Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, we’d be on our patio so we can enjoy the warm weather, the blue sky and the quiet as the roof is completely finished.

I’d tell you that I finished reading Swann’s Way, the first book in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. It’s a challenging, beautiful book. I savored it and didn’t want to finish reading it. I had read it in 2008 and a friend suggested be both read and discuss it. I enjoy reading and discussing this sort of book with my wise, well read friend. Proust jams so much observation in every page so I didn’t want to finish the story (even though I can read the next one anytime).

On Friday I went with a group of women to bring lunch to the police at a station in Chicago. It was great to show them some support and to let them know that people are grateful and know that not all cops are rotten. Most are brave and professional.

We had more protests cum riots in Chicago yesterday. When will this stop? This weekend (and Sunday isn’t even over) 50 people have been shot and 4 of those were killed. The riots yesterday resulted in 17 police injured and 24 people arrested for aggravated assault.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you what the schools are doing in your town vis-a-vis reopening. Every school seems to have a different approach even in areas with the same CCP Virus statistics. Then they form a plan and change it. Some people think the schools require special ventilation even if they have windows that open, i.e. the system used throughout the world and advocated by healthcare professionals. Now some schools and offices don’t have windows that open, which is a shame.

I’d tell you that work is proceeding along. It’s hard to get people who don’t want to do the census to do it, but there you are. Many think that although the Census did get a two month extension it’s not enough time to complete it. They seem to not know that we’ve already got higher response rates in much of the country compared to 2010. If people have seen thousands of ads and received mailings that they throw out, another month isn’t going to help.

easyliving16

Easy Living 1937

I would recommend you see Easy Living with Jean Arthur from 1937. It’s a fun screwball comedy and I’ll soon post a review.

I’m learning a lot about Albany Park, the Chicago neighborhood where I’m working almost every day. It’s a neighborhood with lots of diversity. I’ve come across a lot of people from Korea, Syria, Latin America and Mexico.

I’d tell you that we had a fun barbecue last night to honor my niece’s departure for her sophomore year of college. She leaves this morning for University of South Carolina. I hope she gets a full semester there. She’ll have 5 of 7 classes online. This year she’s in an apartment so if they do close down, she can stay down there.

Last week we had roofers installing a new roof. Every home in this subdivision has to get one. Ugh. It’s been quite a controversy for 3 years as many people don’t need new roofs but everyone’s got to have the same look. The workers from Apex roofing were terrific, but it’s a hell of a lot of noise from early morning till about 6pm. I am working in the field much of the day, but not all day. I tried to escape the noise, but there’s no seating in the library, the nearest Starbucks only has outdoor seating and across the parking lot is a fitness center that’s moved outside and the exercise music and coach’s yelling are not the same as the usual café music so that wasn’t a good spot to work. I wound up taking my conference call in my car in another parking lot.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d invite you for tea or coffee on my patio. There’s a lot of greenery and we could watch the chipmunks and the occasional rabbit hop by. We might be lucky enough to see a crane that visits every so often.

I’d tell you that I just finished Getting the Best Care: Rescue your loved one from the healthcare conveyor belt. I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s got aging relatives or who is thinking of their own wishes for healthcare in case they get dementia or other debilitating conditions. It’s full of know-how about the hospital and the medical system and how you won’t be run over dominated or confused.

I’d tell you that I attended an absorbing Zoom meeting about the opening of high schools here. An ER doctor began by presenting the situation in her hospital. She teaches on the South Side of Chicago. She told us that the big spike in CCP Virus was in March and April. Now the virus is like “background noise.” Most of her patients have the same sort of maladies as they had this time last year. She updated us on how doctors in other specialities (i.e. not ER) were afraid to return to the hospital, but after two weeks acclimated.

I saw the 1964 version of The Killers with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Ronald Reagan. Boy, is that a compelling film!

I finished two graphic novels in the Hereville series, How Mirka Caught a Fish and How Mirka Met a Meteorite. Both were fun, clever storie of a girl with lots of spirit.

The other speaker was a statistician who noted that in the local high school 67% of teachers were under age 50. The data showed that in this area 8 people have died of Corona and that no children have. In essence these experts advocate for school in the classroom in the fall with reasonable accommodations. He had a lot of data on the effects of the virus on kids and how it’s rare for a child to transmit it to a teacher.

daisy

It’s summer!

(Note: a friend told me that in Israel there was a case of a child infecting a student, and I found this article about an Israeli kindergarten teacher who believes she was infected by a student. It hasn’t been conclusively confirmed. Perhaps there’s another incident.)

In a nutshell, the thinking is that other professions have come to grips with working in new ways during the CCP Virus Pandemic and schools can to. It was a mistake to have closed them in the spring, but no one knew that. We thought millions would die.

This work week had some ups and downs. The high point was attending a summer concert in a park in Evanston to get people to do the Census. There was a good crowd, but everyone was distanced and wore masks when moving around. The band played hits from Motown, Prince and Koko Taylor. The weather was nice and we got 2 people to do the Census, which wasn’t great, but was something.

On Friday we had a lot of challenge. We were assigned to a train station in the city at the end of the Brown line. Three of us set up our table, and had our devices ready. Soon a homeless man told us we were in his living room, i.e. outside the station. Clearly, the man needed help. He had no shoes. His ranting and later constant heckling showed that he wasn’t of sound mind, but at the same time, we did have work to do. I contemplated moving our table but then thought no one would see us.

There were other homeless people there, but only one who misunderstood something a coworker said, left us alone. That guy who thought he’d been insulted turned back and threatened to harm my colleague. As the day wore on, first guy drank more and more vodka (no doubt to self-medicate) so he got more belligerent and told us off. He did not like us there. Then a young man, probably in his 20s, came by to protect us. He got a bit loud and told the first man he was going to kick his ass if he didn’t leave us alone. It looked like things were going to get worse.

I saw a police car across the street and went to talk about our options. We didn’t want the man arrested, but we did want to be left alone. They knew all the people at the station and we discussed if having them walk over would make matters worse. There was no way to know. In the end, we wound up leaving early. We certainly earned our money on Friday.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, would go out. It’s sunny and lots of places are open for outdoor dining. We won’t have warm weather forever so we’d be outside.

I tell you that I went out to lunch with a friend from high school. We went to Pinstripes, a restaurant with a beautiful area for outside dining. It looks out to a hill and fields of wild flowers. The service was attentive and, yes, safe.

My friend teaches high school and she’ll be returning to school in a few weeks. They’re dividing students by alphabetic order. The first half of the alphabet goes on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday everyone is remote and Thursday and Friday are in class for the second half of the alphabet.

killers_xlg

I watched Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. It’s a compelling film noir, that I highly recommend. I also saw a Russian version made by Andrei Tarkovsky as a student.

Friday I went to my public library for the first time since the lock down. It was nice, but weird. First at the entrance a policeman in a mask was there. He asked me what I wanted to do and I explained I wanted to drop off and pick up books. He let me in. I went to the main desk and asked for my books and learned that even though the holds are kept right behind the circulation associates. I had to make an appointment for curbside pick up and the associate did that for me. (The appointment had to be at least two days out.)

I wanted some quick reads so I went upstairs. There was easy access to the new books but everything else was behind yellow tape that said CAUTION. The youth section and DVDs were the same. A lot was off limits. Staff all had masks and worked at least 6 feet apart from each other. All the tables and chairs were moved into the corners and chairs were put upside down on top of other chairs. Some tables were covered with tarps. It all looked very off-putting.

I chatted with a librarian I knew, which was probably the highlight before I got a book and some DVDs. As much as I love my library, I won’t hurry back. It’s a rather unfriendly, odd experience.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, we might actually be out. Now it’s week 18 of the lockdown.

I mentioned having some big news last week. A week ago Wednesday the head honcho called me and offered me a promotion. Woohoo! I was told to immediately send my resume to his boss and that woman’s boss and I did. Then I waited patiently. I didn’t want to bother anyone and I had faith that they’d contact me.

By last Tuesday, I wanted to hear. I sent a message to the head honcho, who replied a few hours later that they changed their mind. They didn’t need another manager after all. How capricious.

Friday we went to a barbecue at my brother’s house to celebrate my nephew’s 21st birthday. My other nephew came in from Minnesota so it extra nice to see him.

My sister-in-law teaches 3rd grade. We asked her how she felt about returning to school and what her school plans to do. She said she’s not crazy about starting the year with such young kids online. It was one thing to teach online with kids she knew, but this seemed harder. On the other hand, she didn’t see how kids could learn if they couldn’t work in groups in the class room. The school board is making a plan and this week sometime they’ll share the plan with the teachers and ask for input.

I had a great time talking over lunch with my cousin. We haven’t gotten together since February due to the CCP Virus. We had a lot of catching up to do at a proper distance.

I’ve started the Hillsdale College online course on Children’s Literature. I recommend it already. The emphasis is on classics and I must admit I need to read more classic children’s literature.

 

Poem of the Week

An article online about poetry prompted me to find and share this one.

Digging

By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

Henri_Duchemin_large

I discovered this book via Literature-Map.com, which predicted I would like Emmanuel Bove’s writing. Boy, was that first prediction right. I’m now going to read more of the books it suggests.

A modern writer, Emmanuel Bove (1889 – 1945), has been described by Peter Handke as “the poet of the flophouse and the dive, the park bench and the pigeon’s crumb . . . a deeply empathetic writer for whom no defeat is so great as too silence desire.”

A collection of short stories, Henri Dechemin and his Shadows takes us inside the hearts and minds of the narrators. Each is down and out, but also very perceptive and wise.  The narrators navigate shame, homelessness, breaking relationships and infidelity painfully aware in a way that reminded me of Dostoyevsky of their own pain and motivation as well as that of their wife or friend who was causing it. This wisdom didn’t lessen the hurt.

Bove’s style is succinct. He has no verbose descriptions. The gets to the crux of what needs to be said and leaves it at that. I think it made for more powerful stories, though some may disagree. While Bove writes of characters in dire straits, he’s more positive than Sartre or Beckett. Though Bove’s characters have it hard, they often see the positive. They know that tomorrow may be better and there’s hope.

Les Misérables, Ep 2

lily les misLast night was the second episode of the Masterpiece/BBC production of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. I knew what was coming. I knew that Fantine was in for a tough timethis week. Her lover Felix had agandoned her and their baby Cosette and Fantine had no family or skills to support her well.

Last night we saw Madame Thenardier for the first time. Olivia Colman’s portrayal is both lusty as you’d expect, but also more likable because unlike the novel or the films, this Madame Thenardier tells her disreputable husband that he should be more honest because by getting a reputation for honesty, their inn would prosper. He slaps her for this. Later, another character makes the same point. I’m not sure why this production chose to white wash Madam Thenardier’s character when earlier productions succeeded with the character depicted as shown in the book.

As anyone who’s seen the films or read the novel know, in the next chapters Fantine experiences great hardship. She’s truly one of the “Les Misérables.” Though I wanted to be strong, I did have to look away at at one time mute the TV as Fantine’s fate takes a turn for the very worse.

The episode was unstinting in its depiction of Fantine’s fall. In fact the scribbler she uses to read letters from the Thenardier’s treats Fantine horribly suggesting, if not urging her to sell herself and criticizing her for selling her “assets,” i.e. her hair and teeth, before she turned to prostitution because with her cropped hair and toothless smile, she’s a less desirable object . . . . Ugh.

Fantine’s fall is worse than Jean Valjean’s and part of this is due to her extreme naivety. She never questions the Thenardier’s who constantly ask for more money to care for Cosette. She leaves her daughter with absolute strangers, though in this day there were orphanages for children with living parents. That would be the better route. In the book we’re told that Fantine had no parents at all and just grew up wandering about her small town and getting food, clothing and shelter from whoever felt generous. (Not sure why she wasn’t in an orphanage.) So that information explains a lot about why Fantine lacks common sense and has no one, no aunt, cousin, parent, etc. to turn to for help.

Cleaned up and dignified, Jean Valjean has moved upward gaining wealth and power now that his factory is prospering and he’s become mayor. The people love him. But soon Jalvert turns up and recognizes his old prisoner. Naturally Valjean gets nervous, but he remains true to the Bishop. He’s found God and honesty, though he still errors (in terms of firing Fantine, mainly because he didn’t know her full story). This production does a better job than the musical showing how much Valjean agonizes over saving the thief who’s about to die in his place. The musical certainly shows us how easy it would be for Jean Valjean to keep quiet and continue to live his new life, but this drama accentuates the dilemma.

There’s one sequence with Marius as a young boy. Somehow time hasn’t effected him as much as it has Cosette. His growth is a lot slower than hers in the interim between this and last week. Anyway, what struck me was the powered wig he sports and is worn by his grandpa and his cronies. It’s a stark, grandiose contrast to the prosperous Jean Valjean’s hair. I can’t remember if Hugo’s book makes the upperclass this contemptible.

All in all, I’m enjoyed episode 2, though it had some scenes of great suffering that I couldn’t bear. Things are bad, but not this bad in the weeks ahead. I will add that this is not an episode I advise kids watching. It might even be considered R rated for Fantine’s struggles in the streets.

 

Masterpiece: Les Misérables

It’s no secret that Les Misérables is one of my favorite stories of all time. I’ve read the book and seen the musical, the film with Liam Neeson, the film with Jean Gabin and the one with Harry Barr. I’ve loved them all.

I lost track of time and missed the premier of Masterpiece’s newest Les Mis, but fortunately, I taped it and am now ready for episode 2.

Beginning with Thénardier (Adeel Akhtar) robbing the pockets of soldiers killed at Waterloo. As luck would have it, Pontmercy, a solider, wakes up and mistakes Thénardier for a savior. Then in the prison where Jean Val Jean (Dominic West) toils away while being abused, beaten and tricked by the guards and Inspector Javert (David Oyelowo), a 19th century French Pharisee. Early on we also see Pontmercy’s wealthy father-in-law who’s taken custody of his grandson when the boy’s mother died. Vehemently opposed to Pontmercy’s politics, the grandfather forbids Pontmercy to see his own son, Marius, a cutie pie in velvet and frilly collars.

Fantine’s story of meeting Felix, Cossette’s father, this production starts earlier in the book than the musical. We get to see the slimy, philandering Felix who loves and leaves poor, naive Fantine. Interwoven with Fantine’s story, we see Jean Valjean get freed from jail and encounter hostility and injustice till he’s welcome by the saintly Bishop Digne.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the story. It’s a lush production. I always have an odd feeling about computer graphics. I can tell it’s not real (or faux real). I sense something lacking in the vast settings that must be computer graphics.

The story spans decades and contains several plot lines. Victor Hugo dedicated each section of the book according to a main character. The screenwriter has woven several sections together and the chronology’s changed. Some things seem to be simultaneous here, when they weren’t in the book. For example, at the end of episode 1, Fantine’s holding her daughter Cossette, who looks like she is at least a year old. Yet Felix just abandoned her a few hours before. I thought Fantine got pregnant after Felix left her. Also, Jean Valjean has just left the Bishop’s. It seems the timing is off between Fantine, whose story doesn’t need much time to progress to the next stage, and Jean Valjean, who took many years to get to the next point when he’ll meet Fantine.

Even though there are some differences between other productions and these do bother me, the annoyance is small and Les Misérables is a story that can’t be ruined. (Knock on wood.) So far this series is off to a good start.