Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday

Although it's not really "my birthday, too". Happy birthday to my friend. Enjoy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Grass Fire!

As long as I've lived in this house, my greatest fear at this time of year has been grass fires. Tonight I heard the sirens getting closer but payed no attention. They stopped somewhere nearby. I heard a small commotion and looked out to see billowing smoke just around the curve three doors down. At first I feared it was a home. I dashed out to find firefighters pouring water on a grass fire mostly contained within the fenced off area of the irrigation pond at Center Street and Lacey Way. I watched long enough to feel reassured they had it under control.

Fireworks, I suspect. Young guys living on all sides of me in this neighborhood foolishly have aerial displays of their own most every year. Strangers stop their cars in the street to shoot off bottle rockets. We have been very lucky so far. Let's hope our luck holds.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Power Tools

Never thought I'd own a nail gun, but I do now. Jenn and Zach's bamboo floor project have netted me a chop (miter) saw, jigsaw, and now a nailer for the moldings. Steve will be able to use it next for his project in the basement. And then they will reside at my house for my own projects.

The kids have done a fantastic job on those floors - just beautiful! Neither of them had much experience with DIY of any sort, but they have no fear, and that's the key to success. Starting with painting, they were meticulous about the quality of their work. I gave them all my pointers -- things that make the job easier, faster, and neater -- and they followed them all. But I had little experience with power tools, and it was a learn as you go project. I got a kick out of watching my petite daughter using that chop saw to cut floor boards to exactly the right length. Again, with no fear, they both jumped in, learned what they needed, and proceded to cover floors in two rooms, three closets and the pantry, and the result is awesome.

Tonight we'll start the moldings. I primed them last night while the kids finished the last closet. And I bought that nailer. Two different guys at Home Depot said we would love it. I had a small battery-powered drill, screwdriver, and even a little saw before this, but never tools like I bought for this project. I'm excited to start some projects of my own. Now that power tools have entered my life, I have a feeling things are going to change around here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Logan Operas

Spent a wonderful day in Logan with kids and friends. The occasion was our annual trek to see two performances in one day at the Utah Festival Opera. This year our choices were "Into the Woods" and "Aida". Two very different offerings, indeed, and both extremely well done. I never cease to be amazed at the quality of these productions.

Into the Woods was charming yet dark. We've seen it before, so the story and music was familiar. Outstanding characters included the witch, the baker and wife, Cinderella, and the two princes Charming. The end, of course, brought tears to my eyes when the Baker's wife, now dead, sings her advice to her husband faced with raising their son alone:

Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood.
Do not let it grieve you,
No one leaves for good.
You are not alone.
No one is alone.
I think my heart is stilll too tender for such thoughts.

Aida offered a "lite" staging version but did not scrimp on powerful voices. Our tenor Radames started out a bit weak on the terribly difficult "Celesta, Aida" at the very start, but did not disappoint. Excellent performaces from Amneris, the king, the high priest, and a truly remarkable chorus. But without a doubt, Aida was the star in both name and performance. The ensemble piece at the end of the second act is always my favorite and the beauty of the combined chorus with the soloists, each distinct voice rising about the chorus, was so powerful and moving, you did not want to see it end. The staging was effective with a few huge pieces strategically placed to simulate a palace, a temple, a tomb. If I have a criticism, it is with the not-so-grand procession. Four spear carriers does not a grand procession make, and since it's a non-singing role, I think a few extras would have served nicely. But that did not take away from the music which was so well done.

Between performances we met some good friends for dinner and ice cream and leisurely conversation, rounding out a really great day. We arrived home exhausted after midnight. And we'll do it all again next year.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Duchess of Langeais

Before I have my say, here's what the New York Times said:

Behind the Mask of Civility, the Battles Rage On
Published: February 22, 2008
Jacques Rivette’s “Duchess of Langeais” seems to me a nearly impeccable work of art — beautiful, true, profound. Based on Balzac’s 1834 short novel and set against the French Restoration — Napoleon is in exile and a Bourbon king again sits on the throne — it traces how a passionate affair of the heart curdles into cruelty and obsession. Originally titled “Don’t Touch the Ax” (a threat guaranteed to make noble necks twitch), it is a story about manners, language, power and society and the bodies caught in their grip. “Life,” one character observes, “is simply a complication of interests and feelings.” Art too.
Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Well, I didn't get it, and neither did three of four of our group. The pace was slow to the point of exhaustion. The characters never gained my sympathy. The so-called plot was tiresome. One of our group left without seeing the ending after over two hours into the movie. The one member of our group who had anything good to say about the film admired the costumes and scenery. Yes, I'll agree with that.

(Spoilers ahead)

The story is of a Duchess (a married woman) and her flirtation with a French general, set in post-Napoleon France. She flirts with him. He wants her. He gives up trying. She flirts with him, he rebuffs her. Back and forth never getting together. The film offers many distractions, the worst of which was brief written explanations of the passage of time in white text on a black background reminiscent of silent movies. Finally, after a final rebuff from the general, our duchess joins a group of cloistered nuns in Spain. He searches the world over and finally finds her but she refuses to leave the convent. He gets his thugs together to kidnap her only to find her lying dead in the convent. He kidnaps her anyway and takes her with him to sea where his friend convinces him to bury her at sea and think of her as just a story her once read. He agrees and the credits finally come up. I had hoped as one last romatic gesture he might dive into the ocean with her and be buried at sea together. Ah well. I chose this movie, so I do apologize to my friends. But I trusted the reviews I had read.

Still, we had a wonderful dinner beforehand. Celia and Pat's mom, Carol, joined all of us at Stoneground Pizza for some excellent pasta and salads, and of course, dessert. The best part of the evening, as it always is, was the chatting, gossiping, laughing, and eating. It was so nice to have the whole group together.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Writing, a memoir of the craft

On Writing, a memoir of the craft
by Stephen King

I have read exactly one Stephen King novel. I saw part of Kujo, the movie, and I'm still scared of barking dogs. So, I'm not exactly sure why this book appealed to me. But it turned out to be a really great read, both from the standpoint of a writer and for sheer entertainment.

King tells us this is not textbook, and it's not. But it is full of advice. For example, "Adverbs are not your friend." He tells us how he writes. That he writes constantly when he is writing, even on holidays, lest his characters get "stale". He listens to loud rock music. And he says he does not "plot" his stories. I found this last particularly interesting.

In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech . . .

. . . my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow . . .

. . . I lean more heavily on intuition . . . my books tend to be based on situation rather than story . . .

. . . The situation comes first. The characters--always flat and unfeatured, to begin with--come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way.
Isn't that a cool concept? I love it so much, I'm going to try it myself if I ever get down to writing my stories.

The book is also highly autobiographical and we learn so much about King's life and experiences starting from a very young age. His story is as compelling as any novel.

If you are a writer, an aspiring writer, or just someone who appreciates good writing, you will love this book.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Possible thunderstorms tomorrow

Won't it be nice to have some free water from the sky? If we get it. I am not going to agonize any longer about why my yard occupies so much of my thoughts. It's big. It's hard to manage. The results are very rewarding. It makes me feel happy.

And life is far too fragile and short to fret over such a silly thing. Today held an example of that. I am getting perspective. I'm looking around and feeling thankful for such a good life, wonderful family and friends, many opportunities, and good health which permits me to make the most of everything else.

Rain or shine, tomorrow will be a good day. I'm remembering my new year's resolution:

Life is short,
Break the rules,
Forgive quickly,
Kiss slowly,
Love truly,
Laugh uncontrollably,
And never regret anything that made you smile.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

This has to stop

Looking back over a year plus of this personal blog, it seems about all I blog about is my yard work and YouTube videos. I guess it's mostly a diary and, therefore, somewhat useful to me when I need to remember what and when. But really, I must stop writing about my yard work. It's not like I don't have a life. I'm busy doing so many things, and I fail to write about them. My most consistent topics: yard work, deer, gophers, feeling tired. I'm going to ponder all of that for a bit and see if I can figure out what it means.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation

So far I haven't really taken a vacation this year. But I did take Thursday and Monday off to get a nice 5-day weekend. And I did do some playing this weekend, including a fabulous outing to Logan and the Cruise-In vintage car show. Yesterday I did a little work around the house and yard and helped J & Z pick up their bamboo flooring - we managed to get it all into two cars. And today, I've mowed the lawn, trimmed all around grass and rocks in the front, weed whacked the entire upper level in the back, and planted some new flowers in the frontmost garden where I have no color now thanks to the deer. I will invest in some of that pricey deer repellent from Home Depot and try to save these flowers. They do look pretty right now. Elsewhere in the yard, the deer have hit and missed, topping off some of my faves. I posted a pic last year about this time and the yard was so much more colorful. But things are a little later too, like the blanket flower. So I'm finished with the hot outdoor work. I have a few things to shop for and then I'm taking myself out to a matinee movie. Back to work tomorrow.