of boyhood in the book worth a read. But it’s a good exercise in understanding why some works last as literature and others don’t. 

— 5 —

Schooling resource note, even if you don’t homeschool and just want supplementary materials.  Scholastic sometimes runs dollar sales on digital editions of many of their workbooks.   I bought a bunch this summer, and we’re putting them to good use – some math supplementation and in particular, right now, the roots workbook.  Repeat: it’s worth it when they’re selling them for a buck, which is not happening now, but maybe keep a lookout for that sale. 

— 6 —

Listening report:

By far the most striking programs I listened to this week were two episodes of The Food Programme revisiting the 40-year old television program,  A Taste of Britain. From the show page:

In 1974, Derek Cooper set off on a hunt – for BBC Television – around Britain to discover what was left of its regional foods and traditional ingredients. Forty years on, Dan Saladino revisits that series, called “A Taste of Britain” – to meet some of those involved, their descendants, and to find out what happened after these food traditions, many of which at the time were on the wane, were recorded for the cameras.

The first two programs were one Dorset and Wales, respectively, and the last will focus on Yorkshire.  They are quite well done and fascinating, as the contemporary presenter shows video of the older program to descendants of the farmers, cooks and market-sellers interviewed by Cooper and they reflect on what has been lost and how things have changed, sometimes even for the better as the market for certain food products have revived and developed.

And I learned a lot.  Dorset knob? Laverbread? Cockles?  I don’t want to eat any of it, but I was quite interested in learning about them all…

— 7 —

I am still attempting to do a comprehensive series on all of my books, grouping them according to parish need and use – I’ve gotten one post up!  Go me. 

Here it is – on what you might consider for adult education resources.   

"amy welborn"

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— 1 —

And now…it gets real.  As in, with this weekend up until Christmas….whirlwind. Lots of stuff going on, but fortunately my role in most of it is check-writer and driver, which I don’t mind. 

Travel?  One, maybe two Nashville day trips, depending on the timing of a birthday party I’ve heard is in the works for next weekend.  I would like to take them to see this production of As You Like It, but would also like time to prepare the boys for it, so this weekend would be too soon, since I had no idea this production was happening until about an hour ago. 

"amy welborn"

The evening after art class, he’s still inspired.

— 2 —

When your 9-year old complains that his abs ache from the homeschool boxing workout and then goes to play with his snake, you kind of wonder how we all got to the place we are, whatever that place is.  

— 3 —

Speaking of snakes, we’re relieved to report that Rocky ate.  Finally.  Yup, that’s right.  We’ve had him for over two months, and he had not eaten up to last week.  I had been assured by The Experts On The Internet that as long as he wasn’t losing weight, it would be fine, that ball pythons can go months without eating, etc., but honestly it was getting ridiculous, and his owner was starting to really worry and have bad dreams about his snake dying, so we took a deep breath, gave up on the frozen/thawed rodents (I’d gone through a pack of two dozen, and tried everything recommended to get him to eat…he just looked away and slithered in the opposite direction, no matter what), and went and bought a live one.  That is, a mouse. Alive.  

Are you horrified?  Well, sorry.  It’s not my favorite thing, but  here we are with this snake THAT MIGHT LIVE FOR THIRTY YEARS I’M TOLD and it needs to eat, and in the wild, well, they eat living things. And I guess since I almost, you know, lost him, I probably owe him a shot at nourishment.  There are, however strong feelings about this issue on both sides in the herp community, with some feeling very strongly that feeding live rodents to snakes is, among other things, dangerous for the snakes – they could be injured by the prey.  This seems to be more of a risk with rats, who are meaner and have sharper and larger teeth and claws.  I’ll just say that the mouse…didn’t fight back.   I admit, I was so used to Rocky rejecting food that I was shocked when he struck, and not just because a snake strike is so blindingly fast.  

Of course…he was probably pretty hungry.  

(My thought on this is that Rocky was probably only fed live by his breeder – we bought him at a reptile show, and these fellows had a lot of snakes.  It seems to me it would be a major hassle to feed dozens of snakes with frozen/thawed feed – you have to thaw them, then warm them up so that the, er, prey, exudes some heat that will hopefully make the snake believe it’s alive.  To do this for a slew of snakes, all the time?  Nah.  A lot easier, I’m guessing, to feed them live and be done with it…)

(Can you believe I even know anything about it?  Pretty crazy. Well, life is all about learning and growing, I say….)

(I will also say that since we’ve had him, Rocky has shed – and that suppresses their appetites as well.  It was really very funny.  I had noticed the snake’s eyes changing color from their normal black to a greyish blue, and that he wasn’t coming out of his hide even at night.  I knew that these were signs that a shed was on the horizon, and I can’t forget the day I pointed this out to Michael.  “Look at his eyes,” was all I had to say, and he did and he JUMPED up and down in ecstatic joy and raced around the house.  “YES!  HE’S GOING TO SHED!”  We didn’t actually see it happen – we off somewhere – Charleston, I think – and when we returned ,there was the skin, now proudly displayed among various rocks, minerals and Mayan memories….)

— 4 —

So, er, what else?  Education in the Home is chugging away just fine. Herpetology, obviously. Piano lessons have begun again, the extra music theory class has begun, boxing class was experienced and will continue for at least a few more weeks despite the aching abs, art class is happening.  Math, check, Logic, check, cursive, check.   We buzzed through the Brave Writer work on The Cricket in Times Square pretty quickly and I think we’ll do Farmer Boy next. I have the Greek book, but haven’t started it yet with him – next week.  He’s working through this workbook called Meet the Great Composers.  He spends a lot of time every day reading through library books about various historical and scientific subjects.  Homeschool science center classes begin in a couple of weeks. 

Many, many rabbit holes, as per usual.   Some are just built into the discussions.  He practices extra math by working out the ages, for example, of the composers.  We have the atlas out anytime we read, tracking cities and countries.  We have an ongoing list of challenging spelling words that he’ll learn over the week, pulled from all the different things he’s studying and reading – this week, ranging from “parallel” and “perpendicular” to “Baroque” to “shrieking” (from The Cricket) 

And the videos.  For example Smarter Every Day.  This guy who does the Smarter Every Day videos – actually lives in (or around?) Huntsville, I discovered.  This video about jellyfish stinging mechanisms was fantastic. 

And I admit, having others that I trust educate the eighth grader?  A relief.  Not because he was difficult…not at all.  But just because they’ll do a fine job, and it’s good for him to be there with others, both peers and adults.  He’s also so accustomed to the warp and woof of our Teachable Moment Home that he doesn’t object at all when I, er, enhance what he says he’s learning with a video here or a book there or that we are still doing our Shakespeare memorization, albeit at a slower pace.  I have no idea what will happen for high school (I’d like to homeschool/roadschool 9th grade, but he’ll probably have his own opinions on that)  yet, but we’re good for now. 

Speaking of homeschooling, as we often do, at one of the special classes this week, I chatted with a woman who pulled her 4 school-aged kids out of a Catholics school and is homeschooling this year.  Why?  Nothing bad about the school, which is fine in every respect.  But, as she said, “They were doing homework until 9 and 10 every night, every weekend was all about projects, and the school was taking over our life.  We had no family life.”

 

— 5 —

This week’s exercise podcasts?

This documentary on Indian servicemen during World War I was fascinating- definitely worth your time.  I look forward to the second.

On the recommendation of a friend, I listened to this episode of This American Life  – about a North Carolina doctor who seeks the truth about his predecessor in the clinic where he works, a man who murdered his own father.  It was certainly absorbing, but there was one element that bothered me – I can’t really go into it without spoiling the twist for future listeners, but if you’ve listened to this one (or read the transcript), let me know in the comments.  

(I used to listen to This American Life all the time, but I stopped, I think because Ira Glass’ vocal mannerism started grating on me. Or maybe I just preferred Fred Armisen’s version instead…)

— 6 —

Reading?

I read My Two Italiesa memoir of a scholar of Italian literature born of working class Calabrian parents. The “two Italies” are, of course, his parents’ southern Italian background and the Italy represented by his more cultured intellectual pursuits.  There is another key personal detail that I think is the core of the book, but gets mostly overwhelmed by not-quite relevant material – that is, until the very end, which is quite moving.  It feels like a good, meaty Atlantic or New Yorker article expanded to book length, to the material’s detriment. 

I have just started The Restoration of Rome, a new history that is getting slammed on Amazon party because of informality in the writing, but the premise of which – the popes did what the later emperors were unable to do – intrigues me, especially as articulated by a contemporary historian.  So I’ll forge on. 

— 7 —

And…speaking of books….don’t forget this one!  I’ll be doing a few posts next week on this…promise!!

"amy welborn"

 

 

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— 1 —

GUYS!

Adventures in Assisi has dropped!  

"adventures in assisi" "amy welborn"

A month before the previously announced publication date, the newest book from me and Ann Engelhart is available for order. I was hoping to do a big post on it this week, with quirky photos of my stash of the books, but….

I don’t have any.  Yet.  There was a delivery glitch, so I haven’t even seen the published book yet.   Hopefully I’ll have them tomorrow, and then I’ll talk a lot about this book, which is much different from any St. Francis-for-Kids book out there. 

(We have also, in the last month, come to an informal agreement on another book – #5 for us!)

— 2 —

School’s going just fine…for everyone.  

The 8th grader is getting along famously, takes his homework in stride, and is enjoying his Days Spent With People Not Related To Him. 

It’s weird doing school at home with only one, though.  It’s almost too easy.  Maybe I should add calculus and make it harder.

Or not.

"amy welborn"

Feeding an ant to the Venus Flytrap

— 3 —

Speaking of math, I’m going to bore you one more time by talking up Beast Academy.  I know, you go to the website and you see comic books and you think, how challenging can that be?  

Well, plenty – you have to do both the guide and the workbook, and when you do…it’s impressive.  I’m continually amazed by the pedagogy of this series.  I think I would describe it as sneakily challenging.  The workbook pages start off with simple treatment of the matter at hand, but within a few problems have led the student to a crazily higher level of thinking.   This series and its parent, the amazing Art of Problem Solving embraces a pedagogy centered on the value of a student sitting and stewing over a problem in a fruitful way.  I would show you the pages Michael did today on angles, but I wouldn’t want to violate copyright.  Let’s just say that in a matter of ten problems, he went from simply measuring angles with a protractor to being challenged to deduce the measurements of angles without a protractor and without being given step-by-step guidance on how to do it.  

So instead of that, I’ll just point you to the material they have on their site, including these pages from the 1st 4th grade book on triangles.

— 4 —

We’ve started doing some logic, and for writing/spelling and so on, we’re going to – among other things – use the Brave Writer method again.  He’ll be doing copywork and analysis of books for which BW provides issues of “The Arrow” – see here for more about that.  The first, in keeping with our recent trip to NYC, is The Cricket in Times Square.

— 5 —

"amy welborn"

This week…music lessons began, an art lesson,.another trip to the botanical gardens, picking up where our previous visit – cut short by a hurting leg – left off.  A trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art.

(If you ever come this way, please know that both the Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Art charge no admission and are both quite fine.) 

Also, a couple of library trips.  Of course. 

"amy welborn"

Sketching at the museum, math at the library.

— 6 —

Last weekend:

At the beach for about 24 hours….wish it could have been longer….

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

Today, we caught a school presentation/performance related to an event called Earfilms, presented over the last few days at UAB.  (University of Alabama at Birmingham).  Earfilms is an aural experience in which audience members are blindfolded and listen to a mesh of live narration and recorded sound relayed in a “3d” manner – surroundsound, if you will.  The school sessions weren’t the complete performance (which is almost 90 minutes) and we were disappointed there were no blindfolds (we were just asked to close our eyes), but we did get an interesting exposure to different understandings of music and sound from members of the UAB faculty and the artists involved in Earfilms, the latter of whom were British and one of whom wore a cool hat, so there’s that:

Earfilms

After the performance, in an interactive area with one of the artists, speaking into a 3D microphone, whatever that is.

Super busy weekend with two pool parties, a dance and a sleepover. Because socialization.

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— 1 —

"amy welborn"

For today:

The Feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love.

Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us.   (Source)

But there is also another aspect: in God not only is there room for man; in man there is room for God. This too we see in Mary, the Holy Ark who bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us, so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with its problems. This presence is realized in the faith: in the faith we open the doors of our existence so that God may enter us, so that God can be the power that gives life and a path to our existence. In us there is room, let us open ourselves like Mary opened herself, saying: “Let your will be done, I am the servant of the Lord”. By opening ourselves to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary, our life becomes rich and great.

And so, faith and hope and love are combined. Today there is much discussion on a better world to be awaited: it would be our hope. If and when this better world comes, we do not know, I do not know. What is certain is that a world which distances itself from God does not become better but worse. Only God’s presence can guarantee a good world. Let us leave it at that.

One thing, one hope is certain: God expects us, waits for us, we do not go out into a void, we are expected. God is expecting us and on going to that other world we find the goodness of the Mother, we find our loved ones, we find eternal Love. God is waiting for us: this is our great joy and the great hope that is born from this Feast. (Source)

By looking at Mary’s Assumption into Heaven we understand better that even though our daily life may be marked by trials and difficulties, it flows like a river to the divine ocean, to the fullness of joy and peace. We understand that our death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death. Our setting on the horizon of this world is our rising at the dawn of the new world, the dawn of the eternal day.

“Mary, while you accompany us in the toil of our daily living and dying, keep us constantly oriented to the true homeland of bliss. Help us to do as you did”.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends who are taking part in this celebration this morning, let us pray this prayer to Mary together. In the face of the sad spectacle of all the false joy and at the same time of all the anguished suffering which is spreading through the world, we must learn from her to become ourselves signs of hope and comfort; we must proclaim with our own lives Christ’s Resurrection.

“Help us, Mother, bright Gate of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, source through whom came Jesus Christ, our life and our joy. Amen”. (Source)

— 2 —

Would you like an exercise podcast update?  Of course you would.

This program (scroll down to 8/8) on the destruction of English religious art during the Reformation was really excellent. Presented by historian Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Great Lives has an interesting framework:  a well-known person in a certain field discusses a chosen “great life” along with a host and a scholar.

This week, I listened to a program (4/1) on cellist Jacqueline Du Pre (perhaps you saw the film Hilary and Jackie? I did..a couple of times, and loved it, even though it’s apparently – like most biopics – completely inaccurate.) The well-known person was another intriguing person – deaf solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Great! More rabbit holes!

I also listened to Michael Palin talk about Hemingway – Palin did one of his travel programs on Hemingway some years ago.  Enjoyed this one, too.  Both gave me a lot to think about regarding creativity and the self.

 

— 3 —

Actually started and finished a couple of books.  The Confessions of Frances Godwin which, well, I gave two stars to. Sorry.  Next was non-fiction: How Paris Became Paris, which was interesting because of the very mild myth-busting that was going on.  People like to credit/blame Haussmann for moving Paris from medievalism to modernity, but as the author of this book shows, the transformation began centuries before, mostly under King Henry IV who oversaw the construction of revolutionary public spaces like the Pont Neuf and the Place Royale.  Reading texts from 17th century travel guides was illuminating, but the book was a bit overstuffed and the content could have fit in in a meaty Atlantic or New Yorker article.

— 4 —

Speaking of reading and public spaces – I tweeted this last week, but forgot to mention it here.  Our local alt weekly, called Weld ran an excellent, thorough treatment of the murder of Father James Coyle on the steps of the Cathedral rectory almost a hundred years ago.  If you’ve never heard of this case – go read the article.  It’s an important part of our history, featuring anti-Catholicism, the Klan and future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

Coyle could not have imagined that his most imminent threat was from a fellow clergyman. Edwin Stephenson was an ordained Methodist deacon who presented himself as a full-fledged minister for his primary occupation of marrying couples at the Jefferson County Courthouse (which in 1921 was on the same Third Avenue North block as St. Paul’s). He was also a member of Robert E. Lee Klavern No. 1, the first Alabama chapter of the new Ku Klux Klan.

— 5 —

Back to the Assumption – as I mentioned yesterday, don’t forget that my book Mary and the Christian Life is available for a free download.  Not for a limited time, either.  Today and probably always!

— 6 —

I know I mentioned that I sold my other house, but even now, the relief hasn’t worn off.  Once a day, I pause, and think, “Aaaaah!” – amazed at the freedom and resolved that this – the house I’m in – will be the last home I own.  No, I don’t plan on living here until I die (unless I die in the next ten years), but really and truly – when we’re done here, I’m done owning, and will be perfectly fine with renting.  It’s not ownership that gets me – it’s the burden of knowing you are going to have to sell the thing someday, and all that entails.  Plus (again, I hope we are talking far into the future), after dealing with my father’s estate, I’m determined to leave my own children with as few complications as possible, and that includes a house that has to be sold.  What we leave behind is a continual object of meditation for me.  It’s a metaphor, you know.

— 7 —

Rectify is tearing me up,but I won’t write about it until next week – the final episode.  Except to say that in a program filled with fine actors and juicy roles, Clayne Crawford as Ted, Jr is really emerging as a standout.  If you live in the South, you know Ted, Jr – the good ol’ boy/prep/poseur – he’s instantly recognizable…but then as the show has progressed, he’s become recognizable in a different way – as a confused, angry, self-doubting guy who really doesn’t know what’s hit him or his family.   So imagine my amazement just five minutes ago when I looked him to find you a good link and discovered that he’s from these parts – not that far from Birmingham.

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— 1 —

We’re back. House intact, snake alive.

"amy welborn"

BIG is a creepy movie, and he’s never seen it, but he did know about the big piano at FAO Schwarz, so here we are.

 

— 2 —

We did almost everything I wanted to do with them.  They’d been to New York City before, but had little memory of it.  It was hot, but not unbearably so. It was crowded, but once you were away from Midtown, Times Square and Fifth Avenue, it was a lot better.

"amy welborn"

St. Patrick’s from the top of Rockefeller Center – a nice view of the cruciform shape.

— 3 —

It’s expensive, though, I’ll tell you that – as if you needed to know, as if I needed a reminder.  Really, if you want to do a biggish city with lots of culture with kids and not spend so much money, and you don’t have relatives or friends to crash with in the area, Washington DC – where almost all the museums are free – is the way to go. (Also Chicago if you have local museum memberships – our McWane membership got us into both the Field and the Museum of Technology and Industry – FREE.)

Even attempts to save money here can be problematic.  We spent a big chunk of Wednesday in the American Natural History Museum – they surprised us by having an extensive and good ancient Americas collection, so yes, we spent more time than we thought there – and we went in and out a couple of times (btw, at no time did anyone look carefully or scan our tickets….).  The ticket line was horrendous – every time – first thing in the morning, when we left for lunch, and when we left for good around 3 – probably a hundred people on both sides – but I had just walked up to a kiosk and purchased ours, no wait.  I’m sure the lines were all about redeeming passes of one sort or another…too bad people have to spend part of their short time in New York waiting in lines like that….

"amy welborn"

My pre-Columbian scholar LOVED this section.

— 4 —

Food?  Well, nothing super memorable.  Shake Shack met with approval (especially by me when I discovered they serve alcohol), the arancini we snacked on in Little Italy were very good – unfortunately the way we ended up spending that day took us away from Chinatown before I could find the hand-pulled noodles I’d been hoping to get.   Excellent pizza at this by-the-slice place.  Good sandwiches from a deli behind the Natural History Museum, eaten in Roosevelt park.

"amy welborn"

No fine dining for us, but they weren’t too hungry that often.

"amy welborn"

— 5 —

Favorite things?  I think Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park (where we wandered – saw wildlife – Look!  It’s a RAT!” – did the rowboats and the remote control sailboats) and the Tenement Museum would top the list for all of us.

"amy welborn"

Down on the South Street Seaport, looking at Brooklyn.

 

Every counter person, sales person, museum attendant, bike rental person we encountered was very friendly and helpful.  The only rudeness was from a taxi driver who heard where I wanted to go (longish story) and scoffed.   Someone told me later not to tell them where you are going until you actually sit in the cab – then by law they have to take you.  (All’s well than ends well – the subway station was closer than I’d thought….)

— 6 —

We did see Newsies which they enjoyed but which was ultimately meh because it was, of course, the usual homogenized, musically pedestrian Disney stuff.  I couldn’t help be amused by the irony of a Disney show having as a central theme the exploitive greed of a business – as we sat in a theater where the full-priced tickets  went for $300 for a little more than 2 hours of entertainment.

(I got ours at the TKTS booth down at the South Street Seaport – decent discount.)

(On their last visit, we went to see The Thirty Nine Steps which was so inventive and delightful and held their interest, even though they were four years younger than they are now – in a more deeply engaged way than the in-your-face eardrum busting hoofing of Newsies.)

The dancing was great, the vibe was a good one for the boys, but all I can say is that last night when I got home, I watched, for the zillionth time, the opening number from On The Town…no comparison, as if anyone would expect there to be.

(BTW – a revival is coming! )


 

 

— 7 —

We went to the World Trade Center Memorial – not the museum, but the striking,  huge downward-flowing fountains constructed on and in the foundations of both buildings, both surrounded by walls in which have been etched the names of those who died there.  I found it so very moving and quite fitting.  They are fountains, rather than the cool stillness of stone, and so they powerfully convey a subtle message of hope and life.

"amy welborn"

No, we did not take selfies at the WTC memorial.

 

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— 1 —

A couple of field trips this week -one documented here – to Moundville.  The other, yesterday, was to Horse Pens 40, just about 40 minutes away.  It’s a privately-held park, campground and event space high atop a mountain.  The great attraction is an excellent boulder field (others around here that we’ve enjoyed have been at Moss Creek Preserve and Cherokee Rock Village.) These formations have made the place a favored refuge for various groups and communities over the centuries.  The name?

 

    A young couple named John and Hattie Hyatt finally settled on this land during the late 1800’s. The story is that he came from Georgia with his ‘stolen wife’ (whatever that meant), a horse, and all his earthly possessions in a flour sack. Looking for a place of refuge, the Horse Pens was a natural choice. Years later, he filed on the property, referring to it as “the home 40, the farming 40, and the horse pens 40, each tract containing 40 acres of land”. This is how Horse Pens 40 got its name. This is one of the last homesteads filed in the state of Alabama. The land patent and original title was actually signed by the President of the United States. (Actually, the signatures of two U.S. presidents turned up on documents pertaining to the property during the title search)

No one around here actually “boulders” – yet.  But who knows…

— 2 —

Movies watched over the past week: The Road to Morocco, The Road to Utopia and The Man Who Knew Too Much.  (Remake of the latter – which Hitchcock himself said was better than the first version)

It had been years since I’d seen any of the Road movies, so I did (of course) research to see what The Internet told me would be the best to start with.  The general conclusion seemed to be that Morocco was best, followed closely by Utopia.  Well, I think Utopia was far better than the other – the premise wasn’t quite as lame, Hope and Crosby’s enjoyment of each other’s company is palpable and fun, and I thought the jokes were much sharper, although I had to pause the movie several times to explain 60-year old pop culture references, and that final visual joke, while hysterical and perfect, is…awkward.

The boys were totally absorbed by The Man Who Knew Too Much, perhaps in part because it involved a little boy in peril.  As for me, I was absolutely impressed by Doris Day’s performance – it’s very strong and warm – and that scene where she sits at the piano and starts belting out Que Sera Sera at the top of her lungs so her little boy, imprisoned somewhere in the embassy, would hear her…gosh, my contacts are bothering me. Give me a minute, will you?

— 3 —

A couple of excellent reads on education:

First, a match made in heaven: Andrew Ferguson writing about Common Core:

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

From The New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.”   Even if that’s not an option or choice for you, the article is well worth a read as it dissects the thankless, soul-sucking and time-gobbling hamster wheel that high school and college have become for would be “high achievers” everywhere.

 

— 4 —

I usually find several podcasts from BBC radio worth listening to in the course of a week (although, tragically, In Our Time is on its summer hiatus until September…), and exceptional this week were:

Food Programme episode on food and opera.  It was less than thirty minutes long, but boy, did it pack a punch, employing the gifts of Fred Plotkin, opera-and-food-and-Italy writer.  I loved it.

Also the program on World War I: Cradle of Jazz might seem to waste our time, focusing on such a topic instead of the more serious aspects of World War I, but of course there is plenty of attention being given to the more fundamental aspects and will be over the next four years.  This program was actually quite absorbing, detailing the development of early jazz, the impact of the war and the   work of mostly African-American jazz musicians in Europe before and right after the War.

 

— 5 —

Today I thought we might go to Tuskegee, to the Tuskegee Airmen Museum and the George Washington Carver Museum, but then I realized it was 2 hours away and I was sort of done with driving around Alabama for the week, so after I finished writing my Living Faith Lent devotion assignment that was due today, we moseyed out to the new big Latino-food centered supermarket called Mi Pueblo.  It’s enormous – as large as or larger than the Publix down the street.  According to the linked article, it’s the largest Hispanic grocery store in Alabama, the second in the area (the first is way down in a community south of here called Pelham) and a third is planned.  It’s a great store.  A huge variety of foods, quite inexpensive produce, amazing meat counter(including goat, pig and cow heads if you like), in-house tortilleria, a counter offering fruit concoctions, a bakery and a restaurant, where we ate a great lunch from the buffet.  None of the meats on the buffet were labeled, so that was probably a good thing – they ate pretty bravely in Mexico, but still they weren’t given pause by the possibility of eating goat or pig cheeks.  It’s not near my house, but it is on the route for some activities, so it will definitely become a regular stop.

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

 

 

 

 

And then the rest of the afternoon at the pool, which I realized we hadn’t been to in a while, not only because of travels but because one of the boys had a bout of swimmer’s ear about a month ago – the first any of my kids have ever had.

— 6 —

Oh, I finally sold – as in closed and signed off on – the other house.  I was sad to see the bungalow go, even though I haven’t lived in it for a year and  I really love my not-quite-mod but still mid century place, its yard, and on behalf of the boys, the basketball goal.  Someday, I’ll live the Bungalow Life again.  Just not now.

— 7 —

Just a few more weeks and Adventures in Assisi will be published – look for more on that soon!

 

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