Sunday, April 18, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/10: Back Yard Planning, Back Yard Photos, Crispy Crowns

I've been off my writing game for almost two weeks and for no particular reason. Part of it is my change in teaching schedule and part of it is just an indescribable need to be silent for a while. So, with these Three Beautiful Things, I will break the cone of silence, at least for now.

1. Joe came over and he and the Deke (and I, sort of -- I don't have much to say in these matters) walked the back yard, decided where sod will go, where the path to the patio will go, and got the design of things finalized. We are about 5-7 days away from a brand new front and back yard.

2. I wanted some "before" pictures of the back yard, so for our Saturday photo shoot, Russell and I took pictures of the backyard and found some fun shots in the garage.

3. Ore-Ida has a product I hadn't noticed before, until about two weeks ago, called Crispy Crowns. I'm not any good at making them crispy, but I sure enjoy them with bacon, eggs, and some big chunks of Pugilese bread.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/10: Easter Dinner, Unsettled, Dr. Simpson Remembered

1. The Deke and I enjoyed a fun dinner at Herb and Francoise's house.

2. Waltz with Bashir unsettled me. It's beautifully made and hard to take in.

3. It's fun to know that Cutch is hosting an evening of remembrance of Dr. Simpson at his house on the one year anniversary of Dr. Simpson's having died. I can't get away to join in, but it's a really good thing that former students and others will get together and remember Dr. Simpson's heart, soul, and intellect.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 04/03/10: Cleaning, Old Testament Tension, Cantor Micki

1. I got going on some almost desperately needed house cleaning and upgraded Snug's living conditions.

2. I read the Old Testament lessons tonight at St. Mary's Episcopal Church's Easter Vigil service. The lessons were beautiful and unsettling. For much of the day I continued to study the many dimensions of and many perspectives upon the 20th and 21st century conflicts in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Those Old Testament passages reverberate with the hope and promise of deliverance for the people of the covenant and with danger and defeat for those who are not.

3. Micki chanted (is that the right word?) the opening of the Easter Vigil service with blessed, dignified clarity. Micki's singing voice is beautiful, immediate; her voice was always in service to the words she sang and I deeply appreciated hearing what she sang/chanted so clearly while also enjoying her voice's lovely qualities.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 03/29-04/02/10: No Night School, Middle East Lit. and Movies, Studying the Middle East

1. The most encouraging and uplifting event of the past five days has been the experience of not teaching in the evenings. I have taught night school off and on at LCC for most of the nearly twenty years I've taught full time. Until about a year and a half ago, teaching at night worked really well for me. Now it doesn't and I finally scheduled myself out of teaching at night, starting this quarter. (Why doesn't it work for me? I think it worked when our courses were three credits and my evening classes met once a week. Now, with four credit courses, the classes meet twice a week. That started to wear me out.) This past week I went to bed early to rise early, I watched movies in the evening, and I began doing some reading. It's been good for my physical and mental state of being not to drive back out to school after coming home. That's enough. It's just good.

2. In the late stages of the spring quarter, in ENG 109, I'll be assigning my students poetry and stories from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and other sources from the Middle East. Much literature is not explicitly political or polemical. Reading poetry and stories from the Middle East acquaints a reader with the human dimensions of everyday life in this region. I'll also be showing movies made by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers. I wish I could also fit some Iranian movies into the course, but there's not enough time. This week I watched "Paradise Now" (a story about two Palestinian suicide bombers) and "Divine Intervention", both Palestinian movies, very different from each other, and deeply illuminating about what it feels like to live in the West Bank. "Divine Intervention" views the Arab experience in Nazareth as well as the West Bank, with special attention to the Al-Ram (a district of Jerusalem) checkpoint. It views life in these places as surreal, so the movie portrays fantasies, dreams, and absurdist vignettes of despair, all in darkly comic ways. If you'd like to see one of the movie's most famous scenes, go here. It's a fantasy.

3. I've thrown myself once again into reading about and trying to understand the history of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. It's hard. The most difficult challenge is to read and study this history with some sense of dispassion. As I'm inclined to do, I'm trying to understand the many contradictions of this part of the world. It's hard. It's haunting. It's all haunting.