31 January 2015

+JMJ+

2014/2015

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There's a pun I could make by combining "that word" from The Princess Bride and my word for 2014, but I don't dare. =P Maybe you could guess it! LOL!

At the start of last year, I picked my word because I wanted to start standing up for myself. Twelve months later, I probably am less of a pushover . . . but since I didn't also determine a way to measure this objective, I can't offer much of a progress report. =P What I do have a bunch of related insights that I thought were worth sharing.


28 January 2015

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Saddle Club #1: Horse Crazy by Bonnie Bryant


"You know, Lisa, I understand horses. They make sense to me. It's people who are confusing. Stevie wants to go on the [Mountain Trail Overnight] so badly, but she's doing absolutely everything wrong. First, all she had to do was a Math project, but no, that wasn't good enough for Stevie. So then, she decided to earn money, but no, she's too good to do the work. I never saw anybody so eager to turn jobs over to other people. So then, while she isn't doing any of those things, she's busy getting Max so angry with her that might not let her go on the trip. Some fix she's getting into."

"Listen, you tell me about horses, and I'll tell you about people," Lisa said . . . "Stevie isn't so dumb . . . [She] isn't giving work away, she's selling it!"

What I love about the juvenile series of my childhood--which I never actually read during my childhood--is how strongly they bring back the first decade of my life for me. Which is not to mean the 1980s that I actually lived through, but the 1980s that I imagined everyone else was living through in another part of the world: a decade exemplified by the toy and snack commercials that got taped over along with the Saturday-morning cartoons that an aunt in California sent over on Betamax. (Oh, Betamax!)

So it doesn't really matter that I never had a proper riding lesson during the decade, much less friends who shared a hobby I was passionate about. Two paragraphs into Saddle Club #1: Horse Crazy and I was back in a world I would have known on Jupiter.

21 January 2015

+JMJ+

Knitting Diary: Improvised Slouch

When I first started knitting, I couldn't help comparing it to my guitar playing. The reason I gave up the latter was that even after two years, I felt that I was completely blind--or perhaps I should say, deaf--when it came to the theory behind the music. I got as far as noticing that different songs can have very similar chord structures (and appreciated what a music writer meant when he said that going from G to Em is a "musical cliche") and was able to strum along to a bunch of the simpler ones on the radio . . . and I learned all about scales, which helped me to pick songs apart note by note . . . but that was it. What I wanted more than anything was to understand how to write a bass line for a song, but I never figured out how to read the chords and notes of a melody and to fit them into a new arrangement with some bass--and none of the articles or video tutorials I found really helped me out. It was frustrating and sad, and it sapped me. 

Knitting is a whole other world. Within a couple of months, I had figured out how to use knits and purls (both regular ones through the front loop and "twisted" ones through the back loop) to create all sorts of patterns; and today, I can look at most knitted projects and know exactly what to do to reproduce them. (I'll be off here and there, of course, but my approximations will be close!) I can even design my own stuff. And last week, I took my first baby steps in that direction by attempting an "original" hat.

16 January 2015

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Frozen

12. You have no idea how much I wanted to like Frozen. I miss the Disney "princess movies" of my childhood, which took the studio's tradition of "princess movies" to an amazing new level. The first generation's Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora were nice and all, but they were a lot like porcelain dolls behind a glass wall--and it was obvious that the writers and animators had a lot more fun with the other characters in their movies. Then along came Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine, whose unique personalities and voices leaped off the screens. They had an equally memorable supporting cast, but nobody ever stole their scenes from them. The latter three still set the bar for leading ladies in animated films, and I'm afraid that Elsa and Anna of Frozen don't come close.

11. Indeed, we're kind of back where we were in 1950s. Everyone's favourite Frozen character is Olaf the snowman. (Admit it!!!)

10. Many times while watching this, I wondered what the heck the filmmakers were thinking. And I came up with a few guesses. For instance, maybe they thought that having two princess figures instead of one would double the impact. Well, maybe it would have if the sisters had shared more screen time and been working as a team. But giving each one her own sub-plot and making one yin to the other's yang only halved the power of each . . .

11 January 2015

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Update

Two years ago, at around the same liturgical time, I explained why the flat-screen monitors that my parish church has hung up around the sanctuary are an evil rather than a good. Well, I guess the priest who offered the Mass I heard today isn't a big reader of my blog. =P For he likes to use the screens not just to make sure everyone sees what he is doing at the altar, but also to give a fully illustrated slide show presentation during his homilies. (I close my eyes to keep from weeping.)

Another temporary addition that we've had these days is a special prayer for the visit of Pope Francis, who is scheduled to arrive this week. (Yes, the prayer is flashed on the screens after Communion. How did you ever guess?) Well, after we had said that and had stood up for the final blessing, Father said, "I know that a lot of people are planning to go to the Quirino Grandstand for the concluding Mass with Pope Francis, but I suggest just staying home and watching the Mass on TV. It will be safer and more convenient, and you'll see him better--whereas you could join the crowds and not see him at all. So just stay home and get a good view from your TV. That's so much better, don't you agree?"

That is probably the closest I've ever come to starting a shouting match at Mass.

02 January 2015

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about All I Want for Christmas

12. You can't tell from the poster, but all that the two children on it want for Christmas is for their divorced parents to get back together. A worthy wish. But if you know your Hollywood history, you may be able to tell that Home Alone had broken the box office just one year earlier, and the producers of All I Want for Christmas might have thought that having some sort of booby trap on their poster would bring in the same audiences.

And well, it wasn't totally false advertising. The O'Fallon children may not have Kevin McAllister's Rube-Goldberg creativity, but they do set up another sort of elaborate trap.

11. Within the first ten minutes, we know the family dynamics. Ethan and Hallie O'Fallon live with their mother in their grandmother's gorgeous New York townhouse, but still see their father quite often--at least often enough that they're not put out when he's over two hours late for a visit. And when he does arrive, they want him to go back to work . . . and to take them with him. Their mother is still a bit bitter about the diner that she never wanted her ex-husband to start, but the two kids absolutely love it. And there's really nothing they'd rather do then spend an evening playing short-order cook and waitress in the family business--and not just because they get to pocket the tips!

10. I was surprised to see such a strong sense of family tradition in this movie. How many other children's movies can you name in which the older generations understand that their personal dreams are ultimately just stepping stones for their children, while the younger generations are keen to live up to the legacy of those who came before?