Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More shots of the 'tree

Peachtree, that is. It was a gorgeous day, so I took a few shots while I was out and about at lunchtime. The High Museum of Art, detail of the Church of Christian Science, the Rodin with the new Piano addition to the High in the background. Just an ordinary, beautiful afternoon in Atlanta.

Broadway loses another light

Well, what is there to say about the death of Wendy Wasserstein? Too young. Too vibrant. A lover of all things Broadway. Chronicler of a generation. Puttin' the girls on the big stage. Well, shoot, ain't that the way of things.

I didn't get to see "The Heidi Chronicles" on stage (saw the movie with Jamie Lee Curtis) but I did see "The Sisters Rosensweig" at the Alliance Theatre here in Atlanta. It was kinda cool that one of our own (women of a certain age. . .) came to such prominence writing about the kind of stuff we could relate to.

And her Pamela's First Musical picture book is a must-have for any Broadway musical theatre-lover, really capturing the thrill of having the lights go down and the overture begin. Um-um-um. Nothin' better, my friends.

So long, Wendy. The lights of Broadway dim for you tonight.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Harper Lee ascendant

The lady from Monroeville, Alabama, is all the rage. The creator of Scout, Boo Radley, and Atticus Finch is slowly and selectively moving into the spotlight as Capote reaches prominence during the film awards season. To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, fabulously portrayed by Catherine Keener (left) in Capote, has become even more iconic (if that's possible) since the film's release.

A story in today's New York Times reports on Lee's recent appearance at a luncheon for high school essay winners at the University of Alabama. The author says she's always amazed at how young people can find new facets and interpretations of her book. From the article:

Ms. Lee is quick-witted and gregarious. At the ceremony she greeted a server at the mansion whom she remembered from luncheons past. "I went back to my friends and I told everyone that I'd met you," the young woman said. "Nobody believed me. I said, 'Oh, yeah, I did, and she is the nicest, sweetest lady." Ms. Lee looked at her with amused suspicion and started to laugh.

During lunch she reminisced about her old friend Horton Foote, who wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed 1962 film of "To Kill a Mockingbird," starring Gregory Peck. Ms. Lee spent three weeks on the set, she said, and took off when she realized everything would be fine without her.

"I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made," she said. Ms. Lee attended Peck's memorial service in California three years ago. About her friend Mr. Foote, who is 89, she said, "He's become quite amazing looking in old age, like God, but clean-shaven."

Perfect book. Perfect movie. Scout Finch is one of the greatest kids in literature - so real, so confused by people's reactions to Tom or Boo, down-to-earth - nothing precious about her. If you haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird, do it now. At the very least - lose yourself in the film. Stop cruising the 'net and get thee to a library or video store. Now!

As I've asked before: what the hell was in the water in Monroeville, Alabama, to produce both Lee and Capote at the same time? Forget Lourdes. If I ever get the chance to drink the celebrated-author waters of Oxford, Mississippi, I'll be sure to stop by Monroeville for a little tipple, as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The latest on Tom Fox

It's been well over a month since there was any firm news on Tom Fox and the other three men from Christian Peacemakers being held in Iraq. Video dated January 21 was aired on Al Jazeera showing the four still alive, but the group holding them have made a renewed threat to kill them (though a date wasn't specified).

Read the latest from CNN, New York Times, and The Guardian.

Give them a thought every now and then.

Answers to life's most important questions

Before trotting off to my strategic planning meeting (wotta way to spend a Saturday!), I thought I'd share the answers to the most burning questions in the universe. I'd love to say that I knew this stuff all along, but really, I just ran across it in The Times o' London in an article entitled "Why Do Men Have Nipples?" (Told ya' this was earth-shaking info.)

Besides the nipple-thing, ever wonder:
  • why some folks have "innies" and some folks have "outies"?
  • if yawns are contagious?
  • why old ladies have beards?
  • if it's more sanitary to be spat upon or peed upon?

  • My personal favorite (uh-oh, here it comes) is "Why can you light a fart?". No, no - stay with me here. This is very informative (and I quote):

  • An average fart is 59 per cent nitrogen, 21 per cent hydrogen, 9 per cent carbon dioxide, 7 per cent methane and 4 per cent oxygen.
  • Farts can travel at speeds of 10ft (3m) a second
  • A person produces about half a litre (1pt) of farts a day.
  • Women fart as much as men.
  • The gas that makes farts stink is hydrogen sulphide. This gas, which is less than 1 per cent of the make-up of a fart, contains sulphur, the smelly component. Foods that cause smelly farts include beans, cabbage, cheese, eggs, fizzy drinks.
  • Most people pass gas about 14 times a day.
  • Farts contain the flammable gases hydrogen and methane. The proportions of these gases depend largely on the bacteria that live in the colon which digest food that has not previously been absorbed by the gut. There is some danger associated with igniting flatulence. But students don’t seem to care.

  • All of this is true, of course, except the part about women farting. How absurd!

    Now I do not have time to give you the answers to everything, but like any good teacher, I've given you where to find the answers. Go get 'em, buck-o!

    Friday, January 27, 2006

    Chasing the cart

    I'm puttering around the house today, since I worked Sunday and long hours at the CDC Symposium earlier in the week (salaried, you see, and don't get paid overtime). I do require my minimum weekly allowance of putter time, or everything else in my life goes whack. Tomorrow, the board of the community theatre group upon which I serve is having a strategic planning meeting - thus, no Saturday putter time.

    Tomorrow's all-day-come-to-Jesus meeting about the future of the theatre group will be interesting. We are lucky to have a couple of good facilitators from outside the group to slap some reality upside our heads. The theatre company, which showcases musical productions only, has been around for some years, an act of love by two guys who love to direct and perform. About a year-and-a-half ago, they decided if the company was ever going anywhere, it needed to file for non-profit status and organize a board of directors to take it to the next level of success.

    The problem, of course, was that by the time the board was in place, the theatrical performance cart was so far ahead of the strategic planning/funding horse (tied firmly at the hitchin' post and going nowhere) that we've been playing catch-up over the last year. To no avail, I might add. The group is so far in debt, that only an earth-shaking stunning full-butts-in-seats run would pull us into the black.

    A few months ago, another board member and I collared the board prez and said Look - we can't go after grants in our current state. We have no budget. We have no strategic plan. We need a big dose of reality and some time to naval-gaze to figure out how to save this, instead of jumping from production to production.

    Fortunately he agreed, so we pulled together a hard-hitting agenda and two consultants (gratis, thankfully) to keep us on track and from coming to blows (kidding!) as we set some solid, realistic goals. I'm sure we'll spend a good hour or two chasing down that cart which is by now miles away from us. Once we get things in proper order and perspective, I expect the group to go full steam ahead.

    After all, I came out of performing retirement three years ago to make a stunning turn - nay, several stunning turns - in the company's production of Bye Bye Birdie. I know, I know. You're just kicking yourself for missing it. But, honey, give me a chance to tease my hair to the heavens, don a pair of white-framed glasses, and swish around in early-1960s dresses, and I am so there! (see above) I look forward to chewing more scenery when we get back into production with something that suits my particular bad-acting abilities.

    OK, this is cutting into my puttering time. Cheers, it's Friday, my dumplings!

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

    The buttery, cheesy mashed potatoes of children's books

    The other day I posted about comfort food perfect for fireside reading. But if you're balancing a plate of cheese and jalepeno nachos or a bowl of mashed 'taters on your knees in front of a winter's fire, you probably won't be up for reading Proust, either.

    So, let's talk "comfort reading." More specifically, comfort reading in the form of kiddie books that made you feel all flannel-y inside, back when you were only worried about putting your clothes on right-side-out and getting your shoes on the proper foot.

    My list would be too, too long, but I will start with ten of my favorites:
    1. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame - especially the "Dulce Domum" chapter.
    2. The Five Little Firemen, Margaret Wise Brown - ooh, save that jolly fat cook!
    3. Goodnight, Moon, Margaret Wise Brown - except that it'll take me to dreamland before I finish my 'taters.
    4. Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers - she's soooo fabulously snarky and vain!
    5. The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein - but only if I need a good, comforting cry.
    6. The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams - makin' it real.
    7. All of a Kind Family, Sydney Taylor - ah, to be a poor immigrant family on the lower east side!
    8. The Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder - ah, to be a poor frontier family living in a forest, or a sod house, or on a prairie, or . . .
    9. Beezus and Ramona, Beverly Cleary - 'way back when little sisters were pesty
    10. Miss Piggle Wiggle, Betty MacDonald - how I learned to be the adorable person I am now.
    C'mon. What kiddie books make you want to grab your blankie and put on your footy pjs? Dig 'em out from the back of the bookshelf, or climb up into the attic and pull down the box with all your children's books in it.

    Start meltin' the cheese, and crack open a comfort book or two. Ahhhhh. Burp! ('scuse me.)

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    The deed is done

    Well, you knew I'd do it, didn't you? Despite my career-changing angst, you knew I'd just have to throw the Shorty PJs pantaloons into the resume pile. Done. Faxed. Receipt confirmed. Thanks for your go-for-it enthusiasm, PT and Chuck-ster. If I make the short-list and am called in for an interview, I'll let you more about the job. Stay tuned.

    Yes, Winston, I'm all personality'd out after three days as an exhibitionist - er, exhibitor - at the CDC Symposium. I need a smile-regenerator at this point.

    Give me a day to rest up, and I'll get back to the fun stuff tomorrow.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    Interesting day

    We're in the middle of a three-day conference toot, as exhibitors. It's very tiring having to be adorable and knowledgeable from 7:30 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, but co-booth ho' Garth and I manage. It's a CDC-sponsored event held every other year in Atlanta. All sorts of folks doing supremely vital work attend and stop by our booth to find out what we can do for them or just to pick up a little canister of Toxic Waste candy - and don't da' CDC love dat? - that we offer as tchotchkes. (And did I mention how cute we are?)

    The up-side is getting out of the office for a couple of days; the down-side is no internet connection - unless we want to pay $200/day at the Crowne Plaza for access. (Note to Dante: create special level of Hell for hotels and airports that charge outrageous sums of cash for a wireless internet connection.) So, buds, not a lot of blogging for the next couple of days.

    I did manage to get in a little reading during down times when the hoards are in workshops. Almost finished Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory - great suggestion, by the way, Pete! - which isn't very long, but is pretty disturbing. The perfect read for a biosafety/biosecurity conference!

    So I get home - brain fried by constantly having to appear to know what I'm talking about and remain adorable - and have an email from a friend in high (but noble) places who wants me to apply for a job in her department that was posted about a month ago.

    When her office sent out the blanket call (and it was a large blanket call) for interested parties, I did take time to read the posting and think, Wow! I'd love that job but I don't think I'm qualified for it. So I filed it away in case I thought of someone who might better match the position. But now my friend - someone I really admire and trust - has made a personal appeal to me, hoping/wanting to make sure I put my name in the hat.

    On one hand, I can't help but believe that there are a thousand folks out there more qualified for this job than I am. On the other hand, boy, I'd love to give it a shot. It would be a radical life change for me - maybe the last big radical change that I have some choice in. I'm flattered that my friend is adamant about my applying for the post, but I'll have to search my heart to see if I go for it or not. This is a job that requires a calling - truly. But I don't have much time, because the deadline is January 30.

    I guess I should just pursue it to see what happens. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    A weird, interesting day. You never know when something unexpected's going to come at you.

    As for tomorrow, eight more hours of handing out Toxic Waste. Hmm.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Nine inches too short

    Took me a week to decide whether or not to post about the great Shelley Winters. But when I found out that Tony Franciosa died yesterday, well, I figured it was fate saying Aw, go on and give Shelley her due.

    If you haven't read one of Winter's steamy memoirs, you might not know that she and Franciosa (10 or so years her junior) were married for three or four years in the late 1950s. Isn't that an interesting coincidence, the two of them dying within a few days of each other?

    Winters set the bar pretty high for memoirs. She told everything. She had so much to spill that it took her two books to pour it all out. And let's face it, that's why we buy a star's autobiography - all the juicy stuff. Don't play coy with me if you expect me to plunk down hard-earned dough for your book. I want the goods, baby! Either be Jackie Kennedy-aloof and refuse to write a memoir or go the Shelley-spill-all-the-beans route. No middle-of-the-road blah-blah-blah.

    In salute to Shelley, I leave you with a few classic Winters quotes:

    Every now and then, when you're on stage, you hear the best sound a player can hear. It's a sound you can't get in movies or in television. It is the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you've hit them where they live.

    I have bursts of being a lady, but it doesn't last long.

    I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.

    I'm not overweight. I'm just nine inches too short.

    Whenever you want to marry someone, go have lunch with his ex-wife.

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    Friday Lunchtime Atlanta

    Beautiful winter's day in Atlanta. Thought I'd share!

    Short of cash? Check your bookshelves.

    If you have a first edition copy of James Joyce's Ulysses (Shakespeare & Company, 1922) in good condition, you have a golden goose sitting around, my friend. The Guardian has published a list of the 100 most valuable works of fiction of the 20th century. Values range from £100,000 (roughly $177,000) for Ulysses at the top of the list to £4,000 ($7080, give or take a nickle or two) Philip Pullman's Northern Lights (Scholastic, 1995). Looks like it might be time to start rifling through those bookshelves. You never know.

    Here's a little quandary. If you're recording an audiobook, how do you handle the footnotes? What if the character falls down a well? Should the your voice change? And are you true to the punctuation, breathing, pausing, lifting your voice as originally heard in the author's head? These are some of the little dilemmas facing the people who put a voice to a book. Today's New York Times has an interesting article delving into the question of how a book should sound. And aren't you glad you didn't have to record Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? It was hard enough to follow reading all 'dem footnotes to me-own-self. Whew! (Hats off to Simon Prebble, the book's narrator.)

    But whether or not you find a big-bucks book on your nightstand or wrestle with the problem of recording footnotes, it's still Friday. Start relaxing your shoulders.

    Still no word about former classmate Tom Fox and the other three Christian peacemakers being held in Iraq. All is focused on young journalist Jill Carroll right now, and we pray she's released unharmed. Keep all these folks in your thoughts.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Separated at birth

    When I look in the mirror, who do I see staring back at me? Christina Ricci? Ronald Reagan? Sandra Bullock? According to the face recognition demo at My Heritage, those are just some of the folks my face conjours up.

    Here's how it works. You upload a picture of yourself (a face-portrait-type shot), the program scans it and compares your facial structure with all the famous faces in its database. Then it gives you a list of people you most resemble (50%+). You do have to register at the website, by the way.

    You ain't gonna believe my list:

    1. Pierre Curie 62% (um? what?)
    2. Christina Ricci 56% (calm down, PT)
    3. Ronald Reagan 55% (I'm at a loss, here)
    4. Camilla Parker Bowles 52% (OK, I'm going back to bed, now)
    5. Cate Blanchett, Audrey Tautou, Sandra Bullock 51% (Can we move them up the list?)
    6. Jennifer Aniston (on her worst day, I'm guessin') and Liza Minnelli (on her best day, I'm hopin') 50%

    Now, how can any list contain both Camilla Parker Bowles and Jennifer Aniston? Well, evidently I'm some sort of Frankenstein-like combo of a horse-face and a cutie-pie. Boy, I hope I'm closer to the cutie pie.

    But at the end of the day, according to My Heritage, I look most like a guy! A really, really dead guy! There's a wee bit of consolation in the fact that the dead guy was genius, however. Just a wee, wee bit. Hardly any, in fact.

    Excuse me while I get in touch with the Extreme Makeover people.

    Thanks to Liz at Finding Life Hard? for unearthing this little (scary) jewel.

    So, who do you see in the mirror?

    Mid-January comfort food

    Is there a worse month to swear off food than January?

    Sure, it comes right after the golden triangle of binge-eating, October-November-December, but this bleak year-startin' month requires power-comfort-food eating just to make it through the day (which looks a lot like the night).

    Now unlike most folks, I actually like winter because it gives me an excuse to sit by the fire and read or work on my book or take little dog-naps (sorry, no cat-naps - we're a dog family). But sitting by the fire is not conducive to eating a bowlful of salad greens and wheat germ. No, it's about 1950's hot, white, cheesy food - gooey, starchy confections alternated with salty, crunchy tid-bits. And a piece o' chocolate every now and then.

    OK, pretend it's cold and bleak outside, the sky a lovely shade of battleship gray (not much of a stretch of the imagination, granted). So, what'll ya' have? My fireside-sitting must haves include:
    • cheese grits (it's a Southern-thang)
    • grilled cheese sandwich
    • spaghetti and chili with cheese
    • hot oatmeal slathered in butter and brown sugar
    • popcorn
    • nachos (ratio of cheese to chips: 25/1 + jalepenos, natch)
    • more cheese (cubed, sliced - preferably with slices of summer sausage)
    • tea (OK that's not bad for me, but I gotta have it)
    Obviously a cheese-themed list. But I'm not really worried about this caloric cholesterol fest anymore now that I've discovered the Funny Film Exercise Plan. The more food, the more funny movies. Life is definitely getting better!

    What's on your comfort food list?

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    See ya' at Petticoat Junction

    And the latest girlie fashion trend is - wait for it - the slip! Yes! I love wearing a slip. Clothes fit better, and I don't have to feel the inside seams of my clothes when I wear one. Alas, I had to pack my petticoats away a few years back when they became passe. Had to move 'em to the back of the drawer with the granny panties.

    But now! Thanks to Reese Witherspoon/June Carter Cash and the King Kong movie, slips are all the rage again. They're considered sexy, not senile. Wa-hoo! And you know it must be true because it was in the New York Times. (Insert big, sarcastic wink here.)

    Well, I'm going with it. I can pass for Reese Witherspoon. If you stand 'way back and squint. Better yet, pretend I'm one of the classic slip queens - Lee Remick, Janet Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, yeah, baby.

    And while I'm moving my slips to the front of the lingerie drawer, I'm going to grab the granny panties, too. Ya' never know when some nubile young thang'll make big girl pants the latest craze. You heard it here first, friends.

    Now go watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There's some slip-wearin' for ya'.

    Tattoo Tag Tamed

    Christa tagged me with a "List of 4 " challenge, and since she was so patient and fabulous to create my new blog banner, I couldn't say no. But I'm pleading the 5th on a couple of 'em, OK, Christa? Here goes:

    4 things you wouldn’t mind having tattooed on your arse:
    1. Peace symbol
    2. Candy cane
    3. "Wide Pride"
    4. "If you can read this, you're standing too close"

    4 dangerous and irresponsible things you have done in the name of fun:
    1. Hyperventilating and passing out. We used to do this all the time at junior high slumber parties, but now kids who do it seem to die. Maybe we were doing it wrong. Hm.
    2. Jumping out of a 2nd floor dorm room window at Oxford. Don't ask.
    3. I plead the 5th. Family members read this blog.
    4. I plead the 5th. (see above)
    4 useless things that you have bought during an identity/midlife crisis-type moment:
    1. A plane ticket to New York. (I did use it; just didn't need it.)
    2. A blue nightie from Victoria's Secret. (Now, this was useless.)
    3. A gym membership. (Fugitabahtit.)
    4. A fancy cookbook. (As useless as the blue nightie. I cook. Just not fancy.)
    That's it for me. I won't tag anyone, but if you wanna jump in, be my guest. Then we can all go down to the local tattoo parlor and have our arses branded, eh?

    Of seagull sandwiches and something strange in the closet

    Back in my Turner Broadcasting days, we were in Florida shooting footage for a rental car commercial. Just standard beauty shots of cars driving over sunlit bridges with boats sailing in the background, etc. The crew and I had to drive from place to place looking for just the right location, so we were stuck in a car for hours with each other. This was in the days before iPods and video players in vans. Imagine! A whopping ten years ago.

    We were getting kind of fractious, when the cameraman cut through the grumbles, "I have a little story to tell you, but you have to figure out why it ends the way it does. Only "yes" or "no" questions, and I can answer "yes," "no," or "irrelevant."

    Sure. Why not. We're stuck here.

    So Don proceeded to tell a long, involved story that involved a seagull sandwich and a suicide. Our job was to figure out the reason for the suicide. It took a solid two hours for five of us to come up with the solution, with much hilarity and confusion along the way. And - oh, lucky crew! - Don had a host of such tales, so he kept us occupied the whole time. One dealt with a woman who murdered her sleeping husband after she found something in the closet (and no, it had nothing to do with another woman). Another was about a dead parachutist found naked on the beach. There were more such stories, but I can't remember them now.

    Has anyone else ever played this story-based guessing game? I can't remember what the stories are called - they're kind of like riddles, but I think there's a specific name for them. They are usually long and complex and end with a death, either murder or suicide. Is there an anthology of these riddle/mystery stories out there? Anybody know where I can get one?

    Am I stuck asking "yes" and "no" questions for the rest of my life? And aren't you curious about why the guy killed himself after eating the seagull sandwich? Yes. No. Irrelevant.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    One and two and ha! ha! ha!

    Now this is exercise I can get into. A recent study shows that watching a funny movie is the equivalent of aerobic exercise or starting a statin treatment. Seems laughter increases brachial artery blood flow. You know the brachial artery? The one that runs from your shoulder to your elbow and is an A-one indicator of blood flow? Anyway, the study seems to support the theory that laughter is indeed the best medicine.

    When you're in need of a good laugh, an aerobic exercise, and a statin treatment, which films are ga-run-teed to increase your brachial artery blood flow? Here are five (OK eight) of my favorite funnies, though I got a million of 'em:

    • Blazing Saddles (the bean scene, the Cole Porter classics) or Young Frankenstein ("He vas my . . . boyfriend!")
    • The Women (L'amour, l'amour . . . )
    • Best in Show (or any Christopher Guest film)
    • Sordid Lives ($32.09, $32.09, $32.09 . . . )
    • Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Life of Brian or The Meaning of Life

    I also must admit that the toilet scene in the first Austin Powers movie ("Who does Number 2 work for!"), gets me weeping everytime. I know. Real low-brow, but still, think of the exercise I'm getting!

    Feel free to add to.

    Think you're smart, do you?

    Ah, the notorious 101 Annual King William's College Quiz.

    For over a century students at the College on the Isle of Man have pulled their hair out over this wickedly tough general knowledge test (a new one every year, of course).Known far and wide as the hardest quiz in the world, the average score = 2.

    What kind of mind(s) create this thing? Ouch! It's totally Brit-centric, but even those of us far removed from Albion can enjoy the intricacy of the thing.

    So have a go at the quiz, Mr. and Ms. Smarty-Pants. Quiz and answers linked above. See if you can beat "2."

    All about the Benjamin

    "Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75."

    Today is Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday. He's dead, of course, in the literal, flesh-and-blood sense, but he remains one of the coolest people in history. I searched around for a more dignified descriptor than "coolest," but - no - I think it does him honor.

    The man tried everything, didn't he, including some notoriously naughty things. And yet, he never lost his reason, intelligence, or humor. Printer, inventor, scientist, writer, politician, ambassador, revolutionary, man about town/man about France.

    Lord, how much can one person pack into 84 years, for goodness' sake?

    So here's to you, Ben, you old dog you. Thanks for the lightning rod, bifocals, Franklin stove and odometer. Thanks for lending your big brain to the process of crafting both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Thanks for saying what needed to be said with grace and humor - it all holds up today, my friend.

    "Wish not so much to live long as to live well."

    Benjamin Franklin did both. Happy Birthday, Big Guy!

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Lift every voice and sing

    For a 'most-all-white Episcopal church, we do a pretty good job singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," commonly referred to as the Black national anthem. Yesterday was no exception, except we had a little (a lot of) help from the "Singing Sisters of Ebenezer Baptist Church," who graced us with their voices in place of our own fine choir. And yes, I mean that Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. grew and preached.

    I figure it was a pretty big sacrifice for these wonderful women to give up Ebenezer for All Saints' on King's birthday. Though we were very enthusiastic and welcoming during and after the services, I'm sure the rather formal Episcopal liturgy and preaching style were sorta boring for them. (Episcopalians carry the banner "God's frozen people" with pride, though the Presbyterians are always trying to wrestle it from us.) We did break out in spontaneous applause several times during the service and sang real, real loud (we know our "Lift Every Voice," babe), so maybe they won't think we were white-beyond-all-help.

    Here's to you, "Singing Sisters." You did yourselves and the holiday proud. Come back to All Saints' soon!

    Work in Progress

    Just playing around with the colors, folks. Bear with me. They'll make more sense once Christa's artwork for the new banner goes up. One piece of HTML code isn't cooperating at the comments section, for some weird reason. Keep reading and commenting while we're nippin' and tuckin'.

    A weekend of fireside naps, brutal editing, and melacholy whores

    Yeah, I knew the "melancholy whores" would get your attention.

    One of the books I read by the fire over the weekend was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of My Melancholy Whores. It's an itty-bitty thing, only 115 pages in a small format and a quick read. It's about the same length as Chronicle of a Death Foretold, another Garcia Marquez shorty. Both interesting tales to fly through. If you're looking for interesting tales to fly though, that is. If not, go for the longer Love in the Time of Cholera.

    Atlanta's weekend was cold and windy - perfect for pulling my comfy chair and ottoman around to face the fire and settling in. My feet stayed nice and toasty as I read a couple of books, revised and edited some of the stuff I've written lately (I was ruthless), and - naturally - dozed off every now and then. The only time I left the house was for church yesterday morning. Didn't turn on the TV until last night. Ahhhh.

    The only bad thing that happened was that my internet connection went out Saturday afternoon (still out, but Comcast knows about it), and I had to rely on picking up a wireless connection on the laptop. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Frustrating, but at least I have the laptop. We'll see how things are when I get home tonight. Repair guy can't get out to me until Wednesday afternoon.

    That's my weekend report. And now, back to work, friends -

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Be quiet and it will snow

    A couple of weeks ago CNN ran a story about the crazy things kids do to ensure a snow day. Snow rituals, it seems, are more ubiquitous than I ever imagined. Donning special "snow-making" clothing inside out, flushing ice cubes down the john, and performing weather incantations are just some of the things kids and adults do to conjure up snow worthy of school cancellation.

    In my family, my mother would use the old "Be quiet and it will snow" technique if the weather threatened the white stuff. Oh, sure, I see through it now, but it worked for a goodly number of years (meaning that maybe sometimes we got snow, but we certainly always got quiet). And don't think I was above using this little snow incantation on my own little Kate.

    I remember reading the great Conrad Aiken short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" for freshman English in college. Of course, it really wasn't about snow (and if you haven't read it, get thee to a good short-story anthology), but because of my association of snow with silence, it resonated with me immediately. To this day, the heavy, muffled silence after a snowfall still brings the Aiken story and my mother's words to mind.

    Except that we haven't had any snow in Atlanta this year. Sigh. I'll try being quiet for a while. If that doesn't work, I'm going for the ice-cube trick.

    (The picture? Snow Day 1958, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Wonder where brother David was? Hm.)

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    Time to put on lipstick and head for the weekend!

    In celebration of Friday the 13th, I left work 13 minutes early. I'm thinkin' that's OK since I put in some overtime this week.

    I give you all permission to call it a week as well. If your boss has a problem with that, have him/her/it see me.

    Now go out and do something memorable!

    Better than we expected: sex after 50

    Sex, sex, sex. That's what it's all about for those of us hot-mama-chicas over 50, according to the New York Times today. Seems a ba-zillion books will soon be flooding the market about the Can't-Get-Enough generation of women liberated by the Pill and feminism.

    Books by Gail Sheehy (Sex and the Seasoned Woman), Joan Price (Better Than I Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty - great title!), and a host of others tout the glories of experience and brains of older women in the bedroom department. And movies like "Something's Got to Give" and "The Swimming Pool" are presenting older women as flesh and blood sexual creatures.

    Of course, all this sex may not appeal to everyone. But that's fine, too. Do it. Don't do it. Whatever. It's just nice that society's finally catching up to the fact that women don't turn into dried up crones past a certain age.

    So it seems my future as a bad girl (see previous post) could be very bright. Hmmm.

    (And by the way, don't we miss Ann Bancroft?)

    Bad-Girl Envy

    Confession time. I've always envied "bad" girls. The hair. The eye-liner. The boots. Did I mention the eye-liner? But mostly, I envy the attitude. Make that ATTITUDE. There's something mysterious and bold and up-yours about 'em that I've never been able to pull off. All my middle class, nice-girl raisin' is no match for these chicks (even though many of them had middle class, nice-girl raisings themselves).

    Now, there's a big difference between bad girls and mean or slutty girls. Bad girls have heart and style; mean girls are heartless, conniving bitches. And slutty girls are just, well, slutty. Modern-equivalent bad girls: Christina Ricci, Fairuza Balk, Winona Ryder, etc. You know who the mean/slutty girls are.

    In junior high and high school, bad girls were the ones smoking in the bathroom between classes, teasing hair to the heavens and lacquering it down with AquaNet or Adorn (or carefully parting long, straight hair down the middle just so), and - of course - applying another layer of black eye-liner and white lipstick. I never envied the smoking part, but the style and attitude was strangely appealing. A true bad girl always exuded an aura of someone with a great tragedy deep within that had to be covered over with heavy make-up and dark clothing. I don't know how much of that was true and how much was play-acting, but more often than not they were pretty nice to me because I wasn't afraid of them. Once in a while the anger-facade cracked and a conversation broke through.

    I'm still kind of a good girl, but my plan is to become a bad girl in my 70s and 80s. The hair's only gonna get higher and redder with age, and I see an opportunity to slather on make-up with a trowel as the face starts to cave. Leather pants and boots? I'm there, baby. And just as I reach my bad-girl zenith at say - 87 or so, I'll ride off into the sunset with the Leader of the Pack and explode into stardust. And I bet God'll welcome me with two big thumbs up and a "Way to go, chick!"

    I think it's a good plan.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Spots are in, but not on your (blog) skin.

    OK, the dots are gone. At least I managed that much.

    I've screwed up the blog template so many times today, that once I got it back to a relatively normal look, I decided to leave well enough alone. For a while. I still need to figure out how to create an eye-catching banner. But no more today.

    Lord, I need a drink.

    From Regent to House

    It's been a real Hugh Laurie week for me. I watched two repeat episodes of "House" Monday, the most recent episode of the show Tuesday, and several episodes of "Blackadder Goes Forth" last night.
    It's hard for me to decide how good "House" is because what fascinates me most about it is that the guy who plays crusty, sullen, sarcastic, American Gregory House is the same guy that's tarted up as the foppy Prince Regent in "Blackadder III" and plays the lovable, rich, dimwit George Colhurst St. Barleigh in the "Goes Forth" series. And Bertie Wooster, of course. Wow.

    I guess most American haven't a clue as to who Laurie is and what roles he's played in the past, but for those of us who do, he's amazing in "House," limping around, angry, breaking every rule in the book to get to the bottom of the patient's problem, just daring the world to get in his way. But every once in a while there's a faint glimmer of George or Princey or Bertie straining to break out just under Dr. House's unshaven surface. Will he toss away the cane and revert to enthusiastically shouting the praises of the Cambridge Tiddlywinks Champions of 1914?

    Hugh Laurie is completely brilliant as House. I don't care how outrageously mean he gets on the medical series. Deep inside, he's really just the Prince Regent who's changed clothes, put his brain into action, and acquired flat American speech patterns. No wonder he's pissed!

    So in the words of dear George St. Barleigh: "Permission to shout 'Hurrah!" excruciatingly loud, Sir!"

    Permission granted, indeed.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Searchin', searchin' for a new blog-look

    OK, I'm sick of the dots. I want something simple but faaaaaaabulous for my blog design. Something that won't over-shadow my outstandingly pithy writing and oh, so appropos illustrations. Something very Shorty PJs but not shorty-pjs-slutty ("Ahm a good girl, I ahm...").

    Something with a bit of this.

    And a hint of this.
    Just a smidge of this.

    Two dabs of this.

    1/4-teaspoon of this.

    A wand-wave of this-here sort of thing.

    And maybe an eye-squint of this.

    I haven't a clue as to how to design something that captures the spirit of Her Nibs Shorty PJs. I don't know where to start. I'm a writer, not a Photoshoppy-doo-da person. But I'm really sick of the dots. Huff.

    Watch yourself, Sleepy-head

    Here's a little something that belongs in our much-loved "Well, duh!" news category. Scientists at the University of Colorado (home o' the Buffs) have discovered that the morning is the most dangerous part of the day because we're all groggy and uncoordinated immediately after waking up.

    Falls, bumps, burns, and sheer lunacy are rampant after we stumble - literally - out of bed. This groggy time is call sleep inertia. Our performance is as bad (or worse) than being breathalyzer-bustin' drunk. Short-term memory, counting skills, and cognitive abilities are pretty fuzzy for a while after that damn alarm goes off in the morning. And get this - after eight hours of sleep we're more zonked than if we'd been awake for 24 hours or more!

    According to the study, we're at our worst for the first three minutes of the day. This spazzy-idiot period usually wears off after ten minutes (though some of us continue to bump into things and blank-out throughout the day - we know who we are, right?).

    So how do you spend your precious sleep-inertia time? Stretching? Scratching? Breaking an ankle? Calling 911?

    Me? I blog. (And that's my disclaimer.)