Elvis is King

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The cover of this children’s book about Elvis grabbed me. Elvis is King is a biography that introduces kids to the early life of Elvis Presley. Written by Jonah Winter, the book consists of illustrations made with clay and realia and short passages that describe the singer’s life from birth till he strikes it big.

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Readers learn a bit about Elvis’ family, his first guitar, his move to Memphis and his first record. It’s a quick read. I liked the illustration on the cover better than the book because the style of the faces was more angular than I like. Nonetheless, it’s a fun book, and one worth checking out from a library.

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Gayle Waters-Waters

A colleague at my new job suggested I watch Chris Fleming as Gayle Waters Waters on a comedy show on YouTube. It’s an outlandish look at upper middle class suburbia. Enjoy.

I’m impressed with the how entertaining this show is when there’s no studio or big budget. The humor isn’t cookie cutter. It’s also not G rated. They don’t swear, but there are some risqué comments.

Victoria, A Public Inconvenience

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This was the penultimate episode of Season 3. I’m not ready for this season to end.

This week the thread that captured my interest the most was between Sophie, her lover the footman Joseph and her mean husband. The husband suspects she’s being unfaithful and has paid Mr. Penge, the palace butler to spy for him. Before Sophie knows her husband knows, Joseph proposes that they run off to America. He believes he can make it big in the New World, where he wouldn’t have to hide his relationship and he wouldn’t have to deal with Mr. Penge. Sophie can’t commit. She has a son and fears losing him.

In the meantime, Sophie’s husband plots. To be cuckolded is the ultimate humiliation for a man like the Duke. By the end of the episode, he’s tricked Sophie and has gotten two doctors to commit her to an insane asylum. We don’t see the actual asylum, but I’ve seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and figure a 19th century mental hospital was much worse than a 20th century one. I don’t envy Sophie and wonder what Victoria will do when she learns her confidante has been committed.

My 2¢ – It’s too late now but I think Sophie should have grabbed some of her jewelry and run off to America with Joseph. He would treat her well. Perhaps she could kidnap her son. Now she may be in some dungeon never to see the light of day. She knew her husband is diabolical. Sophie’s story does show that although Albert and Victoria are in a rough patch, it’s just that, a patch that won’t last forever.

While Sophie’s freedom is on the line, there was other drama in the palace. Victoria and Albert have a lot of conflict that they haven’t been able to deal with. Victoria has a keen sense of distance from the prince, though it seems to me that Albert cares so much about being right and logical that he doesn’t see how he should distance himself from Feodora and be less judgmental towards Victoria. She doesn’t need to be reminded that she’s not as logical as he is.

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Albert is enamored with the idea of hosting a Great Exhibition, which would feature developments in science and technology from countries all over the world. Originally, the idea was a smaller exhibit of British advances. Many are skeptical, but Albert won’t be dissuaded even though he can’t find an architect who can come up with a suitable plan for a hall that meets all the specifications.

When the Duke of Wellington announces his retirement, Victoria thinks that if he gives Albert he job of Commander in Chief, he’ll give up on the crazy idea of the Great Exhibition. He won’t. This is Albert’s new obsession.

Lord Palmerston gets in hot water by going to far in handling the Don Pacifico Affair, when a British citizen was attacked by anti-Semites in Greece where he lives.  Without realizing it, Victoria trusted Palmerston to resolve the matter without military intervention, however, Palmerston interpreted Victoria’s response to be that he had carte blanche. Luckily, military action was averted.

Victoria realized that she needed to do something about Feodora. I hoped she’d send her half-sister home to Germany. Instead Victoria decided to encourage Feodora to bring her teenage daughter to London. Near the end of episode, Heidi arrives. When she meets Alice and Bertie, she behaves like she won’t be the easiest guest. I think she may be a lot like her mother, but time will tell.

Everything is lined up in the plot to ensure a riveting finale last week. We’ll see the Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition. We’ll learn what becomes of poor Sophie. There must be a reason Uncle Leopold returned and Feodora always has something up her sleeve. I expect first class television.

 

 

Poem of the Week

The Runaway

By Robert Frost

Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say, ‘Whose colt?’
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted at us. And then he had to bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and gray,
Like a shadow against the curtain of falling flakes.
‘I think the little fellow’s afraid of the snow.
He isn’t winter-broken. It isn’t play
With the little fellow at all. He’s running away.
I doubt if even his mother could tell him, “Sakes,
It’s only weather.” He’d think she didn’t know!
Where is his mother? He can’t be out alone.’
And now he comes again with the clatter of stone,
And mounts the wall again with whited eyes
And all his tail that isn’t hair up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
‘Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When other creatures have gone to stall and bin,
Ought to be told to come and take him in.

Back of the Yards

Saturday I went to the Newberry Library, which graciously presented a free reading of the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman’s one-act play, Back of the Yards. 

Set in the 19th century, the didactic Back of the Yards’ dramatizes the question of “What should we do to help poor kids who’re getting into trouble with the law?” It’s a moralistic story which reminded me of Medieval morality plays. The acting was compelling even though it was a reading so they had the script in their hands.

Plot: A priest and policeman meet on the street and discuss what to do with troubled youth. The priest, who believes in training and offering services to the youth,  challenges the officer because the cops go easy on kids guilty of petty crimes. The kids then ignore any warnings and increase their offenses. A neighborhood woman then joins their conversation.

The play then goes to illustrate this argument when a neighborhood hoodlum is shot and dies in the hospital. After the woman goes off to console the vicim’s mother. The priest and cop continue their discussion when the woman’s son arrives with a bloody arm. Soon we learn that he was part of this incident and he plans to leave town to avoid arrest.

My Take: The play hasn’t lost its relevance — and sadly may never. The script was rather heavy-handed and plodding, but the acting rescued the story. While they performed the reading with the scripts in hand, they put a lot of emotion and professionalism into their work, thus keeping the audience interested.

Prior to the play, there were three speakers, long-winded all, who provided background. I’d say they all praised the playwright too much. If this was an example of his work, he’s not on par with the greats of his era.

Still who can criticize a free play with professional actors? Certainly, not me. I’m glad I went.

Free College?

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I appreciate how stratospheric tuition costs can make higher education out of reach, unless a student is willing to take on massive debt. I blame colleges for the most part. They’ve allowed costs to spiral. They’ve added well paid administrators and programs, (while cutting salaries and benefits) for teachers, more and more of whom work part time because there are few full time positions.

Many politicians are calling for free college. I was with Bernie Sanders when he first proposed this, but I’ve given the issue further thought. I’m now for an alternative — or a few alternatives.

First of all I realize that in the US education is managed more by each state than by the federal government, so I think each state should decide how to provide affordable college options to its citizens. I think the Federal government can come up with some programs, but each state should take responsibility for its own citizens’ education.

For years, students who served in the military through the their service or will serve through the ROTC, get free education. It isn’t free since they do have to work for their education and if they don’t fulfill this obligation, they must pay back the tuition and fees.

A friend of me funded his medical school through a program which required that after graduation, he work in either a rural community or an urban prison.

What I think we should do is to replicate this program through other agencies. A state could find areas where there’s a need for employees. Students could either work part time in a government office while in school or could complete a couple years of work to pay off the money the state has spent on their schooling.

I also believe that since 4 year colleges have gotten so expensive that state governments should offer these programs via 2 years at a community college and 2 at a university. Also, I’d require that the colleges make the most of online education and cut back on extras such as building fancy dorms or state-of-the-art fitness centers. The cutbacks would be done on a school by school basis.

Another option would be for students to work as they do at College of the Ozarks. College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition. Students are required to work for the college, e.g. caring for the landscape, working in an office

I think making higher education something you earn, rather than get for free is a better option. When you’re in college, you’re old enough to work as many do through the private sector, but most of these jobs don’t pay enough to pay all your tuition.  If we made the most of the idea of Work/Study, students would graduate with experience and education. Our state governments services could improve. States could update their antiquated websites (like we have in Illinois). They could offer better customer service so lines wouldn’t take hours at the DMV or other offices people commonly use.

While this is a rough idea, I think the general premise is well worth developing.