Weekend Coffee Share

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

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you that I regret overloading my schedule. I now have two part time jobs and I’m trying to give as much time to the new second one in case something goes awry with job #1. The director at job #1 has fired several dedicated employees and forced a few out by making them miserable. Also, I’m having fun with my second job for the U.S. Census so I rather like the work and people involved.

On Friday night at almost midnight my mother had to go to the hospital as she had a painful tightness in her chest. When you’re in your 80s (or probably even in your 50s), that is scary. Luckily, her stress test had normal results and there’s no heart problem. What a relief! I will mention that on Saturday I had been assigned to work for the Census. I had all the training materials in my car so I had to go to our workplace. My supervisor was very understanding and got someone over to take over the training.

I watched Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Funeral this week. It’s got lots of bawdy humor so it’s a guilty pleasure, but I did laugh out loud and needed to this week.

My father bought a new car. He’s been mulling that over for two years. His old car was faithful, but just not performing well lately. Well, the car he’s gotten is very sleek and high tech. The problem is we don’t know how to get all the features to work. Often the voice activated features respond with unintended results. For example, when dad asked the car to turn on the radio, it turned on the heat.

My University of the People courses are winding down. Next week is finals week. The required College Success Course has been a waste of time. I’ve written that I don’t think they should assume all students need an 8 week course on note-taking and how to cite. I had to write a 500 word response on what I learned and what skills I’ll apply this week, one of several essays that are hard to write because none of the content is new. I had to be honest and said that I hadn’t learned anything new so we’ll see what sort of grade that gets me. It galls me to waste time. I could have used that time to job hunt or do my own writing. Time is more precious than money right now for me.

My computer class is fun and challenging. I’ve definitely learned in this course, but I miss having a teacher’s response to a question. There’s no live sessions and the teacher seems to sign on just once or twice a week so when you’re puzzling over what to do and want to ask, “Why does this work, but that doesn’t?” you’re not getting an answer. That can happen with a live teacher in a classroom, when the teacher isn’t a good teacher. Nonetheless it’s always frustrating.

I’d write a bit more, but I’ve got to get to my computer homework. Anyone good with Python? I wouldn’t mind a tutor.

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Weekend Coffee Share

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

If we were having coffee, I’d say I had a good Independence Day with just the right amount of celebration, not so much that there’s a frenzy. I marched in the local parade, met the trustees, had a relaxing afternoon before enjoying hamburgers, potato salad, the Capitol 4th Concert and some local fireworks.

 

I’ve started reading Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder for a Who-Dunnit book club at the library, which I’ll start to lead with a partner. I’m on for the July meeting next week. I’m on page 42 and the story’s fine, but not gripping. I’ve also started reading Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book for my neighborhood’s new book club. I’ve accepted the role of facilitator. I’m farther along in The Guest Book. I don’t enjoy how it hops between generations. It’s a gimmicky structure and somewhat hard to follow.

I’m enjoying my computer programming class through the University of the People, but the class is time consuming. I do feel I’m learning Python, but I also realize that it would take a couple years of study before one can get paid to use this skill. I’m more in need of something I can learn in six months and get employed doing.

Last night I had a Skype interview to teach in China in Weifang. While I did move on to the next stage, I’m not excited about the job. It seems like another school that’s mainly for-profit. They’re not sure how many students they’ll have. They do have a curriculum, so that’s better than Clark University, my former employer, but who knows how good it is. The Dean is busy and I didn’t speak with him, but he is bilingual and has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in accounting. He also has a degree in education.

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When I think of the human rights abuses in China–the camps for Uighyrs, the demolition and spying on religious groups, the lack of free speech–I really can’t justify working there again. Who knows what will happen with Hong Kong. The Chinese won’t let them go and won’t let them have their separate system forever. It’s not a country where a teacher can give lessons that allow students to consider the ethics of their president or government. So despite the lure of a full time job with benefits, I’m inclined to say no.

I do wish I had more time to write. I’m excited about a new play idea, but with the computer class and the easy, but time consuming class on online learning, there’s little time to research and write.

How’s your week been?

 

Weekend Coffee Share

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

If we were having coffee, I’d have brought my umbrella because we’ve got storms at least part of everyday. It’s just part so that’s fine by me. I’ve realized that June is a rainy season here.

I’ve agreed to lead two book clubs. One’s reading Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book and the other is reading a mystery, Inspector Singh Investigates . . . . Both meet in July and I’m busy preparing. I can’t say The Guest Book has grabbed me yet. The mystery book is part of a series and I’ve had to order it.

My two classes with University of the People (http://uofthepeople.edu ) are going well so far. I’m really enjoying the computer class which is on learning Python. So far it’s rather simple so I’m not lost. Besides there are so many books and online tutorials that when I need extra help it’s at my fingertips. The other class is on college survival and I don’t need to know how to budget time so my paper’s are submitted by a deadline or any such academic skills.

I absolutely loved watching Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell. What an amazing entertainer! What a witty film! If you want a burst of joy, get it.

I did watch the Democrat Debates, which were really not debates, but showcases, which is fine. Short interviews with each would have been more civilized. This was a free-for-all with a poor format. There’s no way I can sit through 9 more of these spectacles. I wish the BBC could moderate.

I attended to wonderful library events last week. First was a class on picnic side dishes given by a witty chef, who offered lots of useful tips on shopping and preparation. Her citrus vinaigrettes were terrific. Out of the 4 dishes demonstrated, I’d make 3. The second was a summer cocktail event. The local mixologist created three light, refreshing drinks. Again, I liked 3 out of 4. I’ll share these recipes soon, so check back.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

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

If we were having coffee, I’d begin by saying that it’s been rainier than usual here, but I don’t mind much. It’s also been rather cool and as I’m not one for sunbathing, it’s fine. You don’t need bulky layers to go out and about so I’m happy.

Saturday I went on a walking tour with a friend around Chicago’s Streeterville. Streeterville has an interesting origin. In the 1880s riverboat pilot Captain George Streeter ran aground in Lake Michigan. He left the boat there and soon the sandbar grew and grew. He declared this land a separate country called the District of Michigan. Squatters and ne’er-do-wells moved in, much to the displeasure of the elites. Legal battles lasted up until 1908.

ChicagoAmericanFurnitureMart210-p1939

Our tour through the Driehaus Museum not only introduced us to the colorful Cap’n Streeter and his wife Ma, but took us around much of this district that in the 19th century was desolate and now is home to a thriving commercial and residential area. We saw significant buildings, some huge like the American Furniture Mart that I never noticed before. We also learned of some hidden gems that are open to the public and make wonderful quite spots to view the lake or skyline. Sorry, I’m not printing those addresses.

We were so lucky in terms of the rain on Saturday. It poured before and after our tour, but nothing during it. Also we lucked into street parking in a very popular shopping area.

Yesterday my brothers and their families that are in the area came for a Fathers’ Day barbecue, which was fun.

I started and gave up on the book Southern Lady Code. It was too snarky for me. The author seemed to need a Copernican Revelation. I expected some warm-hearted jabs at Southern culture like Jeanne Robertson is so good at, but the author seemed embarrassed of her Southern past and clueless about how her demands of her husband and family were quite selfish. She just seemed clueless and after a few chapters, I figured enough is enough. There are plenty of good books on my reading list.

For today’s book club, we read and discussed Antigone. It’s a solid play that illustrates Aristotle’s principles of tragedy well, but despite its strengths, I wasn’t as enthralled as some. The state and family life have changed so much that I didn’t think it was relevant. Others loved it and said it’s one of their favorites of all time. Different strokes.

I watched a very challenging, very long (3 hours 25 minutes) Russian film called Andrei Rublev. If you’re up for a challenge, go for it. I’d say the story’s more confusing than The Human Condition, another marathon film, but there’s some beautiful parts and it did make me think differently about filmmaking. I’ll be watching shorter, more fluffy films for the next couple of weeks.

 

Andrei Rublev

At 3 hours 25 minutes long, Andrei Tarkovsky’s (The Passion of) Andrei Rublev is a challenging movie with a narrative structure that’s as far from a Hollywood film as can be. I don’t think I’d say I liked the film, but I will say it impressed me and challenged me. I found it powerful and challenging.

Divided into eight parts, Andrei Rublev sheds light, rather than chronicles as biopics usually do, on the foremost Medieval Russian icon painter. First we see a prologue when a 15th century Russian peasant struggles to fly in a hot air balloon. He’s a true explorer, a risk taker, a visionary. Yet his experiment takes strength and sweat to get off the ground. A mob of peasants curses this endeavor and tries to thwart it by fighting with the ballooner’s assistants who’re steadying the ropes holding the balloon and then trying to blind an assistant by assaulting him with a firebrand into “his mug.” (Thankfully, that took place off camera.)

Yet where was Rublev? Not in the prologue. In fact there are long sequences when we don’t see the painter/monk much or even at all. Tarkovsky preferred poetry and themes to plot points and explication. That’s what makes him interesting and also hard to follow. I’m used to directors who spell things out so at the beginning I was especially unmoored.

Rublev lived in a tough time. His times had Tatar and Slavic marauders were a threat. Poverty and famine were too. On top of this, the pensive Rublev was plagued with big theological questions and the question of pure art. Nothing was easy. His fellow monks and disciples/apprentices questioned him and rebelled. His mentor challenged his motives and ideas. The Tsar would have your head if the commission wasn’t done. Nothing was easy.

The film is a marathon and I admit I watched this 3 hour 25 minute film in chunks over a course of days. It drained me, but that was okay as the masterful cinematography and this look at a time in history was fresh for me. While Andrei Rublev doesn’t purport to be a biography or historical film, since much of the story is fiction, it did rid me of any stereotypes. For example there’s a peasant girl who is rescued by Rublev, but when she meets the marauding Tatars and one of them want to take her to be wife #7 or 8, this simple Russian girl is willing to up and leave with the tribe that teases her. Rublev tries to save her, but she won’t have it. No, she wants to go off with the Tatars who treat her like a toy. Huh. You just wouldn’t see that in most films.

The film ends with a sequence of scenes where a boy*, whose homeland is a wasteland and whose family — parents, sister, uncles, aunts, etc — have died from the plague, convinces the monks that his father passed on the secret to bell making. He can cast the church bell the Grand Prince wants. It’s a testament to filmmaking that I found the mission of casting a bell so fascinating. It helped that the mission was a life or death endeavor. The prince made it clear that if the bell didn’t ring, the boy would be beheaded.

*The boy in this sequence was played by the same actor who starred in Ivan’s Childhood.

If you’re up for a big challenge, do watch Andrei Rublev. Know that you’re in for a beautiful film, but it’s long and somewhat confusing. If you aren’t, well this week I’m taking it easy with an old W.C. Fields film and that might be the way you’d like to go.

By the way,

  • You can find a detailed description of the plot on Wikipedia;
  • I found the commentary after I saw the film and wished I had watched with that turned on;
  • The film, as you might imagine, was banned in Russia for a number of years. It was shown in France and had to be shown outside the Cannes Competition at 4am.

Weekend Coffee Share

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

If we were having coffee, I’d say it was a quiet week with some interesting discoveries. I discovered a masterful filmmaker from Russia, Andrei Tarkovsky, who’s Ivan’s Childhood was challenging, but forceful and well worth watching if you’re up for some intensity. I’m also discovering Eudora Welty’s writing by reading The Age of Innocence. It’s the first novel I’ve read by her. I’m also using Creative Bug via my library to gain craft skills. So far I’ve viewed short videos on sewing, cleaning sewing machines, and embroidery. Creative Bug’s quality is top notch.

A few weeks ago I attended a class on photography for eCommerce. I used the light box at my town’s library to take some higher quality photos of a few things I’d like to sell. Lighting makes a huge difference. I’ve seen more views, but we’ll see if I make more from the better photos. It can’t hurt.

I sent out a query about my play to a local theater. My fingers are crossed that they ask to see the whole play.

My colleague’s funeral was Tuesday and it was a beautiful ceremony. The family had a lot of support from friends and family as the church was full and many had to stand in the back and along the sides. I pray that the support continues as the family’s grief will no doubt be long lasting. I was impressed by the eulogy the oldest daughter, who’s about 22 gave. While she did break down a few times, she gave an eloquent speech at a time when she’s coping with tragedy.

I learned a lot about D-Day due to the 75th Anniversary of this event. I knew a little about it, but my knowledge was greatly deepened to see the speeches and interviews that honored the brave.

 

 

Ivan’s Childhood

I hadn’t heard of director Andrei Tarkovsky before. Nor had I ever heard of actor Nikolay Burlyaev. I haven’t seen many Russian films and I wasn’t particularly looking for a difficult film but something about Tarkovsky’s WWII film Ivan’s Childhood (1962) grabbed me though it took a while.

Around 12 years old, Ivan dreams of his idyllic childhood playing at the beach, chatting with his young mother, running freely. Then he wakes up. He’s in a dark, war-torn, God-forsaken landscape. He trudges through a murky river (which looks like a marsh, but it’s a degenerated river and a symbol the effects of war) before he’s captured by Russian soldiers. Back at the soldiers’ post, Ivan is fierce and orders the soldiers about. He orders the soldiers to call “Number 51 at HQ.” They try to put him in his place, but you’ve never seen a fiercer 12 year old. Played by Nikolay Burlyaev, Ivan is like no character you’ve ever seen. In the dream sequences he’s pure and innocence; once he’s orphaned and becomes an army scout Ivan’s transformed to a force of nature on par with a hurricane.

Ivan prevails in convincing his comrades in arms that he should continue his reconnaissance work and not get shipped off to the much safer military school. Viewing the film, I knew that the soldiers should not have agreed, but that’s where the suspense comes in.

ivans_childhood

Tarkovsky gives us amazing images like none I’ve ever seen. He believed in using the environment like the murky river, a bombed peasant farm house and a white birch forest speak volumes. I’ll never forget the dream sequence when Ivan and a little girl are riding in a pick up truck filled with apples. The sky and trees are shown in the negative, which was mind-blowing.

There’s a lot of intense emotion. One example is a scene with an officer flirting with a female junior officer who’s very tentative. He wants her; it’s not clear what she wants. Without graphic nudity or direct language Tarkovsky gives us a powerful scene of cat and mouse in the birch forest that goes on forever.

The Criterion Collection DVD comes with fascinating extras including an interview with the now grown (i.e. middle aged) Nickolay Burlyaev, who recalls how hard Tarkovsky made him work to get the part and then how kind and sensitive the director was during the filming of this emotionally intense story.

I found the film challenging to watch. It’s no day at the beach, which is fitting for a war film. Yet Ivan’s Childhood is well worth watching.